10 April 2007

The Saint-Aignan earthquake

In 1989 we survived the Loma Prieta earthquake, as I've described. San Francisco is waiting for the next "big one," which might be a lot bigger than the '89 quake. After all, the epicenter in '89 was more than 50 miles south of the city itself, and a lot closer to Sunnyvale, where I was that afternoon. The epicenter of the next big 'quake, they say, is more likely to be San Francisco itself. But these events can't yet be predicted.

When we decided to sell our San Francisco house in 2003, after having signed the papers to buy our house here in Saint-Aignan, I was very nervous that we might have an earthquake back there and lose everything. What a complicated mess that could have been! Living in San Francisco was always a little like living on the very edge of the world, and the shaky edge at that.

I know there have been earthquakes in France and the rest of Europe many times in recorded history. One of the worst was the great Lisbon 'quake of 1755. Actually, since we came here to live four years ago, there have been several small earthquakes in France, both west of us, in the Vendée, and east of us, in Alsace and Champagne. We haven't felt any of them here.

Talking to local people, I've learned that there was a major earthquake in Saint-Aignan around the year 1715. As many as 40 houses were destroyed in Saint-Aignan by that seismic event, I've been told. It was a rebel monk (a story for another day) living at the old priory at Grandmont-Villiers (picture), about 20 miles south of town, who recounted all this last summer. It was news to me.

I haven't yet been able to find any more historical information about an earthquake here, but I will certainly keep looking.

In 2002 when we first saw the house we now live in, I thought we had never been to Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher before. Then we looked at an old map Walt has kept on which he marked out the routes of various driving trips we did in France between 1989 and the late '90s.

It turns out that we drove through Saint-Aignan in 1989, on our way from Poitiers to Chartres and on to Paris. Needless to say, the place didn't really grab our attention back then. Our next stop was Chambord, and we were probably blinded by that prospect.

I do have a memory of a 1989 stop in a little town called Le Blanc, about an hour south of Saint-Aignan. I think we had coffee in a café there. It all seemed very rural then to my eyes and ears, which were full of Paris and San Francisco sights and sounds. C'est vraiment « la France profonde », I thought back then. I guess it still is.

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