About Me

My photo
working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Monday, October 24, 2011

traveling north and west...

As we drive through the Dordogne valley on our way to Chinon, I see a sign with a drawing of a pig and then the unmistakeable truffle mushroom next to his nose. Looking to the right I see oak forest stretching into the distance and I imagine a business that could be lucrative here--rent a pig! Then any tourist could go into the forest to search for the illusive truffles that go for $1000 an ounce in stores. A leash and a muzzle is all one would need...that and a basket to transport the treasure. I visualize the scene--pigs in pens with signage above each one: "Mari is a bargain with a good nose--a bit slow but docile--expect two to three hours. Although a bit more expensive, Charles is the top of the line and very quick-- take the thicker rope and make sure the muzzle it on tight."(all of this in French, n'est pas!)

Our visit to Chinon is delightful with a trek up the hill to the castle where Joan of Arc came before Charles VII to beg him to fight the English and take the crown back for France. The castle has been renovated with beautiful tiles of red, blue and white in decorative patterns on the floors. In each room one comes to, after wandering up and down narrow stairways, a movie is being projected onto the pale stone walls. With background music and no speech, the film traces the history of the castle until Joan's stay there in the 1400's. It is artfully done with the filming of several segments within the rooms where we sit.
The next day we are Brittany where neolithic standing stones abound! and yet I get the distinct feeling that many have been moved..how could they not considering the 6500 years since they were erected? These sites predate Stonehenge by several thousand years and according to what I've read this area around Carnac is one of the most continuously occupied places in Europe.

 This menhir on the left stood over eighteen meters and weighs around 280 tons. It is likely it was toppled during an earthquake.

Looking closely at the stone wall I see larger stones incorporated into them--and many have been taken to use in the buildings over the years. But of course the larger ones remain planted where they've been all this time...mind boggling to think about how much time has elapsed since they were first brought here and erected! There are markings on some of them, decorative, animals, one that looks like an axe handle. The people who lived here were farmers, raising cereal grains and animals.

In long rows going from large to small, the stones seem to be lined up in relation to the sun and moon, leading to burial chambers which must be for important personages although in some many bones suggest multiple burials.  These sites are very different from anything I've seen in Britain or on Orkney Island off the northern coast of Scotland. Instead of circles they are in rows, thousands of stones, through-out the town of Carnac and in other places in Brittany. Many pottery shards, arrow heads, and beautiful green jadeitite have been found in the burial sites known as dolmens. It seems that jadeitite was prevalent in the Rhine valley--trade was happening despite the long distances between neighboring tribes.

And, just as in Stonehenge, the enormous stones erected here were not local. The questions and fascination seem to grow with each passing year. As a writer my imagination is working overtime...

Today it is raining--(Jim killed a spider last night) and we are taking time off from the car to explore the area around our gite. The view to the left is looking our our window at the river and the lock. We are out in the country in the tiny village of St. Nicholas des Eaux--walking sounds good--we are used to the rain and I need to work off the pounds of butter, chocolate, potatoes, and cheese I've consumed in the past few weeks!

Tomorrow we explore the Finistere or 'end of the world'. It is the last refuge of the Druids from encroaching Christianity and the area is purported to be wild and untouched, with villages caught several centuries in the past. Breton survives as a spoken language here more than anywhere else in Brittany.


  1. I've never been the the region you're exploring but it looks fascinating and I'm really enjoying your travel log. I have been to Stonehenge, and it's amazing how much one can be moved by simple stones. But then they aren't really simple, are they....?

  2. Fascinating stuff, Nikki. One day you must go to Avebury as a comparison

  3. I have been to Avebury and had a vision while walking along the entrance to the circle--I have to say that the multitude of stones here
    was overwhelming and I didn't feel the way I've felt in other places I've visited in Britain--still wonderful, though, to see the stones and realize how long they've been there!

  4. What an amazing place to be exploring! Your photos and writing are both so interesting. I wish I was there!