Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On a spring day in 2001, a letter arrived at the post office in the little farm town of Caruthers, located about 30 miles south of Fresno, California. The residents all know each other, members of their immediate and extended families, where they came from, the year they left and when they returned.

The address on the letter was simple, it read:

California, USA

The letter was postmarked from France.

Elizabeth Barber Dargeles was the widow of Raymond "Frenchie" Dargeles. She was the only remaining relative of her generation. Elizabeth Dargeles has returned to live in Caruthers after Frenchie's death. And as luck would have it the postmistress in this little town also grew up there and knew the Dargeles family and knew Elizabeth. The letter was hand delivered to Elizabeth.

In beautiful flowing script and 'approximate English' the story begins to unfold.
The first question.... "We are looking for the family of Octave Dargeles and his brother Jean Marie Dargeles. These brothers emigrated from France in 1886 and we are looking for family members in America".

The letter is written by Georgette Darees, wife of Jean Darees. His mother Francine Dargeles Darees was the last surviving Dargeles and had inherited the family farm. Francine married and raised her family at Montegut, the farm that has been in her family for centuries. There no Dargeles remaining in France.

Elizabeth calls Patricia, and then she calls Barry to share the news.

There are only 4 direct descendants, plus their families, from Octave Dargeles. Barry Humphrey, Judy Humphrey-Lawrenson, children of Octavia Dargeles Humphrey and William Humphrey. Patricia O'Donnell Reeves, William "Skip" O'Donnell children of Francine Dargeles O'Donnell and William O'Donnell.

Octave Valare Dargeles had 4 sons, only 2 married but they had no children, the other 2 met with tragic early deaths. The Dargeles line in America is growing smaller, too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The countdown has begun; departure is close enough to haul out the suitcases! The search for electric outlet adapters was successful and I was rewarded for remembering where they were stashed with a small bag of Euro's. This is good, very good. It means Barry won't have to stand in a long slow line to exchange $ to € while I wait at the baggage claim at Charles deGalle.

May is not considered High Season so we will only make reservations for the first two nights. After that we will stop when we find a quaint village. (Side note; France claims 30,000 quaint villages!).

We have opted to rent a car and do a bit of exploring through lower Normandy and Brittany, rather than fly down to Pau or Toulouse. First stop will be Vernon where we'll stay the first night, less than 4km away is Giverny where Monet finally settled with his family, to paint and design and plant his famous gardens. It has been interesting to reacquaint ourselves with his story. The gardens, house, greenhouses and his studios have all been renovated. Then over to Mont St.Michele on the northern Atlantic coast, you would recognize it from photos, enormous cathedral built on a rock that is surrounded twice a day during high tide. These two spots cater heavily to tourists so we won't stay long, but we consider them must see.

We will drive south toward the Pyrenees. For centuries it has been said that the Gascogne paysans (rural residents/small farms) have used the Pyrenees as a geographic as well as a moral compass. This quality of the residents is one reason we have fallen in love with the area.

And if you have, thanks for reading

Saturday, April 10, 2010

This is Montegut, we discovered it in 2001. Montegut has been waiting for us for over 150 years, yearning really, if you believe the cousins.

Located in the Midi-Pyrenees Region, Gers Department, France. If you are curious you may find it on a detailed map of southwestern France, roughly 1.5 hours southwest of Toulouse.

The story is one you might expect in a fictional novel, flavored with Love, Hardships, Long Journeys, Adventure, Success and Heartbreak. But it is real and it happened to us.