I met Nathalie in person at the International Violet Association symposium at Dawlish in Devon, UK, on 5th April 1997, where (because we were all so busy) we had only a little chance to chat. Subsequent contacts through letters, seed exchange, emails, preceded a meeting at Morris May's nursery in early 1998. Here, Nathalie and I tentatively arranged to have a minor expedition to the Pyrenees, our main quarry being Viola biflora and V.cornuta.
As luck would have it, we managed to make
the expedition happen. Cindy and I drove down to Nathalie (in Toulouse)
and on to the Pyrenees, and back, from 20th to 29th July 1998. Mixed weather
gave way to some glorious sunshine around Gavarnie, and though late in
the season, we managed to find the two Viola. Flowers of V.biflora
took a lot of finding, Didier, Nathalie, and I roaming high and low in
the Cirque, but finding only a few faded shreds of flower. Cindy, however,
hit pay dirt in a much more accessible spot, and was quite rightly proud
and happy. And so were we! V.cornuta also took some finding, but
Nathalie guided us like a bloodhound to a second locality where there were
some fine flowers for me to photo (while the others chatted and snoozed).
Various types of Viola alba / hirta / pyrenaica /
were found, and seed collected. Some of these were difficult to identify,
being out of flower. We'll have to wait for the seeds to grow and/or Nathalie
to revisit some of the plants in the wild.
And what marvellous hospitality Nathalie and
Didier, and various members of their families, provided whilst we were
staying with them in both Villaudric (near Toulouse) and Sarlabous (in
the foothills of the Pyrenees). Words are inadequate... But hopefully some
of these photos will serve as mementos of the very happy few days we spent
Cindy and I look forward to meeting-up again with Nathalie and Didier in Toulouse in February - for the next IVA symposium.
The main photos are of Nathalie and Didier
en route to le Cirque du Gavarnie.
And here we all are (minus the children, unfortunately),
outside the farmhouse in Villaudric.
OK - I can't resist ! --
Here's a couple more photos from the expedition - me and Le Cirque du Gavarnie itself.