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Posts from the ‘Potpourri’ Category

holding two worlds apart, or living in a flying buttress

The streets in medieval villages are narrow, and in some villages, such as Grasse, France, one can stretch out the arms and touch the walls to each side.

Often the walls are tall, denying access to the light, except for parts of day when it manages to cut across the shadows and illuminates briefly patches of the bulwark and warms an otherwise gray day.

These tall walls, when built, needed support that the stone and construction could not provide.

Flying buttresses were devised to support walls from outside of a building. These structures projected perpendicularly from the face of a wall and served either to strengthen it or to resist the side thrust created by the load on an arch or a roof of the building. Notre-Dame de Paris in Paris is a good example.

While not considered flying buttresses per se, medieval buildings in France do rely on buttresses of another kind to prevent the walls of two adjacent buildings from collapsing into each other.

Projecting supports were built between the walls of two buildings and serves the same purpose as flying buttresses: they maintain the stability of the two walls and thus the entire building.

Besides the practical architectural reasons for putting these supports into place, they became passages for walking between the buildings. Some were built large enough to serve as small residences.

For obvious reasons these supports were built in the middle of passages between outlying streets. They are not portals per se or gates or doorways, although they do provide access to other public areas. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)


wrought iron grilling in toulouse

My wish, easy enough to accomplish, amounted to following a tourist map to the corner of rue Croix Baragnon and rue des Arts in Toulouse, France. I wanted to see the oldest house in Toulouse, dating from the 14th century.

I found it and took my photos.

When I do some research online, one moment I am focussed on the project, and in another instant I am somewhere else, far away, reading material I had not originally intended to read.

It is like reading a page and forgetting what I had read, because my mind had wandered somewhere between the distance at the end of the line on the page and the beginning of the next line.

A flâneur wanders. Meanders a bit from here to there. It is not a loss of concentration; it is experiencing another new moment, possibly unrelated to the previous one. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!

une etoile pour une table au sud dans marseille

When visiting France, which is usually twice a year for two to three months each trip, I eat lunches in restaurants. Last winter (2016) I was on the Côte d’Azure for 90 days, and I ate lunch 89 times in restaurants.

I have eaten some very very good meals in France. I have swooned. I have eaten some terrible meals as well. I do not believe anyone who says, after visiting France, “All my meals were wonderful in France!” Nonsense.

Most of the meals I have eaten in France have been ordinary. I can say the same for the United States: I live in Portland, Oregon, a foodie city, acknowledged as such in Portland by its own citizens and by the national press that frets about such characterizations. I have eaten many many ordinary lunches and dinners in Portland. Too many.

A charge can be made, I suppose, that I am not choosing restaurants very well.


In any case, I have found what I  call a ‘sweet spot” in value for restaurants; it serves as an ur-meal for later experiences. The impeccable service that the restaurant provides and the quality of the food–the flavors, the freshness of the ingredients, and the surprises–combine to make a memorable experience at an excellent price. But wait, there’s more!

meant to fly? hardly, but we have the train ride

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.” ―Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on. Track usually consists of steel rails installed on sleepers/ties and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves.” —Rail Transport

The train service in France is good, generally reliable, and cheap. I have no need for a car there when I visit. The Metro and RER in Paris and the PACA service on the Côte d’Azure will take me where I would like to go. One must wait sometimes for the train or bus to arrive; timing a trip with public transportation can sometimes be tricky; and setting a destination for a small village nestled in the mountains somewhere might be impossible without a car. However . . . the train or bus and both can add to the adventure of a trip. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

All train routes along the French Riviera between Cannes, let’s say, and Menton pass through Nice, France. A train to Grasse, the perfume capital, for example, which cuts inland at Cannes, starts in Nice. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

But wait, there’s more!