Saturday, March 28, 2009


Orthez is a small town in the southwest Bearn region of France. A female resident would be called une Bearnaise like the famous sauce which was not created here, but, by the chef of a regal Saint Cloud restaurant. He was un Bernais. This area has only been a part of France for the last four centuries.
I had gone to mass on Easter Sunday at the town's 12th century church, Saint Pierre d'Ortez, a couple of years ago. With a pronounced Bayonne accent, I wasn't at all sure what language the preacher was speaking. He was very convincing all the same.

The river, Le Gave, runs along the edge of town. Crossing Le Pont Neuf (built a century ago) you can view Le Vieux Pont which dates back to the 13th century. Water, water, under the bridge. Fantôms, love stories, family feuds, and religious wars all under the bridge. We're not counting the fish. Le Gave is renowne for its river trout and salmon. They are all upstream, sans doute.

Orthez was not spared la grande tempête that devastated the region in January. Walking up the hill to a nearby park, I saw giant oaks literallly uprooted. There were others that seemed untouched. And still others that had only been split at the top (I knew what that was all about) .
Work clearing up the debree was still in progress. I examined the rings of a fallen trunk that had been chain sawed for transport. I began counting the rings. First tediously, then, by groups of tens. It had stood for more than a hundred and fifty years.

La Fontaine's fable "The Oak and the Reed" Le Chêne et Le Roseau"came to mind. Then, Jean Anouilh's parody written three centurys later. raised my spirits.
parafrasedThe oak tells the sassy reed.
"Yes, it's true that I can not bend like you.. .And, if a great wind blows, I could be knocked to the ground, but, I am still an oak. Je suis toujours un chêne."
I spoke with the guardian of the grounds.
"You must have been heart broken."
He nodded . "Oui."
Futher up the hill I saw that three new trees had been planted attached to polls for support.
I went back down the hill now crossing Le Vieux Pont.
"Je suis toujour un chêne." I thought.

Monday, March 23, 2009


My neighbgorhood is always full of people visiting Paris, or Paris people looking for the Marché Saint Pierre. I have become a professional direction giver - one of the purist jestures one can offer.

Now, it was my turn to take a trip. I was off to The Southwest of France. Land of country ham (Bayonne) Nice Pigs. mountains, inimitable accents, body surfers and peace.

Leaving the Gare Montparnas, I felt a surge of happiness. The seat next to me was empty which was fine for my bags, but, a little boring for the, despite the lush of the bucolic flashes zooming by. Hills. Cows. Sheep. The max.

After three hours we arrived at la Gare Saint Jean Bordeaux. A young man boarded with a back pack and a skate board . A grown up with a skateboard and his place was next to me.

He arranged his gear in the overhead and took the window seat next to me. We gabbed about everything from art to Obama and why a skate board was a good means of transportation.

As the train began to roll through Les Landes my concentration became diverted. I was stunned by the the sight of the trees devistated by the of the violant storm that had hit the region in January. I moaned and gasped. He didn't turn to look out once once.

L'arriveé Ortez, my destination, panicked me. Time to shake a tail feather. A short stop, for this small 12th century town. I didn't even have time to give The Happy Traveler my blog address.


Ruby chez la princess from