Super Summer 2013

The pool at Les Rosiers, our home, did not turn ghoulish green as it has in past summers.  None of the precious roses died. We had wonderful tenants in our rosiersstudio rental apartment, plus fun family visits.  The crumbling pergola was replaced (but that’s another story, see previous post, “Pergola –or State Park Picnic Shelter”).  We enjoyed a terrific visit to Antwerp, tasty meals at local festivals and parties with friends.  Summer 2013 was better than good: Super

It kicked off in June with the arrival of Klaus, an Austrian from Graz.  He and his wife Eva have been staying in our gite (French for vacation rental) for a month every year since 2010.   Klaus arrives first, by car, roof rack loaded with supplies, including Austrian beer and food staples. On the way home, a large supply of wine takes the place of those goodies.    Eva is a legal secretary.  She comes by plane a week after Klaus arrives.

Klaus
Klaus

They know the area well, have friends here, enjoy revisiting favorite places and hanging out poolside.  Klaus loves to cook.  He brought his own knife sharpener this year.  The one I supplied was not up to snuff.  And, he loves to grill – lamb and sausages are his favorites. This year his grilling almost led to disaster.  The morning after a previous day’s use of the grill, he emptied the ashes which he assumed were dead in the wooded area of dried leaves behind and adjacent to our house.  That afternoon I was in the pool.  I noticed smoke, but I assumed he was grilling again.  Suddenly BB (husband Bicycle Bob) came flying down the steps from our balcony.  He had seen flames.   Indeed, the ashes had sprung to life and a fire had started.  It was frightening.  But, all to the rescue with hose and buckets of water.  Catastrophe was averted.

Filippo kept our tenants entertained.
Filippo kept our tenants entertained.

Eva is a walker, often up at 7 a.m., setting out on a trek in the area for two to three hours. Klaus also hikes and gathers herbs and berries (juniper) and other treasures from the forests and fields.  He left me with a supply of bay leaves which I have dried. Another of his favorite pastimes is visiting flea markets.  During summers here, there are many on the agenda.  He always finds interesting bargains.

Lang and Samuel
Lang and Samuel

Stepson Rob and his boys, Samuel and Lang, followed Klaus and Eva. The boys, both swimmers, loved the pool, as well as jaunts on foot to the bakery every morning with their dad.  They could not get their fill of croissants.  According to Rob, Samuel still asks when he can come back and get more of those croissants, which he called “amazing.”

Bob, Samuel, Lang and Rob
Bob, Samuel, Lang and Rob

The Gorges du Verdon, the Abbey of Senanque and Colorado Provencal were highlights for Jean and Alex, a charming couple who stayed for a week.  He is French, lives and works in Colmar.  She is German, originally from Leipzig, and now working for an international organization in Geneva.  They both are multi-lingual, and, like many of our visitors, especially enjoyed the “calm” at Les Rosiers.

They were followed by a couple we felt were a bit strange, if not unpleasant. He always had a scowl on his face, never a smile,  and once complained that the refrigerator was not cold enough (easy to fix – just turn up the dial.)  They went off sightseeing and came back to lounge by the pool, but barely said a word to us.  I assumed they were not happy with our rosesaccommodations.  I dared not ask them to write in our guest book.  Wonders never cease.  They did write:  “Thanks to your hospitality we have discovered the pleasures of Haute Provence…we have appreciated the coolness of your gite, the refreshing swimming pool and the calm of the surroundings.”

Roberto and Francoise from Fribourg, Switzerland, are fantastic. She is a teacher for handicapped adults – and a cat lover .  She was smitten with Filippo, my rambunctious male cat. Roberto, originally from Uruguay, came with hisbicycle.

Roberto and Francoise
Roberto and Francoise

Unfortunately Francoise fell in our new pergola/State Park Picnic Shelter (SPPS) and broke her foot. They took it in stride, did not complain, and continued their stay.

As her mobility was limited after the accident, Francoise was content to sit in the yard, often with Filippo at her side, and read while Roberto rode his bike.   Like Klaus, she was into wild herbs:  garlic, fennel, rosemary, thyme.  And oils – lavender, almond and olive. She gave me instructions on treatments using lavender oil.

Elaine and Paul
Elaine and Paul

Time for the British, Elaine and Paul from southeast London, who kept on the move and visited sites near and far (Arles, Pont du Grad, Gorges du Verdon, Bonnieux, Gordes).  Elaine is an assistant for children with special needs at a secondary school. Paul is a quantity surveyor for a construction company. They also enjoyed Filippo’s shenanigans.  Paul said Les Rosiers is “the quietest place we’ve ever been to.”

Elizabeth and Igor from Normandy stayed two weeks.  They overwhelmed us with dinner invitations. Igor also likes to grill. While I was away, he invited Bob for grilled sausages. When I returned we were invited for grilled beef.  And, yet again for an apero.  We expected the usual chips- nuts- and- olives apero.  But this was an “apero dinotoire,” something new to us,   a multi-course meal:  crackers and tomatoes, then grilled lamb with a rice/tuna salad, a potato salad, and fruit.

Igor and Elizabeth
Igor and Elizabeth

Igor arrived with easel and paints.  He set up in the yard and created lovely scenes. We received one as a going-away present.  He is a financial consultant in Paris, and commutes home to Rouen on weekends.  Elizabeth, who was recovering from breast cancer surgery, said she came to the Luberon to “relax.”  They did visit some neighboring towns.  “We like typical, tranquil, original villages,” she said, mentioning nearby Viens and Vacheres.  They also raved about an attraction we have yet to visit, the Ganogobie Abbey.gite.3

Summer wound down with the visit of stepdaughter Kellie.  She gave BB a chance to live up to his name.  They bicycled a few times before her boyfriend arrived for a week.  We all set off to Marseille together and were in awe of the new architectural masterpieces.mrs.5

It’s still warm in Provence, but the pool waters have chilled. We’ll put the pool to bed for winter soon.  But, I can look forward to starting swimming early next spring.  We’ve purchased a heat pump for the pool.   Summer 2014 may top summer 2013.

For more about Les Rosiers, see www.les-rosiers.com

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Sam’s Saga

It’s a feline fairytale come true,  a rags to riches story. From life as a stray cat wandering in the alleys of Cereste, a Provencal village in the Luberon, to that of a pampered pet in a posh apartment in Paris.  And, not just any apartment.  Sam’s new home is with the famed pianist and conductor Philippe Entremont and his wife.

There must be millions of homeless cats in France. How did this husky gray tomcat get so lucky?

The saga began last December when I decided to adopt Sam. Friends Marten and Jessica had been feeding him, but they have four other cats.  Sam was especially friendly and affectionate, however he was becoming a nuisance, fighting with their cats.  They needed to find a home for him.

I was in mourning at the loss of Buddy, my big black male cat, whom I had to have euthanized due to cancer.  Sam seemed to be the answer to cure my sorrow. He was a delight with people, loved to be petted, purred loudly. But, he quickly decided he must be king.  He made life hell for my two female cats.  This would not work.   I called friends, sent emails, put up posters.  I was determined to find him a home.  All to no avail.  Some friends, including cat experts, said the kindest thing would be to have him euthanized.  I could not bring myself to take this step.  Since he had been surviving as a street cat in Cereste for years, a town where kind souls do feed strays, I took him back to the village with great remorse and feelings of guilt.

Sam was born under a lucky star.  Along came Anne to the rescue. Shortly after his return to the streets, this kind English woman arrived to spend the winter in the apartment upstairs from Marten and Jessica. Anne and her friend Martine came to Cereste from Ireland with their dogs and horses.  They have been spending the winter training for a 500 kilometer charity ride on horseback across France to raise money for the Program for Assistance Dogs for Families of Children with Autism.  http://thewanderlywagons.blogspot.fr/

Anne took to Sam, who was hanging around and hungry.  He soon moved in with her and her canines: Fionn, a huge lab/Rottweiler cross, and Roxy, a lab/retriever mix.  Sam detests cats, but dogs are his pals.  All became friends, even sleeping together.  When Anne walked the dogs, Sam would follow.

But, Sam’s time was running out.  Anne would soon be starting her horse trek, then return home to Ireland where she has two cats – no hope for Sam there. Once again I started the search.  Friend David, a photographer with expert computer skills, made beautiful professional posters with Sam’s photo which I distributed to numerous vet offices and shops in the area.  Again no response.

I also told my friend Jude Reitman about my plight with Sam.    Jude is an award winning journalist and author – and devoted animal rescuer – who has been living part time in France.  www.judithreitman.com  She put me in touch with Amelia Tarzi, a lawyer born in Afghanistan who gave up law to work as an interpreter, the latter allowing her more time for her passion:  animal rescue.

Amelia has lived in the states and Switzerland, but is now at home in Paris.  However, she spends as much time as possible at an animal shelter in central France, DPA-Refuge de Thiernay, www.refuge-thiernay.com

I sent photos of Sam to Amelia who soon announced that she had found a home for the fortunate feline — but it was in Paris, some 610 kilometers away.  A friend of Amelia’s is a friend of Mme. Entremont,  wife of the noted musician Philippe Entremont.  She had just lost a cat.  The friend quickly put her in touch with animal rescuer  Amelia who sent photos of many cats needing homes to Mme. Entremont.  She zeroed in on Sam because he looked like the cat she had just lost.

How to get Sam to Paris?  Amelia said she would pick him up at the TGV train station in Aix en Provence en route back to Paris after a job in Nice.

Sam needed to be vaccinated, micro-chipped and tested for disease before departing for the City of Lights.  The first attempt to cage him for the trip to the vet failed. (See Anne’s blog at the above address for more on this fiasco.)  The next morning Anne succeeded, and I took Sam to  the vet where he was a prince, a surprise to all.  Then, husband Bob (a dog person and a saint to put up with my cat capers),  drove me and caged Sam to the train station, more than a hour away.  This normally very vocal cat was amazingly subdued during the journey.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Amelia met us in the train station café, and soon street cat Sam was on his way to a new life in high-class surroundings.  Released from his cage in the Paris apartment, he ran to hide behind a bookcase.  During the night he emerged and, according to Amelia, got the shock of his life when he walked across the keys of his esteemed owner’s piano.  He’s adjusting to life with the upper crust, and Mme. Entremont is “thrilled” with her pet rescued from Provence, says Amelia.

Jude Reitman has recently started a company, La Bedouine, specializing in skin care products handmade by Berber women in Essaouira, Morocco.  http://www.labedouine.com  She has moved back to her home in North Carolina where she is active in finding homes for abandoned dogs.

Au Revoir Buddy

I miss you so much, Buddy Boy.  And, I am so sorry we had to say Good-bye.  But, the tumor in your throat was growing.  There was no hope.  The vet said you would suffocate – a horrible death.  I wanted to spare you that.  You were such a loyal, loveable companion, indeed my special buddy. 

Buddy was put to sleep on Oct 20, a peaceful, painless death.  He was 11 years old, and during those years he went through most of his nine lives.  He owes those years to several guardian angels who rescued him. 

Chris, an assistant to the military vet in Stuttgart, Germany, trapped Buddy’s mother with seven kittens (including Buddy).  They were feral, the mother having been abandoned by a military family who moved back to the states.  This is the fate of too many cats on military installations.  Chris rescued many starving felines.    Buddy and his brothers and sisters, about three months old, were wild, fearful and ferocious.  Chris’ mission was to tame them.  Wearing extra heavy gloves, she forced the kittens to eat out of her hand, thus becoming accustomed to human contact.  It took patience, dedication and time. 

Chris knew I had been considering getting another cat to be a companion to my cat Molly.   She felt Buddy was special.  She wanted him to have a good home.  She offered him to me when he was ‘ready” for adoption.  He quickly adapted to his new home, becoming affectionate and loving. I was smitten. 

Buddy’s second brush with death came just a few months after I got him.  We lived in a second floor apt, with a large balcony/terrace adjacent to a giant pine tree.  Molly would climb down the tree for outdoor excursions.  Buddy did the same, but shortly after his first foray, he did not return.  I searched the neighborhood, called, put up signs. 

After a lapse of several days, he tried to make his way back up the tree.  I was on the balcony and was overjoyed. But, he didn’t make it.  A hind leg was dangling from his body.  He fell back down and ran away.  We spotted him hiding in the backyard, but he wouldn’t let us near him.  It was as if he had become feral again.  We put a dish of food out and after several tries, managed to throw a blanket over him while he was eating.  His leg had been broken, probably caught in a fence, according to the vet. 

After that, Buddy became an indoor cat.  He had many endearing habits.  His favorite pose was lying on his back, his front paws curled up.  He loved to get on my lap and knead, cat fashion.  And, as a special sign of affection, he liked to chew my hair. He was also a glutton.  Buddy devoured all food.  He always hung around in the kitchen when I was cooking, and I often spoiled him with bits of meat or fish.  He especially loved licking the almost-empty containers of crème fraiche, yogurt, and the bowl after I had whipped cream. He’d end up with a white face. 

Buddy’s remarkable and miraculous rescue came many years after his second brush with death.  I took him to Sigrid Ruckaberle, the cat lady of Stuttgart, because we were preparing to go on a vacation.    Sigrid, like Chris, trapped and rescued many feral cats in military housing areas.  She had more than 20 cats herself, all rescues, but she also boarded cats.

I got out of the car in front of her house (about a 1 ½ hour drive from our home) and picked up Buddy’s cage.  He pushed the door open, bolted and sped like lightning up the street. The door had obviously not been fastened securely. My heart sank.  I knew I would never catch him, and he was so far from home.

Sigrid was also upset, but, she was confident she could catch him.  I could not go on vacation knowing that Buddy was wandering in the wilderness, so far away.  We canceled the trip, and every day, for 10 days, I drove back to Sigrid’sneighborhood, walked all around, calling Buddy.  I knew he would not come, but I thought if he heard my voice he would meow and I could at least locate him.  I asked all the neighbors time and time again if they had seen a back cat with a white mark on his chest.  They got sick of seeing me, and finally one neighbor got nasty and told me to stop coming on his property.  I gave up my search, but continued to be plagued by worry and sorrow. 

Sigrid, meanwhile, had been putting out food dishes in several neighborhood locations.  The food always disappeared, but any number of cats or wild creatures could have been eating it.  She also set cat traps.  She caught a hedgehog, but not Buddy. 

After six weeks, I had given up hope and set off on a short trip with a friend, still thinking too often about Buddy.  When I came home, husband Bob told me to sit down; he had some good news and bad news.  I was certain the bad news was that Buddy’s body had been found.

“The good news is that I have a cat outside in a cage.   The bad news is that I don’t know if it’s Buddy,” he said.  I raced to the cage.  It was my Buddy.  Sigrid, after all this time and tireless efforts, had caught my baby.  I was thrilled, overjoyed, and ecstatic. 

Yet, one more time Buddy escaped.  We had gone on a vacation and left a young neighbor in charge of feeding Buddy and Molly.  I told her she could let Molly out, but not Buddy.  When we came home after a week, no Buddy.  I quizzed her.  She said I had told her that Molly could go out so she left the balcony door open for her.   ???  How could she have not realized that Buddy would go out too? Again, I was frantic.  

I consulted Sigrid who assured me that he would not venture far. We put food out, it disappeared.  After about a week, we saw him.  But he always ran from us. Again, he reverted to his feral past. We monitored the food dish.  And, we used the blanket trick again.  While he was eating, we threw a blanket over him.  He was wild. He scratched and bit me.  But, once we got him in the apartment, he was his old self again. 

Some years later we moved to a rural area of southern France.  Here the neighborhood is safe with lots of territory for cats to roam.  Buddy was permitted outdoors.  He never ventured far, but obviously enjoyed his freedom.  He knew the sound of the car.  Whenever I returned home after an outing, he would be waiting for me at the edge of the driveway. 

Now he’s gone….no friendly cat to welcome me.  I miss you, Buddy. 

Buddy was the third male cat I have lost to cancer at the age of 11.  Molly lived to be 17 ½.  I have two young female cats I rescued as kittens from a shelter to replace Molly, but they are completely “sauvage” as the French say.  Real outdoor cats that only  appear to eat.   

As this is Christmas time, this story needs a happy ending.  Welcome Sam, a big, sturdy gray tomcat who has been living in the streets of nearby Cereste. Friends Martin and Jessica have been feeding him, but they already have four cats and now a new baby, a beautiful girl named Sam. They could not adopt another cat.  Sam (I named him), who is very affectionate and loves to be caressed, needed a home.  He’s my Christmas present.

For a tasty holiday dinner, see Holiday Pork Roast under Recipes in the far right column. 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL