February 15th, 2017 / posted by paularath

Entering Minerve                                                                        

Minerve is a tiny, picturesque Cathar Languedoc village, surrounded by ancient vineyards, located on the confluence of the Cesse and Briant rivers. It is a UNESCO Heritage site.

It has the feeling of a sculpture carved into the rocks that the sculptor didn’t quite finish.

View of Minerve from the bridge                                 Photo by Jerry Mayfield

It’s unusual in so many ways, one of which is that the Cesse River disappears underground the city at times. The village is perched above the meeting of the rivers, over a limestone gorge.

The population of Minerve is 122. During the winter it may be even less. We saw two residents and three construction workers. Just as we were leaving, two German visitors arrived. Otherwise we were alone in Minerve. It was so lovely.

The plaque marking Minerve’s 500 years, celebrated in 2010.

Unfortunately, absolutely everything was closed. The cafes were closed. The museum was closed. The shops were closed. The restaurants were closed. OMG, even the restrooms were closed. All boarded up, except for one tiny, charming bookstore called Paroli that served tea. The proprietor was handsome and buried in a book (and he spoke only enough English to take our tea order). He had a big white dog who wanted to go out and play with the other dogs from the village, who seem to run in play groups.

I love this blue doorway and plan to attempt to paint it. These textures will be a challenge with watercolor. Hmmmmm…

Minerve is famous for the 1210 massacre by Simon de Montfort during the Crusades. There are a few remnants of battles past, including a huge catapult just across the river.

There are signs of life in most of the homes. Perhaps the people who live in Minerve are involved with the vast wine growing region called Minervois, which is, I think, my favorite wine region so far.

The doors throughout Minerve have so much character!

Although we were quite hungry and thirsty and badly in need of a lua, we spent a wonderful, rewarding day exploring Minerve.

As we left Minerve, two German (we think) visitors arrived.       Photo by Jerry Mayfield


I love Jerry’s black and white version of man and dog in Minerve

  • Paula Rath
February 12th, 2017 / posted by paularath

My favorite wine room in Carcassonne.

There’s no question about it, this is the center of French wine country.

While one may hear a great deal about Bordeaux and Provence wines, which come from about two to five hours away, the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon don’t seem to get the same amount of attention. But, oh my, they should!

I don’t pretend to be a oenophile, but I really do enjoy a good glass of red wine. And since arriving in Carcassonne I have gained a new appreciation of what a really great red wine can do for my mood and overall sense of well-being. Here’s one that’s magical to me:

My favorite wine (so far) from Cabanel wine store.

As we go out on our adventures through the countryside, we are amazed at how many vineyards and wineries pepper the landscape.

There are 700,000 acres under vines in this region, and this is the largest wine-producing region in the world. It is responsible for more than a third of France’s total wine production.

The early history of Languedoc wine dates back to the fifth century BC, when the Greeks planted vineyards along the Mediterranean coast near Narbonne. The wines have a long and storied history, having been used in hospitals in the 14th century for their “healing powers” and during both World Wars for the daily wine rations given to French soldiers.

As you enter my favorite wine shop, the first thing you see is…anthuriums! That’s Jerry in his Irish cap.

David and Mike’s house is a block away from what is purported to be (and I can see why – it’s certainly my favorite) the best wine shop in Carcassonne, called Cabanel. There is a beautiful blonde woman who works there and we have bonded despite language difficulties. She, like most of the people we have met here, doesn’t speak any English, but we muddle through and she has introduced me to some spectacular wines.

The age of the vines and the terroir, make it all work.  Corbieres and Minervois have proven to be my favorite wine-growing regions thus far.

What’s really amazing, as well, is how low the prices are! Many of the bottles of wine in the supermarket are about 3-4 euros. The most expensive wine you will find there is about 12 euros. At Cabanel, a high end wine is considered 12-15 euros. And for that, you can really get a memorable bottle of wine!

Bonne journee!

  • Paula Rath


February 11th, 2017 / posted by paularath

The four Cathar castles at Chateaux de Lastours, photographed from the campsite where a medieval reenactment is held every August.                    Photos by Jerry Mayfield

At the top of my list of desired day trips from Carcassonne was the four Cathar Castles called Chateaux Lastours. To get near them, it’s just about a 30-minute drive north from Carcassonne.

Once there, you go to a former textile plant that is now a visitor center. You buy a ticket for 7 euros and begin your hike. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to hike up to the castles and back. A beautiful blue-sky day and cold, but not frigid, weather made it a delightful journey.

The view from about half way up the hike to reach the castles.

It’s a spectacular cluster of four castles dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries, sitting high on a crest that was strategic for defense of the area. The Cathars spent a great deal of time and effort in self preservation.

While the hike is fairly steep, it is a good path and many stone steps, often assisted by a rope “railing”, helped me feel safe enough to tackle it. (In spite of the fact they tell you at the beginning that there are scorpions and snakes in the area.)

At one point on the way to the castles you need to hunch over to walk through this limestone cave.

I’m sure in the summer it’s quite crowded to come here. However, on this cold winter day, we saw only one tourist, with her private guide, a French family with two teenage boys and a lovely couple sharing a picnic on the path. There are definitely advantages to traveling off season.

You can get right up to the castles, and even climb a stairwell and stand on the balcony of one.

This is a sight not be missed if you are in theLanguedoc region. And trust me, if I can do the hike, you can do the hike.

  • Paula Rath


February 9th, 2017 / posted by paularath

So here we are, in Carcassonne, France, spending a month taking care of two cats, Badoit and Pelegrina.

How did this come about? Our friends David and Mike just moved to Carcassonne in January, after years of researching where they wanted to settle in retirement. The only problem: They had signed up for a cruise to Antarctica with my sister Berta and her husband Jim that sailed in early February. What to do about the cats? They knew they would not have any close friends in France within a matter of weeks so they sought out cat sitters before leaving Hawaii. And of course we volunteered!

Mike and David’s home in Carcassonne.

So we packed up all of our winter clothes (and I borrowed a pea coat from my dear friend Chris Oliver – thank goodness, because February is the coldest month in southern France and it is very cold and rainy and windy) and are enjoying the beauty and the wines and foods of France. There have only been a few days when it was really too cold for us to go out and explore or paint.

A typical little walkway in La Cite. For one who wishes to learn to paint rock walls and cobblestones, this is heaven!

Carcassonne is best known for its medieval walled city, referred to as La Cite. This magnificent UNESCO Heritage site is about a half hour’s walk from Mike and David’s home. Needless to say, it is a sketcher’s paradise. While it is too cold to sit and sketch en plein air, we take photos and bring them home to sketch and paint.

The exterior of the walled medieval La Cite by day.

Thanks to Jerry’s amazing ability to drive (a manual shift Peugeot) almost anywhere and find his way, we are doing day trips in the magnificent vine-covered countryside. We will visit tiny villages and Cathar castles, among other sites.

The Languedoc region is renowned for its wines (and foods) and we are learning and enjoying so much. I will be blogging regularly now. Sorry it’s been so long coming. I have faced numerous technical  difficulties with my laptop and only got them solved yesterday.

We also stopped in New York for four days and I have some lovely photos of the Met’s Costume Institute exhibit to share with you.

Please stay tuned for more from France and New York….oh, and Amsterdam!

  • Paula Rath
January 18th, 2017 / posted by paularath
My own Medium White Tee., #76/out of 1000.

My own Medium White Tee., #76 out of 1000. 76 is a significant number to me because my father worked for Union 76 Oil Company for 35 years.

It’s no secret to those who know me that I have tremendous respect and admiration for President Obama. His intelligence, depth, thoughtfulness, sense of humor, dignity, authenticity and, well, his CHARACTER, are all exemplary. The United States has benefited in so many ways by having him at our helm.

It’s utterly appalling to me that the man who will now move into the White House is petty, shallow, thin-skinned, dishonest, undignified, phony and totally lacking in character. How can this be happening?

Since November 9, I have been a homebody. It’s hard for me to leave the house. Like so many other Americans, I just want this nightmarish reality, played out on Twitter for God’s sake, to disappear.

A place where I could write a message to President Obama, knowing that it will be delivered to him.

A place where I could write a message to President Obama, knowing that it will be delivered to him by his sister this week.


Where can I go to be surrounded by the goodness of Barack Obama and all that he stands for? How can I honor him in some small way? I wish I were going to Washington to join the March, but we leave for Europe on Monday, and all our travel plans are pretty much cemented, so the timing simply doesn’t work.

However, thanks to the Honolulu Museum of Art, Ward Centre and the artist Emily Spivack, I know a little place where I can feel surrounded by the love of good people who share my feelings about President Obama. It’s a comfort.

Medium White Tee sand bar

Medium White Tee Shirt is a pop-up off-site art installation in Ward Centre. It will be open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. in Ward Centre, between Red Pineapple and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Created by Brooklyn-based artist Emily Spivack, it is designed to be a place for contemplation, a place to consider all that President Obama did for us. The artist calls it “A tribute to President Obama’s accomplishments and to the decisions he didn’t run from and ultimately it’s a thank-you.”

It’s also a place where you can buy a Medium White Tee Shirt, made in the USA of course, for $44, in honor of our 44th President.

Spivack came up with the idea while reading a story in the New York Times that had also caught my attention and stayed with me. In the story, it mentioned President Obama and his then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel were fantasizing about what they might do after their time in the White House. They talked about moving to Hawaii to open a tee shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white).  It would mean never having to make another decision.

Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama's sister, joined artist Emily Spivack at the podium during the media introduction for Medium White Tee.

Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s sister, joined artist Emily Spivack at the podium during the media introduction for Medium White Tee.

The first of the limited edition (capped at 1,000) Medium White Tees was given to President Obama by his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, at Christmas. I bought #76 and there are still plenty more at the Ward Centre pop-up.

Please go and buy one. And I would love it if you give it your own treatment – paint it, dye it, cut strategic pukas in it, applique it, write a message on it, embroider it, whatever strikes your fancy – and send me a photo to publish in this blog.

While you’re there, take a few moments to sit in a beach chair and think about all that President Obama and his exemplary family have done for the United States of America. It really may help you get through the god-awful prospect we face on Friday.

– Paula Rath