Black and White (France)

It is dark right now. At night Carcassonne is not black and white, it is brown and yellow. Yellow streetlights in front of the building and on the plazas give a tridimensional feel to the city. From my hotel window I can see the boulevard, all the trees are yellow. The houses are brown. Then, the sky is black.

During the day the city was more in black and white. In the spring the tree branches are still thin and uncovered. The sunlight is seen through the shadows. The stones and shutters under the direct sunlight.

My favorite part of the castle is on the last picture. I love this fresco. Every time I see it, the colors attract my eyes enormously. For me it is about the passion. In spring it is the most colorful spot in Carcassonne.

Carcassonne in the morning
Boulangerie Carcassonnelunch in Carcassonne
Carcassonne Castle
The tree and the cross
Fresco at the Carcassonne Castle

France in April

The world holds no magic. The things exist around us. We see some of them. We think in terms of stories. Some stories are better than others. Still they are just stories. The reality is only a part of our life.

I like stories. They may distort the truth, but my reflection in the big hotel mirror in the dark room is also far from the truth. It is almost black and white, it is real and it is not. My shadow is also not me, but if I move, it moves too. If I smile, the shadow stays the same.

The shadow is true to me. The reflection is true to me. Both are stories. Maybe the stories are good, even if they hold no truth. Sometimes I want to talk without words. In France in April, and I am slowly falling asleep. It is one hour past midnight.

Carcassonne
Carcassonne Castle
Carcassonne Shutters
Carcassonne
Carcassonne
Shutters Carcassonne
Carcassonne
Almost black and white
Carcassonne Castle
Carcassonne

Street Signs in France

Street signs CarcassonneNot sure if it is the fact that even the street signs are in French here, but I find them very attractive. I like how they look on the corners of the buildings, how they sound when you pronounce them and how they are a part of the city.

CarcassonneThe streets have names and those names have as much personality as the old buildings with wooden shutters.

Carcassonne streetsMany of the streets have two names. The old and the new name.

Carcassonne buildingI love French language. I am probably just a romantic, however, I easily imagine how people lived in those houses hundred years ago. When I see the castles, I see the cavaliers and the merchants trotting in and out; I feel the passion, the wisdom and the villainy of the people. What a world to live in! Do you also think of yourself as a cavalier on a horse galloping along the castle walls with your right hand resting on your spade before falling asleep at night?

Chateau Villerouge Termenes

Castle and houses in southern FranceSome of the castles were converted into housing complexes. Like the one you see above, Chateau Villerouge Termenes. Till 1980s people lived there, there were stairs and couple of apartments inside this castle.

A bookstore in CarcassonneIt is true that French people love books. There are lots of bookstores in France, in each town, city and village you stumble upon bookstores. And people enter bookstores, buy books, read books in the cafes and on the streets. I love the humming of low voices in the bookstores. Makes it very homely. In spirit I am at least one third French, I entered almost all the bookstores I saw on my way and got books.

Bookstore in CarcassonneThere are very few things better than books in French. And among those are the houses with blue shutters and people talking in French around you.

House in CarcassonneWell, and the street signs in the Southern France.

Street signs in ToulouseFrance, February 17th 2013

Attached to Languedoc

Fabrics for saleThere are couple of things that I really like about Southern France. One of them is the table cloths and the fabrics. Yeap, I am very much into nice table cloth patterns, the kind you can find at Williams-Sonoma in US, and seeing them in Carcassonne made the ones I had more real.

Cassoulet

Le Cassoulet, the typical dish of the region, was really good. In all restaurants in Aude they serve Cassoulet. In some restaurants it is one of the options, in others that’s the only thing they serve. It is made of white beans, sausage and duck. As Mr. Fawlty (from Fawlty Towers) said in the famous series “If you do not like duck, you will get stuck”. Well, something similar here. BTW, it is really good. This was the first time I tried duck and all I can say is that the way French do it, it tastes much better than chicken.

CarcassonneI love how even on cloudy days people are drinking their coffee outside. When it is raining people are still sitting outside; With their umbrellas open, with the their newspaper and their cafe.

a Store in Carcassonne

I also love that everything is in French. Yes, I know we are in France, it is supposed to be in French. Still, it makes me smile and fall in love with French language over and over again.

CarcassonnePlazas are beautiful in Carcassonne. There are lots of trees, cafes, stores. This one holds a lot of charm and we ended every day on this plaza drinking coffee, walking or visiting farmers market.

cups in FranceRed and white cups. I had those at home for a while, but seeing them in a store window in France made me smile wide. The color combination and the quality of the ceramic enhance my morning coffee experience every day. This multiplied by three morning coffees daily means really enhanced mornings.

pastries in France Pastries in Cathare region reminded me of Russian bakery. As a kid my mom tried to bake those peaches, but they never came out nicely. Then, we used to buy them in the pastry shop sometimes or friends would bake them and bring them over. Seeing them in France brought some sweet memories. And yes, we got a box of those!

CannelésThose small things in the middle row are called Cannelés. Yeap, the ones that are 1.40E, they are also refereed to as humble French little cakes from Gironde & Bordeaux. Now I know that there must be a way to make them ok inside without burning the outside. And well done they taste very good.

LimouxThe houses in Limoux: Everything looks old, but cared for. It is real, people still use what was built hundreds of years ago. They live there, they do their business there. These long lasting relationships with things and land hold the real magic.

AugeThe houses and shutters are painted in different shades of blue. This one was one of the most beautiful combinations I saw. I know, it is old, but I still find it lovely. It made me dream of living in a house like that and seeing the hills with vineyards from the windows.

Canal du Midi, CarcassonneOne other thing I love about France is its rivers. They are wide, full of water and always moving. The rivers in France are like Russian rivers: strong, fast, dangerous and helpful. They are not a mere decoration, they are useful. Thus, it made me a little bit nostalgic crossing rivers in France. It also formed a strong attachment to the beautiful Languedoc.

France, February 17th 2013

Beautiful, Relevant, Violent. Peaceful?

Carcassonne at night

A handful of mixed feelings while visiting Carcassonne fortress. It is beautiful. It is amazing. It was and it *is* relevant. And… violent. The history of Carcassonne is a history of power, fight, violence. It is also a history of bravery, nobleness, hard work and art. And beauty. And it all goes together.

Basilica in Carcassonne

Does it mean no violence no beauty? Does it mean if you are peaceful you can never be relevant?

Carcassonne fortress

Everything that is beautiful and amazing is also intense and painful. Passion and art are tied to violence and friction. Right now that I think of it, nothing that is peaceful ever made it to our days.

The mural painting in Carcassonne Castle

Religion is full of violence, art is intense, beauty is painful. Whatever amazing survived to our days made it through fight and struggle. And we admire the fruits of it now. Even when we question the value of it, we still admire the effort.

Basilica Carcassonne

Business is the same. Great companies that made it to our days, companies which products we use daily are full of modern violence and friction. Nothing relevant comes with the word peaceful (unfortunately). We long for peace, but admire the beauty.

Carcassonne

I question the value of such beauty. It is a curious mix of sorrow and admiration that I felt while walking along the Carcassonne walls. However, I can’t go against my nature. I feel deep thankfulness to those people who built these walls, who defended them, who fought, survived and died for them. In my heart I appreciate their effort. In my work, in fighting for my vision I am honoring their passion.

Carcassonne

Do not be peaceful, please. Life is intense. Beauty is relevant. Fight for what you are passionate about. Build it, defend it, live for it.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne, February 14th 2013