Posts Tagged: France

28 March
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‘Mission Marcy’: Dogs have feelings too!

Scientific proof, as any good politician knows, is very helpful to any successful campaign.  How kind then of boffins in Hungary to make a scientific discovery about dogs’ emotions just as I’m campaigning for ‘Mission Marcy’?

Regular readers will know that my husband and I bought a little schnauzer named Hank last summer when I arrived in France.  Lee named him after a character from the TV show Californication.  He’d not been with us long when my husband floated the idea that maybe Hank should have a Marcy (another character from the series) to keep him company.  Well, of course, that light-hearted mention is all a girl needs.  Like a dog with a bone (excuse the pun) I took the idea of Marcy and wouldn’t let it go until persuasion had turned her into a reality.

Little Marcy - as if by magic!

Little Marcy – as if by magic!

As if on cue, enter scientist Attila Andics.  His team were so determined to prove their canine emotion theory, that they first had to spend time training eleven dogs to lie motionless in an MRI scanner long enough for them to be able to record their canine brain response.   That’s dedication for you.

What they wanted to show was that our furry friends have some kind of emotional response to vocal sounds.  They played noises to them ranging from barking and whining to crying and laughing.  Then they compared them to how a human reacts to the same sounds.  What they found was that doggy brains respond in very similar ways to humans’ when they hear happy sounds or sad sounds.  The science boffins concluded that humans share a very similar social environment and claim it explains why vocal communication between the two species is so relevant.  In other words (as we’ve always believed but never known for sure) dogs have feelings too!

Meeting big half-bro!

Meeting big half-bro!

Why is this so important to ‘Mission Marcy’?  Well, from being a cute squeaking bundle of puppy fluffiness, Hank fast progressed to adolescence.  His voice broke. And he become an enthusiastic vocal communicator when he felt the need.  One of his favourite one-sided conversations, which started recurring whenever we left him on his own at home, was the howl of a lone wolf.   Well, on my (loose!) interpretation of the scientific evidence, I think I can safely say that this was Hank telling us he didn’t want his ‘pack’ to leave him on his own.  Ok, it may be a little far-fetched to translate ‘dogs brains react to vocal sounds like humans’ as ‘dogs can talk’.  But it served my purpose perfectly.

Little and large schnauzers!

Little and large schnauzers!

So, Merci to Attila Andics and your crew, we now have double schnauzer trouble!  Marcy has settled in nicely and Hank is her best buddy.  There are twice the number of odd socks being stolen from the wash basket, twice the beggars for dinner scraps… and, as for taking the pair of them for walks on their extension leads, well that mostly ends in a bizarre canine twist on maypole dancing.

Getting them into the sport early!

Getting them into the sport early!

But they make each other very happy.  They told me so themselves. ;-)

Mission complete.  Merci.

09 August
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My ‘Tour de France’ … first leg!

Hello, and welcome back to my blog from sunny France.  Thanks for taking the time to read it.  Last time I blogged, I was welcoming some visitors from the UK.  Not so absorbed with entertaining this week, I’ve had the chance to do some dedicated exploring of the Auvergne, and improve my tour guide credentials for the next time I have guests!

The ‘Tour de France’ has not long departed from this region – passing through a town about forty-five minutes away from Clermont – and producing another Brit winner in Chris Froome.  So, I decided it was time to break my 2-decade bike veto… and buy a ‘vélo’.  After a little pedalling practice on a friend’s (just to check the old adage really is true), I invested in my own two-wheeled transportation.  There was no stopping me now…!

Par vélo!

Par vélo!

The aim: to find places that pass you by in a car, places not accessible on four wheels.  So, although I started within only a few kilometres of our house, I was immediately rewarded.  Two villages along from ours, past a small lake where model boats were being sailed and anglers were waiting for a bite, I found a pretty path.  On one side, novice French farmers were tending to their small holdings in the evening sunshine – ploughing, plucking and pruning their harvests ready to sell to passers by.  And on the other, the biggest and most beautiful field of sunflowers I have ever come across!! Millions of ‘tournesols’, named so because the buds bloom towards the sun, being grown for their oil and seeds.

'Les Tournesols'... beautiful!

‘Les Tournesols’… beautiful!

These photos from every angle no doubt prove that I developed something of an obsession …and that my cycling route has been a little repetitive.  If only this little street I head past on the way home was full of shops instead of houses!  A little retail therapy for all that pedalling perhaps?  But no such luck!

 

Designer Living!

Designer Living!

Tough as it was to drag myself away from the spectacular sea of flowers, I did find some other stunning scenery to share with you.  This is Murat-le-Quaire.  A village in the Puy-de-Dome region.  If you are looking to sample quaint, then this is it.  And with panoramic vistas thrown in.  There is a small museum called Maison de la Toinette et Julien if a history of rural France interests you. But my favourite spot was where rural met retro – a quirky tearoom below a barn shop selling produce from the region.

Quaint, rural France... Murat-Le-Quaire

Quaint, rural France… Murat-Le-Quaire

 

Murat-Le-Quaire

Café culture

 

Rural meets retro in the mountains!

Rural meets retro in the mountains!

Mountain refreshments

Mountain refreshments

This was just one village in a string nestled in the lush greenery of this route.  The next spot along – Le Mont-Dore – offers cable car trips.  So, there really is more to discover here than you would imagine.  I think Central France has often been the poor relative for holidaymakers hopping across the Channel, but if what I’ve found in the Auvergne area so far is anything to judge by, I predict more airlines will be taking up routes here (I’m not being paid commission by the tourist office, promise!).

 

Walkies!

Walkies!

Finally, away from the travel sales pitch, here’s your Hank update (he’s our miniature schnauzer puppy).  Well, he’s just turned 3 months and is still a cheeky monkey!  But he has now had is next vaccination at the vet (he was a very good boy) and Lee and I are now able to take him out for walks, which is proving useful for exhausting those mischief reserves!

Sunset Strollin'

Sunset Strollin’

That’s all for now!  Thanks for joining us and we’ll be back soon…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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