September 2011 home page

Virginia Lawrence from the Haute Savoie
Photo Virginia Lawrence

For the September issue of the Sandpiper the layout was outsourced to a little-known firm in the French Alps. This 300-year-old French farmhouse, located just to the south of the Lac d’Annecy in the French Alps, got indoor plumbing only in 1989, but on August 24, 2011, the layout for the print issue of the September Sandpiper was beamed via the Internet from behind the middle window to Del Mar Blue for printing.

A typical French farmhouse houses everything under one roof: a haybarn up top, a cowbarn and a hencoop behind the kitchen, a grainery beyond the living room, and a wine cellar under the main living quarters. There is a massive sooty chimney at the back of the kitchen where the farmers smoked their pigs.

Like many of the farmhouses built at this time, this one had no foundation - it was just dug into the side of the hill. In the back bedroom the floorboards had rotted out right down to the earth. There is a spring in the dirt floor of the cellar, and when it rains the cellar becomes a lagoon.

The Alp on which this house is located is a modest 1000 meters high, surrounded by taller cousins rising to 2000 meters. As the crow flies it’s only 25 miles from Albertville where the winter Olympics were held in 1992, and only 10 miles from Talloires where Ex-President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier resided in splendid exile for 25 years after he was overthrown by a popular uprising in Haiti.

To get up to this house in winter, snowshoes become a necessity. It can take 36 hours to heat the living quarters with the two wood stoves, but the 3-foot-thick stone walls are capable of holding the heat for a week.



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