Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The French Countryside...and Dutch Cousins!

Still on a cousin kick, I could not resist the opportunity to visit my mother’s cousin Ole Langerhorst.  Ole is a Dutch sculptor, son of my German great Aunt Jule who married a Dutch man, Henni, after WWII.  Ole came to live with us for a year back in the 1980s to utilize the large amount of free wood in various family members’ back yards, so I already knew him and his wife Alize. 

Ole's woodworking tools

Ole and Alize had bought a farm deep in the French countryside.  We had been meaning to visit since we’d arrived in Europe, and this was our last chance.  So we made Ole’s farm near Vichy our first stop on a whirlwind last-round tour of Middle Europe. 

French countryside near Vichy

We landed in Frankfurt and drove right to Wiesbaden to see cousin/daughter Sophie, who had lived with us in Imperial Beach for a year right before we came to Spain.  Sophie took us to the Mainz Schwimmbad, and we had a great dinner with Paige and Hans, my aunt and uncle, along with Melinda, Hans’s sister (and my aunt) and my uncle Mohsen and cousin Elina.  Then off to France!

Welcome to the French countryside

We arrived in Vieure after a leisurely drive through Germany and France, arriving for dinner at the Dutch family reunion that had already been going on for a few days.  Ole in the meantime had switched from sculpting to farming, and has beautiful organic fields of vegetables—onions, garlic, kale, chard, lettuces of all sorts, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and herbs—surrounding his modest farmhouse.  

Another view of Ole's workshop in context

Over 30 people had shown up for the reunion, and it was cousins galore!  I didn’t know I had cousins in Upper Austria, or in Portugal!  They’d all converged on Ole for this biennial reunion.  Most were children or related in some way to Jule and Henni, but some (us) were related to Jule’s sister Hilde, and some (Toeja and Wyck, who in the end couldn’t make it) were related to sister Gusse. 

Hurray for new cousins!!

The weather held, with only light rain at times, and we hiked to a beautiful tiny church on the hill behind the village.

Vieure's little church

A spectacular bed-and-breakfast next to the church

Making wishes with Alize

The next day went into picturesque Souveny for the medieval fair.  Tia and Sasha dressed up as fairytale princesses, and their third cousin Veronica could have been their sister!

With third-cousins Leah (center) and Veronica (left)

Medieval beauties

We played guitar and sang, with cousin Leah dancing up a storm.  My cousin Annette got out the sheet music for the German canon rounds they had learned from their mother as children, and I was astonished that I, too, knew some of them! 

That's a lot of cousins--and this is just the Jule branch of the family!
Our Dutch cousins in Souvigny

Three days was much too short, but we had reservations in Colmar, site of the Isenheimer Altar that I’d visited on a class field trip when I was  16, and I wanted to share it with Tia and Sasha.    

Tia takes it all in

Sasha liked the Ascension
 Colmar is an exquisite little town situated on the -__ river, its only drawback being its overwhelming success with tourists.  We stayed right in the Centre Vieure (old town) and walked to the Isenheimer Altar, gawking at the ancient crossbeamed fifteen-century houses still standing.

Colmar beauties

Beautiful houses in Strasbourg, too

Friend Arzu came down to visit overnight!

Strasbourg is right up the river from Colmar, so we took a day trip there to see the seat of the European Parliament and gaze upwards to the awe-inspiring carved red stone blocks of the Strasbourg Cathedral.  Even though I’ve now seen hundreds of gorgeous old churchs and cathedrals, I still marvel every time at the amazing human ingenuity that managed to construct such immense beauty without the aid of modern machines or technology. 

How did they build them so tall in medieval times???  Amazing

The European Parliament

France, land of beauty and good things to eat—we really spent far too little time here in our European adventure.  We shall return!

Sasha's idea of a perfect house

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