The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

Happy Birthday to Me

FYI: Today is not my birthday, Wed was.

Since buying our home, we have seriously cut down on travel and days-away-from-here, mostly because of having animals.

However, we have been wanting to take to the kids to where we lived after leaving Paris and decided my birthday would be a good occasion/excuse to do so.

Being self-proclaimed freeloading plebeians, we decided to picnic, cookout, and camp as we visited our old haunts. For the occasion, the unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of rain turned out to be blessings.

We first drove to La Borne, a potter's village some 20 minutes from Sancerre. Here is a link to a French Wikipedia article for anyone who reads French. A record of the oldest known pottery oven existing around there dates from 1260, just to let you know the heritage of the place. Today it has ceramists and potters from all over the world living there and in the environs. While it was nice to revisit it, this trip was not our best experience there. Many things were closed, and I got an overall dilapidated feeling from the village.  While there were some truly gorgeous and fresh pieces to be seen at some of the ateliers, many artists were still doing the same things from 10 years ago.  Pottery can have a timeless feel, but certain glazes, forms, and colors become quickly outdated, to my taste at least. Still, we were happy to offer the kids commemorative bowls* for my birthday, and I found a water pitcher that was both practical and pretty enough to come home with me.  J got a couple of bowls to match those the kids picked out and some new raku espresso cups. Here are a few of the pieces:



(I plan on making a post about this table later on. Watch this space. But maybe not too closely. :P)

Afterwards, we drove to the butcher's shop we used to frequent to buy some meat to grill that night and swung by Chavignol to pick up some crottins de chèvres before heading past our first house** and the rental where Sprout lived as a baby. Contrary to the lack of prosperity La Borne seemed to be experiencing, Sancerre was packed with tourists and boasted many new shops.

I thought of you,
asakiyume, as we drove down to the Loire, past "my" old milkweed patch. I asked J to stop the car and got out in hopes of finding some dried pods to recover some seeds. Alas, it was much too late in the seasons, and naught but a few battered green leaves hung amidst desiccated foliage and crumbling brown flower heads.

Changed too was our old fishing spot, the wild Loire having wiped out the young willows and ash trees that had made that small arm of the river so charming and intimate.  We decided to pitch our tent there despite that and a couple already present with fishing gear and dog but no visible evidence of wanting to stay the night.
Enter the best part of our trip. The kids explored and watched minnows and frogs in the water and herons and egrets above. Farmer Boy and I even had the brief pleasure of watching a kingfisher dart past.
We used our campfire to make our very own artist's charcoal for sketching, an experience that will have to be repeated under better circumstances, but still a success. A 5-minute sketch I made the next morning while J was packing up the camp, but first the birthday artist in situ:



(Of course, I had to retouch it from memory when we got home. That version is in the photostream journal on LJ. I didn't get it right then,
either, but that is OK. The point was just to relax and do something fun. I plan on playing more with charcoal in the near future)
J shared the apéritif of wine and peanuts with the fishing couple, and we supped on grilled steak, whole roasted eggplant, baked potatoes, chiles from the garden and homemade pickles. I forgot my chocolate pudding dessert at home, but I had brought sparklers for everyone and used my birthday candle to write a message to myself in light, which J photographed:

(I ran out of candle and had to use the flashlight for my name. :P)

Of course the kids had to get in on the fun, and who could blame them?:

It was so fun to spend the night with the kids, all sleeping together in the tent. Now don't get any ideas about me sleeping well, but still, it was nice, their excitement giving shine and meaningfulness to the new memory we created in that old place.

One memory that did stay true--something I loved but actually hadn't thought about--was the beauty and diversity of the greens along the river's banks. This photo doesn't really do it justice, but it was such a soothing and lovely sight to me that I wanted to record it. It isn't something that will stay in the forefront of my mind, but knowing it is photographed and written down somewhere makes me feel like a more worthy guardian of the memory.


The next morning, we fried eggs for brekky and headed off for the most anticipated part of our visit. I have blogged before, many years ago, about Guédelon,( in chronological order: here and here and here), so I won't go into the whole project here, but we spent a day touring the castle and grounds. Much to J's chagrin, the children's favorite part was seeing the farm animals and collecting shed feathers from the resident peacock.


They also liked smashing rocks in the quarry and getting absolutely filthy.


A few highlights from the artisans:

The dyers' and artists' atelier, where they transform on-site plants and raw minerals into dyes and pigments:



Middle Ages inspired pottery and tasks:

A tile-maker.

A potter at her wheel, and some pieces waiting to be fired:

Just one photo from the interior because this is getting to be a very photo-heavy post: the ceiling of the camera (vaulted chamber or room) reserved for important guests :

Once again, old memories  shone brighter than what awaited us.  Guédelon is still a fantastic place to visit; it just looks more like a business now, I guess you could say.  Our first guides and the people we talked to were mostly volunteers, and they had a passion for being there. Now there are still spots for very temporary volunteers, but the workers are all on a salary. I know that is a good thing for them, but it felt like, as the project has grown, the raw fun of it has been rubbed a bit thin. I understand this can sound like a very shallow, uninformed, and uppity thing to say coming from one such as myself, just privileged to peek in from time to time, but me feelin's is me feelin's. I do intend to revisit again someday in the future, and I might find it even more far gone from that first blush of discovery, but I still love the project, the vision, and the savoir-faire that is being acquired and shared. And of course, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to see it if they can.

Exterior as of 12 Sept 2019
* They had seen several things they liked, but being 8, 5, and 3 respectively, we settled on buying them things which were less expensive and as sturdy as one can get where pottery is concerned.
**Which has now become a holiday house rental!
Tags: birthday, click it, glimpses: france, guéledon, life in france, pics: france

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