They're calling it "autumn in July." It's true that our weather this year has not followed normal, expected patterns. We've broken a few records at both ends of the thermometer's scale. Last November we had full on winter, with a massive snow storm and the mercury plummeting, fully six weeks earlier than normal and quite a bit colder than usual. In April, when one would imagine mild spring weather, we had scorching summery temperatures that went on for weeks. This is virtually unheard of. Our hills turned brown, reminding me of California, such an unusual sight over here. Now we're in the middle of a low pressure system, bringing driving rain with chilly days and nights. The Virginia Creeper on the house is already turning red. The natural world around us is very confused indeed! Apparently the earth's axis shifted slightly with the huge earthquake in Chile last year and of course our protective atmospheric cover is being eroded at a tremendous clip, leaving us much more vulnerable to the vagaries and intensity of weather systems. I don't think there is yet a new normal, but old forms have been flung out the window, that is fairly clear.
We met one of our local aristocrats lately. Last weekend we hosted a couple who were attending a nearby wedding. They announced to us that the wife's sister, who is a widow living not far from us, would like to meet us and show us her manoir. Sure enough, she arrived at the door a few days later to extend her personal invitation for tea. What an adventure! Firstly, discovering her house was a revelation. From the public road you see only this:
The hills around are farm land and there is no reason to think that this inconspicuous grassy pathway would lead anywhere other than to a humble farm house. Far from it. I couldn't take photos of the house without being incredibly obnoxious and gauche, although I longed to do so. I snapped a portion of the front of the house quickly as we were driving away. You can perhaps get a small concept of how pretty and grand it is. What you don't have is a sense of the complex of buildings or the gorgeous parkland surrounding the house.
In back is a breathtaking view over rolling hills, a forest and a large lake with a resident pair of herons. Quite extraordinary! The amazing part of Madame's story is that a part of her family immigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century and made a big name for themselves over there. Her great-great grandfather opened Sloanes Department Store in New York, another relative had one of the largest gold mines in California. One of her cousins, William Sloane Coffin, was a famous peace activist during the Vietnam War and still another is the current prosecutor for New York City (the one heading up the Strauss-Kahn case).
Big things went on in town this weekend. First there was an exposition of antique cars. All built before 1915. They still function, as later in the day their drivers got into them and motored off.
One of our favorites was the Ford, with all those beautiful brass fittings, leather upholstery and simplicity of design.
Take a look at those incredible wooden spokes:
In the afternoon we had a horse race at the local track. This is its third year of operation.
We have farmers markets nearby three times a week. Frankly, we don't always go, as it is a drive and it must be planned for. Besides, the supermarket has very high quality, locally grown produce. When we do go, however, it is always a sensuous treat. There are certain specialty items not available at the big store.
You can't get fresh butter or some of those handmade cheeses at the supermarket. The fresh butter is one of those things that is beyond description. What a treat.