Saturday, April 19, 2014

Last Days at La Muse Inn and Labastide Esparbairenque

During my last week at the writers retreat at La Muse Inn I suddenly realized I hadn't walked up to the rock on the alternate route to Roquefere, and also I hadn't ventured down many of the interesting  crooked paths of the village.  
One afternoon, Miranda, who was on an intense writing streak, said she was heading out on a walk for a breath of fresh air. She asked if I wanted to join her and check out the higher path that provided a view of the other side of our mountain. This was the alternate route up to the rock. 
It was such a pleasure to be able to join her for this walk, the first one we had been on together. 
As we left La Muse, the first thing we saw  was the Mairie with its clock and bell that rang every hour.
Next we passed the road directly opposite La Muse.  This picture was taken from the hallway outside my bedroom.
We soon were on a street I hadn't visited yet.  I couldn't resist the iron pig on the top of this wall.
The road narrowed and led steadily upwards.
Soon we saw the sign for Pradelles. This upper road was one I hadn't been on before.
As we walked I could look down on the road I had previously taken on my visit to the churchyard.
You could see the church through the mist.
It was an overcast day and chilly, but it was also beatufiul countryside to walk through.
We could look down on the chestnut orchard as we climbed higher.

Soon we reached our destination and stood to take in the wonderful view.

Here was something I was getting used to here in France, a lone cross on a hilltop.
The view down the opposite valley with its meandering river was spectacular.
Its hard to describe in words how beautiful it was to see the mountains fading into the distance.

We talked about how there had been a rainbow earlier in the day.  Miranda mentioned she had been able to get a picture of it from her window, and she kindly forwarded it to me to share in my blog. :-)
On my last full day in Labastide Esparbairenque, I planned to just wander the village one last time.  As I was leaving, John was outside talking with the mayor and mentioned that there was another lavoire in the village.  It was less obvious than the one at the entrance to the village. This one was up a grassy trail on the outskirts of the village, steep on a hillside. He gave me directions as to how to find it and I set off to find it.
On my way I spotted this unusual wood storeage shed.
The direction of the lavoire did take me up the hillside.
I had to take the narrow path leading out of the village.
Eventually I came upon the lavoire and it really was out of the way. 
This was the grassy pathway leading to the lavoire and when I got there it was full of dead leaves.  It faced the valley, and as you can see, the ground just drops off opposite the lavoire building.
When I first arrived it was full of a mountain of leaves. I decided to clear them out, to see what it was like underneath all those dead leaves.  As I was doing this, sweeping piles of leaves out of the rectangular tub area, I was kneeling on the stone areas on each side of it.  I was bending forward and suddenly realised that this would have been the position taken by the women as they leant over to do their washing. I was repicating their movements.  It was almost an out of body experience as I could see the women in this place, talking and laughing as they worked.  I carried on scooping out the leaves and creating a big pile outside the lavoire, and the wind kept trying to blow them back inside.  Soon there was only clear water in the tank and I could clearly see the drain that carried the water out of the larger hoding tank.
On the back wall there was a black door that when opened reveals a chamber that holds the water from the spring. Below the door there was a spout where the water pours out to fill the area where the washing was done.  I assume the sloping sides are for scrubbing the clothes as the washing process was carried out.
For some reason this lavoire had a black rubber water pipe taking some of the water away. 

This is the chamber collecting the spring water that I discovered behind the door in the back wall.
This view really shows the functional structure of the lavoire. Many women could do their laundry at one time.  
Clearing the leaves from this place took a long time and I got a little wet in the process.  It was a really interesting process as I felt I was honouring this space and cherishing it by caring for it.  There is also a pleasure in doing physical work, especially re-enacting the motions of the women who came here regualrly to  wash their families clothes. 
I pondered the location of this lavoire, but John said it served the women on the far side of the village. It seemed like a long way to walk with your washing. 
Waliking back down towards La Muse, I noticed these planters on a wall. 
The street lights high up on the buildings caught my eye as well.
As I have mentioned priviously, Labastide is all about stairs!
Of all shapes and sizes.

As I approached La Muse I came upon the Mayor.  I told him I had cleared the Lavoire and he was very happy, We had a conversation in French and  he told me I could come back whenever I wanted and help him to keep the Lavoires free of leaves. He truly cares for his village.  He is up every morning very early and walks all around the village doing his own personal patrol.  He also clears up any garbage he finds. 
Here is La Muse as approached from the far side. 

And here is the chapel right at the pathway we had to go down to get to the gate leading to the back terrace and our entrance to the big house.
Opposite La Muse is the Marie, as I mentioned.  Outside of the back doorway was this difibrilator.
And here is the sign that welcomed us all to this wonderful building that was home for four fabulous weeks. 
I walked back across the familiar terrace.
Knowing I would be leaving the next morning I took one last look out over the valley. 

I turned towards the house and entered through the library. 
The books we had all shared in our  first week together were still on the table for us to check out.
And here are the chairs gathered around the fire where I sat with the young people from England on that memorable day when I realised Charlie and I knew each other from years ago in my classroom.
And here are some more views of the library, such a beautiful space to read and reflect.

From the library you enter the kitchen, another gathering place.

From the kitchen you enter the foyer that leads into the dining room as well as the stairs up to the bedrooms.

John and Kerry had kindly provided us all with maps and books on the area.  They were kept in this special area, along with the guest book we all signed just before we said good bye.
At the top of the stairs on the first landing there was a lovely window and this antuque sewing machine.
I thought I would share some of the special bedrooms that provided us all with such a magical experience here at La Muse Inn.

Not all rooms come with a bath, but when they do, they are very special spaces.
The staircase up to the top floor was so beautiful, with lovely art on the walls. 
This is the hallway from my bedroom.  You can see that we had no dryer here, and hung our washing up on lines along the hallway.
All the rooms at La Muse are named after the Muses, and mine was Urania. See how the door handle is in the middle of the door. :-)

As a farewell celebration we had a pizza night.  John provided the pizza bases and fixings and we all added any suitable ingredients we had left over from our personal food supplies.
It was a fun night.

The pizzas were divine and it was a fitting farewell for us all.
The next morning bright and early I was off to the train station with John and Jena. Farewell to La Muse Inn. 
I have so many memories to cherish from my four weeks here.  Another thing that has happened since I have left is that I am making connections with past La Muser's thanks to my Instagram account. lol  Thanks to hashtags!!
Because of computer issues with uploading pictures to my blogs here in Santorini I had to post the trip to Genova before this one. The pictures for that post had already been uploaded. :-) 
I hope this isn't too confusing for everyone.  Hopefully from now on everything with be in the right order. 
Thank you for reading and any comments you have are greatly appreciated.
The next post coming up will be all about my time in Genova.  :-)

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