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 :-) !

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Dunsapie Loch

Firstly our apologies for such a long break between posts. Things have simply been extremely busy and we've been over to the UK for a visit with family and friends as well. The result is that we have rather fallen off the 'posting bandwagon'. We will try to 'resume normal service' from now on :-)

Dunsapie Loch with the Firth of Forth and commercial shipping in the distance
While in Edinburgh we made a point of driving up to Dunsapie Loch, a favourite stopping place for those who want to climb up to Arthur's Seat 'via the back way'. It's a small lake cupped in the hills which are, in fact, the remains of a long extinct volcano.

The waterfowl & gulls get lots of tidbits
The whole area is always alive with runners, walkers and cyclists, as it offers a fabulous outdoor recreational space right in the heart of Endiburgh.

Iron Age fort remains exist on top of the hill above the loch
The area is also rich in ancient history -- there are traces of four Iron Age forts. At one side of the lake is a very helpful information panel which explains their locations.

Very useful if, like us, you know little about the Iron Age

Second of four Iron Age forts, just below and to the left of Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat - always busy with walkers.
The weather was superb and while we were there a never-ending stream of runners swept past, obviously using their lunch break to good advantage. In between visiting friends we enjoyed our brief stroll around.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Concours de labours

Every September one of the local farmers gives up a field to hold the Charnizay ploughing competition. Last month the weather was good and under a hazy sunny sky the furrows were drawn and judged. The 'concours', or competition, wasn't far from our house so we went and had a look.

All gathered round the refreshment tent before the off

Beginning to line up at their appointed markers

And .... thery're off!

 Big brother and little brother

In fact, although it is very hard to see, in the smaller yellow wheeled tractor on the left [photo above] are two people; a local farmer Christoph Bardon and his 11yr old niece, Noémie. Though she needed his help to reach the pedals, she did the driving and drawing of the furrows. She's got talent as she won the competition and made the news in the local paper!

There were tractors of all ages and sizes

There were also 4 entries in the 'motoculteurs' category. Tilling with one of these looked to be hard work! They too were keenly overseen by friends and judges.

Judges with clipboards at the ready.

The day ended with a 'moules frites' dinner and the handing out of the prizes in the marquee down by the Aigronne.

When I spoke to Christoph recently - we buy pork from him - he told me that next year the concours will be held on one of his fields. The farmers all take it in turn as the competition isn't the kindest treatment for a field.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Art Deco ablutions

Last month when we visited the Chateau de Candé one of the things that impressed us was it's "live-able" feel. The rooms were of a size you could imagine using and given it isn't too enormous you could envisage living there -- if you had won a lottery jackpot and so had the squillions needed for the upkeep of course!
One of 8 bathrooms: green mosaic above moving to a blue palette below
Much of this "live-able" feel has to do with the renovations and refurbishments undertaken by the couple who bought it in the 1920's, the French-American Bedauxs. Charles Bedaux undertook a series of modernisations, installing central heating, a telephone, a gym/fitness room and bathrooms for each of the 8 bedrooms. His wife Fern's is the most spectacular.
Fern Bedaux's ballroom sized bathroom
Black marble sink unit in Fern Bedaux's bathroom, fireplace on the right
The bathrooms don't just have beautiful Art-Deco style interiors; they also have, for the time, state of the art fixtures and fittings which were imported from Canada, including heated towel rails. The system installed for filling and emptying the bath tubs came from the USA and each bath can be filled or emptied in 30 seconds -  to our minds an impressive feat, even now!

All the bathrooms are tiled with mosaic glass tiles in a fantastic range of blues or greens, as you can see in the two photos above. They are beautiful and were made locally by a company in Tours [Novello]. One can imagine that guests, even those at the top of the social tree and used to every luxury, would have been fairly impressed! We certainly were some 90 years later!

Another guest bedroom's bathroom, heated towel rail on the left
With thanks to our friend JEH for most of these super photos.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Stage & Screen costumes at the Logis Royal

This weekend is the annual JEP weekend [journées européennes du patrimoine] when all sorts of monuments are open to the public. It is a great opportunity to visit places that are in private hands and normally never open to the public. Many places will either reduce or waiver their entrance fee.
Loches' Logis Royal
Yesterday we went and had a look around Loches' Logis Royal. We know it well, but it has been a while and they have run an exhibition over the summer which we wanted to catch; it closes today. It seems that there's been a "fashion" trend in exhibitions this summer.
Maids of Honor costumes on the left. A Catherine de Médicis black dress on the right
Recently we visited the chateau de Langeais which had an exhibit of costumes tracing the changes in fashion from the 1490's to the end of the 1500's. Not to be outdone, and, in our eyes, rather trumping them, Loches' Logis Royal has been exhibiting stunningly sumptuous costumes used in film and opera productions.

Pretty court gentleman, all in a row. Extreme right: a costume worn by the actor who played the Duc de Guise
Amongst the best we thought were those used in the 1994 film "La reine Margot" which starred Isabelle Adjani as Marguerite de Valois; known as Margot. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas [best known for the Three Musketeers].
More "La reine Margot" costumes. Portrait of Charles VII, king in an earlier century lurking at the back
Margot's mother was Catherine de Médicis -- dowager queen and the continuous power behind the throne of each of her sons when they became kings -- one quickly succeeding another. Margot, a Catholic was ruthlessly married off to Henri, King of Navarre, a Protestant who later came to the French throne as Henri IV. All of the events take place in the shadow of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572 when France's wars of religion boiled over in a royally sanctioned & orchestrated assassination, led by the Duc de Guise of the leaders of the Huguenot party [Protestants] who had come to court to attend the wedding held some days previously. The knock-on effect of the assassinations was an indiscriminate slaughter of Huguenots in Paris and beyond.
Beautiful Maid of Honor costume made of silk
The film did very well at the Cannes Film Festival of 1994 and earned a number of Golden Palms, including one for Isabelle Adjani for best actress.

Monday 8 September 2014

Langeais: 16th century fashionistas

Recently we went and visited the chateau of Langeais. We'd never been and the poster below piqued our interest- we particularly liked the 'Lou Reed' style shades. They have extended the exhibition until the end of September.

Langeais as we see it today was built in 1465 by Louis XI as royal residence and was never intended to be a defensive, fortified castle despite the appearance of its town-side facade. The facade facing the park is much more Renaissance in style with large windows and no crenellations. There had been a donjon [keep] on the site from the turn of the 11th century, the ruins of which still stand in the park. The original donjon had been built by Foulques Nerra, Count of Anjou as part of his defensive line during his interminable disputes with Eudes 1er, Count of Blois.
remains of the donjon

1465 "new build"
In the attics we finally found the costume exhibition. Though not extensive, it was interesting as it portrayed the progression of clothes and changes of style in the 16th century.

Two points to the person** who correctly guesses which costume is the earliest and an additional 2 bonus points for correctly identifying the 'odd one out'. :-)

**Susan -- give the others a chance ;-)

Just to give you some clues here are two photos of the waxwork of the marriage of Anne of Brittany to Charles VIII, which took place in 1491.

As always you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Impressions: Chaumont show gardens II

Both our friend Jane, as well as ourselves, took plenty of photos when we visited the show gardens at Domaine Chaumont-sur-Loire so here are a few more for you to enjoy.

These three above are from a garden called 'Péchés virtuels' which had, on the right [as you entered], an undulating carpet of low growing green plants on which were sat boxes of canna's. In between were little placards with the names of the seven deadly sins. On the other side there was an enormous butterfly with mottled wings.

Echinacea framing the turrets of Chaumont - part of the border which framed the central intersection in the show garden area.

This show garden, entitled 'Bloom', above, had a circular white table running round the perimeter of the garden with bar chairs - you can see a number of the chairs in the photo. The designer's idea was to reflect gluttony by having the planting represent all the things you couldn't reach when you were seated, as they were in the centre encircled by the table.

These two photos above are from 'Ma cassette' the first of the show gardens. The bamboo, below, is from what we dubbed the "teacup garden" and thought was called 'Bloom', but which in reality is entitled 'Le purgatoire des tentations'. Antoinette duly sat in a tea cup for a photo, as did Jane in our other post about the gardens which you can read about here.

With grateful thanks to our friend Jane H. for all the photos in this post, with the exception of Antoinette in the tea cup.