Miraculous splash

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Have you ever splashed in the waters of a mountain river in the middle of a hot summer?

I have. And the best part of it is that when you find the right spot, nobody can find you. Which translates into… nudism…

As we know nudism is a thing. And in fact its popularity began here, in France, along the hot French coastline where it found enough supporters to manage to conquere the world.

I personally have a few experiences with nude dudes in particular walking around and letting their ding-dongs hop around freely….. Of course it is better when there’s something out there to hop…. And so I saw some… in Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Poland… not that I looked… 

Nudity was never meant to be a problem in the God’s vision of human and world. We were free to run around naked as we pleased. That was in the Garden of Eden of course. But we all know what happened later. For those who don’t, Eve, the girl that shared the garden with Adam, was tempted by a snake to take a bite of a fruit from the forbiddeden tree, the only fruit neither of them was allowed to touch. She then offered it to Adam. All of a sudden, everything changed, they had sinned. The nudity they were previously not aware of, became apparent and they made clothes of fig leaves and loincloth to cover themselves.

Scientists managed to run some genetic tests on the lice. Lice may live in human hair and feed of human bodies, however to infest, they need clothing. These brought them to a conclusion that since Homo Sapiens are known to exist for about 200 000 years now, then at least for half of this time we were not wearing any clothes. Roughly 75 000 years ago we stopped being nudists and most likely started our migration into the colder places where clothing would have been essential.

Nudity, linked directly with sexuality, played huge role in the lives of people throughout the centures. And for example in ancient Egypt you will find tomb paintings where naked dancers swirl to the tunes of the musicians seated around them. You will recall the Faraohs and their orgies. Akhen-Aton (1385 – 1353 B.C.) is considered to be the one who laid the basis for the nude recreation and social nudism.

Same in any other ancient civilization we happen to be studying these days. Belly dancers in Arab countries were barely wearing anything and they were also entertaining the orgy-style parties filled with nudity. Female nudity embodied fertility and procreation. Naked female fertility deities have been found in very early prehistoric art and, in historic times, were a recurring feature of Near Eastern, Mesopotamian and Egyptian art.

Greeks took nudity to the next level. They were showing extreme interest in the naked male form in particular. In Ancient Greece male body would have been a symbol of strength, triumph, glory, morality, nobility, youth and the highest of values and ideologies. This was due to the fact that competition was a daily business there. That’s how of course they ended up creating the Olympic games, but this is how they also lived and how they dealt with keeping their armies ready – by competing anytime and anywhere in sports. As such their bodies were beautiful. Gymnos means naked. They fought naked and when they partied in their symposias, they partied disrobed too. Students in Greece also received their education in the nude. They were true tabula rasa looks like….

Greeks and Romans lived in a clothing-optional society, although the latter tried to keep it rather behind the closed doors. Robes were necessary for formal occasions only. They often enjoyed bathing in open baths crowded with people. In other words, the ancient world of the hotter climatic zones could be considered a one big nudist village. A complete flower power style.

393 A.D. was when a Christian emperor banned the Olympic Games in Greece because he believed them to be pagan. With the arrival of Christianity, nakedness would only ever be depicted in the forms of Adam and Eve, where it revealed their sin. Middle Ages were very religious times, hence Jesus, whose almost naked body revealed his wounds, naked baby Jezus and breast feeding Madonnas were also allowed. Being naked otherwise was no longer associated with male athleticism and female fertility, but rather with weakness and defenselessness.

It wasn’t until the Renaissance period, which in general can translate as Awakening Anew, that nudity was truly accepted again. In these times naked body was seen as a form of art. Humanism and the celebration of the body and the art of the ancient were back, and even the reluctant church had to accept the idea that God created man in his own image and thought the work looked good. Although anyone who read Mario Puzzo’s books such as the Borgia Family, already knows that the church was always quite aware of the looks of the human bodies….

Donatello’s naked David (1408-1409) was the first free-standing, nude statue since antiquity. And the love of ancient body types retruned. Artists, despite of having access to female models, preferred male models. As a result Michelangelo’s ladies looked like men with breasts! Today men also sport female breasts… mainly due to high doses of GMO chicken, topped with crisps and soft drinks they swollow, which happily keep their testosterone levels low. Instead they’re packed with feminity walking in high heels made of eastrogene.

We have nudity celebrated and depicted in every century because human body is a wonderful sight to behold, both clothed and unclothed. Before photography, erotic art circulated via private paintings, small sculptures or as decorative objects or ornaments shown either as spiritual beliefs or portraying cultural practices. The idea that erotic images were “pornography” was a Victorian invention when the Puritans came to light with their pure hearts and souls seeing everything as sin. Until the mid-nineteenth century, looking at erotic representations was legal and extremely commonplace.

The 18th and 19th centuries used nudity in mythological and allegorical genres, often on the border with surreal or avant-garde ideas. It is at the end of 19th century when naturism started to seef itself through the debilitating aspects of industrialization and urbanization which turned everydayness into grayness. People started seeking the light, relaxation, far from their crummed living zones where life was reduced to work and viruses multiplied with the tendency to linger.

And then came the British King, Edward VIII, who in 1936 went on an Adriatic cruise, where he obtained a special permission from the local government for himself and his mistress to enjoy the beaches and the waters surrounding the isle of Rab. Between here and 1950 people were mainly bathing either in blood or taking showers in Cyclone B. Hence only in the 50s the true naturist movement appeared. And I do believe it may have been very symbolic too; sort of manifestation of finally returned freedom to those who survived the war and who wanted to enjoy every moment of life fully, on their terms and at its best.

This trend moved over the seas quite quickly. Already in the 60s of the 20th century Americans were designating parts of beaches to nudists, who at first were considered to be mainly gay people. This however changed in no time and soon entire families were welcome to splash clotheless around many clothing-optional beaches. It is vital to mention the likes of Henry David Thoreau, who among many other individuals with similar hobbies, enjoyed his daily naked walks which he called “air baths”, whilst Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were skinny dipping in the Mississippi river already a good century earlier. Nudity in general seems to be illegal in the USA, however there is a number of clothing optional beaches which are available for those who wish to warm up all their body parts, including those usually hidden.

Source: internet

On one hand I do not mind people sun bathing and resting nude, although I do not find it very cool when it is being done in a very close proximity to children. But apart from the beachy stuff, there’s this other aspect of nudity exposure which I personally find quite odd. Namely that some people have the need, I guess, to show their bodies in public. Particularily I have the famous magazine covers of pregnant naked actresses and certain others in mind. This is being portrayed as their strength and pride, etc. We sure do not need to look but I am more interested in what’s behind their need for exhibitionism rather than what comes out of it. As much as nudism still exists in a few scattered and primitive tribes in the Amazon or remote Pacific Islands, there it is a part of a culture, nothing else is known. Our developed world expects us to dress. Perhaps those few, pregnant acresses and known others, try to show that primitive is also possible in the developed world.

With sexuality being exposed nowadays and openly promoted, as well as the growth of numbers of places such as nudist holiday resorts and nudist colonies, naturalism is a thing that raises questions of morality. And as much as the magazine covers may be considered ego-freaks stunts, nakedness is not considered as sexual among the nudists at all. They see being naked as the most basic, natural and purest of ways to be. They wish to touch the bottom of human nature – we were born naked and naked is beautiful in every shape and form. In their opinion and rightly so, it is the outside world that seems to be pervertic about the nudists instead.

But there’s a difference between nudist or nude beaches also called free beaches or clothing optional beaches and simply enjoying your own nudity hidden among bushes, lying on the blanket spread on a high grass, accross the meadow, surrounded by the flowers and listening to the swooshing of the river, birds singing or an occasional bee buzzing….

What better could you ask for than a splash in such a river….

We did find such a river, in fact even more than once!

This time it was old good same one that flows through Mirepoix, L’Hers-Vif.

Btw, check out my other post: When Mommy Says Eat Your Veggies, Eat Them! Diced

It isn’t difficult to find a secluded spot like that in the south of France where plenty of villages, like Vals, have approximately 1 human inhabiting 14 km². Not bad, eh? Although the numbers seem to be on the rise.

The Vals I’m talking about here does not look anything like the one in Switzerland. But believe me, it does have its own charm.

While some people say that Vals fell asleep a few centuries ago and all you will notice around here are the lazy cats either exposing their furry bodies to the rays of the hot southern sun or alternatively lying around under the trees where plenty of shade can be found – I, of course, have found a… donkey. In fact even two of them…. Whether this fact suggests any liveliness in the settlement, I don’t think so.

They were standing in the area shaded by the trees, waiting for someone to pay their human for a ride. Perhaps there are some nice routes one can take around the village and donkey would be a funky ride, but we did not have any such thing in mind when visiting this lovely village that enchanted us with its huge rock and a church tower that’s glued on it’s top. Well seen from the far distance.

The tower, looking quite like a typical tower in some norman sturctures, overlooks the pretty green valley. We stop the car and walk among the rows of clearly medieval houses built in yellow stone, ventrue and debonair. They crumple against each other trying to hold on yet for a while before they give in to the passing time. This village, clearly does not give a damn about tourists or the outside world. The time has stopped here and does not seem to be in any hurry to move anywhere any time soon….

Coming closer to that gianormous rock, we take a quick look up and feel like tiny ants hopig to conquere a dandelion. Stone staircase leads us to the heavy door. But that’s just a beginning of what truly awaits inside. We come through accompanied by the squeaky tunes of the rusty hinges and let in the light that falls onto the second part of the staircase which is tightly squeezed in between the rock walls. So tightly that one must actually watch out not to bang their head on a huge lump overhanging to the left. This part of the chapel was built in the 10th century and is incorrectly known as a crypt.

The sunlight coming from behind lightened up our way up the stairs. And at the top of this staircase, we reached the second door.

The silence hiding among these walls is mesmerizing. Looking up at the rays of the sun dripping through the colorful stained glass windows you think of the singing monks. Time has stopped in this sleepy place, which tourists, most likely, always discover only by accident. Some would sit in a dark corner letting the atmosphere overwhelm them, but not us. We had to touch every piece of this place, smell it and feel it with all senses to then in the end organize a pretend mass for ourselves…

A massive baptistery in its rock notch, carved into the wall of a rectangular apse is bathed in the warmth of the sun. The vaults of this part of the building reveal wonderful Romanesque frescoes depicting scenes from Christ’s childhood in the colors and styles typical to this period.

The main nave used to be situated lower up until the 19th century when Marquise de Portes ordered the changes. Just below it, a row of old, dark, wooden steps will take you up to the Chapel of St. Michael’s that dates back to the 12th century and with a little choir. That magnificent tower that’s above it comes from the 14th century. It is also until when the chapel remained divided off from the Chapel of St. Mary, the one with the frescoes. Apparently this way the locals were protecting their church from the robberies of the Hundred Years War.

Sadly, we did not have a good camera with us when travelling wild. Not from the safety perspective but simply because we did not really want to spend the time taking photos but instead experiencing and memorizing more. As such, I invite you to watch this beautiful film about Vals that tells a very pretty story in a very pretty way as well as shows you the details which I could not show in my few photographs.

Finally we came out onto the terrace. Vast and neverending panarama on the Pyrenean ridges stretched in front of us in the heat of afternoon. And we could not help ourselves but to simply stand there and marvel over this magnificent creation of Nature and human that so beautifully managed to merge the two worlds into one without causing much damage. Which, you have to admit is almost unthinkable nowadays.

Pretty, once red rooftops covered with fading tiles made out of natural stone, created a multileveled mosaic of carious shapes and sizes. And it was so hard to take the eyes off of them that once more, I commited a drawing or two.

It is worth strolling around the church rock as from behind it does not look equally magnificent. On the contrary, a typical church structure not even suggesting what’s hidden inside and on the other end. On the sides of the hill, a wide semi-cubic notch can be spotted. it origin and potential use remain undefned still as the archaeologists are still unsure of its age even. Some claim it may have been a continuation of the medieval settlement whilst others think it may have been a religious site prior to the Roman invasion.

As any other antique settlement, also Vals has its stories that were being passed through the centuries. A few years ago, local lady, Mrs Yvonne Fabre, who was a well of information on the region, was asked by the Association of Friends of Vals to gather all of the stories she herself learned during her childhood. And this is how the book of Contes da pays de Vals was created to cherish the history and remember the stories of a certain past that provide explenation to respective evolutions within the local society, traditions told by the elderly but never before put down on paper.

Mme Yvonne Fabre (1914-2008)

One of these stories is about The miracle of Vals.

This is not a legend, but a fact that happened somewhere between the years 1824 and 1830. Angelique was a servant in Teilhet, at the house of her well-off neighbours.

They had a big house and plenty of land in the village, but above all two pretty farms that yielded a lot of wheat, on the fields between Vals and Saint-Felix. In those days, that was enough to live comfortably.

In the first days of September of that year, a beautiful baby was born in this rich family. One day when Angelique arrived for work in the morning, the old lady said to her:

– Listen Angelique, today you will have to do everything in the house, we are all going to Vals for a mass, we cannot leave my daughter alone with her baby.

– Madam – ansered Angelique – you can leave in peace, everything will be fine, count on me!

And indeed, all day, the servant worked like a bee… Around 4 o’clock, the young lady called her from her room.

– Angelique, come up!

When she was up there, she said:

– You’ve been busy all day today, now it’s high time you went to rest at home and take care of your little girl, please! Poor lamb! She must be lonely. (I must tell you that this unfortunate servant had a crippled child – 7 year old and she could not walk yet).

Arriving at her house, Angelique thought to herself:

– It’s still early, I have plenty of time to go to Vals to recite my rosary.

So she took her crippled child into her arms and went towards Vals.

Halfway, at the chasm of Portes, she met the people of Teilhet. They were returning from the mass and asked:

– And why are you going Vals at this hour? There is nothing going on their now in the church anymore.

– It doesn’t matter – answered Angelique – I want to go all the same.

She finally arrived and went up towards the Cross, then took the stairs, with her precious burden on her back and came into the crypt. She sat her little girl down in a chair. While she herself recited her rosary kneeling.

After a while, the little girl who saw through the stained glass window of the Chapel of the Virgin that the day was going down, jumped from her chair saying:

– We have to go mom, can’t you see it’s getting dark?

The child ran down the stairs. crossed the square and the street. The people of Vals who at that time were much more numerous than today, cried seeing the miracle.

Angelique wept for joy and the two of them returned to Teilhet, light as two larks, thanking the Blessed Virgin all along the way.

I dare to believe in the powers hidden within the mystic silence of L’église de Vals and the story of the Miracle seems very probable.

Who knows, perhaps Angelique’s daughter had children of her own and they live somewhere in the area….

And who knows, perhaps they also bathed themselves in the waters of the River Hers. Maybe even nude.

That we shall never find out…. unless Grandma Fabre did mention it among her stories….. Or maybe… this is one yet to be written still….

Any reason is good to go back to cool places and re-visiting Vals is on my list for sure. One day I shall find out and if there is a story, I will surely write it down. Until then….

Peace, Love and Freedom to All of You!



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Lautrec, Tarn, Midi-Pyrénées, Occitanie, France – an address worth memorizing

If you prefer to listen to my beautiful voice, click here: Lautrec – an address worth memorizing.

We drove for a long time. Between fields dotted with sunflowers. Pointilism is something that France excels in – naturally – and I believe it is here where Van Gogh started using this very technique of painting. He simply copied Mother Nature. Ah men!

Truly! It was exactly like in those movies! The fields waved on both sides of the road, sometimes changing colors depending on what grew on them. Beautiful tall trees counted passing kilometers for us and the sun…. and the sun was shining! And a gentle breeze was blowing. However, it did not blow through our hair, because we had the aircon turned on in the car…

We left the main road ’cause it was getting a little boring, and yet still we had nothing in sight that would direct us to some place we could potentially call cool.

We drove and drove, on a road made of stones and earth. Sunflower fields on the left, hill on the right. On this hill 2 or 3 farms. And right at the turn to this area, at the very intersection, at the end of the world – a small square for a picnic. And a tree too.

The plan was simple:

Get out and eat!

We took out bags with previously purchased products, took out cutlery, a Swiss knife and the battle began between tounges, teeth and upper plates!

Baguettes, cheeses, butter, milk… oh dear how fresh. Literally, as if it came out of the cow right there and then. And the grapes! We treated ourselves to a bunch of some that were growing by the road, for which we sincerely apologize, but it was impossible not to stop. And the grapes here are the size of quail eggs!

We ate like animals, ’cause one could never tell when the next meal would occur. Traveling with no plan meant one could potentially skip a meal… or even two if caught up in a conversation or staring at something for infinity. Although, knowing life, it would probably be in 20 minutes in the town when we see something alluring to shove…

I ran for 2 sunflower heads to a nearby field and with the patience of an ant I plucked the seeds with a knife, then packed them beautifully into bags and put them away with other bundles of goodies. The plan was that we would snack on them along the way. There were so many more days ahead of us.

However, I forgot, and I found out about it when I no longer had to remind myself, that it is summer and moisture in a plastic bag filled with fresh sunflower seeds will turn them moldy. Well, so it happened and 2 hours of chiseling went into the forest.

But at that stage I was completely ignorant of the above possibility of things going so bad. Instead we decided to go to the village. Or a town? Well, probably a town because there were a lot of buildings and some walls there on the horizon. Wow, probably one of those amazing ones with a castle and cute half-timbered houses.

I jumped for joy seeing what a place we hunted.

We parked right at the entrance on the mentioned wall. On foot, we set off into the distance. Towards the unknown.

First, on the right, I saw an old bicycle. Then I took a closer look at what it was leaning on and saw the most wonderful wooden building with a big window. And this old bike. Such a fairy tale. I took a photo, look and don’t fall in love, huh?

Next came a market square. Surrounded by such old houses that it is hard to believe that people still live in them. Well, but they do. On the left, something once big, already closed. Opposite this thing, a tiny local shop. Of course we enter.

We bought a couple of items and moved on. We turn left, and on the right side we see the world of azuro. Actually, it’s indigo.

I wanted to talk to the lady in the shop about what she was doing, just like that, friendly, but she didn’t want to talk. So we didn’t buy anything. But instead I will tell you in short what’s it all about.

Source: internet

Isatis tinctoria, also called woad, dyer’s woad, or glastum is a cabbagy plant with yellow flowers, a bit similar to rapeseed flowers. Seemingly inconspicuous but such a secret agent. It has been used for blue dyeing for centuries. Why? It’s simple. Its leaves are harvested, fermented, and after oxidation, the green color turns blue.

In addition, an ornamental, edible plant, healthier than broccoli, used in herbalism and allegedly stinks so insanely during fermentation that some English queen would not allow it to be planted less than 5 miles from the castle.

There are three stages of production:

  • Leaf harvesting – sometimes collected at different stages of plant growth, but they contain most pigment during the transition period, not when flowering. Then they are ground in a mill.
  • The leaf mash is left for some time to ferment. After this time, it can be kneaded and formed into small balls called cocagnes. Then they are dried.
  • After drying, the cocagne is crushed and put back into the mass, which will be watered and turned regularly to ensure a second fermentation for several weeks. This causes the dye to begin to secrete.

For French speakers, there is a whole history of the plant and its colorful popularity in the article about Le Pastel.

Lautrec is also famous for its pink garlic, grown in the Tarn area by more than 160 farmers who plant in December, prune flowering stems in May and start harvesting at the end of June. Then only drying remains. Somewhere around the third week of drying, when removing the peel, its pinkish coloration appears. Farmers say that it is like “a rose, very rich in sugar, perfumes are not aggressive, in addition, it holds up very well.”

Lautrec pink garlic is sweet and would hardly scare away a vampire, because it does not smell like its ordinary white cousin.

Tarn is an agricultural area of France. Not only garlic grows well here. Fields of, officially industrial hemp, cover hectares along roads.

I have found a nice animation, telling the story of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s life. And it’s not for no reason that I’m pasting it here, because, even though Henri himself was born in nearby Albi, his family still lives in Lautrec today. He lived and worked in Paris, but it was in Tarn where his heart beat for the first time.

We go further and here we find a beautiful tenement house of Mr. Mer, and on the opposite site, a pizzeria. Did you doubt me when I said 20 minutes?! Well, fine plus 2 hrs for the sunflower seeds.

And what a pizza! Have you ever tried pizza with cream and potatoes? Yes, no tomato sauce, potato pizza. Mon Dieu, this one has the capacity to launch you into space.

We melt now from the heat.… Whew….

On this side, the end of the town along with the ending street. So we picked up our overfed asses and walked back towards the square.

The atmosphere of this place is simply amazing. Buildings from centuries ago, here and there, uncover the glory of the years past quietly presenting their charms.

Ah, there’s a mill in front of us. Let’s go!

We climbed to the first floor and as in other mills, also here everything is stone and wood. A little bit of grains, some bran and a bit of flour in bowls standing against the wall.

Very beautiful and well-kept. The rafters shimmered as if they were polished daily.

Moulin à vent de la Salette dates back to 1688, it was restored in the ’90s of the twentieth century. It is open for visitors from mid-April to mid-October. It is one of the few windmills still producing flour in the Midi-Pyrénées region.

In front of the mill, a huge mill stone, now serving as a kind of a bench and a flower stand.

We said goodbye to our guide and took narrow stone stairs down, towards the center.

On the left we saw a plaque with a clog drawn on it, advertising Clog Atelier.

Watch the video here and read about the history of L’atelier du sabotier.

We come back as evening falls. It’s time to eat something and figure out where we will sleep.

We sleep in the car.

The unfolded rear seats did a fantastic job. We open our eyes in the morning, open the trunk door and we are greeted by a…. donkey. Screamed as if they wanted to milk him! Fortunately – for you – I drew a portrait of him, because he so got under my skin ….

After a homely breakfast, we set off into the world. And the world of southern France has plenty to boast about.



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When mommy says “eat your veggies” – eat them! Diced.

If your lazy alter ego feels like resting the eyes, use the ears instead and listen to the podcast: When mommy says “eat your veggies” – eat them! Diced.

Lazy, warm morning foreshadowed heat. A day with no plan was ahead of us. We drove among the sunflower fields, this time with open windows, letting the scents of French summer circulate through the car’s interior and paint similes on our sleepy, dreamy faces.

Before us, the heatwave was undulating over the road surface creating a misty landscape filled with colors. I love it when that happens. It was an early announcement of a beautiful day ahead that was being sent to us straight from heavens.

Happy with same, we went on in search of somewhere where we could top up our energy levels. Not long after, Aldi appeared in front of us and we decided to have a picnic just in front of it on a little piece of a meadow.

Despite of Aldi being a German owned supermarket, it is required to sell certain amounts of local produce in order to be able to operate abroad. Same here. So, taking advantage of really low prices, we purchased some tasty treats for the rest of the day.

Hundreds of types of pate’s and cheeses, all as fresh and flavourful as the bread rolls and veggies. Peaches and plums literally just fell from the trees that morning, I bet. And pastries filled with fruits were melting on our tongues.

The grass was tall where we spread ourselves out together with the feast. Traffic was very light so nothing, but bees and wasps could bother us in their lazy attempts of trying to steal some of our goodies. We didn’t mind sharing.

In front of us, a city called Mirepoix. We saw a sign post on the way to the shop and we decided to pop over since we were already there.

It was getting real hot. Well fed, hydrated and with vitamin D3 levels topped up by the morning sun, we packed all the goodies and went in search of an adventure.

A wall with a gate appeared in front of us, suggesting it was a right spot to park the car. In fact what we have here is called La porte d’aval, literally the downstream door or the Lower Gate, which dates back to 1372.

I took a shy quick peek through the gate and saw a little street with a funny sort of groove in the middle, probably type of drainage. The street was visibly leading to some sort of a square.

The sign post by the gate suggested something “medieval”. We were all up for medieval! At that stage we had no idea what a gem of a town we came accross.

Have you ever watched movies with Gérard Depardieu, let’s say The man in the iron mask, or any of the film adaptations of the Dumas or de Balzac books?

Medieval cities of France surrounded by walls gave an impression of construction chaos. The irregular main streets were at most a few meters wide. Through their center ran sewage, which flowed garbage, impurities and dirty water. The streets stinked, and these smells penetrated into the interiors of houses. Buildings were built with use of wood, gypsum and clay. Stone was rarely used. On the ground floors there were usually shops and workshops. The living quarters were small and dark.

Crowds gathered on the streets of the cities during processions, torture and executions. A great event in the life of the city was the entry and visit of the king or other dignitaries. City dwellers at that time were primarily engaged in crafts. Guild organizations did not yet exist.

We walked down towards the square between the rows of medieval buildings. Timber beams and rafters supporting upper floors, crooked widows, roofs and wavy walls. It all made me feel as if any moment a woman dressed in a long medieval dress with a Jacobite-like lace traded accross her chest, would lean out of one of the windows and pour a bucket of slop or piss onto our heads. That’s what you were risking back in the times, isn’t it?

Close your eyes and think of a scene like that. Muddy beaten roads, no sewage systems, only narrow ditches along the buildings. Yes, that’s where the human and animal waste would flow too. Think of the long dresses of the women smearing all that while passing by. And it’s not like they would take a bath and do the laundry too often. There was even a common in the Middle Ages saying, that frequent washing shortens life.

Disgusting or not, urine has been considered a magic liquid since ancient times and I think it is a great moment to mention a few of its uses accross the centuries. Especially that Mirepoix was only down the road from the Roman routes and South of France inherited tons of Roman inventions.

The word “urine” comes from the Latin urina, meaning “to moisten, to flow.” The word “piss” is an onomatopoetic term for urine and has been used since before the 14th century.

This yellow liquid which our bodies reject, consists of 96% of water, 2.5% of nitrogen waste products, mainly urea, a compound which further breaks down into ammonia, 1.5% mineral salts, as well as some scarse quantities of substances such as i.e. bile dyes that give the smell color and taste.

Humankind has used this substance over the centuries in ways that may blow your mind if you have never indulged in a subject.

The Isagoge is an “Introduction” to Aristotle’s work called “Categories”, written by Porphyry in Sicilly between 268–270 AD. It is a philosophical work on universals and logic which also clearly mentions urine. Below, you can see a copy of this manuscript.

Letter “D” – initial, starting the sentence “De urinarum differencia negocium” (The matter of the differences of urines).

Ancient Greek physicians tried to cure insanity with donkey urine and boiling an egg in the patient’s urine and then burying it in an anthill was to cure fever like nothing else. No wonder a few centuries later urine was tried to cure the likes of AIDS.

Australian aborigins believed that the oceans are made from the urine of an angry god attempting to drown the world.

In ancient times Rome, there were huge urinals placed on the street corners where citizens could kindly offer their share. It was recommended that the collection of a full large clean vessel be done in around 24 hours and that the liquid is kept out of the sun or heat, which could alter its color.

Romans would deal in urine, extracted from both, humans and animals, paying taxes, called vectigal urinae introduced by Emperor Vespasian, to trade it. These taxes originated the still-used saying Pecunia non olet, “Money does not smell.”

Roman public urinals, which by the way in France are to this day called vespasiennes after the very same Emperor Vespasian, came with a fee. The cities made even more money selling the urine to tradesmen who bleached cloth with it.

Caustic properties of ammonia mean it becomes destructive when it comes in contact with certain substances. It is therefore a useful ingredient in cleaning products because it neutralizes grease and dirt. Diluted with water, urine would be used as a soak for dirty clothes. Launderers would then stomp on the wet linens the way vintners stomp on grapes. They would of course urinate on them too during the process. Every Little Helps!

The panacea for all oral ailments was to be a special rinse from human urine. The Romans did it not without reason. They assumed that if urine works perfectly as a bleach when washing tunics, its cleaning properties will also work in the case of teeth.

Yet in the 18th-century French physician, Pierre Fauchard (the father of modern dentistry), recommended urine to relieve a toothache.

The ancient rinse, however, was not obtained in a trivial way. Urine had to be of the highest quality, hence the Romans did not hesitate to import the best type of urine from the farthest corners of Europe. They were particularly fond of the urine of young Iberians, which contained, in their opinion, the most salutary ingredients. They used special tankers for transportation.

Ammonia compounds are components of modern toothpastes too. But don’t worry! Today, they are not obtained from urine, but created in the labs.

Ancient Roman spies used urine as invisible ink to write secret lines within their official documents. Ever heard of a saying: “read between the lines”? The messages appeared only when heated.

By the way, cat’s urine glows, did you know?

Women in ancient Rome drank turpentine (which can be poisonous, commonly used to dilute oil paints) because it made their urine smell like roses.

In ancient China, both men and women stood up to urinate. Chinese noblemen would urinate into hollow canes so the urine would flow far away from their bodies. At the same time, in Muslim countries, both men and women would sit or squat to pee as they believed standing up to urinate is something dogs do. In ancient Egypt and Ireland, women were those who stood to urinate whilst the men sat or squatted.

If you go to Morocco, even today, you will find the many extremely smelly dyers hidden on the rooftops with an undisturbed access to the sun. Ammonia’s caustic property also helps to remove hairs from animal skins, making leathers and animal pelts softer. This very same process is used there unchanged for centuries.

Ammonia was an important ingredient for the 16th century England’s textile industry. Yorkshire would receive cask upon cask of human urine to be converted into a strong mordant, a bonding agent that would fuse the dye to the cloth after being mixed with alum. This mixture would guarantee the brightest of fabrics.

And when mixed with the right elements, urine can turn into saltpetre, or potassium nitrate, a key ingredient in the production of gunpowder. During the Civil War, the southern army put ads in the newspapers asking Southern Ladies to save their urine for the wagons with barrels which would be sent “around to gather up the lotion.”

I can no longer, so to speak, hold my chemical water and must tell you that I can make urea without needing a kidney, whether of man or dog; the ammonium salt of cyanic acid is urea. – Wöhler

Despite of this discovery by German chemist Friedrich Wöhler at the beginning of the 19th century, of a substance identical to urea, achieved by mixing silver cyanate and ammonium chloride, people to this day believe in treating their bodies with a human urine based rinse.

Proponents of urinotherapy argue that human urine is a cure for all known diseases – from colds to cancer. The ammonia compounds contained in urine also have antibacterial and disinfecting properties.

Urine therapists suggest that urine should be sipped, not guzzled, and it should be a first flow of the day, caught in midstream, just like the one you give away for lab testing. A person doing urine therapy also needs to avoid salty foods and drink plenty of water.

In Germany, nearly 5 million people regularly indulge in drinking their urine. In China, over 3 million people. Jim Morrison, John Lennon as well as Gandhi were also advocates.

But perhaps we should not waste our waste as we tend to these days and let our bodies filter it once or, like in a case of Jameson Whiskey, triple distill it.

A few years ago, a group of students from Cape Town, copying the process of the sea corals growth, for the first time ever used human urine, from their male urinals, to grow eco-bricks. They smell of ammonnia only for 48 hours. You can grow a brick within 4 to 6 days or longer if you want it to be stronger.

So if I wanted to build a house by myself, all I’d have to do is buy some land and then pee. Or walk around the village and collect urine. Provided my house would not be overly fancy, I should be done quite cheaply and within no time. Ingenius! If you’d like to donate, please comment below 🙂 It takes about 100 goes to build one brick.

For centuries urine was being mixed with hay, grass, etc. by the farm owners to create organic fertalizer for their fields. Swedish students, collected 70 thousand litres of pure urine and dried it, to then create fertalizer pellets for crops. They believe that urine separation from the sewage can save our planet!

Now that I think of it, surely some of you kept aquariums at some stage in life. You remember then that you needed plants and water suppliment in order to neutralize the nitrate that was released by the fish poops. And have you heard about coral bleaching process that kills our coral reefs accross the globe and that it is caused by the water temperature changes? Mainly global warming. But corals absorb nitrate too. And what really happens with our urine after we flush, only God knows. Swedish might just be right in their thinking. Hmmm…

Perhaps US Air Forces could share their little sack patent with the rest of the world to allow for a clean collection process. Fighter jet pilots wear a baglike gadget called a “piddle-pack” to urinate while they fly, right? Can’t wait to see it! 😀

Although the U.S. Army Field Manual cautions against drinking urine in an emergency because urine contains salts, which may exacerbate dehydration. Instead, urine can be used to cool the body by soaking a cloth in it and placing it on the head.

Sharing the piddle-pack could also help the track drivers who do not want to pull over and instead urinate into bottles which then they toss on the side of the roads. In one month, Washington State cleaned up 1,000 of these types of bottles on a 100-mile stretch of a highway.

Thank God we no longer have to wear armour like those poor medieval knights, because when they spilled, they turned rusty.

Now it’s time to open your eyes. In front of you opens a square that is one of its kind. One of the finest surviving arcaded market squares – Les Couverts.

One of the streets surrounding it, is called Cr Colonel Petitpied. So, speaking of the pee, I naturally translated it as street of a Little Pied Colonel 🙂 But sadly, no, pied in French means foot, as such it is a Colonel Little Foot. Not bad either 🙂

Half timbered houses supported by wooden pillars encircle the square. Elderly locals catching the rays of sun sit around on the many benches. An old fasioned carousel for kids perched on a patch of green.

Maison des Consuls (council house), now a hotel, has rafter-ends carved with dozens of images of animals and monsters as well as some caricatures of medieval professions and social groups.

Plenty of lovely cafes welcomed tourists, now in a hurry to find a shaded spot and grab a bite to eat, ‘cos it was time for lunch.

We were full after our lovely picnic but nevertheless, we decided to chill under one of the arcades.

Coffee arrived quickly. People indulged in reading books and magazines. Nobody was overly talkative, which was so amazing. We were a good one hour into our dirty, lazy chilling when a man with a Spanish guitar sat literally 2 metres away and started to play quietly.

His lonely and calm flamenco resounded between the medieval walls and nobody complained. On the contrary, people seemed mesmerized. But, not in this comercial way, nobody moved over, nobody even turned around to look at the man. It was all just natural. As if he was a bird that just perched on an overhead branch to play his tune, because that was what he liked doing. Like that little nightingale from the story about the Chinese Emporor, he was free and shared his love of life with the world.

I could not resist and eventually did take a look at the stranger with a guitar who happenned to be a man in his early 40s. A very tanned brunette with a 2-day stubble around his jaw. All that darkness contrasted beautifully with his white lose linen pants and shirt. And his head was crowned with an elegant straw hat. I guess he was a local.

At that time I had no idea how art orientated Mirepoix was. Swing à Mirepoix on Easter is for the lovers of swing and Mirepoix Musique is an association whose goal is to promote classical music in town and the surrounding area. Throughout the year they organize concerts and other cultural events such as reading events.

I, unable to stop myself, made a few drawings not to stay behind, with all the artistic vibes floating around.

Mirepoix stands for a mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables (diced onions, carrots, celery and herbs that are sauteed in butter or oil) used in various sauces. You can buy them here in Ireland in a supermarket pre-packed and called a soup mix, although these seem to be more like chopped with a machete.

According to the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique, a mirepoix may be prepared au gras (with meat) or au maigre (without meat). The latter is sometimes called a brunoise, though strictly speaking this term more accurately merely describes a culinary knife cut, a technique of dicing with a knife in which the food item is first julienned (cut into stripes) and then turned a quarter turn and diced, producing cubes of about 3 mm or less on each side. In France, a “brunoise” is smaller, 1 to 2 mm on each side of dice.

But that’s not what’s on the coat of arms of the ville.

Apparently the town’s name comes from the Occitan word Mirapeis, supposedly from mire peis, meaning see the fish).

Situated on the banks of the river Hers-Vif or L’Hers in the Ariège Department of Occitania in Southern France, it is closer to Spain and Andorra than it is to Paris.

The original settlement was once situated on the opposite bank of the river, however in 1289 it was flooded and one year later rebuilt where the land was naturally higher. Its medieval centre remains unchanged since those days. Majority of the houses date back to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

Mirepoix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Mirepoix) up until 1801 used to be a seat for the Roman Catholic bishops when the diocese was divided between Carcassonne and Toulouse. Its construction started in 1298 and lasted for 600 years. In 1858 and 1859 the Father of French conservation works, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc along with Prosper Merimee, undertook the renovation of the building. Right after nearby Cathedral of Girona in Spain, it has the second widest Gothic arch in Europe.

In 1776 Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, author of i.e. Parisian Pont de la Concorde, began his works on the Mirepoix’s bridge which is 206 meters long and has seven arches. Not too far from there, where another, smaller bridge crosses over the river, an 800 years old chêne vert, oak tree, can be found.

And on one of the nearby hills, ancient Château de Terride dating back to the year 960 is located.

And what I am after and if only for that, I will definitely come back to Mirepoix one day, is MiMa – an international festival of the art of marionettes held here every summer. Glove puppets, string puppets and marionettes portées (puppets carried by a handle on the back of the head), theatrical objects and actors concentrate around a leading theme and entertain not just the littliest of people.

Source: internet

Can’t wait to see you again Mirepoix!



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