Ming the Mechanic:
Moving

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Moving2006-09-27 09:27
19 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

I haven't been online much recently, because we moved houses. And still no success on getting our new internet connection working.

But, hey, I've better capture a bit of the magic of moving to a new place, while it is still fresh. You know, when you go to an unfamiliar area, your eyes are more open. After some months you might just get used to it, and take it for granted, and you don't pay much attention.

The old landlord was selling the house we were renting, and the contract was up, so it was time to move. That was all somewhat more trouble than we had imagined. I guess we had some luck 3 years ago, getting our house deal worked out within a couple of days, without any significant obstacles, other than my very sketchy ability to speak French at the time. This time there was a mountain of paperwork being in the way, and it took a while to work out.

We're now in a town called Ramonville, which is still in the suburbs of Toulouse. A little further from the center of town, but not much. Around 10km from the old place.

The house seemed at first rather mysterious to us. It is a big old house on a hill, and it looked quite a bit like the Bates Motel in Psycho. Particularly when the real estate agent explained that some parts of house would be locked off and reserved for the owner. To store furniture, he said. We imagined that if one walked in there, one would find his dead mother sitting in a rocking chair, or something along those lines.

As it turned out, the owner is a very nice fellow, and the first thing he did was to show us what was in the locked rooms, so we didn't have to be concerned, and he even left the keys. And it wasn't all that far off. It used to be his childhood home, until like 20 years ago. And it wasn't really that there was furniture storage, but rather that those rooms had been left pretty much as they were, because he hadn't felt like getting around to sorting them out. Like, at the ground floor there's an appartment where his uncle used to live. An uncle who was a catholic priest who had travelled a lot. The place is stocked from floor to ceiling with his archives, books, pictures, travel reports, etc. And it was left like he left it when he died. There's still papers on his desk, cigarette butts in the ashtray, and a bottle of brandy in the closet. Anyway, it isn't really scarey, but rather peaceful.

At the top of the three floors there were rooms that were rented out to students. Also left just as they were. Not so much of a personal feeling to them, but again, nothing to worry about. And it all leaves lots of room for us.

There's a large garden full of fruit trees, and with room for a large vegetable garden. It even has its own well, to deal with the frequent water rationing in the summer here. Btw, I still don't get exactly how that can work. We're on a hill, around 50 meters above the town itself. And yet a 13 meter well will reach the water level. I guess the water follows the hills.

My little daughter is very happy with the garden. She will actually now turn off the TV and go and climb trees instead. That's good news. And her new school is just around the corner, so she can even walk there herself.

Now, a little history. This town is called Ramonville because it is named after Raymond IV, one of the counts of Toulouse. It used to be Raymondville, but lost a couple of letters along the way. It was named after him because he had a castle here, called Bellevue. And not just that, but it was on this very hill, roughly just across the street from us.

Today we're right next to a large closed off park and nature preserve called Domaine Latécoère. There's a big wall around it, and there's a chateau there. That's relatively new, though. But it is a little bit mysterious what goes on there and who owns it now, as it has been closed off as long as anybody seems to remember. Anyway, it is called Domaine Latécoère because it used to belong to the Latécoère family. Pierre-George Latécoère had a company that built airplanes in the early decades of the 1900s, and he's quite famous around here. Because some significant pieces of avionic history happened around here. The Montaudran airfield is close by. It was from here that Aeropostale started the first regular flights that transported mail to exotic places like Africa and South America. Latécoère was the guy who built the planes and the airport and ran the company. And his most famous pilot was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. You know, the author of The Little Prince. He flew a great many flights out of Montaudran, and lived in Toulouse for some years. This is all something that Toulousians are quite proud of, as this is still a big center for aerospace. So, many roads, schools, etc. are named after Saint-Exupéry or Latécoère. Including the street we live on and my daughter's school.

It is said that when Charles Lindbergh's son was abducted for ransom in the 30s and subsequently killed, Pierre-Georges Latécoère got very freaked out about it, and that's when he built that big wall around his grounds. Apparently he had in mind to buy all the land between here and the Montaudran airfield, so he never had to leave his home. He didn't quite succeed in that, but he still managed to wall in 10% or so of Ramonville in his park. Which is great to look at across the street. Just a shame that we can't walk around in it.

Anyway, back to Raymond IV. More than 900 years ago, this was the location of his Bellevue castle. Raymond was a powerful man. He ruled all of the south of France, from the Atlantic over including the Cote d'Azur to around where Italy starts today. And the Pyrenées, down into Spain as well. He was richer than the French king and had more armies under his control.

He was also one of the key figures in the first crusade, its leader in many ways. It wasn't his idea, but he provided a majority of the funding and the manpower. The crusade came about because the Byzantine emperor Alexis made an appeal to Pope Urbain II. Jerusalem was controlled by unfriendly powers who no longer allowed christian pilgrims free passage, and something had to be done. And despite that Alexis was extremely rich, he didn't really have the armies at hand to take care of it. So, he asked the Pope. And, apparently Urbain gave one of the most effective motivational speeches in history, and he got a bunch of French noblemen to drop whatever else they were doing and invest their fortunes and their armies into going to Jerusalem to kick out the infidels.

That was all totally insane, of course. But it seemed to make sense for these guys. And, well, I've read the former Toulouse mayor Dominique Baudis' book "Raymond d'Orient", which has Raymond IV as the main figure and hero of the story, and it is based in part on his diaries, so I can see the romantic appeal. But it was a brutal and needless adventure. The crusaders eventually prevailed, against great odds, by being more fanatic and ruthless than the opposing, much bigger, armies. You know, such tricks as bombarding a besieged city with the cut-off heads of their slain soldiers. And, after a few years and 10s of thousands of bodies in their path, they finally conquered Jerusalem, carrying out the greatest bloodbath of all, killing another few 10s of thousands of people.

Raymond refused to become the king of Jerusalem, even though he was the first and obvious choice. But he didn't have in mind coming back to Toulouse either. He picked out the city of Tripoli in what today is Libanon, took over the place and became the Count of Tripoli and built a huge castle, and his descendants ruled there for a few generations.

But, back to Ramonville. The reason this is related is that Raymond took off on his crusade in 1096 exactly from his Bellevue castle across the street here. He brought with him around 10000 people. 1000 or so knights on horses, their supporting servants, and a bunch of other people from Toulouse just chose to walk along. And we're talking about walking all the way, which took a while. Anyway, this is where those crazy folks walked. Straight down from the hill from here, the street is still called "Chemin des Croisés", you know, the path of the crusaders. Raymond took his money with him, and his best people, leaving his not very capable son in charge of a very cash-strapped empire. Which eventually fell permanently into the hands of the French crown some hundred years later, after a later Raymond didn't leave any male heirs.

None of that has much to do with living in Ramonville today, of course, but it is always fun to explore a little history. Now it is a fairly small town of 12000 people, best known for having the technical university close by, and various aerospace companies. It is rather green, close to open fields and forested areas. It is close to the Garonne river and the Canal du Midi (going from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean) goes straight through it. It is close enough to Toulouse that it will have a metro station some time next year, which will make it somewhat easier to get to town.



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19 comments

27 Sep 2006 @ 10:50 by swanny : Happy Birthday
Happy Bday Ming
was startin to wonder about you
Sounds like an interesting place
and great for the kids
a garden very nice
maybe grow some grapes and tomatoes
ah and make some port.  



27 Sep 2006 @ 11:42 by jmarc : hmm
Maybe Raymond left behind a small stash of treasure, just in case he should make it back there empty handed?  


27 Sep 2006 @ 14:13 by Tim @80.1.224.13 : Was wondering where you'd been.
The RSS feed I have for you had been quiet for so long! Congratulations on finding such a wonderful new abode.

Tim  



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Other stories in
2012-05-03 00:04: An evolving path
2012-01-02 13:52: 2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims
2011-11-17 02:20: Your inner piece
2011-02-01 00:05: Slow Mo Flow
2011-01-22 18:40: Recognition
2010-08-23 00:36: Where's Ming?
2010-07-20 14:24: Getting other people to do stuff
2010-06-22 00:27: Inventory
2010-06-19 23:10: Conversations
2009-10-28 12:31: Then a miracle occurs



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