Friday, 30 September 2011

Restaurant Saint-Pierre-de-Maille

One of the things we recommend to guests at our gites is to do 'lunch' out as often as they can as you will find good simple local food  served up in village restaurants at great prices.You can normally find four courses plus wine for under 12 euros - how can you go wrong? As we were near Saint-Pierre-de-Maille yesterday during our visit to Angles sur l'Anglin our friend Karen suggested we should try the L'Auberge de L'Etoile in the town, where she had eaten before.

For 11.50 euro we had a cold buffet starter, a choice of  main courses,cheese and desert  plus wine in pleasant surroundings - and it was tasty, They also have a cosy little room for evening 'a la carte'

Click to enlarge

You may not get down to this pretty little village from your stay in the Loire Valley so I have posted some photographs to give you a taste of it.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Second summer?

Pauline and I had to visit Angles sur l'Anglin today, which is south of us just into the neighbouring department of Vienne, one of our favourite villages. It is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France ('Plus beaux villages de France') and rightly so.I must have taken hundreds of photographs here but never tire of it as subject matter. Below is one I took today  - with a temperature of 29 degrees it's hard to believe we are approaching the end of of September - and this shows the village at its best.

Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Banana Party at Betz Le Chateau

One of the great things about our area of  the Loire Valley in France,probably the rest of the country too, is their penchant (isn't it amazing how many French words we actually use in our language) for fetes and festivals. The banana festival at Betz Le Chateau had always intrigued me so we 'sallied forth' last weekend to find out what was going on. It had been advertised as:   "Three days of entertainment for all, Friday night, a comedy groups, a Saturday morning children's show (3 months, 3 years) by Coy globetrotter, 15 h, a show for children by Coy Street detours, then various free outdoor shows, circus workshops, free for children, and at night great show for all." (google translation)

We didn't arrive in the village until 5.00pm on the Sunday and apart from the cut-out bananas on display there was no sign of the festivities - The 3 days are I think aimed primarily at the children of the village, with the star of the show being, to my eyes, a rather scary 'bananaman'.

We asked a group of kids where it was 'happening' and they said there was a chapiteau on the outskirts of the village -
and there it was- they obviously had no trouble with crowd control!

Inside people in chicken costumes were running around trying to rouse the crowd into a frenzy - it wasn't working! The audiences here never seem to quite match the enthusiasm of the performers who are obviously all on 'Duracells' (see video below). It was sad to see that Bananaman had had one too many.

As we were returning back through the village we noticed this sad looking banana  - it got us wondering if maybe somewhere there was a chilli party  and some yellow paint had been applied. You certainly can't fault the village for lack of application! If someone happens to know the origin of the party I'd be delighted to hear it,

Here is a youtube video from 2010's 'party'.
You have to admire the parking skills of the driver,

Monday, 26 September 2011

'Ligueil au lait'.

 Yesterday (25th) we attended the 'Fête du Lait' in Ligueil, a village that most people only remember for being difficult to negotiate by car. Yet if you stop and have a look around you will be pleasantly surprised.The village has a pretty little church fronted by lovely floral arrangements, a small tourist office and a couple of options for eating. 

Like most other Loire Valley towns and villages this little place has its annual fetes and festivals. The title 'Fête du Lait' meant we were expecting things obviously relating to milk production or its bi-products but no, try as we may, we could not find anything to associate with this. Maybe we did not look in the right places! What actually attracted us here, was the inclusion of a brocante to the festivities .We had for company, Penny and Ivan, our current Australian guests from 'Le Bourg', they arrived late on Saturday evening so had been unable to pick up their 'Super U' hire car until today. 

We had visited the ever popular Descartes market in the morning before returning to Barrou for lunch. The beautiful weather made for a pleasant afternoon searching through the usual array of all things 'au brocante'. As ever there were a few surprises with my favourite being the 'Cucurbitacees fleurs seches' stall of Ms Gohin from Chatellerault  which displayed the most unbelievable collection of  cucurbit vegetables.

 My own search for my bizarre item was not so fruitful though these two might just sneak in there -the item below is an alligator skin!

Penny and Ivan were delighted with the entertainment we had laid on for them as we took a refreshment at the bar to the side of the church! Plus we may just have got our 'lait' link - 'milkmaids a dancing' non?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Patrimoine 4

Our last 'Patrimoine Day' in the Loire Valley we decided to visit Chateau Rouvray, a small private 'residence' outside the village of Chambon, 7km from our own village of Barrou. We had in the past driven up to the gates and like the poor relations peeked through to see how 'the other half' ( what is the origin of this phrase,I wonder?) live, so it was good to walk through them. This is a castle where the oldest parts date back to the 12th century followed by a rebuilding project during the 14th. As you walk down the driveway you could be forgiven for thinking that you are looking at only one building, though the roofs are a bit of a 'giveaway' but it is in fact two seperate constructions.


We were only allowed to view the chateau from the outside apparently the inside has been modified as a domestic residence and no longer has any historical merit - it would have been good if we could have judged for ourselves.

It used to have a dry moat, which has been filled in, plus other defensive features including a perimeter wall with four turrets, two of which are now long gone, along with the wall. What we see today is the result of the need to make what was a medieval fortress into a building that can be used for modern living.
So to the end of 'Patrimoine Day' where we had good company, a blast of culture and history plus lunch in a cave - the almost perfect day?

Another couple who were out and about on Patrimoine day  - check out:

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Patrimoine 3

Our third visit on Patrimoine day took us from the Loire Valley over the river Creuse into the department of Vienne. We headed to the village of Vicq-sur-Gartempe where Karen had heard that the intriguing house just before you cross the river Gartempe  was open to the public.On our trips down to the beautiful village of Angles sur l'Anglin the house never fails to catch our eyes. We had often wondered about its history - its 'loud' exterior seemed out of place in this quiet village.
Someone had said that it was originally built by a 'lady' who had made her fortune in Paris entertaining the gentry. This, as we found out to today, was just a local 'urban myth'. The house was actually built for M. and Mme.Guyard in 1847. Mme. was in fact returning to the place of her birth with the rewards of marrying a successful business man

Today we were transported back in time to the beginning of the last century with our hosts, dressed in period costumes, serving coffee with music in the garden and providing a (form of) croquet display on the lawn.

Inside the house we were treated to the sound of records played on period turntables which were on display plus the sights of the 'Art Nouveau' inspired interior of the building itself .There were photographs on display of buildings of this period from around the world plus books on many of the finest designers and architects  

I have always loved this period and indeed our last house in Scotland had more than a touch of the influence of our own 'local hero' Charles Rennie Mackintosh who I was pleased to see featured . More on CRM here...

Our dining room suite was a replica of the famous 'Main Street Dining Suite' that he had made for his own house in Glasgow

Video below shows you a little more of the great man who actually spent four of his last five years living and painting in Port Vendres in the South of France before returning to London where he died in 1928.
There is a tourist trail dedicated to him there .

Below is a video showing the contribution he made to his art form.

Patrimoine 2

Our second visit on our busy Patrimoine day in the Loire Valley saw us visit the chateau at nearby La Celle-Guenand. I had always been keen to see more of this interesting place. I had, in the past, 'wandered' into the grounds for some better photographs but today was an opportunity to get a little further into its history. We were slightly disappointed to find out that we would, just like at Betz le Chateau, only get to see the underground tunnelling plus the out buildings.

The chateau has been turned into B&B and gite accommodation by its current owners plus it has a number of function room options. The 'Salle Guenand' reception room, which boasts a 'DJ mezzanine', had a display of  costumes and there was an art display elsewhere.

The 'guided tour' part of the visit meant gathering at the front door (I just had to ring the bell* ) and being taken, 6 at a time, into the bowels of the castle, surprisingly, by it current unassuming owner Stephen Palluel. There was not the same extent of tunnels to view but it was interesting none the less. It would have been good to have seen more of the actual castle itself but that was made up for, by the fact that we had an unexpected location for lunch. We had been scratching our heads trying to think where we could have lunch. We knew that because there would be so many people 'out and about' this might prove difficult without having booked ahead. Fellow visitors Tim & Pauline, who live just outside Le Grand Pressigny, came to our rescue. They asked if we were lunching here at the castle.They had done their research better than us and knew it was on, we said we hadn't but during the tour we asked Stepen about the possibilities of joining them. Fortunately, for us, a group of four had cancelled and we were in!

This was a good decision as for only 15 euros we had a lovely lunch, in good company, which included wine, served up in the quarried-out caves that produced the stonework for the castle! The catering was provided by the ever hard-working Christine who has the local Bistro, 'Au Panier d'Alice' ( I wonder who is/was Alice). Interestingly the pork served up was cooked on the charred oak timbers left over from a previous fire at the chateau -'it's an ill wind...'

 * A local resident,on hearing my bell-ringing informed us that in days gone by it was used to summon the workers from the surrounding fields - no-one came today,even though we were very close to lunchtime!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Patrimoine ( that's Patrimony)

This was the weekend (Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 – Journées du Patrimoine) of the year when houses and monuments in France and our own region Centre-Val de Loire, whose doors are normally closed, or who charge an admission, freely open up to the general public and take you to places not normally seen. Pauline and I, together with friends David and Karen, managed to make a full day of visits starting son Mark who has a very good English degree and aspires to be a writer says I'm only allowed three dots here - and he should know but hey life's too short and so are these dots........sorry I digress,,,,,,

Our first visit was to the small castle (chateau) at the appropriately named 'Betz-le-Château ' where Pauline and I were making our third attempt to view the underground tunneling. We first tried two years ago when we drove here to find that in spite of the official brochure telling us it was open, arrived to find the gates closed and a sign telling us nothing other than it was 'ferme'.We were not the only people to try but here in France you just shrug  ('Gaelic shrug') your shoulders and move on. Last year it was open but by the time we arrived the queue was such that we were told it could be over an hour before we could go in - we shrugged our shoulders and moved on ......(sorry Mark)

Yesterday was better planned. We set off early, though not as early as planned (you know who you are!) but still arrived well before any crowds. We were treated to a guided visit by a very amiable lady who was kind enough to give us some English translations (David was also a great help) which added to the experience. What a lot of digging must have gone on to create this labyrinth of tunnels. They should have perhaps tried the John Lennon  approach and given peace a chance - could have saved them so much work. If you are visiting Southern Touraine on Patrimoine day seek it out.

Next weekend the village of  Betz-le-Château has its annual Banana Party (honest) -- can't wait !

Friday, 16 September 2011

Llama post!

Wasn't going to do this -but couldn't resist! - when circus was in town (Le Grand Pressigny)  so was the Llama. Not something you see every day - if you click on the pic. and enlarge it, it looks as if someone is trying to capitalise on this fact, or maybe the Llama itself is a talented photographer!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Brocantes - just another form of recycling?

During the tourist season the region of Centre Val de Loire offers many distractions in the form of fetes, festivals brocantes and vide-greniers.

Brocantes (bric-a-brac) / vide-greniers (empty your attic) sales nowadays have the usual collection of stalls spilling out on to village streets, or filling their parks and playing fields, to be viewed and haggled over by locals and tourists alike. I find it hard to resist the temptation of the chance of finding some treasure (rarely do) in what is, in the main, discarded unwanted or unloved items from other people's lives. You can find everything here and I have been keeping a record of some of the more unusual items which I will share with you over time.

On Sunday Pauline and I went to the brocante being held at the nearby racecourse at La Roche Posay. The weather had unfortunately taken a surprising turn for the worse so we held off and were rewarded by a spell of enough sunshine for us to visit here and a fete in Yzeures-sur-Creuse nearby. We arrived just in time to witness the stallholders removing the rain covers from their precious offerings, It must have been a quite miserable morning for them, in the rain, with few potential buyers. By the time we had made our way round and made our purchases it was beginning to pick up-thankfully. Pauline was searching for empty atomisers to fill with a concoction / recipe that our friend Karen had mixed to effectively keep the mosquitos at bay - must get the details - though know there's vodka in there somewhere. There was much attempted screwing of tops - there was a surprising number of these for sale - before she actually found two she could use.

I found a lovely single flower vase for 2 euros plus some toys and pictures that, as Pauline reminded me, I didn't really need. The most unusual item on display was a wonderful  mounted boars head - every home should have one - so I will add the pic. to what will be a gallery/slideshow of these items...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Tomatoes anyone?

Our great crop of fresh tomatoes in a number of varieties has meant that I, a previously non tomato eater have actually come to see them in a different light! In fact I would go as far as to say that our beef tomatoes have a taste of their own -delicious. Due to their lack of attention because fortunately the house has been well rented, in the 'nipping & tucking'department  (or is that something else?)  they became a bit 'triffid-like' - but it doesn't seem to have affected their productivity.

These and the other fresh veg. have meant that I have also changed my opinion of ratatouille - of which Pauline does a mean version, I also find the variety of this plant amazing (although not enough to go back to the 'tomato chateau' - more of this later) . I couldn't resist taking this the kitchen, could have made a 'smiley face' but decided to take it 'au naturel'. 

Even with our success it does not stop the kindness of our neighbour who thought we may not have enough 'large' ones - we repaid her with some mighty courgettes as her's had not been very successful.


High drama at Barrou!

Around 4.00pm  today a car fire in the courtyard of No 38 Grande Rue spread to the barn causing extensive damage but the local Pompiers managed to save the day - and the house. Fortunately no one was badly hurt .