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Archive for May, 2013

The first humans found in France, known as Homo Erectus (fact!), are now believed to have lived here over 1 million years ago. They evolved slowly, through four glaciations, discovered fire in the process around 400,000 BC to become Homo Sapiens.

One of them, Neanderthals, found in the southwest France arrived about 300,000 BC but they seem to have died out by about by 30,000 BC, presumably unable to compete with the Cro-Magnons although they cohabited in the region for nearly 10,000 years. The first complete skeleton of a Neanderthal man (carbon dated to 45,000BC) was discovered in the Dordogne River Valley, at La Chappelle-aux-Saints (Corrèze), in 1908.

Biologically modern human beings (species: Homo Sapiens) first appear about 120,000 years ago. Cro-Magnon man, existed some 40,000-10,000 years ago. Remains were first found in southwest France in 1868 and then throughout other parts of Europe. Cro-Magnon man was anatomically identical to modern humans and differed significantly from Neanderthal man, who disappeared in the fossil record shortly after Cro-Magnon’s appearance.

They were skilled hunters, toolmakers and artists. Their upper Paleolithic culture produced a markedly more sophisticated tool kit, using a wider variety of raw materials such as bone and antler, and containing new implements for making clothing, engraving, and sculpting. They produced fine artwork, in the form of decorated tools, beads, ivory carvings of humans and animals, shell jewelry, clay figurines, musical instruments, and polychrome cave paintings of exceptional vitality.

The Celts, emerging from Central Europe, settled in Germany and Gaul as early as 2500 B.C. They started to work with iron to make tools and weapons, and lived in well organized societies until 125 B.C., when the Roman Empire began its expansion here in southwestern France.

Is the wonderment of our region beginning to dawn on you?

à bientôt! Jack
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May 26, 2013 - Posted by Jack Tobin

HERE IS A SCOOP… next Saturday don’t confuse ‘Cinco de Mayo’ with Mexico’s Independence Day! Mexico actually declared its independence from mother Spain on 15 September, 1810.

So what happened on the morning of 5 May, 1862 in Mexico that is such cause for celebration? Well, that was the day 4,000 Mexican soldiers were victorious over Napoleon III’s army at Puebla which is a village about 100 miles east of Mexico City. Oui! I said, Napoleon’s army.

You see, the French had landed in Mexico five months earlier under pretense of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President Benito Juaréz. But that was really a ploy of Emperor Napoleon III, who hated the United States, to gain a permanent foothold in Mexico. Napoleon had already sent a Hapsburg prince, Maximillian I, to rule over this new Franco/ Mexican Empire, an idea that both President Juaréz and his Mexican liberal party refused to recognize.

There is no question Mexicans had won a great victory on that May 5th and in doing so also kept Napoleon from supplying the Confederate rebels for another year which allowed the Union army to grow in strength. The Confederates loss at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla essentially ended the Civil War – Gracias Mexico!

Why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Well, we love Mexico, margaritas, and our imported Corona’s! Remember, although we love France…  we don’t want everything in our lives to be French.

I hope today when you are having that tasty margarita or ice cold Corona… you will share a bit of this ‘French History’ with your amigos.

Plan to visit in 2013? Please have a look at the delightful accommodations at both Le Sud and the affordable ‘all-inclusive’ 1 week home-stays at the rural & eclectic French casa: Rancho Escargot.

Both represent excellent value and are located in the very heart of the Dordogne River Valley.

Viva Cinco de Mayo! et à bientôt, Jack
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May 5, 2013 - Posted by Jack Tobin