One of our normal, don't-let-the-grass-grow-under-the-feet kind of trips. We have a few hundred digital photos to go along with this text, and I will pull out a few of them to show those people interested and also able to receive them... But here is just a brief outline, with a focus on the Parisot area and some consequences there.
Having spent three weeks commuting by train between Grenoble and Lyon (just me), we left the Trouillon family's little house in Echirolles (a suburb of Grenoble) about the Thursday (20 July) lunch time [the Trouillon family of 5 had been in our house in Chicago during the same time as part of a house exchange, arranged blindly on the internet, but being successful on both ends - Alain and I turned out to have several physics friends in common]. We first drove up and through the Vercor mountains to the south-west of Grenoble through incredibly narrow gorges up and down about 5000 feet, reaching the Rhone valley then drove about 100 miles west to a rural B&B near Aubenas in the Ardeche. The French B&Bs are a little different from the English in that the guests eat meals with the hosts, turning dinner especially into a very social occasion - for example at this one, there were a German family, a Belgian family and two French couples besides ourselves, and they arranged the seating so that non-native French speakers were together. The meal included aperitifs, wine and about 5 courses - great cooking, and much of the food was grown by the owner, including the rabbit.
The next day we were aiming for Parisot, reputedly the village of origin in Southwestern France of Mary's ancestor Jean Dalpe (Delpue/Delpeche) - he left there for Canada about 1664 as a member of a French regiment to protect the settlers from the Indians (he was eventually killed by them, but not before some vital progeny were born). It took all day, with some stops for food, village markets, Rodez cathedral, and some beautiful views from the mountain roads and gorges (eg the upper Lot river). We ended up at another B&B, already booked for a 2-night stay, in the countryside near the village of Caylus, just 10 miles west of the fabled Parisot. Dinner was again rabbit, and more ordinary, but wholesome country cooking, this time with mostly French families, but including a Belgian writer. The farmer/owner had about 50 milk cows, plus other livestock and hay, in pretty good farming country.
A word is needed here about the landscape in those parts: it is fairly gently rolling countryside, with very little population apart from small villages and hamlets - mostly fields, but significant forests, particularly where the hills are cut by very sharp and deep gorges. Chateaus are built on all the significant promontories, while the rivers of the gorges are now used by tourists for canoeing, rubber-rafting and bunge-jumping; but of course in the old days (very old days), people lived in caves accessed at the bottom of the escarpments - many of the caves are also tourist attractions with drawing of bison, deer, mammoth, etc - the famous Lascaux is just to the north (see below for our visit there), but there are 100's of such caves around. The gorge near Parisot to the south has the Aveyron river, and just 15 miles north is the gorge of the Lot river. As have other relatives, we also fell in love with the area, and would have enjoyed staying much longer.
Saturday was Parisot day: the village only has about 200 inhabitants, but has 2 bakeries, a butchers, a general store and two restaurants, all built around a hill/promontory overlooking a small valley. We had arranged to meet Jean-Louis Delpeche, who actually lives in Toulouse, about 60 miles south, but has a house on the village. A tall white-haired gentleman probably close to 80 years old, Jean-Louis was walking across the village square - an unmistakable Perrizo(!) And we believe he is descended from the same family - but we expect to work hard this coming year to establish the fact definitively. After a very helpful discussion with him at his house (across the square from the church), mainly about his very Catholic ancestors, and some exchange of papers on the Delpeche families, we were about to go on when he mentioned that he is planning to sell the house, and showed us around it.
It is built on the side of a hill (the village church is at the top), and so has about 3-4 stories, with entrances at three of the levels; in addition, Mary's eye spotted quite a bit of nice old furniture. [genealogical note: apparently Parisot was in the Rodez archbishopric until Napoleon created an additional cathedral at Montauban, so that the Delpeche records will be split between the two.]
We had a delightful lunch at La Castille, a very good restaurant in the center of the village - the owners remembered the visit of our Perrizo cousins about 18 months ago - Scott, Mira and Bill, and in addition found us a nice B&B nearby for the Sunday night - the B&B was in the little hamlet of Cambreray, and led to an exciting discovery, but more of that later... The parents of our old Canadian soldier were married in Parisot, but lived in two little hamlets, just a few miles outside:, first we drove to his mother's village - Causseviel (the Delnat family) - here around a nice deserted and overgrown village green we found most of the houses in ruin, but about 6 being restored to their former beauty. We labelled one tumbled-down beauty as the old Delnat house, and wandered around the beautiful golden-stone houses and church. Halfway back to Parisot is the hamlet of Lacau, where lived the old soldier's father's family: even smaller than Casseviel, this village has perhaps 6 empty houses, and three barely lived in - as we looked at a horse and pony in an open barn, out came an old lady from next door - when asked about the Delpeche family, she brought out her husband (also around his 80s), but they insisted that the horse stable and superstructure was the old Delpeche family house before they moved into town (Parisot) at least 50 years ago - they explained that some Canadian ancestors had visited by taxi several years ago, but had no time to talk - meanwhile their grand-daughter had a ride on the little pony - see the picture attached. [genealogical note: these are the villages which need to be linked in a search of Parisot records at Rodez and Montauban].
Back in Parisot, we looked at the old chateau half way down the hillside to the south - it is also probably for sale, since the English owner failed to get permission to build an olympic-size pool in its grounds, which would undoubtedly have been competition for the Parisot lake nearby - the latter looks just like the Faribault County Park where we have our cuzens' reunions, and probably should be used for the next Perrizo reunion. Off we went for a bit of touristing to St. Antonin Noble Val (a medieval, narrow-streeted, riverside village) in the Aveyron gorge and the hilltop village and chateau of Penne: the village consists of a single winding street of mostly tourist shops, bending up to the chateau perched high above the river - the latter had free entry through an overgrown path, clearly not used often by the French who seem to prefer canoeing and camping in the riverbottom - with spectacular views up and down the river valley. After a bit to eat, and pretty satisfied with our day's discoveries, we returned to our B&B at Quercy for the second and last night.
Sunday morning was the "brocante" or antiques sale in the village of Caylus (midway about 6 miles from Quercy, and 6 miles from Parisot). On the way we stopped to see one of the many "pigeoniers" or pigeon houses, plus an old bread oven in a field: these circular, low-roofed stone huts were owned by the lord of the manor who charged the villagers for their bread: i am sure at monopolistic prices, leading to credence in the well-known phrase "let them eat cake", and in the need for revolution... A successful morning bargain hunting, chateau and church visiting, in Caylus left us hungry for a nice meal at the local inn (clearly the best in town, since our hosts from the B&B showed up at a neighboring table on the nice open verandah overlooking the tiled roofs of the village. In the afternoon, we took some small roads through the hills and ravines of the local countryside to another Aveyron gorge village/chateau at Najac. The similarities to the previous day's visit to Penne were remarkable, except that Najac is marked in the guides as a place to visit - hence, more tourists, more tourist shops, and the bigger chateau has its own guides and entry fees. While I climbed the towers of the chateau, Mary visited a unique museum of match-stick sculptures, where the artist was busy making new sculptures, complaining about his treatment by the "authorities" while emphasizing the millions of matchsticks and time taken for each sculpture (none for sale, mind you, since that might smack of capitalism...)
Sunday evening took us to a cocktail appointment with Stewart and Andrea in a restored country "cottage" near Parisot. Stewart and Andrea are American journalists who have worked in Europe, mainly Paris for many years, and had made friends with Scott and Bill on their visit. Andrea was off in England covering an air-show" - hence just Stewart and their young son Nico were at home. This "cottage" is a quite combination of three very old buildings: an old mill, the storage barn, and a bakery: you should think of three corners of a triangle being linked by a glass-covered atrium/dining area, all done very tastefully with the golden stone exterior. At the back is the mill-pond (full of tadpoles and little frogs - to Nico's great glee - several poor suffering frogs were carried one at a time between his finger and thumb to our drinking table! Amazingly surviving several falls to the concrete patio) which links to the horizontal mill wheel under the floor of the mill-building; on the other side, accessed by French windows between the barn and the bakery, is a terrace which overlooks the slowly-flowing stream - pretty idyllic, but just miles from any other residence. The mill wheel itself is at least 500 years old; there is a title from the 13th century, and a description of the mill in Charlemagne's time describes the mill as "old"!
After a quick swim in our Cambayrac B&B swimming pool, we retired for a delightful dinner at the La Castille restaurant in Parisot. Cambayrac is another hamlet near Parisot with only 3 or 4 inhabited houses; for our pre-dinner stroll, we walked around its deserted chateau, just 100 yards up an overgrown lane from the village. The chateau itself has a tall round tower attached to a rectangular 3 or 4 story building, a large folly in the back garden, and a row of cottages attached at one side. On the other side is a rectangular shaped stables, with excercise courtyard in the middle - apparently horses were raised here between the two world wars. Now however, it is all in various stages of ruin - parts of the stables must have been restored quite recently, and the chateau itself look to be in good structural shape. Talking to the B&B lady the following morning, we discovered that the owner has another chateau where he lives, about 20 miles further north, and seems to have given up on the restoration... Take a look at the pictures...
Monday, we drove inexorably on... our goal to reach friends from Chicago living in a little village near Perigeux in the Dordogne, about a day's drive to the north. Naturally there were lots of things to see on the way, but these had to be quick with just a fleeting glimpse to remind us of our needed return. (And you have already read enough of this letter anyway if you have got this far...). First north 10 miles to Cirque LaPopie, a picturesque village overlooking the Lot river valley - shades of Najac and Penne - then across the river and up a little valley to the fabled caverns of Perche Merle - full of cave drawing from pre-historic times; but a detailed visit was not-to-be - the place was packed with people, and the first available tour would be 4 pm - so on we went to the town of Cahors for lunch (could have been better!) - the old town was a major fortification for the English of Acquitaine, built on a rock above the twisting Lot river, but all that remains is one foot-bridge - so on we went, with the most difficult and busy roads of the trip up to Lascaux - now here was a place we could not miss, and managed to get tickets for the last tour of the day (7 pm), even tho what we now see is Lascaux II a copy of the original cave made in the 1980s to protect the original drawings - after a visit to a preparatory museum up the valley on the other hillside, we were very impressed by the presentations and guided tour of the 4000 year old cave drawings - definitely a 3-star visit. A very rapid drive brought us to the tiny village of Ponteyraud, where Rebecca and John and children and friends were waiting with a marvellous supper in another marvellous "cottage".
To cut a long story to manageable proportions, I will skip over our Tuesday in Ponteyraud and the Dordogne, and our Wednesday drive to Paris to see the hospitalized Mireille, to help her parents Katherine and Geb, our Thursday trip by Eurostar in the chunnel to London, the drive down to Philip and John's "cottage" in Slindon, the Friday preparations for Philip's 60th birthday party on Saturday, with all the English Berry relations (except for matriarch Lucy), the Sunday visit to Fontwell carboot sale, a wonderful lunch with John and Helene, Peg and Hester, Philip and John, the quick trip to Avebury, the final B&B, and then to Monday's crowning success in being "forced" to accept a later flight to Chicago with a forfeit of $1000 each in future airtickets.
Perrizo Family History Project