Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Greece – What is really going on...

I don't usually repost posts from other sites, but this one from NationofChange made such sense about what's been going on in Greece that I decided to copy and paste the whole lot. We know the result of the vote now of course - a resounding NO to austerity. Well done the Greeks!

Frankly, there's not a lot to choose between Monsanto and Goldman Sachs et al.

Every single mainstream media has the following narrative for the economic crisis in Greece: the government spent too much money and went broke; the generous banks gave them money, but Greece still can’t pay the bills because it mismanaged the money that was given. It sounds quite reasonable, right?
Except that it is a big fat lie … not only about Greece, but about other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland who are all experiencing various degrees of austerity. It was also the same big, fat lie that was used by banks and corporations to exploit many Latin American, Asian and African countries for many decades.
Greece did not fail on its own. It was made to fail.
In summary, the banks wrecked the Greek government and deliberately pushed it into unsustainable debt so that oligarchs and international corporations can profit from the ensuing chaos and misery.
If you are a fan of mafia movies, you know how the mafia would take over a popular restaurant. First, they would do something to disrupt the business – stage a murder at the restaurant or start a fire. When the business starts to suffer, the Godfather would generously offer some money as a token of friendship. In return, Greasy Thumb takes over the restaurant’s accounting, Big Joey is put in charge of procurement, and so on. Needless to say, it’s a journey down a spiral of misery for the owner who will soon be broke and, if lucky, alive.
Now, let’s map the mafia story to international finance in four stages.
Stage 1: The first and foremost reason that Greece got into trouble was the “Great Financial Crisis” of 2008 that was the brainchild of Wall Street and international bankers. If you remember, banks came up with an awesome idea of giving subprime mortgages to anyone who can fog a mirror. They then packaged up all these ticking financial bombs and sold them as “mortgage-backed securities” at a huge profit to various financial entities in countries around the world.
A big enabler of this criminal activity was another branch of the banking system, the group of rating agencies – S&P, Fitch and Moody’s – who gave stellar ratings to these destined-to-fail financial products. Unscrupulous politicians such as Tony Blair got paid by Big Banks to peddle these dangerous securities to pension funds and municipalities and countries around Europe. Banks and Wall Street gurus made hundreds of billions of dollars in this scheme.
But this was just Stage 1 of their enormous scam. There was much more profit to be made in the next three stages!
Stage 2 is when the financial time bombs exploded. Commercial and investment banks around the world started collapsing in a matter of weeks. Governments at local and regional level saw their investments and assets evaporate. Chaos everywhere!
Vultures like Goldman Sachs and other big banks profited enormously in three ways: one, they could buy other banks such as Lehman brothers and Washington Mutual for pennies on the dollar. Second, more heinously, Goldman Sachs and insiders such as John Paulson (who recently donated $400 million to Harvard) had made bets that these securities would blow up. Paulson made billions, and the media celebrated his acumen. (For an analogy, imagine the terrorists betting on 9/11 and profiting from it.) Third, to scrub salt in the wound, the big banks demanded a bailout from the very citizens whose lives the bankers had ruined! Bankers have chutzpah. In the U.S., they got hundreds of billions of dollars from the taxpayers and trillions from the Federal Reserve Bank which is nothing but a front group for the bankers.
In Greece, the domestic banks got more than $30 billion of bailout from the Greek people. Let that sink in for a moment – the supposedly irresponsible Greek government had to bail out the hardcore capitalist bankers.
Stage 3 is when the banks force the government to accept massive debts. For a biology metaphor, consider a virus or a bacteria. All of them have unique strategies to weaken the immune system of the host. One of the proven techniques used by the parasitic international bankers is to downgrade the bonds of a country. And that’s exactly what the bankers did, starting at the end of 2009. This immediately makes the interest rates (“yields”) on the bonds go up, making it more and more expensive for the country to borrow money or even just roll over the existing bonds.
From 2009 to mid-2010, the yields on 10-year Greek bonds almost tripled! This cruel financial assault brought the Greek government to its knees, and the banksters won their first debt deal of a whopping 110 billion Euros.
The banks also control the politics of nations. In 2011, when the Greek prime minister refused to accept a second massive bailout, the banks forced him out of the office and immediately replaced him with the Vice President of ECB (European Central Bank)! No elections needed. Screw democracy. And what would this new guy do? Sign on the dotted line of every paperwork that the bankers bring in.
(By the way, the very next day, the exact same thing happened in Italy where the Prime Minister resigned, only to be replaced by a banker/economist puppet. Ten days later, Spain had a premature election where a banker puppet won the election).
The puppet masters had the best month ever in November 2011.
Few months later, in 2012, the exact bond market manipulation was used when the banksters turned up the Greek bonds’ yields to 50%!!! This financial terrorism immediately had the desired effect: The Greek parliament agreed to a second massive bailout, even larger than the first one.
Now, here is another fact that most people don’t understand. The loans are not just simple loans like you would get from a credit card or a bank. These are loans come with very special strings attached that demand privatization of a country’s assets. If you have seen Godfather III, you would remember Hyman Roth, the investor who was carving up Cuba among his friends. Replace Hyman Roth with Goldman Sachs or IMF (International Monetary Fund) or ECB, and you get the picture.
Stage 4: Now, the rape and humiliation of a nation begin under the name of “austerity” or “structural reforms.” For the debt that was forced upon it, Greece had to sell many of its profitable assets to oligarchs and international corporations. And privatizations are ruthless, involving everything and anything that is profitable. In Greece, privatization included water, electricity, post offices, airport services, national banks, telecommunication, port authorities (which is huge in a country that is a world leader in shipping) etc. Of course, the ever-manipulative bankers always demand immediate privatization of all media which means that the country gets photogenic TV anchors who spew establishment propaganda every day and tell the people that crooked and greedy banksters are saviors; and slavery under austerity is so much better than the alternative.
In addition to that, the banker tyrants also get to dictate every single line item in the government’s budget. Want to cut military spending? NO! Want to raise tax on the oligarchs or big corporations? NO! Such micro-management is non-existent in any other creditor-debtor relationship.
So what happens after privatization and despotism under bankers? Of course, the government’s revenue goes down and the debt increases further. How do you “fix” that? Of course, cut spending! Lay off public workers, cut minimum wage, cut pensions (same as our social security), cut public services, and raise taxes on things that would affect the 99% but not the 1%. For example, pension has been cut in half and sales tax increase to more than 20%. All these measures have resulted in Greece going through a financial calamity that is worse than the Great Depression of the U.S. in the 1930s.
After all this, what is the solution proposed by the heartless bankers? Higher taxes! More cuts to the pension! It takes a special kind of a psychopath to put a country through austerity, an economic holocaust.
If every Greek person had known the truth about austerity, they wouldn’t have fallen for this. Same goes for Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and other countries going through austerity. The sad aspect of all this is that these are not unique strategies. Since World War II, these predatory practices have been used countless times by the IMF and the World Bank in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
This is the essence of the New World Order — a world owned by a handful of corporations and banks; a world that is full of obedient, powerless debt serfs.
So, it’s time for the proud people of Greece to rise up like Zeus and say NO (“OXI” in Greece) to the greedy puppet masters, unpatriotic oligarchs, parasitic bankers and corrupt politicians.
Dear Greece, know that the world is praying for you and rooting for you. This weekend, vote NO to austerity. Say YES to freedom, independence, self-government, sovereignty, and democracy. Go to the polls this weekend and give a resounding, clear victory for the 99% in Greece, Europe, and the entire western world.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Great Place for Boys - Pont d'Issensac

Summer is well and truly here. The temperature during the day hits 35°C and we're keeping the shutters 'entre ouverte' which describes how they are almost shut but not quite so letting in some all-important light - enough not to have to turn the lights on which would just add to the heat and be extremely depressing!

I went and sweated several litres at zumba on Saturday morning; it is really unpleasant exercising in such heat. In fact, I swear I'm less fit in the summer than at other times of the year because it's just too hot to move.

Of course, if I took advantage of swimming in the river when I take my youngest and his friends there, it might help... We went twice this weekend to the Pont St Etienne d'Issensac. The boys love this spot and they are not alone.

Pont St Etienne d'Issensac

None of the lads who were jumping off the river bank cliffs or indeed the bridge itself were much concerned by its fourteenth century history or by the fact that it enabled a link between the Cevennes at St-André-de-Buèges and the low country at Valflaunès. Nor that it has been much restored so there is little of the original medieval stone left, but it was always sympathetically done, to the point that it was declared a historic monument in 1948.

No, what interests them is the fact that they can jump into the water from cliffs of varying heights and be sure that the river Hérault is deep enough to break their fall rather than their neck.

On Saturday I took four boys aged 14/15. We arrived around 4pm, and found a shady spot for the car nearby. I had to cross the very narrow bridge (2m wide) in order to do this as there was no space on the Montpellier side, and saw signs to an 'obligatory' car park on the other side although I didn't park there in the end, but on a side road.

The boys went off to do their thing while I sat down to read my Kindle, dabble my feet in the cool river, and watch the entertainment. A 'mindful appreciation' of my surroundings had me listening to the buzz of happy conversation, the splashes from bodies landing in the river from the banks and the bridge (which is forbidden), and the realisation that young men made up 80% of the people there - students mostly. They were accompanied by a few lovely lasses in teeny bikinis and well-advanced tans who were there to cheer on their hero(s) and look suitably impressed. None of them were jumping into the river, maybe so as not to mess up their hair... There was a really good atmosphere too - what the French call 'bon enfant' or everyone having a nice time without being a nuisance.

Jumping off the bridge

On Sunday, I took my youngest back with two friends, and found that the demographic of the merrymakers was completely different. We arrived at roughly the same time, parked in the official car park which in is a huge, shady space on the river bank, and made our way back to the bridge. I found a space to sit near where I'd been the previous day with a good view of the goings-on. The students were absent, replaced by families, gypsies and young maghrebin men. They were all having a good time too, but someone had brought a ghetto-blaster which pumped out Arabic music, over which the lads had to yell to make themselves heard on the other side of the river and by their mates on the bridge... There was a much higher nuisance factor that day.

Lads on the highest point of the cliff

There were girls jumping in the river on Sunday too, including one with long hair that she swept from side to side as she tried to pluck up courage to jump from the highest cliff. She monopolised that spot for about twenty minutes as a crowd of lads built up behind her. My three ended up by jumping half a metre or so away from her and then from another spot until she finally made it in. I gave her a round of applause and noticed that she didn't try it again... to the relief of everyone else no doubt.

They're queuing up to jump

If you want to go there, I recommend going on a Saturday... park in the official car park (unless you have a camper van or caravan - there is a very tight u-bend) and take everything you need - there are no snack vans, toilets or other facilities.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Horror House of Gluten

If you want to really give yourself the willies, read up on the horror that is modern wheat.

To start with, its development reads like a hammer house of horror. Modern wheat is a mutant of 42 chromosomes to the 14 of old varieties, developed over years of genetic modification. It makes me think of those old paintings of rectangular cows, or Frankenstein. You can't see it, but you're eating Frankenwheat.

This Frankenwheat contains a whole load of new proteins that our bodies can't assimilate. If they can't be assimilated through our digestive process, they pass directly into the intestine where they are free to wreak havoc.

If you're one of the 1% suffering from Coeliac disease, it's like having Frankenstein on crack rampaging around your belly wielding a flail and inflaming your insides. Not nice. Torture, actually.

You might think that if you're not totally intolerant, you're okay. Unfortunately, a new study from the US shows that modern wheat is toxic for all of us. Even if you're in tip top good health, eating wheat products merely increases the permeability of your intestine by perturbing the intestinal hormone zonuline, with dire results.

Not only does your intestine struggle to assimilate the nutrients you're so keenly consuming (rather than stuffing your face with crisps, hotdogs and doughnuts), but it can't stop certain proteins getting into the blood stream to act as front-line terrorists triggering auto-immune diseases and upping the risk of cancer.

Two of these malevolent buggers are prolamines and glutenines which together form the infamous protein gluten. Don't be duped. Modern gluten is bad Bad BAD. More and more people are suffering from its effects, including diarrhea, bloating, depression, joint pain, etc.

So cutting out gluten could happily cure your digestive problems, make you feel happier, less open to infections and give you more energy.

Does that croissant/slice of toast/baguette sarnie/pizza/spag bol/cake look quite as appetising now?

Even if you're in glowing health, eating a gluten-free diet reduces the production of proinflammatory cytokines, and by consequence, makes you less at risk from the effects of inflammation (heart disease, cancer, depression, etc.).

Having given myself the willies, and tried to frighten the boys, with a marked lack of success, I decided to try eating as little gluten as possible. I'm not a gluten-free nazi, but when I'm in my own home, I'm just not eating normal bread, pizza, cake or wheat pasta. Funnily enough, my boys are bored with my bread machine bread (although not the pizza dough it makes...) and are thus eating less bread because they want me to buy baguettes, and I'll buy no more than one of those a day, if that.

Instead, I eat Pain des Fleurs buckwheat crackers, lentil pasta, and I've started making my own bread. It doesn't look anything like the dry yellow stuff you see under plastic in the gluten-free aisles in supermarkets, and tastes surprisingly good.

Stylish inside and out
In France, there's a stylish seasonal magazine on gluten-free cooking and 'art de vivre' called Niépi that my yoga teacher told me about. She lent me the latest copy where I discovered the recipe for egg-free, gluten-free bread. I have nothing against eggs, but thought I'd give it a go for the hell of it.

The recipe called for 40 minutes in the oven. If a skewer came out clean, it was cooked. My skewer did not come out clean after 40 minutes, or 50 minutes. I got cross at 55 minutes and shook it out of its silicone mould and stuffed it back in the oven, heat turned off.

It never actually finished cooking, but was sufficiently cooked to eat. When I tried it again a few days later in a metal Teflon mould, the result was even less cooked at 50 minutes. Does anyone have a suggestion about how long it actually takes?

Here is attempt one, looking pretty normal:

Gluten-free, egg-free bread (a bit undercooked)

It's made with rice flour, tapioca starch, buckwheat flour, flaxseeds, chia seeds, psyllium etc. My DB enjoyed too and took the recipe to see if he could make it in his bread machine as he has no oven.

Attempt two came out with an over-inflated top - I think I kneaded it too much, and I forgot the apple cider vinegar. And it was really undercooked. A mystery!

I found and tried a couple of other recipes in the mag, liked one of them so much I decided to splash out 20 Euro and buy all the electronic back copies.

All I need now is a Kindle Fire to read them on...

UPDATE 15/6/15
I emailed the Niépi people and they told me that gluten-free flour is not calibrated in the same way as wheat flour (Types 55,65,110 etc.) and so they absorb moisture to different degrees. It was suggested I reduce the amount of water, and leave the loaf in the oven on the rack once it had finished cooking. I tried this, and the third loaf came out perfectly. It rose properly and cooked properly, and tastes very good. Result!

Friday, June 05, 2015

A Dedicated Mothers' Day

It was Mothers' Day in France last Sunday, a fête which was officially added to the calendar by maréchal Pétain in 1941. It became a national tradition in 1918 in tribute to all the women who had lost a son and/or husband in the trenches. Ten years later, in 1929, it was used to encourage women to have babies as part of la politique familiale to repopulate the country.

I enjoyed it, for once. My eldest is now old enough to take charge. Mothers' Day is tough for single mums because there's no dad to chivvy the kids into drawing a picture, buying a flower or two or supervising the making of tea.

As I'd just asked for a little word on a piece of paper, I was agreeably surprised when I was presented with a red rose and card at lunch time (nems from the best nems-man in Montpellier plus a glass of rosé, Carrouf Magnum for puds. Simple, delicious). Gobsmacked, you might say in fact. Made my day. We had a delightful lunch outside, sitting at the table with table cloth and no tiger mozzies.

Feeling on top of the world, then, I decided I'd go into town and see what was happening at the book fair - the 30e Comédie du Livre.

It wasn't exactly on the Place de la Comédie but on the Esplanade, thankfully under a series of marquees so we, including the books, didn't all roast and curl under the sun
The rest of the Place da la Comédie was empty

There was a whole range of books on show, and authors. If you like books, it was the place to be. There were sections on travel books, poetry, religious books, novels, culture, and a foreign section where Le Bookshop had a books-in-English stand.

If you were looking for children's books, there was even a whole marquee for them many of which looked super. I lamented again how I have boys who dislike reading. They don't even read comic books, or BD (bande déssinée) which are wildly popular in France, and were on show en masse at the fair.

On one of the stands, I saw a BD about Montpellier, called Balade à Montpellier by 'Gaston'. It's a humorous tour of the city that manages to distil the essence of Montpellier by pointing out its clichés (gay capital of France, red car on Rock Store wall, etc.), and guides us rapidly through its history. I had a look through and loved it.

It's obviously been written by someone who loves the city and knows it well. The author, 'Gaston' or Alain Rémy is an accomplished cartoonist who's worked with Disney and Spielberg, and is a script writer for Ubisoft (on 'Rabbids Go Home').

I noticed that he was dedicating the books purchased on site with a little cartoon! I had to have one too! I'm a sucker for a dedication.

Gaston dedicating his book for me
It was my turn, so I sat down and he started asking me about myself (how cool is that?) in order to find inspiration. I told him about coming to France to be with my future ex-h, and after we divorced I wanted to be with someone who spoke excellent English. There was a bit more chit chat, and he started drawing in the book I'd bought. This is what he came up with:
My dedication from Gaston. That's me on the right in my stripy tee-shirt. :)
"V.O." is a French expression for films and tele programmes that are shown not dubbed, in their original version ('version original'). Isn't it great? He has a talent for grasping the essential spirit of something/someone and whipping up a cartoon about it/them. He does it on the tele too.

Not only did I get the book dedicated, but the sponsoring bookshop (Librarie des 5 continents) was offering a dedicated card too, so this is mine:

I positively floated home.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Red Red Hills of Hérault

I left you in Castres, in the delightful London room of the Hotel de l'Europe. Whatever plans we had for a leisurely lie-in were cut short upon looking at the weather forecast. Heading our way was a nasty storm, so we hurriedly got our stuff together, had a quick instant coffee from the selection in our room (I took a cappuccino which was quite filling - luckily), and jumped on the bike.

The previous evening had been mild and pleasant. The following morning was cold and damp. We set off into a misty 12°C along the D622 to Brassac, not seeing much.

Limited views of the countryside
I did note along the way an intriguing signpost to the "Trembling Rock of Seven Fakes" (Rocher tremblant de Sept Faux). It's one of the snazzier natural features of the granite that makes up the Sidobre site, a unique geological area 15 km long by 6.6 wide and 7.5-20 km deep. Along the road you can see giant granite boulders among the trees. The trembling rock is so-called because despite its 900 tonnes, you can move it with a mere wooden stick.

We outran the rain, thank goodness but the weather stayed cold and misty until we crossed into Hérault where it turned warm and sunny HURRAH!

Sunny St-Pons-de-Thomières
By this time, we were in search of breakfast, or brunch as it was pretty late. We stopped at a boulangerie, but they had nothing but unappetising croissants. I'm on a gluten-free kick at the moment to see if it has any effect on my joints, so I wasn't going to jeopardise that for a dodgy croissant. So far eating thusly hasn't had a noticeable effect but I've only been eating gluten-free for a couple of weeks. It takes several weeks to see a difference so I'm told. Unfortunately.

We continued on towards Bedarieux, going past the lovely village of Olargues (a PBV).

And on to Bedarieux where hunger got the better of me and we stopped at MacDo for a chevre wrap. It was either that or just a measly salad. I was sure my joints could survive a wrap...

At Carlencas we turned off the main road and rode towards the Lac de Salagou. It was there we came into red hill country.

The red stone is locally called 'ruffe' which is a name particular to Hérault, from the Occitan word 'rufa' (from the Latin rufus - red). It's made up of clay sediments and iron oxide.

The pale area is a wheat field
 My DB said it reminded him of certain landscapes in the US.

A landscape of contrasts
Every now and then, you can see a basalt chimney which is evidence of intense volcanic activity in the distant past.

Basalt chimney near La Lieude
 We were on a small road, all the better to admire the dramatic scenery.

Between the layers of rock you can find a thin layer of shells

You sometimes see messages written in shells. Usually a declaration of undying love within a heart. So romantic.

A look-out post has been built on this basalt chimney
Near the hamlet of La Lieude is a basalt chimney with a look-out post. I think you can walk up to it which I'm sure gives a fantastic panorama over the area.

Love the stripy vineyard
At Salasc, we turned up in the direction of Octon and the lake.

Most people were enjoying lunch out on terrasses, including a large number of bikers. We didn't stop, having had our delicious MacDo wrap in the elegant surroundings of the commercial zone of Bedarieux...

Love this chappy, me hearties!
I've never noticed this little guy before. I don't know if he's a recent addition, but isn't he fab? He stands proud over the camp site.

Lac de Salagou, ruins of village of Celles in the distance
There's an excellent restaurant on the hills overlooking the  lake and ruined village of Celles. At least it was excellent when we went there last, which was some time ago admittedly. It's the Auberge du Lac at Le Puech. The menu still looks good.

We finished our trip along the green roads not long after this, taking the autoroute back as far as St Paul et Valmalle, then coming off to divert through Montarnaud and Grabels.

The colours are very vibrant at the moment. It's a terrific time to travel about the region. Spring is well-advanced and the warmer weather has brought the leaves and flowers out all fresh and new.

I feel so lucky to live down here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Travelling through Haut Languedoc and les Grands Causses

For the last long weekend of May, my DB and I decided to take the motorbike and ride west to Castres. It was a lovely day, so I packed a picnic and we set off on the autoroute to Lodève, then took the charming D35 towards Lunas, a village of 400 inhabitants and a castle.

In the late spring, the gorse was out, lighting up the rolling hillsides with brilliant flashes of gold and heavenly sweet perfume.
Monts d'Orb
We took the tiny D135e2, a single track lane that wended its way through fields and forests. No crazy driving possible on this little road, we were able to admire the scenery at a leisurely pace, and it was well worth it.
Forests of Monts d'Orb
We disturbed a raptor along the road. It was by the road on our left and suddenly burst out across the front of the bike just feet away. I managed to get a photo of it as it flew off to our right.

At a few metres from us!
This is a shady spot along the tiny road, going through the forest of the Monts d'Orb.

Barely room to pass another vehicle...
We found a delightful picnic spot at the end of the D138 at Ceilhes-et-Rocozels situated by a lake and a camp site. A few picnic tables were dotted about which meant we could sit comfortably in our biking gear instead of uncomfortably on the ground. I looked towards the lake, my DB looked towards the bike. The toads on the banks serenaded each other at top volume and plopped into the lake as we approached the water's edge.
Not long after Ceilhes, we crossed into Aveyron, following the D902 which is green along the River Dourdou between Fayet and Camarès.
Another green road took us to Belmont-sur-Rance and it's dramatic church spire at the top of the hill.

From Belmont, we rode south (D32) to Lacaune, greeted at the entrance to the town by a splendid metalwork ham. Not quite Aoste or Parme, but I'm sure it tastes lovely. We didn't stop to find out, however.
Wonder what they produce in Lacaune...
One of the prettiest photos is this one at Lacaze - I love the green of the trees with the grey of the buildings, and the odd spot of dark purple, plus the lovely village and imposing bridge. It's very different in style from villages where I live in Hérault, but isn't that far away.

Pretty Lacaze
We reached Castres via Vabres and Brassac having telephoned ahead to reserve a room at the Hotel de l'Europe there. After a stunning ride, we were delighted to find our hotel was equally stunning in its own way. Here is the lobby, lit from above by a glass roof.

Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
The hotel blurb says that the building is a 17th century mix of baroque - part-Italian, part-Spanish
Keeping the evil spirits at bay? Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
I love the little crypt set into the exposed bricks on the landing. The colours positively hummed in the late afternoon sun. My reaction on walking into the lobby was simply "Wow!".

We were assigned the London room - how appropriate - which was a good 20m² and boasted a large bed, comfy chair, desk and ancient typewriter. For writing all those murder mysteries the Brits are so good at no doubt. On the wall were 12 small photos of famous Brits including Hitchcook, Lady Di, Queen Elizabeth I, etc. The bed could be backlit by a blue light for a smoochy atmosphere.
London room, Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
There was ample room for us and our kit!
London room, Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
The bathroom was a revelation with its large bath/jacuzzi. All this for 77 Eur!
Room for two! Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
A short walk from the hotel was the elegant central square, with its stylish buildings and vast open space.

We got a plan of the town from the hotel and walked around taking in the main sights. It didn't take long as Castres is a small town, and very compact as it used be walled. Along the river are the old tanners' houses which reminded me a little of Florence.
Tanner's houses, Castres
We finished our walk in the public gardens designed by André le Notre with its swirling low bushes, sculptured trees and very few flowers. Other places of interest in Castres include the Goya Museum located in a splendid former bishop's' palace, which houses the largest collection of Spanish art outside the Louvres.
Gardens designed by André le Notre, theatre in background
The Hotel Renaissance looks fab from the outside. It's a 4* hotel so I expect it's pretty fab on the inside too.
Hotel Renaissance 4*
We tested the bath/jacuzzi before dinner to the full and enjoyed the pummelling and water massage à deux. Sunday evening in France is not a good time to be looking for a restaurant even over a holiday weekend, but our hotel receptionist reserved us a table at Le Cercle a short walk away where we had a very pleasant meal and some good wine. It was about the only place open apart from dodgy kebab shops.

The bed was extremely comfortable and difficult to leave the next day!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

March Against Monsanto

Saturday May 23, 2015 was March Against Monsanto day. People from 35 towns in France, plus hundreds of others elsewhere in the world - spanning 48 countries - marched against this pharmaceutical multinational giant to promote awareness and interest in the World Health Organisation's declaration that glyphosate-containing herbicide Roundup, made by Monsanto, is a 'probable carcinogen' in the food supply. Glyphosate has been detected in groundwater supplies as well as rainwater collections suggesting mass pollution on a global scale.

Added to that their production and tyrannical selling of GMOs, their obstruction of measures to label products containing them, and hard core lobbying, Monsanto obviously puts profits before people, the environment and health, so we demonstrated to tell them and the Powers That Be that we don't want their poison, we want healthy food for all.

Our demo started off in the Peyrou gardens at 2pm. Not quite 2pm, obviously as this is the south of France and things never start on time. We eventually headed off half an hour or so later to the sound of drums, a flute, and chants of "Mon-san-to, A-ssass-in".

"With Monsanto, eat 5 poisoned fruit and veg per day"

From the Arc de Triomphe, down rue Foch
The numbers started building up as more and more people joined in. Ages ranged from students and teens, to parents with young children, and middle-aged and beyond.

View looking down rue Foch from Place du Marché aux Fleurs towards Arc de Triomphe
How many people do you reckon the photo above shows? The police declared us to number 300. Rue Foch is about 400m long, and it was packed with demonstrators. I respectfully suggest that the police numbers are rubbish. There was more like a thousand of us, if not more.

Ambiance guaranteed with the piper and drummers on rue Saint-Guilhem
This was the first time I've joined a demonstration. If my memory serves me right, which is not absolutely sure. It was great fun because there were no trouble-makers, and we all enjoyed making lots of noise and holding up the traffic.

We handed out leaflets to passers-by who were generally happy to take them and took lots of pictures of us too.

We held up the trams... oops
I just hope no one missed their train because we held up the trams...
Trams blocked on boulevard Jeu de Paume
Even though people were blocked in trams, they did not look nastily at us, but waved and smiled.
MacDo got a collective "BOOO" from demonstrators. 
We eventually arrived at the Place de la Comédie where we gathered round MacDonald's with the big yellow Greenpeace OGM banner, and yelled a collective 'Boo'. There were several people eating outside who took the 'entertainment' with good humour even though a woman was dancing around with a smoker and puffing smoke over them.

So did Quick. Most customers took it well...
We then moved on to Quick and did the same. Most customers took it well, but one group of a certain religion (I'll leave you to guess which) headed by a woman in a leopard print blouse didn't appreciate the smoke being blown over a podgy lad. He had been tucking into his burger and stopped, open-mouthed to stare at us when we arrived. The purpose of our demo didn't interest Ms Leopard-print in the slightest. She took umbrage, berated a nearby member of staff and got her little family together to flounce off, gesticulating like mad in her fury. I don't think we got our message across to her...

We didn't get our message across to the media either. No one from the tele was there, and there were just brief articles in the newspapers. All played down the numbers and therefore the importance of the issues, and the degree of feeling among the demonstrators. I think they lumped us into the loony-lefty-minority-Occupy box, as though everyone else is delighted at the idea of eating toxic food and drinking poisoned water.

Still, hundreds of people saw us demonstrate and got the message, and every person outraged at what Monsanto does is a victory. I expect Monsanto bosses eat 100% organic and wouldn't touch GMO corn if you paid them. Hypocrisy among big bosses and politicians is well established.