Saturday 19 April 2014

Twice Joli

Last Tuesday was our silver wedding anniversary. Despite life being rather full of grade sheets, evaluations, presentations and final classes we managed to go out for lunch as Antoinette dashed straight out at the end of her class in Tours which finished at 12:30. We'd asked friends Susan & Simon for a recommendation close to Tours. They suggested Le Val Joli in Vouvray.
Aqueduct: looking south towards Luynes
It didn't disappoint. From the outside it looks quite dusty and not terribly attractive, located as it is where there's a very busy set of traffic lights on the D952 which runs along the river Loire. Its terrace is right alongside the road; happily although sunny, it wasn't a day to sit outside. Inside it is pretty, smart and bright, quite elegant in fact. The welcome was friendly and the food excellent. We stuck to our habit of having the 'menu du jour' as a benchmark for a first outing. On Tuesday they served: homemade terrine de volaille, braised pig cheeks with rosemary and honey and caramelised apples on rice pudding for desert. The only downside was there were no alternatives so we had to lump it with the rice pudding. Not that the desert was bad --of its kind it was very good. It's just a pudding neither of us like :-)
Aqueduct: looking north in the direction of the source
After lunch we went and had a look at the Roman aqueduct at Luynes. As with many of the historic monuments in France it wasn't brilliantly sign-posted. In fact some of the sign posts were positively ancient themselves and you had to keep a very beady eye out to spot them!
The aqueduct is thought to date from the 2nd century AD and served to bring water to Malliacum as Luynes was known in Roman times. Water was sourced at the lieu-dit of La Pie Noir [black magpie] where there were springs and a small stream called Le Rin Joli.

Pyramidal shaped pillars
Built of pyramidal shaped pillars, originally it was 300 m long and traversed a dip in the plateau before the water supply was channeled underground for the remaining 1500 m. According to the information panel on site, it was significant enough to Malliacum to have been restored three times in antiquity. The panel also indicated that 6 of the 9 remaining arches are original and not restored.
"Aqueduct house"
A curious feature is a house which is built into/alongside the aqueduct. While we were there someone, presumably the owner, emerged, walked between 2 arches just beyond the corner of the house, re-appeared at the wheel of a small red car and drove off. An odd juxtaposition between the ancient and the modern!

Saturday 5 April 2014

Of flora & fauna

We've been having a run of warmish and sunny weather and it feels like every single plant has exploded into life at once.

Our daffs are finished, the tulips are out and I've seen bearded irises in full flower in Tours; although ours are yet to come out. Cherry and pear trees are covered in snow white blossom. The crab apple next to the building where I mainly teach in Tours is in full flower and covered with bees. Our ornamental cherry is just opening its candy pink flowers and over this weekend we'll have a look and see if we can find some early purple orchids. The colza, or rape seed field, are bright acid yellow.

Earlier this week we took Tim & Pauline's lift[giant jack] which raises a ride-on mower back to them -- they'd kindly lent it to us so we could fix a front tire. This gave us an opportunity to also go and photograph the snake's-head fritillaries which grow in a ditch not too far away from them.

Delicate snake's-head fritillaries in a roadside ditch
These particular snake's-head fritillaries are found in a shallow roadside ditch next to a flood meadow. They are exquisite with their purple-red chequered flowers and grow only in a very specific habitat: hay meadows in lowland flood plains. Before moving here, we'd only ever seen them in photographs -- they are rare because of this habitat. They need natural, i.e. unimproved [untreated], flood plain meadows, a type of meadow which is in heavy decline. We are lucky to have them!

Last year the snake's-head fritillaries were just beyond their best towards the end of April but this year, after the very mild winter, they flowered earlier and indeed on Tuesday, quite a few were clearly beyond their best. Nevertheless there were still some to photograph.

Close up you can clearly see the chequer-board pattern
We also found the chappie in the photograph below clinging on to our front door key last week. It was very determined to hang on. We know it's a moth, but wondered if any of our readers who know much more about these things could give us any further information. The wings seemed to be concertina-ed so we wondered if it was a newly emerged individual busy pumping out its wings.

Finally, speaking of fauna, we thought readers might enjoy this photo of Tinka "wearing" Niall's jeans! :-)