Whimsical mosaics of Aniane

This post has been updated to include new finds and put them all in one place.

These appeared subtly. First we casually saw a few, then we looked harder and finally it was like a scavenger hunt. Tim found six more one day when he walked on his own through the village, with an old camera that lacked connectivity. Here’s our complete set.

First, we noticed a blue beetle on the wall.

Then a ghost on the wall of the cemetery.

Next a frog and submarine by the aquaducts.

A flying pink pig above the charcuterie.

A fly on the wall of Rue Font Picotiere, with a panda for good measure.

A glass of wine with grapes across from the Caviste.

A slice of cake at the boulangerie

And 2 little hedgehogs possibly near the day care

All adorable and subtle. Perhaps more will appear during our stay in Aniane. They give a modern, whimsical nature to this village, which grew around its ancient abbey built in 782.


Then Tim hit the jackpot.

It starts with an idea and then a lightbulb goes on.

Here’s me on the old road. I spent a lot of time knitting a Shetland baby blanket during our travels. That’s what I was doing when he found this image.

There wasn’t a hospital in the village so babies arrive by stork. True fact.

Be prepared.

Over one of the village watering troughs.

This next one isn’t part of the series but it’s still a mosaic in town.

We couldn’t find anyone who fessed up to being involved in this project but it made us smile.


Slow and steady

We had quite the outing planned today. We boarded an early bus to St. Guilhem le Desert to hike. I saw this snail at the bus stop and took it as a sign to go slow and steady.

St. Guilhem may be one of the prettiest cities in France. It has an Abbey from the 7th century with, reportedly, a relic from Christ’s cross.

The Abbey is surrounded by stunning cliffs. On the way to our walk I heard a swarm of bees in a tree. They were gone by the time we finished.

The path joined one of the pilgrim paths to Compostello. We even saw a couple of pilgrims busking in the square with a donkey! We walked up the river valley and around the back of a gigantic rock formation.

I recalled from our last trip a bridge, which I thought harked back centuries. Tim poo pooed me until we came upon the bridge.

The path was well maintained and made it easy to rise above the valley.

We were surprised to come upon burnt forest and learned there was a fire in April.

My phone kept track of our progress. Slow and steady. We missed our bus home so we finished the hike with lunch in the swuare by the Abbey under the 150 year old Plane tree.

Then we hitchhiked home and were picked up by a lovely couple who only spoke french and I was delighted I was able to make small talk, even if I had to repeat myself a couple of times.

Aniane is its own pleasant valley

We live in what is considered Pleasant Valley. The High Peaks of the Adirondacks trap the storms headed east and they miss our little town. Seems the same is true in Aniane.

When we arrived, the weather report looked dismal, rain, rain, rain, which never materialized.

We took a trip to the cities of Carcassone and Narbonne. Tim bought reduced fare train tickets but we managed to ride the TGV, which Tim insisted wasn’t the REAL TGV,

and express commuter trains. Conductors scoffed at our stupidity but didn’t kick us off.

The walled city of Carcassone is quite remarkable although filled with restaurants and gift shops. It isn’t under the “Pleasant Valley” spell and it poured while we were there. An exhibit celebrating some anniversary allowed an artist to apply concentric aluminum circles for a temporary exhibit. Apparently it wasn’t really temporary.

When a bartender and I reached an impasse discussing, in French, the Occitanie cross https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occitan_cross, he said Google help, and it did. It is an emblem dating back to the 12th century with lots of symbolism.

View from the Palace in Narbonne
Best gargoyles

There is a canal, the Midi Canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean yo the Mediterranean Sea. It was Europe’s first long distance canal and Leonardo DaVinci was given a shot at it in 1516 but it took another 150 years to get built. It includes more than 100 locks!

Our journey continues, mostly on foot. We shopped at the weekly market this morning and bought fresh mussels, ravioli, veggies and cheese. Tomorrow I will eat in my first Michelin restaurant, right in town. We have tickets to a concert in a medieval abbey on Sunday and our host had arranged rides with friends. Life is good!

Aniane redux

The travel bug bit us – again. Tim had a busy Spring, because he prepared the Crane Chorus for their Spring concert, and I am always keen for an adventure. Plus I have been studying French with the Alliance Francaise since just before the Pandemic and have been eager to put it to use. We returned to Aniane, a village in southern France, we have visited before (Tim twice) and are enjoying it just as much as before.

Bedroom view over the village rooftops

It’s a small enough village where we are often forced to communicate in French, sometimes with mixed results. Sorting the garbage has stymied us. I think mostly because recycling at home has strict limitations: only very specific plastic bottles; glass; paper; and tin. Everything else is trash.

We’ve composted all our veggie scraps, coffee, and egg shells for years at home and use it in the garden. As best as we can tell, compost in France also includes meat bones, while “residual” is recycling and everything else. We’ll see; pickup day is almost here. We can bring our collection of empty wine bottles separately to the town center.

Even our maison’s caretaker was a bit vague.

We revisited the town, Saint Guilhem-le Désert, where Tim was disappointed we are no longer allowed to climb to the ruins. It was okay by me. Signs said it has been closed since 2011, but, ahem, we were definitely there in 2016 as seen in this post. https://one2travelfar.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/walk-the-walk/

We had a lovely hike nonetheless, I drank beer under the same 150 year old plain tree, and bought some lovely sari and block print fabric.

Weather reports were initially discouraging but we’ve only had a few brief rain squalls. More rain is needed though.

Pont diable bridge from the 800’s over l’Herault River

There are two birds we hear constantly: the Common Nightingale and Eurasian Collared Dove. The first reminds us of a Mockingbird with all its chatter and the second sounds like a Mourning Dove on overdrive.

Eurasian Collared Dove song https://www.bird-sounds.net/eurasian-collared-dove/

Common Nightingale https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_nightingale

More posts to follow on the tasteful graffiti and clever mosaics seen around town.

Another Spring

Thank goodness the clocks sprang forward, and the days are getting longer and warmer. Spring began with a snowstorm for Winter’s last hurrah. We had lots of rain and ice in December and January, real snow began in February.

At least we knew the last snow wouldn’t last long so we were more lax in its cleanup. Turkeys are back, beehives are ready for their new inhabitants, and a bear broke into our neighbor’s screened porch last night. Time to say goodbye to the bird feeders and make sure the bees’ electric fence is charged up.

I hope these trees spring back after the thaw.

I finished three blankets on the loom and three quilts, more about them in another post. My green thumb does much better indoors than out.

Maybe because I don’t have to weed or fend off predators. Instead, I get to sit back and wait for sunset.

Get out of town

Or head to Canada. Our northern town is only an hour and a half from Montreal and now that the international borders are open again, it is our go to city, for concerts, museums and good food. Even one night away shakes things up. I highly recommend it.

This was a short trip but we explored the Biopshére and Habitat 67, where we had never been before. Both were constructed for the 1967 Exposition or World’s Fair. Here’s a link to an aerial view of the Jean Drapeau Parc and the Biosphére, which was the US exhibit but now houses a museum on climate change. Alas, the museum was closed on Mondays, so we shuffled along the snowy, icy walks instead.

There was a photography exhibit by Hua Jin that fit in perfectly with the landscape.

Habitat 67 was less astounding and looking a little worn for wear. My opinion may be colored by the fact that a guard chased us off the property, while waving a slice of pizza at us.

While it looks like a jumble of blocks, the buildings are actually all symmetrical. Both sides offer a view of the River.

We found a weary traveler on our return home. This little black capped chickadee must have flown into our front door. When we got home, it was sitting there looking a little dazed. After dropping our stuff inside, I opened the door and took its photo.

Happily, the next time I checked, it had flown off. Probably taking a trip someplace to shake things up.

What looms ahead?

The view from the cabin is always lovely and especially after snow. The branches droop with snow and clouds hang low on the mountain.

It may be a sign of aging that I think of snow blowing before I consider skiing and playing in it. I cleared the cabin path then headed to the end of the driveway.

Not so bucolic. The road was plowed to the dirt, which is great, but I faced a three foot wall of snow and dirt. They don’t teach you how to gnaw through this in Snow Blowing 101.

But gnaw I did.

And now there’s a clear path and the possibility of driving out…to play? But this is already on my loom.

It’s a new year

The holidays were mixed. We spent a very quiet Christmas weekend. We never got around to getting a tree, I couldn’t see the point because no one would be sharing it with us and, in the end, it is always a mess of needles and water.

Instead I hung a red bow.

And lit my candle chimes.

Well, it turns out this wasn’t enough for Tim. So next year, we will have a tree.

New Year’s Eve was celebrated with family and a Buche de Noël, complete with merengue mushrooms. I finally joined the Great British Breaking Show craze and have upped my baking.

I also tried my hand at their staple dessert, macarons. I used the wrong sort of almonds, ground instead of flour, and cheated by filling them with Nutella, but they were a hit.

I received candle molds as a gift and had just enough saved beeswax to make two adorable candles. This reminded me to order bees for next spring since my hive flew the coop, so to speak.

Days are getting longer but I got to watch the sun set behind the hills at 4 pm yesterday.

We have already had a chance to play with the snow thrower a few times, have had countless fires, moved wood around to keep up, and slept in the cabin.

So it is winter.


Happy to report I’m all better. My leg pain was a side effect from yet another statin. I stopped it and am fully recovered. Now I’ve moved on to an injectable med. We’ll see.

We’re swimming in the local pool three times a week and I’ve upped my game. Now I routinely swim a mile. I needed a bag to organize my swim stuff, so naturally I made one. This is the second iteration made from a bird seed sack. It holds everything I need, including my suit and goggles.

I was so happy when someone commented on how cute it was.

The loom has been warped with projects since I’ve been home. I’m working on my second set of towels.

I’m playing around with some of my quilts. I turned one into a baby sleep sack and a jacket.

My linocuts are getting more complex. I’m working on a 3 color version of a loon swimming. Here’s my drying rack.

And I’ve made a slew of hats and mittens as I am wont to do every year.

I finally had help stacking the wood for the winter. It’s the first year in a while Tim was not injured and he did most of the work.

We need it. We got two feet of snow and it’s not even winter yet!

Picture window

Last week we hiked 4 hours to look at fall colors in the mountains. Something is going on with my hip and it was less than fun for me.

The next day, I turned around, after taking out the compost, and saw this.

From my driveway. Much easier.

Yesterday, while preparing for my zoom french lesson, in my pajamas, in my house, this popped into view.

And in its native setting.

Why do I bother going outside at all?