Wednesday, 1 October 2008

23 Sept 2008 Tuesday – Pyrenees Forges and back to But

S’s last full day in the Ariege, so we headed of for Pamiers to look at the big shops again ending up in Leclerc for more essential home maintenance items.
That took us to nearly one o’clock. We ate a pastry in the car park and headed off to one of our town’s nearest tourist attractions, Midi Pyrenees Forges. Now in my guide book it seemed to suggest that there were over 100 craftsmen in little workshops that you could watch working and then buy their wares. It was due to open at 1.30pm so we parked up in the no shade currently available car park and headed off down the path past a futuristic art gallery, past another modern restaurant and across a bridge to the entrance of the Forges complex itself. I wasn’t expecting to have to pay to get in, but it was 7.50 euros each. We had to hurry because the first tour was due to start. We were given a map of the site and the order in which we should visit the various attractions was marked against the timed starts of the tours. The whole experience would take 4 hours the woman said. (you can visit the museum and art gallery for free)
The first trip followed a man’s life from old age and the funeral of his best friend all the way to his birth. We did not know what to expect but we knew that it would take about 40 minutes and that doors would open and close automatically.
We stood in a small room with photos on the walls and suddenly a recorded voice started talking about the Ariege and the people’s relationship with the mountains etc. Of course everything is in French.
Then a door opened and we went through into a funeral tableaux with snow on the ground and the old man and his grandson talked to eachother, whilst the lighting changed to emphasise various aspects of the scene.
Some time later the next door swung open and we were in a village square at Albert’s wedding. Again various tableaux were revealed as walls opened up, various images were projected on shop fronts etc. with dialogue and music too.
It was all very well done and we were lucky that we were the only ones making the trip at that time.
We also experienced Albert’s birth, school life, war time, home life and school life.
Then the final door opened and we were back in the foyer.
We popped out into the sunshine and headed across to look at a collection of farm machinery sheltering under a big open sided barn as we had some time left before our next attraction started.
About 5 minutes later a man appeared and shouted that his talk was just about to begin. This was a bakery / bread oven (and not where we were due to go next) so we joined an audience of about 20 people seated on wooden benches another open barn. We were facing a closed end of the barn which had a high brick wall with an black oven door set into it. The guide talked about bread making using a wood fired oven, and every so often he would get a wooden shovel with a long handle, open the oven door, and pull out a rather dark brown loaf of bread. The oven did not look as though it was working so I thought that he was pulling our loaves that he had baked earlier, despite the fact that he was saying how hot the loaves were. Then he lifted up a cloth on the table in front of him to reveal rows of dough which had been left there to rise. He picked up one of the dough balls, cut some lines into the top of it and then put it onto the paddle and into the oven. About 5 minutes later he pulled it out as a cooked loaf.
The demonstration was over and we had a piece of the bread to taste, It was possible to buy one of the loaves for 1 euro. Unsurprisingly it tasted like fresh bread

Again we had some time to kill, but we got called into the horn comb making building. The guide asked where people were from and about half of the people in the room were English. He then spoke very quickly in French for well over his allotted time, showing us a short video in the middle about how horn combs were made. He also used a young lady from the audience with very long hair to demonstrate the properties unique to real horn combs. It stops static electricity building up and it makes the hair feel really soft amongst other things. He also went on about either head lice or dandruff, I don’t know which, or perhaps it was both. It was quite interesting, but we did not have time later to return to buy a comb or to ask questions.
The guide told everyone to go to the forge straight away, but we went next door to the clog makers. He was a bit pissed off that almost all of the people had gone to the forge as it was his demo next.
Again we had an interesting demo and explanation of the history of the clog, and how it went from one man making one clog at a time, to mechanisation. He demonstrated a machine that could make 3 clogs at a time using a template clog as the guide surface for the machine cutting tools.

Next we headed off to the forge. This was a bit like being inside a dark, ruined castle which had a waterfall and a water wheel at one end, next to a furnace which was working. There were also large pieces of equipment looming in the semi-darkness. I have tinkered with the exposure of the photo, it was much more gloomy and atmospheric.

This guide demonstrated how the forge worked by using a water power driven hammer to make a rod of molten iron into an iron bar. I have included a video of the process.

The man operating the water wheel by pulling on a metal rod hanging from the room was the clog (sabot) demonstrator.

We had now visited all of the live demos and headed to the building where we had bought our tickets to see what was in there. This was the place where the many local trades, mostly long gone had their display space. The huge room was divided into small areas where the tools of various trades, photos and other related exhibits were on display. Everything from mole catcher, cork maker, boules maker, to dentists and hat makers. You could have spent a couple of hours in there. We will probably visit it again, but start in the morning, have lunch in the restaurant or take a picnic, then carry on in the afternoon.

There was also an art exhibition area, but the paintings on show were a bit gloomy in the colour and not to my taste but I am sure that the artist (deceased) had been proud of them.

We headed back to the car, and our next stop was BUT to buy something for my hi-fi to and records to live in. I ended up buying 2 units each consisting of 4 cubes of shelving. When I placed my order for them, they were each at least 10 euros cheaper than their ticketed price. Unfortunately there was only one in stock, so I collected that and will return for the other one in a couple of days.

Later that evening we tried to put the unit together. It did not go well and we gave up after a few hours. (2 people to assemble in 30minutes) One of the bits was on the wrong side and I hadn’t screwed the metal things with the short thread into the holes correctly.
I think I will shelve any plans for starting up an “I’ll assemble your self-assembly furniture for you” business for the moment…..

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