Thursday, 8 November 2007

Winter Hours

Colin (the partner of Richard's Mum) is visiting us at the moment, and we have been planning places to take him. He likes old architecture and also (at home) is heavily involved in making doll's house contents and miniatures.

But what did we not allow for?! The differences between summer and winter hours. Basically places open during the summer whilst in the winter, they open ......sometimes!

Off we went today to St Gervais sur Mare, just 'up the road' from us - but along windy mountain passes through the chestnut woods. Absolutely gorgeous with all the autumnal colours.

There we visited the small chapel (above) because for Christmas they set up an amazing crèche animée. Santons are figures made for centuries by local people, depicting themselves going about their daily business. They are commonly associated with Provence, but are traditional throughout Southern France.

For decades, a local person has been making santons and setting them up 'automated' for Christmas. Every year new ones are added and it now fills the side room of the chapel. Last year the elderly person said it would have to be his last year - and everyone was devastated.

We hoped against hope that it would be there this year - but when we arrived the door to the chapel was locked! As we stood in front of it, a lady of 'mature years' arrived with a key and opened up for us! We explained why we were there - but she apologised and said we were too early - the creche IS going to be there this year, but not until the 1st of December.

We will be back.....and if you are able to, do visit. It is not 'spectacular' in modern terms, but so wonderful to see. The fact that someone still takes the time and trouble to do all this work, in his spare time, deserves to be honoured.
St Gervais was an important oasis in the middle of the mountains for the local mining industry. It is a typical and interesting town, where we actually tried once (unsuccessfully) to buy a wonderful, untouched house ..... but that is another story!

This lovely three-storey house, has also got three levels of cellars below the road level. When the rains come, and fill this culvert - two levels of cellars end up under water!

The very ornate and beautiful wrought iron railings, lead down to the public toilets!

All the houses along the culvert had 'little rooms' that hung out over it. Gradually these have grown into whole extensions, but you can see that the sewage pipes still end up going down!

We then walked up to one of the other churches in the centre of St Gervais (I have forgotten the name!!). It is not at all what you expect inside.

We arrived to find the door locked. Bummer, we thought, just typical! Then there were sounds coming from the inside, and the big main door opened.....and it was the same 'mature lady'. Her job is to go round and open all the churches and chapels each day....but at 10:00am during the winter!
We wanted to also go in the musée which explains the local chestnust industry over the centuries, as well as the mining operations in the area.
But guess what? It was closed!

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