Sunday, March 29, 2015

5 years ago on La France Profonde

We're in the 10° rainy zone, just northwest of the 18° sunny zone

There comes a time, in the Rodez area, when we become acutely aware that although we are part of the Midi-Pyrénées region, we are still not quite far enough south to be, well, really part of the south.

That time is often in March, and this year is no exception. 

I haven't been able to get out on any springtime explorations yet, and have spent this weekend and last weekend holed up reading. That's pleasant enough in January, but frustrating when it is nearly April.

Of course we need the rain, but does it have to come especially over the weekend?

Fountain on the Place Foch in Rodez, March 2010

Being utterly uninspired as to blogging material, I decided to dig back into the archives of La France Profonde. What was I blogging about 5 years ago in March?

Inspiration was perhaps lagging then too, as I had only managed to eke out two written posts, plus 4 "Wordless Wednesday" posts, which, for lack of recent photos, I am including to illustrate this one.

On my way to visiting Jennifer of Chez Loulou, March 2010

That March, I got a huge dose of sun on a visit to see blogging buddy Jennifer G. when she was living in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Of the commenters on my Wordless Wednesdays from March 2010, she and Spacedlaw are the only two still keeping up blogs.

I'm still in touch with some of the other commenters through Facebook or Twitter, although their blogs are long defunct. And there are regular commenters from that time period whom I don't remember at all.

March 2010 -- and that's all I know about this photo

The problem with Wordless Wednesday posts is their wordlessness, which is one reason I have decided not to do them anymore -- that and the fact they always feel a little like a cop-out. I wish I remembered where I took the above photo, but I won't go through my thousands of photos to find out.

Baby Bunny was truly a baby in March 2010

We are lucky enough to still have the darling pet rabbit, Bunny, that we got in January 2010. The other "baby" in the photo was in her 1re (junior) year of high school. 

Now she is living in Manhattan, and at the moment is visible on a city wall as part of the Projection Napping Project by Dawn of Man . You can see her here sleeping in the city that never sleeps, from 0:39 to 0:44 seconds:

All that said, I think I'll get under the covers and read a little more...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stop the virtual world, I want to get off....sometimes...

How can we NOT feel overwhelmed?

I made a New Year's Resolution this year, and feel I have kept it well enough to give a positive status report.

As odd as it may seem after picking up this blog again, I decided, in 2015, to softly yet significantly disconnect from the virtual world.

A lot is being written about mindful computer use and dealing with computer overload, so plenty of professional lifehackers have plenty to say about the topic. 

As for little old me, I was finding my numerous online "obligations" both stress and guilt-inducing. 

So, how could I continue to reap the benefits of the Web's offerings, without making social media site stops just another checkpoint on my daily to-do list?

I won't bore you with all the details of how I tweaked Facebook and Twitter, but basically this is how I achieved -- for now -- a more tranquilly connected life.

1. I turned off almost all of my smartphone notifications. And suddenly, having a smartphone feels fun again. (Granted, I have a job that allows me to do this.)

2. I unfollowed over 1,000 people/entities on Twitter. I don't actually use Twitter that much, but when I do, I want to at least recognize a few familiar faces on my feed.

3. I forced myself to stop drifting to Facebook as my default distraction zone. It is amazing how much I can accomplish there in 10 to 15 minutes a day -- in other words: enough.

4. I unsubscribed from a ton of email subscriptions and lists. And to tell the truth, I can't name one of them.

5. I gave up on keeping up. I don't set myself impossible goals in other aspects of my life; why should Internet be any different?

Through the above, I have started feeling more of what I used to feel about the Web: a sense of wonder and discovery.

What about you? Have you done anything to tame the Internet overload beast?

Feature Image sourced under Creative Commons Attribution license from Deviant Art.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

20 minutes in Espalion

Espalion reflecting in the Lot river

Spring finally sprang this weekend, which made me want to get out and go anywhere and everywhere.

On Sunday, besides taking a nice hike on the nature paths around my house, I made a lightening-quick visit to nearby Espalion: population about 4,300.

Espalion is one of Aveyron's larger villages, or smaller towns, and every time I head north to it, I tell myself I should go more often.

Unique indeed....

Espalion has plenty of personality. It is home to a most unusual museum, Le Musée du Scaphandre, which somehow sounds much better in French than "The Diving Suit Museum."

I'm not sure if it's the only diving suit museum in the world, but I would bet that it's the only one housed in a church.

So why is this off-beat museum here? 

According to Wikipedia: Benoît Rouquayrol was born on June 13, 1826, at Espalion... In 1864, with the help of the French Navy lieutenant Auguste Denayrouze (also of Aveyron), Rouquayrol created the first diving suit. This diving suit won the gold medal at the 1867 World's Fair, and drew the attention of author Jules Verne. Verne included the diving suit in his fictional depiction of a contemporary submarine voyage, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
Rouquayrol died on November 14, 1875 at Rodez, Aveyron, France.
So that is how we have ended up with a diving suit museum in Aveyron. 
I've been there before, but I think it is time for a new visit once the museum opens for the tourist season.

Aveyron or Provence? 

Much like Rodez, Espalion does not display an overwhelming degree of architectural unity. 

Definitely Aveyron -- not Provence

But I find this fascinating, and would like to know of the history behind the many different architectural styles of the area.

A cool book shop

There is a lovely little bookshop in Espalion and, given the problems independent booksellers are having here -- as everywhere -- I vowed to come back on a Saturday and buy a few paper books. 

A new word for me...

Boulangerie, sandwicherie, boucherie, crêperie...I thought I knew every word ending in -erie for a French food establishment. 

How could I have missed "Tarterie"? 

This looks like another good reason to go back to Espalion on a Saturday...

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A few glimpses of Rodez: new and old

Striking view from the inside of the new Musée Soulages

Last weekend I got to play the tour guide to a friend of ours from Montpellier who barely knows Rodez. 

I'm proud to say that despite the glacial winds, she was duly impressed. 

I wish I had taken more photos, but I didn't want to slow her down with that. 

Other than in the museum, I also didn't want to take my gloves off.

We did two full afternoons of full-mode Rodez exploration, starting on Saturday with the Musée Soulages and tea at Café Bras. Even though "Soulages," as it is fondly called here, will soon have been open for a year, I still can't quite believe, even when I just walk past it, that Rodez is home to such a splendid modern art museum.

The cathedral bell tower in all its splendor

We moved on from the museum to the cathedral. Going up the stairway of the évêché is one of those things I only do if accompanied by a visitor, so the above is a view of the cathedral I had rather forgotten about. 

My friend was surprised that we could just wander into the Bishop's palace courtyard as we pleased, and it struck me that the cathedral has absolutely no surveillance either, at least at this time of year. 

Also, it never ceases to amaze me how few tourists one finds in Notre Dame de Rodez, despite its undeniable grandeur. We ran into only four other people inside -- quite a contrast to the teeming museum galleries.

I hope the many tourists coming into town to visit the Soulages museum aren't missing out on the city's huge and somewhat eerie cathedral.