Monday, 19 September 2011

Journees du Patrimoine

This weekend has been a weekend of free visiting of sites. I think it is probably some sort of tax dodge where tourist sites are given funding if they open for free for a couple of days a year but maybe that's just me being my usual sceptical self.

On Saturday we went to see a DVD showing of the history of our local town followed by another one which was a collection of early photos of the town and the area and then a visit to a model of the most ancient part of the town. All done by local older people so that what they know or had collected wouldn't be lost.

We had somehow thought that there might be some interest in this but turned up to find the guy who had made the DVDs and his computer and screen, then two old ladies, another couple of old ladies arrived a bit later and another english speaker. We all chatted together for a bit and then the DVDs were shown. I loved that two of the older ladies were nudging each other at some of the photos and obviously recognising some of the people. Also got back in contact with one of the ladies who used to be a neighbour so that was good.

On Sunday Him Outdoors wanted me to come and translate for the 'Discovery of the Paths of the Resistance'. All meet in the centre of town, share cars - we went in a french couple from Nantes' car - and drive off to a memorial. Four Spanish guys were killed in a farm nearby. Went to see the farm whose ruins still exist. Told how and where they died. Most importance on the fact that they were Spanish and fighting for France. Some discussion of the fact that they were working in a coal mine locally which employed a lot of foreigners and enabled foreigners to have paperwork that satisfied the Germans. Then went to visit their grave which had been redone a couple of years ago. Much mention of ceremony.

On the way to the next one we pass the mine that they worked in. 'Quick' diversion while we got a half hour lecture on the art of mining.

Him Outdoors was by now beginning to mutter about hoping that some mention was going to be made about why the guys were in the woods in the first place and what sort of thing they were doing and the local groups and really any general background stuff.

Off to another memorial beside the main road. Translation completely hindered by guide talking to the memorial rather than us who were behind him and by the cars that were speeding past. Again three foreign guys to one french man. Much talk of the fact that they were initially buried in one commune when they actually died in another because the border was a few feet away. Still no mention of why they died just that they were shot.

Much photo taking of participants of the group.

Third memorial, same. and the Fourth.

OK so we went on a tour of memorials to foreigners who fought for the french and where most of them worked.

At the third and fourth memorials the guide was discussing that there was a plan to make a new memorial in a garden away from the main road so that all the armistice day ceremonies and such like could be held without getting run over. Seems like a good idea. But one of the people on the tour came from another commune locally and was very indignant that a memorial to people who died in his commune was going to be put up in the next commune. Obviously very very important that communes keep their own memorials. As far as I could tell, they aren't planning to move the memorials which are placed where the men died, just add another plaque in the garden.

All in all, a very french weekend. Lovely.


  1. Sounds like fun to me, I just wish my French was better so I could appreciate all these things Diane

  2. Re tax some cases, yes.

    As for Spanish fighting for France...interesting to know whether they were refugees from Franco...kept in concentration camps in France until the shambles of the occupation allowed some of them freedom...if you can call working in a mine freedom.

    I used to love the 'old photograph' displays, especially with elderly people there to point out their friends and tell stories.
    There used usually to be the elderly and a few foreigners...young people did not seem to be interested.

    Him Outdoors will wait a long time before someone (French) tells him about the tangled tale of the French Resistance...those in from the start, and the carpetbaggers of the last minute.

  3. Sounds like an interesting weekend, Rosie, both in terms of history and of local susceptibilities. I keep wishing we could stay in Normandy until the Journees du Patrimoine weekend, but we keep missing it. Perhaps next year....