20 Mar 2011

The aftermath

Except for a few open doors and windows of the village houses that were flooded, and a few piles of furniture outside in the sun, you wouldn’t know the village had been inundated. The clean up was certainly fast and efficient.

There’s a lot more evidence along the riverside. The vignerons have not long finished pruning the vines – they now have another lot of work ahead of them.

We did a small good deed for the day – we came across a small puddle at the edge of the vineyards that had all but seeped away. It was quite some way from the receding river, and had about a dozen little river fish trapped in it, flapping around. We had nothing with us that would hold water, except for my old umbrella. 

And so that became the vessel to scoop them up and given them a fighting chance back in the river. If they manage to stay in the relatively quite spot where I put them, away from the torrent, then they should be ok…..
The river is getting back to normal - while the water's not entirely clear yet, it's certainly getting back its lovely blue-green colour. 

And the ducks look ok too. They'd started nesting so it's a sure thing their eggs have gone downstream - they'll have to start all over again.

16 Mar 2011

Bize was inundated .....

The rain kept falling and La Cesse continued to rise, passing the level of 1999 (3.3m), and nearly reaching the 1994 level (4.2m). I was watching the live updated graphs all during the night and was so on edge that I didn’t get to sleep. It was updated every 15 mins - in real time - and at 5.00 a.m. it started to level out and I thought it might be peaking. It was indeed. 

It was at that stage I gave up any thoughts of getting to sleep, got dressed and went down to the bridge. 

The pompiers were there, the mayor and a few villagers out having a look. I've never seen anything like it - the power of the river, right up to the promenade, and lapping over - and the roar of the water - was amazing. 

Quite a few houses near the river were flooded, including the ground floor of Nic and Duff’s place – the dentist occupies the ground floor so that’s where all the mud is. Fortunately I’m a little higher up the street so am not affected.

Late yesterday afternoon, things were looking a bit grim as the water rose. Access to the river was earlier barricaded off with plastic tape – later, the wooden barricades were installed.

Some of the flood-prone houses in the village put their flood barriers in place in their doorways. Some that didn't have any had them hastily constructed by the pompiers…

I felt so sorry for this old man standing in his doorway behind the flood barriers, watching the water creep up. Given the height and well-constructed barrier he's leaning on, I suspect this is not the first time he’s been through this.

Late yesterday afternoon, the authorities lowered this water flow meter into the river:
It was too dark to video at 5.00 a.m. – the footage below is taken at 7.00 a.m. when the water level had dropped by more than 1 metre:

And these photos show the aftermath and the cleanup process underway.

I must say it was a smoothly run operation – the Maire was up and about and organising the cleanup, visiting each of the houses affected and advising that the pompiers would be around soon to hose down the mud (they were) and that there would be help provided if necessary to clean the houses. And a free lunch was provided in the village hall.

Mid-afternoon, I went for a drive to look at the state of the river from Minerve down to Bize – I figure it’s something I may not see again, or not for a long time, I hope.

I realise in the ‘big picture’ of everything that’s happened in 2011 around the world (what’s going on?!), this is small in comparison and fortunately with no loss of life or injury. However, for a small village, it’s quite an event that’s affected a lot of people. 

The weather forecast thankfully is a lot better for the next few days and the river is now going back down to a reasonable level.

13 Mar 2011

The river nearly runneth over ....

The normally gentle, crystal clear and beautiful River Cesse is in full flow. It’s the highest I’ve seen it.
13 March 2011

The river exactly a week ago today - one of the many photos I took of this year's Carnaval

While I’ve seen the water going over the passerelle before, I’ve never seen the entire width of the riverbed covered in water. Mind you, in years past the village has flooded - most recently in 1999 when the water was nearly 2 metres deep on the Promenade.  Waaaay higher than it is now - and I hope I don't get to see that.

The wall that dams the river to create the pool has completely gone. The last four years it’s only needed a bit of a touch up – this summer it will have to be rebuilt from scratch. 

I’ll be interesting to see what the natural river looks like when the water goes down, without the pool there.

This afternoon the sun has come out and it’s mild and humid, but we have four more days of rain forecast so I’m wondering just how high the river is going to come up.

Carnaval de Bize

This year I didn’t frock-up for the Carnival - not only because the theme was Moulin Rouge/Cancan (yikes ....) but because I was away the week running up to the carnival, and also because I'd decided I wanted to be a spectator this year.

Being in the parade, and seeing all the photos after the event, I realised how much you miss out on seeing on the day itself. So this year I got a good view and quite a few photos. Here’s a few of my favourites:

The Carnaval King - why he's on a cow I have no idea. There are no cows anywhere in this region - only grape vines and the odd goat or two!

On the riverbed, getting ready for the ritual burning...

Bonnie and Terry (in the frills and bloomers) - real crowd-stoppers!

A float of young 'Scots'  - or at least, young guys who really enjoyed a wee dram or two, wearing home-made kilts and their 'See you Jimmy' hats...!

.... and some kilts definitely being made better than others .. !
The local hunters' float
... complete with a roasting hare... eaten during the parade

Hardly a mouthful

and while Indigo wasn't part of a float, her and her friends dressed for the occasion - wigs and pyjamas.....

5 Mar 2011

A weekend over the border

When I was in Scotland in December, I stayed with friends Issy and George for a couple of days. Now, Issy had a long-planned ‘big birthday’ celebration planned for late February – in Bologna, Italy.

Good ol’ Ryanair – direct flights from Edinburgh and as I discovered, also cheap flights from Girona in Spain. A group of friends had been invited and it all had the makings for a beaut weekend away. 

Had I driven, it would have meant at least a 9 hour drive on my own, over the Alps in winter (!) and arriving exhausted. The much better alternative was to drive south for two hours to Girona, leave the car at the airport and fly direct to Bologna. And that’s what I did.

However, the birthday celebrations changed somewhat a couple of months before the event, although the invitees were only informed of the change of plans fairly close to the date. 

It became a marriage celebration! George and Issy decided to get married the day before flying out to Girona. 
It was to be a little secret and a huge surprise for the group when everyone arrived in Bologna .... but somehow (someone?) let the cat out of the bag! So we had something even more exciting to look forward to - and it was a fabulous weekend with a great bunch of people. 

Some people I already knew (Austen and Fiona – great to catch up again), and I met some other friends and family. We were a group of just 14, just a good number for the wedding feast at an amazing restaurant in downtown Bologna - the Trattoria Battibecco
A few of the lovely dishes we were served - many of them, but just the right size, and absolutely delicious. Ditto the wine selection that was served with each course - George was so impressed that I've taken photos of some of the labels and he's going to try to buy some of the same when they get back to Scotland.
... and after all that food - out comes the 'SURPRISE' birthday cake ... because it was of course Issy's birthday as well!

Bologna itself is a stunningly beautiful city, full of squares, churches, and nearly 40 kms or covered walkways (porticos). 
The first day was cold but brilliant sunshine … perfect for sitting out in the main square, soaking up the sun and nursing our collective sore heads, and regrouping for the main event of the weekend. 
When I ordered a hot chocolate at a cafe, I'd forgotten about the European can-stand-a-spoon-in-it style. Yum ... but soooo rich. Four of us couldn't finish it!
Some of the sights in the piazza

The Sala Borsa Library, with its transparent floor tiles through which you can see old Roman ruins.

The city is also known for its fine food, and I came away with a few bits and pieces. Including an aged bottle of balsamic vinegar and a rather large wedge of Parmesan cheese. 

All of which of course you can buy here in France and just about anywhere else, but everything looked so good in the shops and so they became my little ‘souvenirs’ and taste of Italy. 

The fruit and vegetables - and particularly fresh garden peas - looked gorgeous. and had I not been worried about a strict 15kg luggage allowance, I would have grabbed a couple of kilos of those to bring back too! I was a little annoyed to get to the airport to find my bag only weighed 13kg – I could have brought back a veritable vegetable bonanza ….

The whole weekend was not entirely taken up with celebrating, eating, drinking, and generally being merry. We covered a fair bit of ground on foot, took in the Mediaeval Museum, did a jump-on jump-off bus tour of the city, and – perhaps a little optimistically after a big night out – decided to climb the tallest tower in Bologna. 

The city is famous for all its towers – at one stage about 180, though not nearly so many still standing today. Apparently, although the towers were initially as defensive lookouts by families who lived in compounds, but eventually they sometimes also became status symbols and people tried to out-do each other. 

The famous twin towers (the taller, the Asinelli Tower at 97 metres, is the one we climbed) were apparently the result of two families’ competition. 

Unfortunately, the shorter of the towers – the Garisenda - wasn’t built on a solid foundation, began to tilt and was never built to full height. Seems there was a clear winner in that particular race! It now leans more than the Tower of Pisa.

There are more than 500 steps to the top, fortunately with resting platforms on the way up. Getting up was hard enough – coming down on jelly legs nearly as bad….. The pay-off was the amazing views over the city – despite the drizzly rain.
Looking down on the smaller 'leaning tower' from the top of the Asinelli
Looking down into the void - the interior wooden stair
About a third of the way up - looking out at the neighbouring leaning tower
A good view of those badly laid and sinking foundation stones!

A full-on and thoroughly enjoyable weekend, spent in the company of some great people.

Moving sideways

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