Château de Sainte-Mère and Lectoure Pastel

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After their AGM, members were taken on a tour of the Château de Sainte-Mère by its owner, Piers Killeen (centre stage above). Already widely known by music lovers for the quality of the concerts he arranges every year on the site, Piers is working hard at the restoration of the 13th century building, discouraged less by bad weather than by the seemingly endless and often contradictory hurdles put in his path by bureaucrats. A paradox, when you think of all the fine buildings we admire today and which, over the centuries, have been restored, added to or even completely rebuilt on the foundations of previous ones.
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After lunch, a smaller group visited the Bleu de Lectoure, a revival of the medieval technique of producing blue dye from a plant known in the south of France as “pastel”,and in northern climes (including Great Britain) as woad. As a surprise bonus, Chris Boddington gave us a rousing version of The Ancient Britons’ Woad Song.
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Domaine du Garinet Visit

On a hot 21st July, a group of over twenty members and friends assembled to visit Mike and Sue Spring’s vineyard at Domaine du Garinet in the north-west Lot. This is a 2.5Ha vineyard with distinct parcels of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the classic Cahors Malbec. Walking through the tall vines, Mike and Sue explained how they had carefully researched their project before acquiring the vineyard and the challenges they face to produce wines. These obviously met with the group’s approval (without any pressure on their part). This year’s vendange will be late, but we were tasting still the 2003-5 reds, so it will be some time before the 2013 Malbecs (100%) come on stream.

No OUS event is complete without a lunch, this time a convivial,  inexpensive and filling five courses in St. Matré. Thanks our due to Sue and John Baylis (our chairman) for organising the visit.

Lherm Lavender Farm

A number of members and guests recently visited the Lavender Farm at Lherm. After a warm welcome and presentations in front of the lavender from both Suzie and Ian, we sat down to a fine tea whilst watching Ian complete the distillation process. Recommended – do call in advance, though. You might also consider a visit to the nearby restaurant, La Recréation, at Les Arques, if the weather is good enough to sit outside.

Ian demonstrates his harvesting machinery
Ian demonstrates his machinery (photo Pip)

What’s It All About, Albi

Richard O’Neill (Treasurer) kindly organised our visit to Albi on 17th May. Given the dismal May weather, our group of 16 were blessed by a sunny, rain-free day, starting inside, of course, with a fine lunch at La Temporalité, itself sandwiched in between the Cathedral and the newly-extended Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. We were detained longer than perhaps expected by this artist’s extraordinary draughtsmanship. The massive exterior of the Cathedral (supposedly the largest brick building in the world) didn’t seem particularly beckoning, but the interior is as rich as the exterior is austere. It has a particularly compelling representation of hell (and above) and amazingly well-preserved 16th-century painted vaulting and chapels. The boat-trip on the Tarn would have been positively dangerous given the state of the river after our May rains, but it didn’t really matter. A splendid day out: see our snapshots below.

Temporalite

 

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The Cathedral from the Museum

 

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A Stern Warning to all Transgressors
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The uninviting Tarn from the Museum

Madrid 2013

Our Chairman, John Baylis, and Treasurer, Richard O’Neill attended the European Reunion for alumni in Madrid. Photo courtesy of Jo Whiting. John is also seen at the Trinity College dinner. This was hosted by Greg Timofiejew (Oxford and Cambridge Society of Poland and Oxford and Cambridge Dining Club of Geneva), seen to the right of John and left of Jackie Hruby, the Alumni Office organiser.

2013 European Reunion - Friday Dinner (1)

 

Alice in Wonderland

Friday 19th April saw 18 OUS members and guests assembling at Château Pierrail, near 33220 Margueron, for a tour of the well-designed gardens, the winery and tastings of the fine Bordeaux Superior wines produced here. Alice and Jacques Demonchaux took on this beautiful once-baronial 17 C residence with 70 hectares of vines in 1970 and today it is a magnificent private estate producing first-class wines sold to restaurants throughout Europe.

Among the party was OUS Branch Secretary from Perth, Australia, Roger Winwood, seen here with our Chairman John Baylis and Secretary Marion Tempé.

Lunch was enjoyed at the Relais de Monestier before most of us drove to Allemans du Dropt, there to be suitably impressed by the 15 C frescoes in the church of Saint Eutrope, then relax with a cup of tea chez Pip & Sue Kirby, whose house is but a stone’s throw away in the village.