Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Right Across The Valley, La Cite Sanitaire de Clairvivre
I have to admit that I am in a comatose state walking the high tension tightrope of the French Presidential Election and trying to think about American politics. I start writing and then I get sidetracked and sometimes I just get so pissed off that I cannot be coherent. Then there is the rain. It has been raining here almost nonstop for the last 3 weeks. We went from drought warnings to flood warnings. It has been a truly bizarre period of weather. After an unusually warm winter; many people were worried that their fruit trees were blooming in January, we had a brutal cold snap. A week in march with sustained sub freezing temperatures not seen since the early 1990's. Then it got hot...I was actually getting a nice tan in late March. Plants started to grow again. Then, another brutal unexpected cold snap that took a lot of tender spring growth. It was strange here...I lost all of my kiwis, but my mirabelle plums are just fine. I think I will have my best strawberry crop ever. But all the early 2012 weather was extremely dry. My pond had totally dried up. Now it's beyond full, the valley below me is flooded. It's been raining non stop for 3 weeks. I can't ride my bike so I have to invent new forms of abuse for my stomach muscles. At this time last year, I was working on the 22 hectares of grapes at Chateau Vieux Chevrol. They are waiting for the grapes to recover from their traumatic early pre growing season  It's making me crazy.
So, I am into horticultural therapy.  I have been buying new plants. Each spring we go to La Cite Sanitaire de Clairvivre, across the valley from Badefols d'Ans. You could walk there if you had an afternoon. If there were straight roads here, you could drive there in 10 minutes, but there are probably only 2 straight roads in the Dordogne.
We see Clairvivre on the hillside on the other side of the huge valley gleaming white at is ascends the ridge through the foret de Born. Clairevivre was established in 1931. It is an almost utopian cite radieux.
It was founded by a visionary doctor, Albert Delsuc and designed by the architect Pierre Forestier for the survivors of WW1 gas attacks and the treatment of TB. They tried to create a place where the victims of pulmonary disease could be treated and rehabilitate themselves in a communal setting with their families.
The Art Deco Central Re education and administration Center.
most of the homogenous deco architecture is painted white,
 but many are attractive pastels.
The plans from the late 30's showing the layout of the cite...
Originally Clairvivre was planned to have a development of over 500 dwellings but the cost proved too prohibitive so the project was scaled down to 200 dwellings. Workers from Albania, Italy, Poland, Germany, Algeria, and some locals worked day and night to acheive Albert Delsuc's goal. Surely this truly socialist idea was a blueprint for future projects and an example of true europeanism in action; somewhat different from the more egocentric and presciptive arrangement most of us have to work with today. Strange to think that in the six short years from the completion of Clairvivre the workers responsible for the construction would be killing each other as that particular part of the european dream disappeared down the sewers of history. As with most sanatoriums the houses and bungalows were built with a southerly aspect so patients could benefit from the maximum amount of sunshine and fresh air, at that time one of the standard treatments for diseases such as TB. They all enjoyed open terraces and balconies and it's not hard to imagine injured and diseased patients sunning themselves whilst enjoying the magnificent views and silence of a Dordogne forest. But don't think they were too isolated, Clairvivre enjoyed state of the art technology, each dwelling place benefitting from a four ring electric stove and 
oven, fridge and running hot and cold water. Separate systems were installed to deal with rainwater collection, sewage and wastewater. All the waste was processed on site by a fully biological sewage treatment system. The site enjoyed its own telephone switchboard for communication with the outside world, along with its own post office. This city in the forest also had a full range of shops selling luxury items such as cameras and radio sets. In 1939 the University Hospital of Strasbourg established a centre for recuperation at Clairvivre and in June 1940 shortly after the German occupation of France, Irène Joliot-Curie began experiments with radium here. This work unfortunatley left a hazadous legacy which was only established and rectified as recently as 2003. The inaugauration of July 30 1933 sounded like a party not to be missed. Present were detachments of the French Republican Guard along with one from their Scottish counterparts, the Scottish Guards. There was a water festival with Gala and fireworks and apparently during the celebrations six thousand bottles of Chambertin were downed. The local peasant farmers must have wondered what was going on and the disparity with the lives they lived. Whilst they lived in conditions not too dissimilar to the middle ages, the folk up at Clairvivre were partying, cooking on four ring electric stoves with ovens, washing in hot water and enjoying indoor flushing toilets.
Interior of one of the 7 huge Greenhouses open for business
Today Clairvivre fulfills another function as well as continuing in its social role as a centre of re-education. As in the past people can still come here to learn new skills such as working in wood or electrical mechanics whilst for those wishing to be re-trained in agriculture or horticulture there is a farm where pigs and fowl are raised and vast greenhouses where various plants and crops are grown.
That's how we learned about Clairvivre. The beautiful well maintained art deco green house complex is one of the most beautiful facilities of its kind I have ever seen. I bought another great rose today, a variety called Honore de Balzac. Last year I bought a Victor Hugo. The Victor Hugo is incredible with huge deep red blossoms all season. I bought a few flowering tobaccos...they were so cheap. I got my aubergines, basil to replace all the seedlings that got wiped out in the cold snap, batavia lettuce, purple flowing sage, a lot of little fill flowing plants like begonias and impatiens, some other foliage plants for the planters and huge pink and white fuschia. I had to restrain myself, because we are getting all of our tomatoes, zuchinnis and peppers from friends who have their own huge green house. I already have my potatoes in the cave ready to plant. I bought all new spunta stock this year. I had been using my own spuntas as seed potatoes, but it's good to renew the stock from time to time. 
My morning in Clairvivre, in spite of the rainy drizzle was very rewarding. A trip to another world, where a true socialist humanitarian utopian dream was realized and still successfully exists after 80 years on a sunny hillside in a forest in the Dordogne.


Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Microdot,
First off, Happy Worker’s Rights May Day!
Needless to say I have been thinking of you a lot here of late wondering how you were doing and all of the excitement going on with the elections in France, but just stuff in general. I probably should just drop you a person e-mail line so we could talk in more depth.

I did a posting on my site and Muddy’s titled, “New Political Classifications.”


I heard on the BBC that there were a lot of demonstrations planned in France and Greece today.

Basically they were saying that Sarkozy was done and as the Social Democrats elements were looking very favorable, but the Really Extreme Right was going to get a lot of scary votes this time too.

They also said that Greece is seeing a surge in an almost Nazi type extremism political party wanting to blame everything on immigrants and what them all rounded up and shipped out of the country. (Much like rounding up the Jews of 1930’s Germany)

mud_rake said...

Ah, yes, Microdot, the beauty of the Dordogne! Oh, to be there rather than in the flatlands west of the Lake

Whereas your Dordogne-ian setting will be marred a few weeks by political pap, we back in Ohio must endure the spring, summer and fall presidential cacophony of negative advertising 24/7. And we have no mountains or quaint villages in which to hide from it.

microdot said...

I'm getting ready to post on last nights Hollande/Sarkozy debate...it was pretty incredible.
23 hours of face to face confrontational debate.
Sarkozy became political humorists characature of himself...Hollande never batted an eye...he won hands down. A tour-de-force...I am beginning to believe that he really will win on Sunday! You cannot believe the angst hanging over this country...we will all breathe a greeat collective siugh of relief when we drive the stake in the vampire Sarko's heart...he will go from the presidency straight to the next 10 years fighting the criminal charges the presidency allowed him to be immune from.