Thursday 29 May 2014

New garden in Poitiers

If you wondering where we've been hiding well, apologies. "Mundania", chiefly in the form of exam orals, exam marking and a stint of entrance interviews of applicants for next year's Bachelor's course have meant that blogging got sidelined.

New public garden & Hotel de Beaucé
Surfacing briefly, we thought you'd enjoy these photos taken earlier in the year when the municipal gardening team were putting the finishing touches to a new small urban space, the 'Jardins du Puygarreau' in the center of Poitiers.
Looking down along the the space from the entrance
It forms the final part of the regeneration scheme of an area behind the Hotel de Ville which we came across a year ago when we noticed the restoration of Hotel de Beaucé.
Workmen busy with the finishing touches
In order to create an extension for improved access to 7 rue du Puygarreau and a pleasant public space, three buildings - 9, 11 & 11bis were taken down. On the walls bordering the garden at the back, as well as on free standing panels, old photographs charting the life of the street have been reproduced in a series of colors. They show daily life as it was from the early 20th century onwards.
Panels are copies of photos of the street as it was
The gardens are just to the left of the Hotel de Beaucé. They have kept the traditional railings but inside the small park also contains some very modern sculpture. There are spring loaded discs for children to hop on and off as well as plenty of seating for the lunch-time visitor to enjoy their meal al fresco; weather permitting!!

The modern extension to number 7
When it opened in very early March it was still quite bare but the bones of the planting had been put in. It will be interesting to see in September when the new academic year starts again how well it has filled out after a season of growth.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Black Woodpecker

A few days ago I heard a plaintive 'ki ... ki ... ki ...' type noise coming from outside.  Not dissimilar to the buzzards who often circle above but much louder. Walking into the kitchen Niall asked me what the racket was. Having no idea I opened the kitchen door to look up and try and see whatever bird was making the noise.

It wasn't up in the air. Instead, more or less straight ahead, close to the back door and sitting on a pine branch was a large Black Woodpecker [Dryocopus Martius]. They are large, the size of a crow, and have a beak that can drill machine gun style into dead pine wood to look for ants and other insects. She  - it was a female, as she had a much smaller red cap - produced the very plaintive cry again. It was definitely penetrating!

Sadly we had no camera to hand. I stood in the door for a bit and the woodpecker gave me ample time to admire her while she made a few distracted pecks at the branch before flying off making her more energetic "yip,yip,yip" type call. If you want to listen here's a link to recordings [xc157197 & xc155975] made in France of both calls.
She flew off into the small copse on the west side. As they are resident birds in our area of France we're hoping that she's one of a pair and that they have set up house here.

Meanwhile our bats have arrived for their summer with us. The small pipestrelles have reclaimed their regular summer roost behind to south-side shutters and the horseshoe [greater we think] we first found last summer in the barn is back as well.

Saturday 3 May 2014


Wednesday and Saturday are market days in Loches. Last Wednesday the weather wasn't great but at least it wasn't raining so we decided we'd go. We've had quite a bit of rain recently and the temperature has dropped enough that we've even had the wood burner on in the evenings.

One of the vegetable stalls we occasionally shop at had asparagus on offer. Here in France, like in the Netherlands, this means the white version. When we lived in Maastricht [Limburg] we'd occasionally buy them direct from the farm. The provinces of Limburg and Brabant have the right light sandy soil in which the plant thrives. A quick drive out into the countryside and you'd see row upon row of the carefully raised beds sometimes covered with black plastic to protect the spears.
White asparagus beds in Limburg, NL []
The stall in Loches offered various thicknesses, and basically the fatter the asparagus spear the dearer. We prefer the thin ones when we're buying white and purchased half a kilo of nice slim white, purple tipped asparagus. 
Green asparagus in the field [photo:]
However, if truth be told, we far prefer the green variety to the white; sadly you don't often see it for sale here in France. As we also needed mushrooms we carried on to the Dutch mushroom seller further down the street. Just before we arrived at his stall, having navigated the poulet roti stall successfully - its smells are so tempting - we spotted a couple selling just asparagus. The lady stallholder was busy explaining the difference in taste between green and white to some clients and that was what had drawn our attention. Part of their stall was given over to a display green asparagus, hurrah! Their asparagus came from the Sologne region which is about 1 1/2hrs drive NE of here and has a light sandy soil. Nothing for it but to buy, so we added another half kilo of lovely green spears to our purchases, yum!

On the way back to the car we ran into Simon looking very smart in his Loire Valley Time Travel work clothes. He was waiting for Susan to finish guiding their clients around Loches' Logis Royal before taking them to lunch.

Once home, we wrapped the asparagus in damp tea towels and stored them in the bottom of the crisper drawer keeping them in the dark and chilled. Kept like this, they keep fresh for several days. We were taught to do this by an old friend who came from Limburg and was a complete asparagus aficionado.

We ate the green ones the next day with slices of ham filled with egg mayonnaise and a little melted butter and they were scrumptious! The white ones are on the menu for Sunday lunch tomorrow.