Rush Limbaugh has his . . . well, here is mine. This is my record of news stories and issues that interest me. You can also find more headlines at the site where I serve as editor: The Common Voice.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Paper and stone

We're nearing the end of our trip. So far our good fortune with the weather is holding. We're enjoying ourselves, but I find myself looking forward to getting home to America.

As I type this the movers are here to pack up the belongings of my sister and her family. They will be leaving to go to Paris with us tomorrow. We'll fly out from there to America. They will be heading to Germany for a week. Then they will return to Cournon for a short time before they too will finally head home for America for good. I can only imagine how excited they are!

Tuesday we visited the Moulin Richard De Bas. A Moulin is a mill. In this case it was a paper mill. It didn't smell at all like the paper mills I grew up around back in North Carolina. It was very interesting and I bought some of the paper for my use once I get home. The paper is made by hand and we got to see the process.

They take old strips of linen and soad them in a mixture of water and alcohol. They they place them in vats with huge hammers driven by a water wheel pounding the mixture for over 36 hours. By the time the pounding is done, the cloth has been turned into something like pulp. They then take it from there to a larger vat filled with water. The paper makers then take screens with frames the size of sheets of paper and sift the pulp evenly onto the screen.

Once the screen is drained a bit, the paper maker places the two forms onto a sheet of felt. The process then follows again. Once they have about 100 of these they place it in a press. Pressure is placed on the pulp until what was once nearly a quarter of an inch thick compresses to the size of a 20 pound sheet of paper. These thinner sheets are hung up to dry and voila, you have paper.

Another interesting thing they do is make flower paper. The paper makers go out into the woods and fields around the mill and find flowers (it must be very early in the morning). They take these flowers and place them in the large water vat. So, when they sift the pulp into the frames, the flowers get sifted into the pulp as well. Once the "sheets" are pressed the flowers get pressed right along with the pulp. Best I can tell, the flowers end up dying the pulp. The color stays right there without change. It is pretty cool.

However, what I enjoy most is that we are going to places most American tourists do not go. We have taken some long drives in the countryside to get to these places. Often we have had to make detours due to road work (or getting lost). Again and again I am amazed at the narrowness of the streets and roads here. I can't help but think of the small stone bridge down a Cleveland Park in Greenville. I have always thought they should have made it wider. However, that is pretty standard here in France once you get off the autoroute. No wonder they have such small cars here!

Yesterday we went to Le Puy-en-velay. This is a unique city because it sits in an empty lake bed that was once a volcano. How long ago this was the case is not known. One thing that comes from this unique history is that there are several very large lava forms that jut up in the midst of the city. On the tops of these, several statutes and a chapel have been built.

We climbed the 268 steps to the top of one of these to visit the chapel there. While visiting the chapel I was listening to The Lord of the Rings on my iPod. It certainly added to the experience! It was so old. The building was renovated in the 11th and 12th centuries - I believe it was built in the 900s. I just love those kinds of places because you can't help but feel a connection back to those people who were there so long ago. Oh, and man, were those people short.

Upon returning to street level, we headed toward the center of town so my wife could do some lace shopping. Wouldn't you know it, when we got in the van it started to rain. As soon as we found a parking place, it stopped.

Then came my least favorite time of the visit. Shopping. I really don't care to shop. All you see are things that you could buy much cheaper in America. I found myself turning to the standby of people watching. As Horton said in Suesses "Horton Hears a Who," "People are people no matter how small." Meaning, that people in France are really no different than people in America. If you took away the scenery and sounds, you would think you were on any city street in the states. People don't really dress much differently and styles are pretty similar. You see groups of teens hanging out together just like you do at the mall and men sitting on benches passing the time while their wifes shop.

Back in the van we headed home. Something of interest here. As you drive along the roads you will see groups of silhouettes. They are black cut-outs of people with large red hearts on their midsections. There are roads running through the hearts much like an arrow from Cupid. On the hearts are written the following: "J'avais 29 ans" - "I was 29 years old." Anytime someone dies on a road, a silhouette is placed on the side with their age. At one point we saw seven of these in one spot. I also saw ages ranging from 2 up to 80. It certainly made you think.

Today, we are going chateau hunting - once the movers leave. There is one around Cournon that my sister has never visited. We're not even sure where it is exactly. I think this will be fun. We haven't been in a chateau yet. I'll tell the story of the chateaus in a later blog.


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