Saturday 30 July 2011

'Gone to lunch'

Metaphorically the sign on our door for most of today. We left the house at 12 noon and got back at about 4:15. Our destination, the Auberge de la Gabriere was about 20 mins away. A Logis de France hotel/restaurant in the National Park of the Brenne; we'd driven past it before but had never gone in for a meal. Today we had something to celebrate--exactly 1 year ago we arrived at our house. The food did not disappoint and over a lovely lengthy lunch we reminisced about our arrival.

splendid food
We'd become the legal owners on 8 June 2010 but had had work done to the house before we moved in. We also had a house sale in the UK to complete. 30 July 2010 saw us arrive at an empty house with 2 Coleman camping chairs, a couple of suitcases, some bedding [the previous owners had left us a bed] a couple of mugs, plates and cutlery and a very zonked cat. Shadow had had a happy pill before we left Suffolk early in the morning.
a peaceful lamentation
It was quite odd 'living' in an empty house, as with the tiled floors it echoed. Even more surreal was the fact that all our things were still in our house in Suffolk; almost as if we'd just pulled the door to and would be back from holiday in 2 weeks time. We'd barely arrived when we were plunged into a mad week of frantic to-ing and fro-ing to the UK to oversee the packers and visit lawyers for the final exchange on the house in Suffolk. Our belongings, all 64 cubic meters, were still classed as a 'part load' and this meant they wouldn't arrive until the 12th August. Fourteen days of camping in one's own house was certainly a novel way to start living in France!

blue heron looking for lunch

The beautiful scenery of the lake opposite the restaurant was certainly a contrast to our mad rushing about of 1 year ago.

Friday 29 July 2011

Curious Carvings

hard work supporting a pillar

Yesterday we popped over to Le Grand Pressigny, a large village further along the Aigronne river. On Thursdays they have a small market: a couple of fruit & veg stalls, a butcher, a poulter and a sausage seller. We sometimes buy from one of the fruit & veg stalls. The lady sells own grown produce. Earlier in the year she had excellent green asparagus. Now it is the melon season and we came away with 4 very small but sweet ones which we'll eat over the weekend with some Parma style ham.
I think he has fleas...

We'd parked round the back of the church inbetween the trees and the war memorial. The memorial has something you don't often see. In addition to the roll call of the dead, there were the names of 5 people who were deported to Germany as forced labourers during WWII.

The church doors were wide open and as we'd never been inside we decided to have a look-see before buying our fruit. We spotted a number of carvings on the nave pillars. 

bat, not in the belfry!

Neither of us have ever seen a bat before although you do see the odd dog. Luckily we had the small camera in the car so were able to take a few pictures. After buying our melons we went and had a coffee at the Pre-Histo bar and spent quite a bit of time enjoyably watching the world go by before heading home for lunch.

Wednesday 27 July 2011


As most of our regular readers will know we have two cats, Shadow and Katinka. They are both rescue cats. 

Shadow came to us with his brother, Traveller from the cat rescue in Maastricht in 2005 just before we moved from the Netherlands to the UK. In fact both had to 'board' with family in the Netherlands for 6 months before we could bring them over on their pet passports due to the rabies restrictions. Sadly we lost Traveller in October 2009 to a very virulent cancer of the lymph glands. 

can you see me behind this blade of grass?
That left Shadow as an only cat--not that he minded! As his name suggests he is somewhat elusive, not to say neurotic! We have of course no idea what his life was like before he came to us as a 12 week old kitten but suffice to say he keeps well clear of all humans barring 'his own'. The first four days we had him he spent hiding under a large oak dower chest--hence his name. 

Moving to Charnizay we had more of the vanishing. It took us ages to find where he'd got to in the house. Only at dusk did he emerge and some serious sleuthing was needed to discover that he'd managed to squeeze behind the bath in one of the bathrooms. Four days later he was showing signs of being more 'at home' in his new surroundings and after a week we let him out. That was in August 2010.

is the camuflage working?
 In the October Katinka joined us on a trial basis--we weren't sure how Shadow, a wussy 5 yr old neutred tom, was going to take to an energetic ball of four month old fluff. But we'd been asked to take her as the people who rescued her had too many cats already.

If a cat can be said to look appalled Shadow did. His peaceful existence as an only cat had come to an abrupt end. At first he simply did not know what to make of this extremely self assured, fearless and supremely inquisitive 'mini cat'.

'She' liked people, 'she' ate his cat food, 'she' chased him round and leapt on his back!! 'She' strolled round the house within hours of arrival as if 'she' owned the place!  Shock, horror! 
But thankfully no cat fights--Katinka is too self assured and Shadow is too much of a big girl's blouse. So they gradually settled down--or rather Shadow got used to sharing. Katinka is half his size but occasionally bops him one just to show who's boss. 

Now they will even both sleep on our bed--to our detriment as they hog the space and we lose out :-)
'my' human

Friday 22 July 2011

Third time lucky

Are we going now?
Katinka does not always take kindly to our excursions. Not that she minds us going as much as she feels it is unfair that she can't come along!

long foot!
We've been to Beaumont-Village a number of times. It's a small village very close to Montrésor. When we were looking for a house last year we looked at one just outside the village. We must have been there about lunch time because at the time we noticed the Auberge and the number of little white vans parked outside it. This is always a good sign in France--it means the place will serve good food: 'bon qualité, bon prix'. 

We went to test this theory last autumn and again in February when we wrote about the glass at Montrésor. Both times we weren't disappointed, they served excellent home cooked food.

Earlier this week we were in Beaumont-Village again because, apart from the great Auberge, Beaumont-Village has another claim to fame which we'd been unable to see on the previous visits. So operating under the philosophy of 'third time lucky' we drove over. As Niall aptly remarked, 'if the building isn't open now in the tourist season it never will be'!

The building in question is a very modern, some would say ugly, church. Inside however are preserved a number of frescos which came to light when they tore the original village church down some 60 years ago.  

Postcards from the late 19thC or early 20thC show the church to still be in a reasonable state with its roof intact, but it seems a storm early in the 20thC so damaged the roof that dereliction rapidly set in. By 1949 there was no other option but to tear it down. It obviously took some time to find sufficient funds to build a new church but by the early 60's the villagers had their new building. 

big feet!
The medieval frescos date from the 13th and early 14th century and they show, amongst others, St Martin and St Sylvain to whom the new church is dedicated. Whoever created them had a thing about feet size!! I was tempted to title this post 'big foot'!

Naturally we also stopped for lunch at the Auberge--one has to time these visits properly! This time the lunch menu - €11.00-  was: crudities or terrine, cabillaud [cod] or cuisse de poulet with either potatos or a gratiné of vegetables, cheese, dessert: home made rubarb tarte. Wine and coffee are included in the menu. The only spoiler was that due to the weather we weren't able to sit outside.

Monday 18 July 2011

Il pleut

private chateau, Néons sur Creuse
And it has...for the last three or four days we've had gusting winds, rain showers and cooler temperatures. Yesterday it was like a tap: on ... off; sunny ... dark and grim. Some of the showers were so intense that we couldn't see to the other side of the valley--a haze of rain obscured it like a curtain. A good day to read indoors and watch the golf from Royal St George's in Kent, where incidentally they were having even worse weather.

Just over a week ago it was lovely: warm and sunny, which was just as well as we had family staying. On holiday, they wouldn't have appreciated yesterday's weather at all! Photos are by I and F; taken during their visit--just to add a little sun to this blog!

candied & dried fruit, Loches market
So what does one do when it rains as was the case this morning? Do the chores which involve going to Tours. After all one has got to take advantage when one's dearly beloved other half actually volunteers to go to Ikea!! Having been relieved of a number of €'s we headed to LeRoy Merlin to have a look at, and price, outside tiles which we will need soon to finish the terrace at the rear of the house. 

Chinon, Clos L'Echo weather vane
At LeRoy Merlin they had their selection of outdoor tiles indoors and on display boards outside. After looking at all of them we found that two of the tiles which we'd thought were nice online lived up to expectations in reality.  You never quite know if the images really reflect the actual colours so we thought it best to see for ourselves.

Nobly resisting any further diversions we headed home with the sun roof open as the skies had cleared a bit ... 

As I write this we have had a bit of late afternoon sun but the gusting wind is still blowing and another shower is threatening. The weather forecast says we're in for more of the same--showers and temperatures of no more than 20C for most of the week. Mind you the rain means we don't have to water the fruit trees and pots on the terrace!

Friday 15 July 2011

Quatorze juillet part 2

Well we did have an excellent time yesterday, the village's comité des fetes - there are only 503 of us, so it's a small place - had done us all proud. It all happend in the old field down by the river where, in summer, the mairie puts up a large chapiteau (marquee) which can be hired by the public. 

horse & cart rides
In the afternoon the kids were having a great time on a bouncy castle and inflatable slide. In addition, there were rides on a tiny piebald pony as well as trips in a horse and cart. We never did get to the bottom of who won the 'maisons ou fermes fleurie' competition; think the prize giving had taken place by the time we got there.

We trundled home having decided to come back for the lantern procession and fireworks and pass on the dinner accompanied by the 'trompes de chasse' (hunting horns). 

trompes de chasse in action
In the event, we needen't have worried,  the hunting horns floated up clear as a bell while we were having dinner on our terrace. To honour the occasion we had a glass of rosé methode traditionelle with dinner and then watched as dusk slowly settled on the landscape. The day had been sunny, if not very warm, and a huge moon rose in clear skies. 

At ten thirty we went back down into the village. We were hailed by the mairie's secretary and told that there had been a last minute change of plan--the lantern procession was now not starting from the mairie, instead it was all to happen down on the field.

paper lanterns at the ready
At the chapiteau, the trompes de chasse were still parping away -- conversation with friends we ran into was almost impossible! Excited kids were trotting about with paper lanterns which occasionally burst into flame due to careless handling. Then the lights in the chapiteau went out and the children, accompanied by the parping, paraded round the field.

When they had completed a full circuit  there was a general re-organisation of the crowd and the fireworks started. They were--in a word-- excellent!! A really lovely display framed by the huge moon and the outline of the village on the rise. 
lantern procession

Whoever arranged it made sure that we were treated to very professional show, and ... it went on.... each time we thought it must finish there was another burst which lit up the sky. Charnizay had done itself very proud!

The lights went back on, conversations re-started and kiddies headed to the dancefloor where the disco had started up. Many Charnizéens looked very ready to dance the rest of the night away....

Thursday 14 July 2011

Quatorze juillet

Today is quatorze juillet, the day in 1789 the revolutionaries in Paris stormed the infamous jail called La Bastille; and so the day that France celebrates as the birth of the French republic. It marks the start of the [rather bloody] revolution which saw France get rid of the old monarchy. 

So all over France festivities are laid on; some villages held their events yesterday on the eve of 14 juillet. In 1993 we were on vacation in this area and went to Loches to see the firework display. We stood right in front to the recently restored church of St Antoine--now home of the Caravaggio paintings. Little did we know then that we would, one day, end up living here! 

Here in Charnizay everything happens today. All the residents received an invitation from the Mairie--ours came by email. From 3pm we will, by the looks of it, be busy..... photos and report of events to follow.....

our invitation!

Sunday 10 July 2011

Tour Touristique

Earlier this week we took our guests on a little 'tour tourisitque' to visit some of the sights in our area. We had a choice of either going roughly north to see the Chartreuse du Liget, Montrésor and then coming back via Loches or going south.

 Angles su Anglin
In the event we had a lazy morning so decided to opt for going south, visiting Angles sur Anglin, St Savin sur Gartempe and the Abbeye de Fontgombault. We pottered round lots of little back roads on our tour. Sadly the weather wasn't too great; though we were able to have lunch outside in Angles sur Anglin. By the time we were 'fresco-ed out' in St Savin, which we've written about before, we had to retreat indoors for a well deserved ice cream as it was beginning to spit with rain. A shame really as the buildings all 'light up' in the sun.

chateau ruins, Angles sur Anglin

On Friday our guests left to continue their holiday in Normandy and we caught the 7th stage of the Tour de France on TV. It came very close to us but we were too late to go and find somewhere to watch it 'for real' as they close the roads very early on. 

The TV coverage had lovely shots of places of interest such as Montrichard--one of the French commentators pronounced it "Monrichard" without sounding the 't' as would be normally the case in French. He was hastily corrected by his co-presenter as in this case the 't' is voiced. We were also treated to ariel shots of Chenonceau and other famous/less famous chateaux. Next time the Tour comes to our area we hope to be able to watch from the roadside--even the waiting takes for ever and it is all over in a flash. The Tour de France had left for other parts of France...

medieval bridge over the Gartempe in St Savin
Or so we thought...yesterday we had a laugh as we got caught up in a mini-Tour on our way back from doing the weekly shop in Loches. Near Bridoré they were holding a --we suppose-- serious amateur [or lower level professional] race. There was all the of the paraphernalia of the real thing: deviations, officials in high viz jackets with stop/go paddles, refreshments, advertising cars, spray painted messages of encouragement on

view to nave with frescos, St Savin church
the road and spectators sitting by the road-side to cheer the riders on. An official waved us--wrongly-- onto a small road which turned out to be part of the cycle curcuit!! So we had the odd experience of driving behind a support car and the racers!! Sadly no photographs as we didn't have the camera with us.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Wine & Market

As regular readers will know we have family from the Netherlands staying with us this week. Day before yesterday we drove up to the Cher river and visited Domaine de la Renaudie which produces Touraine wines. We'd read about the domaine and it's wines on Living the life in Saint-Aignan a blog we read regularly.

With impeccably bad timing we arrived "the morning after the night before"! The domaine owners had spent all of Sunday hosting a huge party to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. In fact when we arrived they were dismantling the marquee. Had we known we would have, of course, come on another day.

Patricia discussing Pineau d'Aunis rosé
Nevertheless, Patricia Denis was absolutely charming and took time and care to discuss the Domaine's rosé, white and red wines with us. Tasting them was a really interesting and enjoyable experience. We particularly liked the Perle de Rosé, made exclusively from the Pineau d'Aunis grape, and bought a half case as well as another of Chenin. My cousin and her partner prefer reds and were very taken with the Cabernet. Several half cases will be heading north to the Netherlands. 

Tasting is hard work!
While tasting and talking with Patricia we once again were reminded how small the world is. She asked where we lived and when we said Charnizay she looked slightly startled and asked if we knew a particular family. Yes we replied the family in question farm sheep about 300m away. In fact, they are one of our closest neighbours. It turns out her daughter's long term boyfriend is the son of the family!  

We had a great time and will be back to buy reds in the autumn.

Today we headed to Loches for the Wednesday market. It was bustling and we stopped for a coffee and some great 'people watching' before going round the market and picking up the things we needed. We bought delicious black cherries and some other food items. My cousin found small gifts to take back to the Netherlands.

Colourful scenes in Loches. Some of the soaps are going to the Netherlands!

Sunday 3 July 2011

Chinon on Sunday

Forteresse Royale de Chinon
We have family from the Netherlands staying with us. They are the first visitors to come since we moved here last August. As they don't know the area too well, we have morphed into tourist mode. A visit to the royal fortress of Chinon appealed. We know it well and are familiar with its history, but oddly enough we have never been inside. 

15th century Logis Royal
Its location is spectacular--high on a cliff above the Vienne river--King Henry II of England; who together with his wife ruled more than 1/2 of France at the time, chose brilliantly when he wanted to develop an existing site for a strategic castle in the 1150's. It sits at the crossroads between Touraine, Anjou and Poitou.

detail; restored 15th C roof line
It was a favoured castle during all his kingdom building and fights with his unruly sons: Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland who succeeded him. Henry died at Chinon in July 1189 and is buried at the Abbaye de Fontevraud as is Eleanor of Acquitaine his wife [and other members of the family].

We had a great time exploring the large outer bailey and Logis Royal which has a set of really outstanding video installations charting key historical events-- from the time of Henry II to Joan of Arc.

There was a small exhibit of artifacts at the end of the tour of the Logis Royal and one of the most interesting was a tiny 12th century bone die, still clearly showing the dots for numbers on each face. That such a small thing had been re-found was quite amazing.

replica traditional boat on the Vienne
The weather was perfect and we loved the spectacular views down onto the town and river below.

It's good fun being a tourist!

Friday 1 July 2011


Makes one think of autumn not high summer, but the grain harvest has been going for at least 2 weeks. Round here they grow a lot of colza [rape seed], wheat and barley. Yesterday evening Eric came to combine his wheat field. North-facing it is one of the last to be harvested; most, if not all, have been baled and many fields are even bare and have had the bales removed.

Despite the drought the field looks to be in pretty good shape. In a good year Eric'll hope to have an average of 5 or 6 ears to a plant. This year he looks to have a return of about 4 to 5; not bad when we've heard of others who have had about 3 or even only 2 to a plant.

Eric's field 'before' & an 'after' field opposite

He arrived about 6pm and methodically chuntered up and down in his giant green combine. Close up the thing's pretty big but it's by no means the largest of these contraptions we've seen, some are so large that they more than straddle one of small local roads. So much so that you can't pass nor can oncoming traffic get by without the thing moving into a field entrance. 

It is a world away from the manual reaping of the middle ages. If you magnify you can just make out the poppies and cornflowers in the wheat in the Tres Riches Heures illumination top left. Sadly the chateau pictured, Clain in Poitiers, no longer exists.

Eric's combine at work
At about 11:30 pm he called it a day and the giant headlights left. When we went to have a look this morning about 2/3 of the field had been cut.

We've been busy all day here at the house as we have visitors coming to stay from tomorrow, but as of writing he has not yet returned to cut the rest.

P.S. Yesterday 2nd July Eric came and finished the field.