Sunday, 18 January 2015

Chenonceau challenge

When, over Christmas, we visited the chateau of Chenonceau with Susan & Simon it was lovely and quiet and we were able to look around in a very leisurely fashion.

The kitchen and food preparation areas, as well as the servants' dining room are located in the cellars of the older building whose foundations, like that of the later gallery extension, are built in the river. The food preparation areas are on one side and the main kitchen with cooking ranges is in the other. There's a set of stairs which links the two areas -- rather like an internal version of a canal bridge; you walk up the inside of an arch span and then descend to the other side. Through the windows you can look out at the river Cher flowing underneath you.

In the photo above - taken on Christmas Day -  you can see the central rounded arch underneath the older, square section of the chateau. The main kitchen area is on the left and the servants' dining hall and food preparation rooms are on the right.
The 19th century kitchen, full of gleaming copper utensils
While we were looking at the 19th century kitchen range and paraphernalia we came across two mystery items.
First mystery object
If you look closely at the first mystery object you'll see our reflections in the beautifully polished copper. It was sat on the main range. The bulbous addition to the pan is what puzzles us. Without it it would seem to be a fish pan, albeit a fairly deep one. The bulbous section isn't a handle -- there are two obvious ones for carrying the pan and it is sealed, there are no vents or apertures. As the pan is on display and there's a strict 'don't touch' policy we didn't lift the lid so we don't know what it looks like inside.
Second mystery object
The second mystery object is obviously a useful Victorian labour-saving gadget of some type but we couldn't decide what for. It reminded me a little of a giant cigar cutter. Simon thought it was to grip something.  The two small 'ax' shapes in the center have blunt serrated edges.

So, despite some extensive speculation and discussion amongst the four of us, none of us have any real idea what these items are for. Do you?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Morning, New Year's Day 2015

A good start to 2015 with none of the lowering grey skies we've had too much of recently, but a frosty day with sun and clear blue skies; so went out with the camera.

Looking west-north west from the edge of our property over Eric's field of colza to the other side of the Aigronne valley in the distance.

Again looking north-west. The low morning sun is casting long shadows and has already melted the frost under the trees.

Looking towards the south east. Deer often come up from the wooded gully and then cross our land, heading to the copse to the west of our house.
Looking east-north east along the same gully as in the photo above. In the forefront is a small strip of hedge which juts out. The field carries on down to the gully just behind it.

Mistletoe berries dropped from one of the poplars lying amongst the frosted grass and leaves.

Not long after that we cooked our New Year's Day brunch - croissants, chipolata sausages from our local farmer, bacon and soft scrambled eggs.  All washed down with fresh orange juice and a glass of sparkling Vouvray - aptly named Cuvée Antoinette.


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas Day dinner on Christmas Eve

Our normal Christmas tradition here has become a seafood platter on Christmas Eve and our main festive meal eaten on Christmas Day. This year we reversed the order as we went to visit Chateau Chenonceau on the 25th with friends  Susan & Simon.

Walking up to the approach to the chateau
Simon had cleverly found out that the chateau was open on Christmas Day and it seemed a much better idea to enjoy an afternoon wandering round the grounds and chateau than sit at home in front of a TV showing endless "Christmas Specials" of dubious quality.
'Classic' view of Chenonceau in full winter sun
So on Christmas Eve we roasted our canette, which we ate with a mirabelle purée [made with our own mirabelles], rosemary & honey roast parsnips, haricots verts and a spiced red wine jus. The recipes for the red wine jus and the mirabelle purée were from the chef at The Devonshire Arms Hotel in Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire. Both were easy to follow and tasted great, though to be honest I didn't follow the jus recipe to the letter. For afters we had warm pears which had been poached in white wine, vanilla & star anise with vanilla ice cream.
A virtually empty long gallery
Stunning tree at the end of the gallery over the river
Round about 12:30 Susan and Simon arrived and off we went to Chenonceau for the afternoon. We'd visited the chateau before in the run up to Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, if we can, we avoid visiting it in summer at all costs as it is such a busy place.
Vaulted entrance hall with super decorations made up with red roses
One of the best decorations: the dressed table in the servant's dining hall
Although there were a few more people than we expected it was still pretty quiet; and, best of all the weather co-operated! For the first time in days we had blue skies and sun.
Lovely tree with Louis XIV lurking in the background
Chapel decorated as a winter wonderland
To get the best of the daylight we had a wander round the park and gardens first. We were worried that the visit would be a bit of a bore for Susan as she and Simon must have lost count of the number of times they have shown clients round! However, she pointed out that Simon stays with the car and she can never have a good look round on her own terms on these occasions and assured us it wasn't a Busman's holiday.
Last of the winter sun catching the top of Chenonceau
We left as it was growing dark and on the way home we stopped in the village of Sublaines to watch the international space station pass high above us in the sky -- an excellent Christmas Day.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Season's Greetings!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas
All Good Things for 2015

Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting on our blog. We've really enjoyed all our exchanges and it is a such a pleasure to share bits of our life here in Charnizay with you.
See you all in 2015! 
Niall & Antoinette and the furries, one of whom got herself into the photo above :-) !