Le Gers: Heatwave, driving and the nicest people one could ever meet

I’ve been told that the heatwave that has hit all of Europe has broken all records. I have certainly felt it down here in Le Gers. There is something so different about being this hot when you live in a stone house and have a pool!  I get errands done in the morning or plan a hike and make sure I’m back in the house by 2pm at the very latest.  Then it’s nap time, reading time, swimming time.  If I need to go out again, I make sure I’ll be in the shade as the heat doesn’t even begin to subside until 10pm at night.  Who knew when I planned this month down here in March that I would be escaping hot and miserable Paris.  I feel very fortunate.

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Is it because of the heat that all the sunflowers are bowing their heads?  Probably not, That’s what happens.  They bow their huge heads into their long necks and nothing but a pale yellow and green shows in the fields.  It’s very pretty but it’s not like seeing proud sunflowers looking at the sun and loyally following it’s path during the day.  Soon they will be harvested and turned into sunflower oil.  That patch of ground will then be home to wheat.  It’s so fun to see sunflowers popping up willy nilly in and around the wheat.  The stubborn ones kept their seeds nearby.

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The Gascons drive terribly.  Very fast on roads that are barely wide enough for one car.  The Gascons live here and probably know these roads like the back of their hands.  It must be frustrating to have summer people driving slower, looking at the gorgeous countryside, filling up on the beauty that is Le Gers.  I’m pretty sure of this because they come right up on my tail and wait for the first possibility of passing.  I pull as close to the right as I can to make it easier but when I see a van coming in the opposite direction and the road isn’t wide enough for both of them, I find myself holding my breath, my eyes grow very wide and I say a little prayer to the driving gods that all will be ok.  So far, I haven’t seen an accident.  The people that live here tell me accidents happen a lot.

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The people that live here….  I’ve met Gascons, I’ve met Brits, I’ve met a few Americans.  Everyone of them is genuinely happy to help if I have a question or just chat if I don’t.  Saturday, I was in Agen with my friend Barbara.  We went to a pharmacy to get some bug spray and anything to help with the itching.  Barbara got a prescription filled and we just chatted away with the pharmacist.  As we were getting ready to leave, she disappeared for one second and returned with two french soaps.  One for each of us.  Just because.

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Not the Brits but I didn’t have a photo of them so you get the swans!

There are two Brits who live in Pouy and have done so for 12 years.  The wife arrived on our doorstep last week with a big box of tomatoes, corgettes and green beans that she had just picked from her potager.  The smell of freshly picked tomatoes is unlike anything I’ve ever smelled.  It makes me wonder how I ever ate those tomatoes my mother used to buy that were wrapped in cellophane and sold in the A&P.  Today, we went over to see their home.  They had bought a house that had been empty for years and they gutted it except the bones.  They now have a lovely, tasteful stone home (the walls were maybe the ramparts of the Chateau next to them) with something precious to look at at every turn.  After drinks of cool, cool water, it was time to leave and she handed us another bag of fresh green beans and tomatoes.  The thing is they would treat anyone this way.

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Sara, Sallie Erichson and Fatiha

Then there is Sallie Erichson, the American Photographer, who I met two weeks ago at a Fete.  When she realised that I was just visiting for the summer, she got my contact info and invited me for dinner with her and her husband.  When my friends from Paris arrived, we went over to her home and she entertained us for a couple of hours.  Plus, each time we were going out for dinner, I would ask her for a suggestion.  So far, she is batting 1000.

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And lastly, there is Simone, the mother of a friend of Barbara’s.  She is 93 years old and when Barbara realised we were staying only 2 km distance from the mother’s home, she suggested to her friend that she might check up on mom in all this heat.  Both of us were picturing a frail old woman suffering from loneliness while everyone was staying inside.  We rang her doorbell and a sturdy woman answered and shook her finger at us and said she wasn’t interested.  She thought we were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Her son had told her that Barbara would visit so when she realised who we were, we all doubled up laughing.  She took us through her house, completely shuttered up to prevent the heat from entering, to a small terrace in the back.  We must have stayed 45 minutes while she entertained us.  We walked through her lovely gardens and both Barbara and I hoped that we looked and functioned like her at 93 years old.  Each time Barbara asked if we could buy her something or help her with something, she didn’t need us.  She has plenty of friends who stop by.  She is well cared for.

And thus continues my wonderful month in Le Gers.

A bientôt,

Sara

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Les Chemins de St Jacques de Compostelle

When I was in my 20s and did most of my hiking (really backpacking as we always spent many nights out in our sleeping bags) in Vermont and the Northeast of the United States, I had a dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.  I hiked much of it in New England and now know that not all of the trail is fun.  It goes through cities and one has to hike on cement etc.

Then I moved out to California and my dream changed to doing the entire Pacific Coast Trail from Canada to Mexico.  It went through Yosemite and I did a lot of it there and south to Kings Canyon.

Then I moved to France.  Many of my friends were walking the Compostelle one week at a time, year after year.  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was but it sounded like fun and it was hiking. I talked a few friends into considering joining me next Spring or next Fall but no one agrees where to start or when to go and how much money to spend on a service that helps!  My friends Joy and Erica want to start in Portugal. My friends Jane and David have already done 13 days and walked only in Spain.  The French trails seem like the ugly step sister so I hadn’t paid much attention to where they are.  So imagine my surprise when I realised that I’m sitting right on top of the part of the ‘Chemin’ that comes down from Puy en Velay.

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The trail comes down to Lectoure then goes northeast to La Romieu (19km).   From there it goes to Condom (16km) then onto Montreal (20km) and from Montreal to Eauze (18km)

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The breathtaking collegial of La Romieu–halfway between Lectoure and Pouy-Roquelaure

History of the way of St. James:                                                                                                           BY

The Way of Saint James is known by many names – the Chemin de Saint-Jacques, the Via Podiensis, the Pilgrims’ Trail or, more simply, the GR 65. It is just one of many long-distance walking paths which arrive in France from all corners of Europe, converging eventually in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

For more than one thousand years, pilgrims gathered in this picturesque village (recently classified as one of France’s ‘most beautiful’) before heading out on a month-long journey across northern Spain to pay homage to the Apostle Saint James.

Perhaps the most famous – and most popular – of all long-distance walks is the Spanish Camino which stretches 800 kilometres (500 miles) from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

Statistics vary greatly but between 100,000 and 200,000 walkers set out each year to complete all, or part, of this trail which, confusingly, is often referred to as the Camino Frances – a reference to its starting point in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port nestled in the foothills of the Pyrénéan mountains of southern France.

Cloister in Le-Puy-en-Velay, GR65, France

Legend has it (and this is the version that I like best) that after the death of Jesus, the twelve disciples cast lots to divide up the known world and determine where each of them would spread the gospels. James travelled to Iberia (now known as Portugal and Spain) but, disappointed by what he perceived as a lack of success, returned to Jerusalem some years later, where he was promptly beheaded on the orders of King Herod.

Just past Villeret-d'Apchier, Way of Saint James, France

Shady path through the woods near Chamoux on Chemin de Vézelay
Shady path through the woods near Chamoux on Chemin de Vézelay (Photo by Melinda Lusmore, Ilovewalking)

And so the first pilgrimages began.  For the devout in France and northern Europe, a pilgrimage to Santiago was much more manageable than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Over time, four main routes became established and today there are over 4,000 kilometres of paths, known collectively as the Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, which bring walkers from all over France to the southern town of Saint-Jean Pied-de-Port.  From here, they begin the 900 kilometre journey across the top of Spain to where the relics of Saint James are now housed in the much grander cathedral in nearby Santiago de Compostela.  Luckily for us walkers, a steady procession of pilgrims has resulted in a plentiful (in most cases) offering of accommodation and other infrastructure (OK, perhaps not a plentiful offering of toilets).  As you get closer to Santiago, competition for a cheap bed can be pretty stiff but in France you are less likely to find yourself stranded or having to walk on to the next town.  If you are walking a short section of the Pilgrims’ Trail, it is quite easy to pre-plan your stops and book your accommodation in advance.

Nowadays, people walk the Way of Saint James for a variety of reasons – sometimes for the physical challenge, sometimes as a walking meditation, often for religious reasons – and in a variety of ways – alone, in a guided group, with friends, in short stages or in one huge concentrated effort – but invariably they share a camaraderie that overcomes language barriers and other differences.

PS:  The four main routes in France are known by their starting points – Chemin du Puy-en-Velay (730 kilometres); Chemin d’Arles (805 kilometres); Chemin de Paris (940 kilometres) and Chemin de Vézelay (1,090 kilometres)

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Beginning of Chemin du Puy-en-Velay (730kilometres) photos by Melissa Lusmore I love Walking)

Thank you, Melissa Lusmore

Here in Pouy, there is a woman who is helping me out with care-taking of the pool.   When I told her of my interest in Le Chemin, she told me that she and her friends have walked it one week every summer for years.  They only have one week left to complete it.  She said she prefers the France paths to the Spanish paths.  I imagine that a lot of that is due to ease of finding gites to stay in at the last minute and fewer people on the trails.  The Spanish camino is the most popular and most crowded.  Starting in Portugal is also a way to begin with a lack of many people.

I bought a book and my theory is that if I read it enough, it will happen (Build it and they will come).

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Stick around and more will be revealed!!

A bientôt,

Sara

Le Gers: Condom and Environs

My guidebook Insight Guides: Southwest France, that I read before coming down to Pouy, described Condom first as a name bizarre to English speakers.  The name is thought to be derived from the word Condominum–land ruled by 1st-century Vascons (later Gascons).  It concluded saying the town had accepted the inevitable and greets tourists every summer with an expo on contraceptives!  This is no longer true.  Thank goodness!

Condom is the town closest to me and where I have gone for my shopping.  There is a BioCoop to satisfy my vegetarian needs and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere.  Many of the farms near here open up as a store one day a week and sell their goods straight from the vine, so to speak.

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The centre square fronts the Cathedrale St-Pierre, rebuilt in the 16th century on the ruins of an 11th century abbey.  In front of the Cathedrale is a statue of the four musketeers.  D’Artagnan was a real person born near Lupiac in 1613.  His story was made famous in the adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas and, I’m told, there have been no less than 25 film versions of the book!  Lupiac is southwest of Condom, west of Auch, and may be a visit when my friends come down next week.  In the Centre d’Artagnan, the exciting story of the Gascon hero can be found.  Something I think I’d enjoy immensely.

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“All for one and one for all”

Condom seems to be the crossroads for many of the villages I want to see.  Larressingle is about 10 km west of Condom and called “the little Carcassonne” by some.  It is a fortified village with it’s 13th century walls intact.  I bought a book on Larressingle and the author concluded that the walls have stayed intact because it was too small to be an important village and was often left alone when fights between the Gauls and the Romans broke out as they so often did.  Along with Fourcès, Montreal and Lavardans (all short drives from Condom), Larressingle is listed  as one of the most beautiful villages in France.

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Bridge and tower that is the entrance into Larressingle

From the parking lot in Larressingle, I took a 5km hike that circled the fields that surround the town.  Even though it was hot, much of the walk was in shade and delightful.  It was on this hike that I found myself on GR65, the Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle.  A sign welcomed me as a pilgrim and a hiker!

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Fourcès, a village 10 km north of Larressingle, is famous for its main square  which is, in fact, a circle.  Guidebooks say it is the only village that has all it’s establishments surrounding the centre park and benches.  There is a circular covered walkway for one to keep cool.  I met two store owners.  One was so delightful.  She clearly loves her village and when she saw my interest directed me to a book by Perry Taylor called Le Selfie Gascon.  This is the third book by the British artist (watercolour) and honorary Gasconian (is that a word?). It is full of wit and a deep understanding of the Gascon personality.  Of course, I had to buy a copy.

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My friends who own the home I’m in had suggested I go to a Fête on the other side of Condom in Caussens.  A friend of hers, a photographer, was selling her work and she thought I’d be interested.  So I made my way through Condom, which takes all of 5 minutes, and had to go through the small village of Caussens to find Au Vieux Pressoir, an auberge that had transformed itself into a local Fête for the weekend.  It was not easy to find! I persevered on a long very narrow road praying the whole time that no car or truck would come in the opposite direction. I discovered a lovely restaurant and hotel on beautiful grounds.  All the locals were probably there.  Everyone seemed to know each other and were having a great time dancing to live music and eating Gascon food.  I found Sallie Erickson at the very back of the property.  She congratulated me on sticking to my guns and finding not only her but the Auberge.  I think it would be safe to say that I was the only ‘visitor’ there.  Wagons full of kids pulled by horses clippity clopped by me.  One of the women I met there told me that the owners rescue horses that are to be killed when they are no longer useful.  This is the second place of it’s kind that rescues animals from early death and lets them roam on lots of land.  The first was near Giverny where I was 6 weeks ago.

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Fleurance is southeast of Condom.  I had heard there was a lively market there and I wanted to see for myself.  I got there late for a market, around 11am, but it was still difficult to find parking.  Having turned half French, I no longer mind having to walk a half-mile to get to where I’m going!  The market took up four or five streets maybe more and included a covered space surrounded by arches under which we all walked.  One could find pretty much anything you were looking for. Maybe not the kitchen sink but I could be wrong.  Much was junk, much was the regular tourist fare which I like but have enough of and a minority of tables had fresh vegetables, fruits, honey, etc.  I could tell by the dirt the food had come straight from the farm.

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This area I’m sure is one of the few places left where things don’t say Bio.  Everything is so fresh and grown locally that the word Bio is redundant.

Next: Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle

For more information on Perry Taylor, his books and drawings:      http://perrytaylor.fr/en/

For more info on the Auberge:  https://www.auvieuxpressoir.com

For more information on Sallie Erichson, her Gite on the Chemin de St.Jacques and to see her photography:   https://www.gite.com/chapelle-roses

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Gers: Pouy-Roquelaure

I am in the south-west of France.  Once upon a time, this area was known as Gascony–famous for it’s wonderful food and fois gras.  Then the area was divided into two parts: Le Gers, more inland, and Landes, the beaches, as far south as Bayonne, and the forests that border Gers.  The people here are still known as Gascons, the restaurants are still famous for Gascon cooking and Le Canard Gascon is still pictured on many publications looking cute and silly.  Which I’m quite positive he is not feeling as he is foie gras in the making.

After living in Paris 4.5 years, I have some confidence that my home in California will stay rented and that I can pay my rent in Paris.  So for the first time, I have done two home exchanges.  The first one was last winter in London and this is my second.  I am staying in the lovely home of two Americans who live here permanently and they are staying in Oakland.  I am now a true Parisienne who has left Paris for the summer!

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Pouy-Roquelaure can be found on the map halfway between Agen and Condom.  It is a very small village with a church and a Mairie (Mayor’s office) but no retail of any kind.  It doesn’t even have a morning march.  I am staying just outside of Pouy with a view of sunflowers everywhere and far into the distance the patchwork quilt of green, brown and yellow.  It is extraordinarily beautiful.  In the morning, if I eat my breakfast outside I can hear the songs of birds and am just a bit sorry that I don’t recognise their breed.  As the day gets hotter, the birds are quiet, everything is quiet and only on a windy day can one hear that familiar country refrain of leaves rustling.

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The first morning I was here, I walked out the front door, went down to the mailbox and turned left.  From there, I followed trails/paths that took me alongside sunflower fields, a small stream then into the village of Pouy and back to Tourée–a full circle of about 8 kilometres.

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I am also charged with caring for a ‘swimming’ pool.  I have never had my own swimming pool.  Lovely as it is to jump in when I’m hot, I don’t think I’d want one.  For one thing, it’s a lot of work.  But more important to someone who loves to swim as much as I do, it is agonizing.  I do about five strokes of the crawl and hit the end.  I almost had a smash up involving a number of fingers on my hand the first time I had the great idea of swimming laps!  So I’m not thinking of it as a “swimming” pool but only a pool.  It is unheated and the loveliest time of day to get in is late afternoon, early and late evening when the sun has heated the water up.  I must admit that getting into my bathing suit at 10pm and swimming a couple of laps is a truly delicious experience.

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The French love to walk for which I’m very grateful.  They produce an endless amount of books on walks in every region of France.  My hosts equipped me with two books of Les Randonnées (as walking in France is called).  One covers the Gers region below the city of Agen and one covers the Lot-et-Garonne region above Agen.  To my delighted surprise, a large part of the GR65 known as the Chemin de St. Jacques goes through Pouy to Condom to the walled city of Larressingle on it’s way down into Spain.  Walking the Compostale is on my bucket list and I can now say I’ve walked at least 45 minutes on it!!!  The symbol of GR means Grands Randonnées which are the larger trails that go through a number of regions and PR is Petites Randonnées which are the smaller trails that stay within a region.

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The red and white symbol is for the GR65 and the yellow one is for PR4.  There was a about 30 minutes of this walk where the two were the same trail.
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A preview of one my randonnées 

Next: the village of Condom and some surrounding towns.

A Bientôt,

Sara

Paris Plages

 

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In 2002, the Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who was well-known for launching ambitious municipal events, decided that everyone has the right to go to the beach in the summer.  Not everyone can afford to go to the Cote d’Azur or Brittany or the West of France.  So beaches were brought to Paris.  For four weeks, sand lay on the quai of the right bank of the Seine from Hotel de Ville to Pont Neuf. It was so popular that it was brought back the next year.  By 2007,  4 million visitors were recorded.

This year, Paris Plages is lasting from July 7 (the first day of school vacation) until Sept 2. I walked down there today from Hotel de Ville.  I didn’t see any sand but all the umbrellas were up and lounge chairs were out with people sunning and reading.

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One of the reasons that the Paris Plages look different this year may be a political one. The beaches were built free of charge by LafargeHolcim from 2002 to 2017, when the city of Paris discontinued their contract in retaliation for LafargeHolcim’s proposal to build the wall on the Mexico-United States border promised by U.S. President Donald Trump. (Wikipedia)

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I don’t think the sunbathers or the children playing with the above games cared one way or the other.  School is out for the summer and they can all go to the “beach”.

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In past years, this quai up to the bridge would have been sand with beach showers and water games.

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In  another part of Paris, at the “Bassin de la Villette” is another beach.  This one has three different pools.  Photos will have to wait until I return from Le Gers.  From TripSavvy:  Stretching from the Rotonde de Ledoux near the Jaurès Metro station to the former Magasins Généraux on Rue de Crimee, this is the beach to choose if you’d like to see a more contemporary side of Paris, and are interested in getting in the water. For water sports enthusiasts, the beach of choice will be at La Villette, where the Canal de l’Ourq affords participants a choice between a variety of relaxed water sports. Kayaks, pedal boats, sailboats, canoes, and more are open to the public at no charge until 9:00 p.m. with instructors on the scene to help ensure a safe experience. You’ll be able to glide along over 53,000 square feet of water, and after boating, a cold drink on one of the beach’s waterside cafes will be in order.

So those who can’t travel, summer at the beach has come to them!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

Stan Adelson– August 25, 1923-July 2, 2018

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My uncle Stan was born in the Bronx the youngest of three children.  I never knew him until my family moved to Princeton, NJ in August 1963.  He and Enid, his beautiful wife from Newfoundland, had moved from Detroit the year before.  My father was a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School and Stan headed up the ROTC program and later Director of the Office of Personnel Services.

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Stan and Enid before getting married
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Just married!

Stan and Enid were always StanandEnid.  You didn’t refer to one without the other.  Their e-mail address was ‘eandstan’.  To me, as a teenager, they were royalty.  They were Hollywood glamorous. They were Jack and Jackie Kennedy.  They were young and fun and, though I didn’t spend much time with them before I left for college, I always knew that there were two “normal” people in my family.

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Sara and Stan, Newfoundland 2012

Enid was the person who kept in touch. Whenever I was in Princeton, she would invite me to dinner.  She loved to cook and would experiment trying her new recipes on me.  Though I didn’t reciprocate much, she always was interested in what I was doing.  There was never a doubt in my mind that she liked/loved me.  In 2012, a year after she had died, Stan and his three nieces (Joan, Robie, Sara) with one husband (married to Joan) went to St. Johns, Newfoundland to pay homage to Enid and the Goodyear family.

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Stan and Enid (2nd and 3rd from the right) with friends at Stonebridge.

As I grew older, I realised how much Stan loved sports.  His true love was the Princeton men’s basketball team.  He founded the organisation Friends of Princeton Basketball and served as it’s secretary for many years.  I always thought of him as a Yankees fan mostly because he grew up in NY and I knew he wasn’t a Dodgers fan.  He told me a story of being stationed in Detroit when he was in the Army Air Force and going to Tigers games whenever the Yankees were in town.  Stan was a talker and very social so within a short time, they were waving him in and he would always go to “his” seat next to the Visitor’s Dugout.  He got to know a number of the players esp. Hank Bauer.   When he learned that he was being moved somewhere else, he went to the next Tigers/Yankees game to say goodbye. Hank Bauer came back 30 minutes later and said “Can you stick around?  The team would like to take you out to dinner.”  The first time he told me this story, his eyes got wide and he said “and there I was having dinner with Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra…..”

Later into his Princeton years, the Athletic Department was having a search for a new director.  Stan got ahold of the list of candidates and saw they were all white men.  This was the end of  the 1970s.  Stan told the search committee “you can’t do that, you have to include people of color.” So they challenged him to find some good candidates.  Stan decided to call Bill White, ex-Pirate ballplayer, announcer for the Yankees broadcasts along with Phil Rizzuto.  He called the station and left a message saying who he was and why he was calling.  To his surprise, Bill called back that evening.  Not only did he help Stan find good candidates but they became fast friends.  Bill and his wife would come to Princeton and dine with Stan and Enid.  Bill also loved to cook and often went home with recipes.  One evening during a rain delay, Bill turned to the Scooter and said he had a great recipe Phil should try.  He proceeded to give him one of Enid’s recipes.  Back in Princeton, Stan and Enid, listening to the broadcast were grinning from ear to ear.

They lost track of each other in the 90s and early 2000s until I thought I would try and use my love of baseball muscle and find Bill.  I managed it and we all got together and slowly over the last 16 years they have gotten close again.  In the last seven months, Bill has made the drive over from Bucks County, Pa at least once a week to sit with Stan and chat.  As have many Princeton basketball players.  As have a number of retired staff who worked with Stan and loved him.  Stan was well loved and well respected.

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Stan and Bill White on Stan’s 90th birthday
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Stan; Gary and Sue Walters (P-ton ’67, basketball player and Princeton Athletic Director 1994-2014)

Readers of this blog know that Stan fell and broke his hip November 17, 2017.  I had already scheduled to spend Thanksgiving with him so I arrived two days later to find a very disoriented Stan still in Princeton Hospital.  I’ve been told that once an older person falls, it is the beginning of the end.  He was 93 and 1/2 years old.  The surgeons only put two posts in his hip to keep the bones together.  He was too fragile for major surgery.

For seven months, Stan has been varying degrees of miserable.  He has been 100% dependent on others to get out of bed, to go to the bathroom and to be seated in his wheel chair.  He did do Physical Therapy and was building up strength in his upper body.  Every time I would visit, I’d ask “how are you, Stan?” and he was honest.  “I feel awful and this is just awful.”  According to two of his aides, he decided to stop eating and drinking and take matters into his own hands.  My cousin Joan was there over the weekend and says he was somewhat delirious, often mistaking her for her father, his brother Bernie.  She said it made her feel good that Stan thought his older brother was there in the end.

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Stan and older brother, Bernie 
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Stan and Joan 2013

He passed at 6am on Monday morning.

I feel relieved.  I hurt for him being so miserable.  I felt powerless to change anything.  I could only be there as often as was possible.  I saw him towards the end of May and we both said “I love you.”

One thing you should know about Stan–he never got grey hair. Never!

From TigerBlog: the Official Blog of Princeton Athletics:                                                                         “Stan, who was a month away from his 95th birthday, was a grandfatherly man to everyone at Princeton basketball. He certainly was to TigerBlog, who knew Stan for 30 or so years.
TigerBlog is trying to think of anyone he’s ever met who loved Princeton basketball more than Stan, and if there’s anyone, it’s a very short list.
Stan was a Jadwin Gym fixture for decades. He loved the players and the coaches and the game nights. He was a soft-spoken man, one who smiled all the time, hugged often, was polite to everyone and couldn’t get enough of watching the Tigers.
They were very different people, Stan and Ock, with very different personalities. They were united by their love of basketball, and they have left lasting memories on a lot of people.
Included in that group is TigerBlog, who liked them both very much.
Jadwin Gym won’t be quite the same without Stan.”

RIP sweet Stanley,

A bientôt,

Sara

Joan Baez in Paris

Joan Baez.  Just saying her name conjures up civil rights, protest marches, Bob Dylan, folk songs, social justice, Vietnam and on and on.  Joan Baez is a National Treasure.  I should say International Treasure.  The Parisians adore her.

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I was waiting for the metro one day last October and saw a huge poster advertising 10 days of Joan Baez concerts in June 2018.  The poster said it was her Fare Well Tour. I called my friend Barbara to see if she wanted to go with me.  Yes, indeed, she did.  So I bought tickets, made her put them in a safe place (I was afraid I’d forget where my safe place was) and last Sunday, we went to the Olympia in the 9th arrondissement to see and hear her.

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I was fifteen years old when I went to my first Joan Baez concert.  My family had just returned from a year living in Geneva, Switzerland. Some new friends took me to an outdoor stadium in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  She mostly sang folk songs then and played only an acoustic guitar. I had two of her records and knew every song.  Halfway through the concert, she introduced us to a friend of hers she thought we all should know:  Bob Dylan.  That was the summer of 1963.

I bought a guitar and tried to learn without taking lessons.  I grew my hair long so I’d look like a real folk singer.  I had a good voice so my parents let me play a song at family gatherings even if I only knew three chords on the guitar.

Over the years, she came in and out of my life.  When the album Diamonds and Rust came out, a relationship had just ended.  I played that album over and over and over.  I still can’t hear Diamonds and Rust without picturing myself in that small apartment in Berkeley, Calif crying my heart out for a boy I deeply loved.

She got herself arrested at an anti Vietnam march and met David Harris, Peace Activist, who she married and had her son, Gabriel, with.  “I went to jail for 11 days for disturbing the peace; I was trying to disturb the war.” Joan Baez, 1967 (Pop Chronicles interview.)  Her passion inspired so many of us.  I probably went to two more concerts over the five years following.

Last Spring, I went on YouTube and watched a concert she had given herself for her 75th birthday (She is 77 years old now).  So she was in the foreground of my mind when I saw that poster.  I kept telling people that Joan Baez was my first ever concert and now here it was  55 years later and she could well be my last concert.  It is amazing to think that for 60 years, Joan Baez has been a beacon of social justice in the world and she has done it a lot through music.  I don’t think she has ever slowed down.

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The Olympia is a lovely venue in the 9th.  It reminded me of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Ca but not as pretty.  There is probably not a bad seat in the whole place. I had gotten seats in the 2nd section of the Orchestra and we had tons of leg room.  After opening with Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, she played three or four songs I didn’t recognise.  Then she sang “It’s all over now, Baby Blue.” Out of nowhere I got tears in my eyes and I couldn’t stop them for the rest of the concert.  Every song from then on was an “oldie but goodie”.  Some her’s, some Dylan’s, one Woody Guthrie and one Pete Seeger.  I couldn’t tell you what I was crying about.  Maybe the rush of memories when I had such a passion for social justice (I still do but can’t often show up and do the footwork), for marching in protest of Vietnam and segregation. And maybe  a few tears because we had so much hope and nothing has changed, possibly it’s worse.

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She sang two songs solo then brought out the rest of her “band”. Her son, Gabriel, a percussionist, and Dirk Powell playing so many different instruments, I stopped counting. Grace Stumberg, who has a strong country-like voice joined her for three songs and at the end for the encores.

Did I mention how much the Parisians love her!!  I could see why.  She spoke French as much as she could.  With each song, she told the audience, in French, what it was about.  They clapped at everything and, in the end, gave her a standing ovation making her come back out four times.  All ten shows sold out and five more were added in February 2019 (this FareWell Tour could well last a very long time.  No one wants to see her go).  I tried to buy tickets when I got home and all five dates were sold out.  I don’t think there is another city that had nearly this many performances.

I bought a good poster inside the Olympia then a cheapie outside on the street.  They are now hanging on the inside of the bathroom door.

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And for those of you who didn’t get to hear her but would love to, the Olympia has made it available to everyone. Enjoy and cry your own tears!!!

https://www.arte.tv/en/videos/083355-000-A/joan-baez-at-the-olympia-in-paris/

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Joan Baez and Bob Dylan at the March on Washington, 1963

A bientôt,

Sara