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France 2007 - a VERY SHORT 2nd trip:
        December 5th thru December 10th.
    For those of you who have browsed some of our other pages, you'll understand why we went.  Our friends, Lesly & David and their two sons, Paul & Patrick, spent 6 weeks in France starting right after Thanksgiving.  Lesly, who is a teacher in Australia, was asked to chaperone a group of school kids spending the time in France.  She readily accepted, and the rest of the family bought tickets to fly with her.  We asked if a short visit would be welcome, and they jumped at the opportunity.
  We had a very hectic start to the trip.  We planned on leaving for Brussels at 16:30, but unfortunately, Cindy was working that day and her arrival was delayed.  Brussels would have worked very well with a short layover between connecting flights we would have been in Toulouse around lunch-time.  I then changed our plans to 17:30 Paris flights.  Cindy was even further delayed and finally arrived in O'Hare at about 18:45.  She hurriedly grabbed her other travel luggage, change in the nearby restroom, and we passed off her work luggage to a co-worker who dropped them in my car for storage during our short trip.  We made the 19:30 to Frankfurt, and off we went.  We honestly had a wonderful flight crew that treated us like royalty.  They were an example of how we, as a group of fellow employees, go the extra distance for each other!
  We had a 5 hour layover in the Frankfurt airport, but the chairs there are VERY comfortable.  We hopped a Lufthansa commuter flight to Toulouse, and arrived chez Boué, our hosts once again, just in time for dinner with the whole group at approximately 20:15 on December 6th!  A bit later than originally planned, but all is well.  Cindy was absolutely flabbergasted because I drove from Toulouse 'Blagnac' Airport, home of Airbus Industries, to the Boué home without getting lost, and not only that, not one wrong turn...
    A secondary reason for this trip was that we were planning on changing the schedule of flying to Australia.  Russ's allergies are just to much to deal with in the Spring in Oz, so we are going to start, in 2009, flying out in the Spring here which is Autumn in Oz.  We're hoping this will alleviate some of the symptoms.  That will be about a year and a half without seeing them, so this shortens that gap.

Frankfurt Airport.  This little bistro was quite impressive.                      Cindy found another fountain...
Outstanding selection and quality of foods.  And the coffee.. <sigh>
The Germans sure know their coffee.

Patrick went from total energy to shut down in a matter of maybe one minute!

    We went to an agricultural expo in downtown Toulouse.  They had all forms of farmers, growers and makers there.  From meats, vegetables (not too many as it is December), cheeses, wines, spirits, etc.  They also had a large area devoted to showing the children, and adults, many facets of farm life and scenarios.  Many animals, from cows, chickens, pigs, goats and such, as well as machinery for working the land, there were also demonstrations showing the different types of grains, seeds, legumes and plants.  I found a nice small bottle of Armagnac, as did David (his was bottled the year he was born, though we won't say how OLD that is!), and the kids LOVED the farm area.

Patrick hitches a ride...                  The boys on the caboose.               Paul was fascinated by the chicks.

Mom listens on for new phrases...    The boys watching the process of 'Fois Gras', fattened goose liver paté.
                                                     The boys loved this little show, and the tasting afterward.

Chez Boué:

The pool covered for winter.          The Pyrénée mountains and the prominent peak in the area, Cajir.

Different times of day with near the same vantage point.  They have a beautiful place and lands!

I have wanted to stop here a few times and take a look.  This small church and cemetery, in the town of Labarthe-Inard, is just off a side road on the way to Stéphanie & Guillaume's house in Figarol.  We were on our way there to pick up Victoire when I decided to stop and see if it was open.  Unfortunately, it was not, but the grounds were lovely, and the bells started tolling as we walked through the immaculate cemetery grounds.  Cindy caught the bells on a small video, too...

The bell starts, the others then came in later.                                       A WWI monument at the entrance to
                                                                                                         the cemetery.

The Europeans do maintain their cemeteries at a much higher level       Striking monument erected in 1882.
of care than most U.S. standards.


I just liked the old church on the hill in the distance shot here.

Off in the distance in these 3 shots is the Boué home.  It's the large white house directly in the middle at the top.
Proof positive that I need a better, or even larger, telephoto lens.  See Cindy!!!

Here's the original fireplace.        The stove was HEAVY, all cast iron.
Guillaume asked us; Jean Louis, David and me, to stop by and help move a high efficiency wood burning stove into place in his kitchen, to improve the heat in the house.  It was just an open fireplace before.  The gentleman next to Guillaume, in the right photo and covered in soot, has just cleaned the chimney preparing for a chimney liner to be installed with the new stove.  A hole had to be cut above the hearth to enable him to connect the new liner to the stove, as it was a VERY tight fit.  Additional parts were needed to finish this project, so, unfortunately, the 'after' photos will have to wait until next visit.

I loved these ruins, and will visit them next trip!

Abbey Cistercian of Bonnefont (L'Abbaye Cistercienne de Bonnefont):
    To those who have viewed other pages, you might recognize this.  Amazingly enough, this is the first historic sight in the South of France that Cindy and I have ever, to our knowledge, seen before David & Lesly!  We had a wonderful tour guide on the previous trip, so we tried to explain the historic significance and such to them as we walked and talked.

The ruins of this ancient abbey are actually quite well preserved.  Especially considering the land was sold by the church, and prior to sale, the church sold much of the building materials.  Weather didn't ruin this site, finances did.  It was originally built in 1136 by the Cistercians, a contemplative monastic order founded by French reformist Benedictines in 1098.

As I described this in the trip of February 2007, I'll not bore you with more details at this time, just let you enjoy the sites of the ancient monastery.

The wheel-like wooden structure is only there to keep the archway from falling in.
                                                    I loved this sign:  Beware of snakes!
The abbey from a distance.
                                                                                                        Patrick pouts to get to take a photo!
Not a bad first shot, Patrick!                                                               Taking time to walk and chat.

Village of Salies-du-Salat:

On the way to the village 'couscous' fest, we stopped in to kill a bit of time.  It started to rain, so into a bar/restaurant for a beer for the adults, and hot chocolate for the children.  Ok, Lesly had the hot chocolate, too.  There was a lovely bakery here, and the church on the hill in town was a beautiful sight.  If I only had MORE TIME!!!

Cindy finds another fountain.

The village of Saint-Elix Couscous festival:

Now those are some seriously big woks!                                               Évélyne & Jérôme.

It was an interesting affair.  Évélyne planned ahead, and brought the necessary flatware, china and a couple extra bottles of wine.  I also brought a couple bottles.  It was a choose your table and 'stake your claim' type of event.  It started with aperitif across the way, free wine, pastis (an anise flavored liquor) and champagne.

Danielle (Boué) with me!                Jean-Louis & Évélyne.                    Danielle shows a bit of leg<G>...

Guillaume and Hector hanging out while the rest of us wander.               My girl.

A bit of dancing afterwards.  I chose to watch and hang with the children, this was just too noisy


The gymnasium was set up with mats, so the kids could tumble and wrestle.  I became the prime target for the wrestling part of the evening.  I am definitely getting too OLD, as I was absolutely beat at the end of this adventure!

The ancient church of Saint-Gaudens: Saint Peter (Saint Pierre).

This ancient Roman designed church (built in the 11th and 12 century) is right in the middle of downtown Saint-Gaudens.  We went to Mass there Sunday December 9th.  It has an odd open feel to it, as though extra color is brought in with the sunlight, even though there wasn't any sunlight that morning.  There are 36 bells in the tower!  The oldest was made in 1356 (F sharp) weighs 800 kg (1763 lbs), the heaviest 'The Gaudens' weighs 1200 kg (2645 lbs), and the smallest (D tone) weighs 20 kg (44lbs).

The organ was built in 1831, but        Amazing altar area.                       Great Roman feel to the place!
organ case, supporting and surrounding
it was made before 1662.

The most amazing, and for me the most interesting part of the church were the tapestries.  Several hundred year old tapestries were literally hanging on the walls!  They are believed to have been woven by d'Aubusson Royal Manufacture in the later 18th century.  The threads were held in the loom horizontally, instead of the apparently more common vertical orientation.  Interestingly, two tapestries were stolen five days before Christmas, 1989, later to be found in the United States and returned in September of 1997.

The Martyrdom of Saint Gauden (Le Martyre de Saint-Gaudens)
Depicts the history of how Saint Gauden became a martyr.
3.2 meters by 7.4 meters (10.5 feet by 24.2 feet)

The Transformation of Jesus (La Transfiguration de Jésus)
Depicts the biblical story of the appearance of Jesus on Mount Tabor.
The right photo gives a perspective of how large these tapestries really are!
2.85 meters by 4.85 meters (9.4 feet by 16 feet)

Triumph of Faith (Le Triomphe de la Foi)
Depicts Faith in a chariot triumphing over the heretics and infidels.
4 meters by 7.25 meters (13.2 feet by 23.9 feet)

The last evening in France, we were invited to dinner at Évélyne & Jérôme's home, in Sainte-Elix.  It's a lovely open design, with a large area for socializing near a the dining table, a bar top, or the sofa and television area.

Sofa and television area                  The bar...                                     Time for a snack!

Paul                                               Victoire                                        David with Hector.

My love.                                        Surround by women I truly love and enjoy their affectations.

I cannot remember the last time we saw David and Lesly so happy, jovial and full of joy as this trip.
It really was heartwarming to see them 'let loose' and 'get a bit crazy'.

Patrick waits at the children's table. The lovely Ingrid & Edouard           Dinner is served!
Even that is proper and tidy.            He's currently a contractor with
                                                     Airbus, too...

Patrick gets a temporary tattoo!      He's diggin' that!                            He learns sign language for 'I LOVE YOU'
                                                                                                        from Godmother Cindy.

    At the insane hour of 3:00am on December 10th, we were up, showered and out of the house.  We left for the first flight out of Toulouse to Brussels.  Yes, if you've been paying attention, we arrived via Frankfurt Germany, but the route back was more accessible, and a shorter layover time, through Brussels.  We, unfortunately, didn't have additional time to explore Brussels, though that is a must on a future trip.  Brussels Airlines lost one of my bags, making a nice easy connection a bit tighter.  the bag arrived a couple days later, with all intact.
    We hope you enjoyed seeing our experiences in France, once again.  As you have by now now doubt concluded, we absolutely love the new friends, and we consider them family, we have made and maintained there.

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