Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Staggering!





This staggering tree trunk can be seen on the D13 road to La Celle Guenand just outside La Grand Pressigny.
Just after taking this photograph we saw two fallow deer running over the field in the distance and on into the woodland beyond. What amused us was the sight of their white bums bobbing up and down as they ran off, as if nature had played a bad joke on them, making them easy targets for chasseurs who are currently out in force.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

French road signs 3 - where to now?
























Haven't the foggiest!

On my way over to take some updated photographs for 'La Folie' ( I designed the website) last Friday I had to pass through Betz le Chateau (there are still some bananas about) then take the road marked for Ligueil. That brings you to this junction on the D58 - now I know I need to go left but strangers arriving for the first time,  if they turn around at the junction, get to know where they have come from and where turning right would take them - so by deduction it must be left  - is that how it works? or do we need to have a map or sat -nav - no fun in that!

























Here's the misterious looking chateau of Betz le Chateau.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lunch over in a flash...

A few Sundays ago as we were out and about, we decided to try the Auberge Saint Nicholas, part of the 'Logis hotel' group, in the nearby village of  Preuilly-sur-Claise.


We had eaten at a couple of other restaurants in the village before but had not tried here. I would have to admit that in the past we were slightly put of by its rather drab exterior but at a recent fund raiser held by our friend Denise we were introduced  to a charming French lady who,while talking about restaurants in the local area, recommended it.

The inside of the restaurant was very pleasant and belied its dull exterior










The food was good local Tourangelle fare with a lunch menu priced at 18.00 euros (Sunday) plus good value wine by the carafe. Before I took the photographs I did, as I usually do, ask the lady 'front of house' if this was ok. She asked if I could perhaps wait a little while before dong this, I thought perhaps to allow the few other diners time settle into their lunch. When we had just finished our deserts madame presented herself to say she was ready to be photographed! Slightly embarrassed (not as much as she) I explained it was in fact the restaurant interior I was after as subject matter! She did take it well however and I now feel we should go back and take her photograph - maybe she is/was someone famous and is used to being asked to be photographed.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Around about Christmas...


Talking about roundabouts...

Dropped Pauline off at Tours airport on Thursday, away to visit mum and catch up with two of our sons in Scotland. Gone are the days when we would both go on every visit - Ryanair's flight changes and new prices have put a stop to that. Used to be 10.00 euro to Stansted then10.00 euro to Prestwick and £6.00 for taxi from airport to her mum's. They have stopped the flights to Prestwick from Stansted so its a case of trying to time the few options to tie in flight to Glasgow via other airline. Ah for the good old days! Anyway I'm self-catering until Tuesday.


On the way back down,after coming down the hill from the high part of Veigne to what is really the village, to get onto the D50  you go around a small  Rond-Point.  It had been give the festive touch - it's not even December yet for goodness sake!
 I had to do a double take, as it was so lifelike that I was sure it was the real Father Christmas sitting there - not, more like Mr Bean - classy!.



Ryanair footnote: I'm sure everyone has seen it but just in case here is a link to Fascinating Aida's 'Cheap flights' video


Friday, 25 November 2011

"la Main Jaune"


 Yes as Colin and Elizabeth pointed out its the 'Yellow hand' (surely should be arm or almost arm) on the (Rond-Point de Pila ) roundabout  here in Chatellerault. Was going around it again on Wednesday evening after a day out in town. Interestingly 'google earth' still shows it with trees - which I much preferred! At first I thought it was showing the evolution of a French model of car - but apparently not, its random manufactures and is meant to represent the industrial aspect (arm perhaps) of the town.

Colin and Elizabeth  did a blog on it here... back in March

Simon did a blog here.. September 2010

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

No takers...



We went out for a walk yesterday afternoon  and noticed our neighbours kaki (persimmon) tree is over-laden with fruit. A great deal of it is hanging over their fence onto the river bank walk in the village. They will probably not be harvested as the house is the holiday home of our friends Mike and Pat who probably won't be back over in time to take advantage of such a good crop. They are happy for anyone to use them rather than  seeing them going to waste.


Pauline found a recipe for a persimmon tart here if anyone is interested.



It was the 22nd of November but you'd never have known - no jacket required (was that not a Phil Collins' album),what a great month we've had!



Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Yul not want to do this! - Ecclesiastical road-trip part III

Part II was here

After lunch on Friday we had arranged to meet Colin & Elizabeth at the village of Luzé to join them in a visit to the Abbaye Royale Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry close by. In a previous blog of their's they had mentioned that they would like to visit the abbey but needed a larger group. I had phoned the owner Marc-Olivier Gribomont, who fortunately spoke excellent English, to ask if we could visit as a party of six only to be told that he had a party visiting at 3.00pm on the Friday which we could join. I phoned Colin and our plan came together.

On arriving at Luzé there was the inevitable village church and I had to have a look. 






Inside was interesting and quite ornate though the arched ceiling was lined with what looked like modern T&G cladding. 

After the visit we went out and met up with our fellow bloggers. We then drove the short distance to the abbey where we were met by the owner. He let us in through the electric gate and told us the other party were going to be late. He then let us know that they were a local historical society and the tour would be in French but he would answer any questions we had in English.

The first view of the abbey was quite impressive and gave you had a good sense of its history. As we looked around however you could see that as a privately owned establishment it was probably a bit of a 'money pit'. The new owners have incorporated gites and a covered pool into the grounds to help finance its reconstruction.


When the other party arrived we were treated to an in-depth introduction to the history of the place standing in the courtyard - most (well nearly all)of which went over my head. Fortunately with the help of Pauline, Liz and Elizabeth I managed to pick up just enough to keep me interested...well for the first hour anyway!  Marc-Olivier gave a spirited and seemingly passionate talk on almost every aspect of his piece of history. From hermits to monks to orthodox monastic orders this place has had them all..see here for a breif history.


The work of maintaining the integrity of the building is interesting, in itself, but as C&E highlighted in their blog over 3 hours of rapid-fire French on every aspect of its history and on every stone and artisan's mark is hard to take. The French seem to be able to maintain a high level of concentration on the smallest details whether it be paintings, tapestries or buildings - well most of them. 

I was one of five (along with C&E) who made the climb to the top of tower which was slightly unnerving but had us looking down on the still talking guide and the rest of the group. He was still talking when we got back to the bottom and continued as it got a little darker and chillier - it was a lovely day when we started out so few of us had brought jackets into the property.
We did have some fun with our new French friends as darkness fell and we stumbled about in the dark trying to avoid the holes in the floor.
There can be no denying our guides knowledge and enthusiasm for the place but I feel that to get English speaking tourists to visit in numbers he could probably miss a little of the detail out..

One of the things that drew me to the abbey was the intriguing fact that there was a headstone with Yul Brynner's name on it within the small graveyard in a field behind it - why?


I'm not sure that the graveyard is now part of Marc-Olivier's property as we had to literally climb over a small fence to get access to it.If it had not been for the fact that Pauline and a couple of other visitors had torches we could not have gone there as it was now pitch black!. As it was I had a little giggle to myself when we arrived at the said headstone and our guide tried to read the list of credits of all, and I mean all, of the actor's movies - all the torches suddenly acted as spotlights to come to his aid.


 I asked why he had his headstone here (the abridged version) and it was explained that after his death in New York in 1985 he was cremated and his ashes were taken over to the family home in France. When this property was sold, his widow tried to have his ashes interred in an orthodox cemetery near Paris, but was refused permission.They were eventually accepted here (5 years after his death) by the small orthodox community who had been occupying the abbey since 1978. 
Of course by the time we got to the headstone it was dark and even  the shining torches failed to bring out the inscription.


Here is a 'daylight' picture from 'Val of Sydney' on Flickr you can check out her pics,... here
You can just see it if you enlarge by clicking on it,
Another good set of pictures here...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ecclesiastical road-trip part I

As promised here is the first part of our trip on Friday.

Our first stop was at the delightful church,'L'église Notre-Dame de Rivière ' in the village of the same name. Our attention was first drawn to this by a previous guest at one of our gites (we should really have been telling them!) then by a blog by Colin and Elizabeth. I am not a great lover of total renovation work on historical buildings ( am I alone in actually preferring the old Chinon castle) but you cannot help but admire this 18th century reworking of the inside of the church.



Apparently the church is the earliest shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the whole of France   ( third century).

As C&E pointed out to get a few of the rear of the church,the front elevation is  nondescript, you either have to go along the river or along a lane to the right of the church. You cannot actually walk around the church as it now appears to be part of a gite complex!




 We then retraced our route back along the river Vienne to the village of  Tavant to view the frescos of its Romanesque 'Église Saint-Nicolas de Tavant'.


We had been here in the summer but made the mistake of visiting it on a Tuesday - its a National monument of France  - they all close on a Tuesday! We were determined to see it this time. On arrival however it was locked up though there was a sign saying you could go to the Mairie where a guide could be found to open up for you. Only problem was that the last 'viewing' was at 11.45am as it closed at lunchtime - gues what time it was? There was a sign in front of the wall of the building opposite that let you know parking there was for employees of the Mairie only - but this proved to be a red herring as they were residential buildings -perhaps the previous Marie? As my fellow explorers wandered around in search of the real place I knocked on one of the doors to ask the owner a question I know he must have answered 100's of times - his answer was a well worn one but given in a friendly manner. It was down the lane then first on the right - abandoning the others I ran down the lane arrive 5 minutes after the allotted time but the young woman probably saw the determined look in my eyes and agreed to follow me back to the church.


The inside was quite simple until you reached its altar with its frescoed dome ceiling but the main attraction here lies in the small crypt of the church.Entrance to the church is free but there is a charge of 3 euros/person to get the door of the crypt open. Once inside, which is very small you are given a chart and translation of the frescos which now look down on you. These are apparently unique in the stories they depict - you will have to judge for yourself in terms of appeal, though, from a historical point of view, fascinating.Crypts in France we were later told, have two uses - one as tombs and the other like here in Saint-Nicolas to house relics brought back from the crusades. It was certainly too small to hold many bodies.We had thought that the little nooks in the side walls were for holding small statues but no,in the past these would have been opened up as windows to view the relics contained inside.You were not allowed to take pictures so you will have to visit to see for yourself. As we were leaving we couldn't help but wonder if it might have been better to have visited here before going on to the church at Rivière - there might have been less of an anti-climax.





Part III to follow...


A night on the town...

Last night along with our friends Mike and Liz we went to our local Salle de Fetes for a dinner/dance. We had decided to go to continue our 'get involved with the local community' approach to living here. The last such event in Barrou was way back in February, though we did have the 'Barroudeurs' in July.  (Must let you know about this outside event), The February Saint Blaise day event is so popular that they have to erect a marquee in the village square to accommodate everyone. Pauline and I were the only non - French there but we found ourselves sitting in good company, among whom were the parents of the couple we bought our house from,who were very tolerant of my total lack of French and allowed Pauline to practice her's in a sympathetic manner. Anyway when Mike and Liz, who are over to 'winterize' (is this a word?) their house, were asked if they wanted to go - they said yes. This meant it would be a bit more relaxed as we would not be spending the night trying to concentrate on what was said - of course we can only speak for ourselves!

The night was a family affair which for the first couple of hours felt like a wedding, with what seemed like every child from the village sliding,running and dancing across the floor. The music was provided by a D.I.S.C.O.(yes he actually played this,French version, plus YMCA) which surprised us as there would be /were a lot of the older members of the village attending. Our tickets said 8.30 so we knew we would not be starting to eat until after 10.00 (we are in France) and actually had our desert around midnight! The main event of the meal, which we did not discover until we were given the tickets on Thursday, was 'choucroute' which I'm not a lover of and Pauline really struggles with, but it turned out to be ok for us.  We found ourselves sitting beside the new proprietors of the restaurant which, straight from the horses mouth, is reopening in December - great news. The organisers of these events really work hard before, during and after the festivities. The music never wavered from the French disco beat as the DJ seemed oblivious to half his audience, my lasting memory will be of Pauline and Liz's swan song trying to pick up the moves for the French version of the hokey cokey, yes this was the level of sophistication he thought his audience had arrived at. We left a small crowd of children and a couple of tireless adults (it was 1.30 am) dancing into the wee small hours. A good night was had by all!


Footnote: Ken Broadhurst has good blog on  'choucroute' here.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Les Beaujolais Nouveaux and the taste of bananas!


The third Thursday of November is a much-awaited and high-profile event in France, the release of the first Beaujolais wines. Probably now more a marketing strategy than an  actual event, it splits the wine lovers of the country into them that won’t and them that do  taste these fresh young wines. We were invited into our French neighbour’s for a tasting – couple of bottles polished off with two saved for when he comes to dinner on Sunday.
David is a mine of information when it comes to wine (and most things) and says that it is actually the Japanese who are first to taste these light red wines.




This site  http://www.japanupdate.com/?id=11552 confirms this  “The third Thursday in November traditionally marks the official debut of the new season’s Beaujolais around the world, and the Japanese are first to get a taste of the light red wine because of the time zone. A spokesman for importer Suntory says Japan will import about 7.2 million bottles of the wine this year. The record for Japan was 12.5 million bottles sold in 2004. “ – not that I ever doubted him!

The first bottle we tried (second from right) had, I'm not lying, the taste of bananas - something that David had asked me of some Bordeaux wines he has shared with us. I was sure then that this was a ' trap' and when he agreed with me re the Beaujolais I still wasn't sure!
We now have our own version 'Touraine primeur' of early wines - these have had a mixed reception -article here on  Novelle Republique.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Benefits of blogging...

One of the good things of blogging is that you get to share other people's knowledge and benefit from their experiences. There was a good example of this yesterday when Pauline and I went on what can only be described as an 'ecclesiastical road trip,' with friends Mike and Liz, up around  Richelieu and Chinon. I'll give more details later but we were out for the day and this meant we had to find somewhere for lunch .In planning our trip,something I rarely do in fact, I had decided that due to our itinerary the town of L'Ile Bouchard would be the perfect place to stop for lunch.The town is unusual in that it is actually split into three sections by the river Vienne which has created a central island (thus the name) with two bridges connecting the three parts.This photograph above from   http://www.crc-resurrection.org allows you to see it clearly.


Pauline reminded me that Jean  (AVGP) had blogged about a great meal she and Nick had had at the 'Auberge de l'ile' here so we decided to seek out the restaurant. It is actually on the island and proved to be a very good decision. Lunch was excellent - there is no 'plat de jour' on offer here and  it was a bit more expensive than we would normally pay (us being poor country folk) but was well worth it.

The dining room was very smart, which, with the fine food and pleasant staff made it a very enjoyable experience. 


We ended our meal with a tasty desert and were congratulating ourselves on managing to finish it and on our choice (and taking Jean's advice),when we were presented with our coffees and our next surprising challenge. We rose to it!



After lunch we had a little time to kill before meeting up with fellow bloggers Colin and Elizabeth for 'Ecclesiastical part III' so we decided as we were in 'church mode', to walk over the bridge that led us to the projecting steeple of the church of Saint Maurice.
This had not been in our 'planned' itinerary but  it was there and was interesting enough.





What we hadn't realised was,that, had we made the decision to visit the town's other church, the church of Saint Gilles, we would have been in the building that, as far as the catholic church is concerned, is where one of the most signifiicant events of the 20th century took place! see here. So much for research!

'Ecclesiastical parts I and III to follow),,,

On the road again...

Another day, another surprise outside our front gates.Wednesday's awakening was to the sound,as we would later find out,of a heavy duty blow torch. They were 'putting down' a 'golden' crossing to allow us safe passage to the other side of the road due to the narrow aspect of the pavement (which had been slightly widened by the new works) on our side of the road. Madame Maire had been aware of this and was kind enough to include our own crossing as part of the 'grand master plan' -merci Madame!


Also in the 'plan' was the upgrading of the riverside parking area -great difference.





Thursday, 17 November 2011

Who'd have thought...

'Sunflowers in November'

Travelling back from Loches on Sunday we were pleasantly surprised by the sight of these sunflowers on our 'short cut' road off the main road at Ciran (D212 to avoid Liguiel). It was a beautiful November's day and made us feel so lucky to be here in the Loire Valley.When we got back to Barrou we picked the last of our lettuce and strawberries from the garden although don't know why I'm blogging this as we used to do this most Novembers in Scotland (not).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Moseying along...




We decided to do our 'lets go this way for a change' thing when we left Loches on Sunday, which must now have exhausted all the possibilities and headed in the direction of Manthelan, in the certain knowledge that we needed to turn left at some point to get us back home. Not scientific I know and not with a map either but there it was, the first major (which wasn't very major) turning off to the left and it took us through the village of Mouzay. It was similar in size to Barrou and on the face of, just as quiet. 

The first thing we noticed as we parked was the interesting telephone kiosk unlike what you might see in the UK, sadly the inside was.

It has a pretty little (too) pristine 12th century church , St. Philip and St. Jacques,which looks to have recently been given a complete 'top to toe' makeover. Surprisingly it was locked - on Remembrance Sunday?, maybe to keep the kiosk dwellers out! 





The road from here to Ciran presented a number of photo opportunities - here's one of them.

As usual you can click to enlarge.