Friday, April 28, 2006

More Signs of Spring

I promised a shot of the yellow colza fields, so here it is:

Colza field seen from Châteauvieux.

Other signs of spring include the vineyards, neatly trimmed, with tiny leaves just starting to appear. These are on the grounds of the Château de Valençay:

And this handsome fellow is also a resident of Valençay:

I'm going to be rather occupied over the weekend, so there may not be any new posts until early next week. Until then, happy weekend, happy May Day (Labor Day here in France, a national holiday), and I'll see you soon!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Un Jour, Une Tour [4]

Ken's mom found us this lamp in a yard sale in North Carolina. Ken re-wired it and we put a shade on it and kept in the family room in the San Francisco house.

Since we've re-patriated it to France, it serves admirably as a reading light in the living room.

This is one of several towers in the collection that doesn't sit with the others.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Eating Locally

Spring is a great time here in the Loire Valley. Local food is becoming available, like these fresh asparagus, strawberries, and goat cheese.

The only non-local product in this picture is the wine from Alsace. We do have great sauvignon blanc in this part of the Touraine, which would have made this a perfect, and perfectly local, lunch.

Yesterday and overnight we had our first thunderstorms of the season. They were not violent but quite enjoyable. Some lightning, long rumbling thunder, and rain off and on. Shades of summer to come? We shall see.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Green Tulips

Spring continues to fascinate and please. I planted these tulips back in fall of 2003, six bulbs to be exact, and now they're producing wonderful blooms.

They're called "green" tulips, but as you can see they are really cream-colored with some green striping. We also have red tulips in the yard, but they're just about done blooming when these open up.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Well, well, well.

This is the sight around the base of our "real fake well," or "vrai faux puits." When we bought the house, the ground around the well was covered with saxifrage - they're the green leaves on the left with the large purple flowers on tall stalks. I pulled it all up and discovered the little paved walk around the well.

The saxifrage in this photo is some that survived. The year after I pulled the saxifrage out, we saw the single yellow tulip for the first time, accompanied by the blue grape hyacinth, or muscari. The latter is thriving and even comes up in the lawn, a sure sign of spring.

There was even saxifrage inside the well, which I replaced with the lavender plants you see above. They'll flower in summer.

The well has a iron frame over it that would hold the rope and bucket if it were a working well. Now a bird feeder hangs there. Along one of the uprights is a wire that dives into the dirt of the well. I've supposed that the previous owners had a light rigged up in the well to lend ambiance to evening dinners al-fresco.

I've pulled out a lot of saxifrage around the property, but there is still much of it intact. We're also busy digging up old bulbs and dividing them to give them a new life. Iris, daffodil, chives, and rhubarb are being relocated. It's a long, slow process, and we don't really get to see the results until the following year, but it's nice when the relocated bulbs come up healthier and more robust than they were.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Un Jour, Une Tour [3]

The third in the Eiffel Tower series. This brass tower, a little over 12 cm tall, was billed as a holiday tree ornament. It came with a red ribbon through the loop on top. The problem is that it's so heavy (how heavy is it?)... it's so heavy that any branch you hang it from droops to the floor.

So, it's part of the permanent collection now, sans ribbon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New Look

I have a new look. If you look over to the right, you'll see my b/w face has been replaced with a full color shot of me waist-deep in colza. Colza is what the French call this plant and the oil made from its seeds. It's sold under the name of Canola in North America. It's a Canadian-bred variety of the rapeseed plant.

According to Wikipedia, the word "canola" comes from "CANadian Oil Low Acid," a reference to the lower levels of erucic acid in this trademarked cultivar of rapeseed, from which oil is also extracted.

This time of year, the colza fields are starting to turn the glorious yellow that will brighten up the countryside for miles around.

Until I get a shot of that, here's the Château de Chambord, taken yesterday from an angle not normally seen on the postcards. I like the contrast of the magnificent castle and the rutted dirt road leading up to it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Back to last week, on our day-long drive through parts of the southern Touraine, we visited a town called Angles-sur-l'Anglin - actually in the Poitou region. The town and river it's on were supposedly named for the Angles who settled there in the 5th century.

There is a striking ruined medieval castle on the heights above the river, and the town adjacent to it is quite pretty.

Ken and Sue with the castle behind them. It kind of looks like something out of "Lord of the Rings," doesn't it?

A road sign in town.

Sign play in the center of town.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Easter (Pâques) is a big holiday in France. Not necessarily for religious reasons, but because it's a 3-day weekend in the middle of spring break! It marks the start of the coastal vacation season and the end of the skiing season.

It also signals the start of the spring holiday season; there are 5 holidays (days off from work) between now and the start of summer. Many long weekends ahead that coincide with good weather - we hope.

This picture was taken last week in the abbey church at Fontgombault on the Creuse River (Indre). Just after I snapped it, my friends pointed out the sign saying that taking pictures inside the church was interdit (prohibited). Ooops. The word bougie is a common word for candle in French.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Un Jour, Une Tour [2]

The second in my series of Eiffel Towers - these are not presented in any particular order. This one was sold as a pie vent. The theory is, you have this hollow tower sticking up through the middle of the pie and it vents excess steam through the holes on top. I've never tried it (poking a hole in the crust usually suffices).

I've always wondered how the heck you'd get the tower out of the pie after it's cooked...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Photo du Jour : Stair & Shutter

A shuttered window and stair on a house in le Grand-Pressigny (Indre-et-Loire) on Tuesday 11 April. We were fortunate to have a pleasant sunny day on this drive through the southern Touraine region. Look for other pictures from this outing in the days to come.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Around Châteauvieux

Ken, Sue, and I took a couple brief walks around Châteauvieux on Sunday afternoon. Here is some of what we saw:

This medallion is attached to a telephone pole. It says, "Absolutely Do Not Touch the Wires, Even if They're on the Ground. Danger of Death." Message received...

This is a lonely tree out in a field near Beauval (between St. Aignan and Châteauvieux).

A grate on the grounds of the castle at Châteauvieux. The pebbles are stuck and haven't fallen through.

Some vines growing on the castle wall, along with some lichens.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More Sights from Paris

The week went by quickly and we walked a lot. I think that's what the best part of being in Paris is, the walking. Oh, and there's the eating. And the wine. The people watching, the monuments, the art, the architecture. Did I mention the eating?

Here's a view of the Sacré Coeur from down on the Grands Boulevards. Around every corner is a new view, whether of something familiar seen from a different angle, or just something interesting you haven't seen before.

The camera I'm using has a pretty good zoom lens and I was able to get a close up of the dome on the Opéra Garnier.

Back on the rue Montorgueil, examples of the use of bright color as a counterpoint to the stone and slate of the buildings abound.

This is a restaurant just north of les Halles. Ken and I have been to this place, but many many years ago. I think he posted a recent picture of it on his blog, so sorry for the repeat.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Un Jour, Une Tour

I will admit it. I have a small collection of Eiffel Towers. It started with just a couple, you know, souvenirs from trips. Then I noticed that I had a few, and grouped them on a table. Other people noticed, and they started giving me towers. I also would buy one or two that caught my eye. Suddenly, I had a "collection."

It's not huge, my collection, and it's certainly not an obsession (yet). Here is my latest acquisition:

I got it on our Paris trip last week. I couldn't resist the tiny baguettes. And speaking of baguettes, here's a photo of me and our "bread lady" who delivers fresh baguettes from the boulangerie in town to the house five days a week. We are now quite spoiled by this service and hope it doesn't go away soon!

I'm thinking that every now and then I'll post another in the Eiffel Tower series, just to show off my little collection. That means that I'll have to remember the origin of each little tower. I hope I'm up to the challenge!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Café Chairs

There seems to be an infinite variety of chairs in Paris cafés. For a while, both in Paris and out here in the country, I noticed the traditional chairs being systematically replaced with the one-piece molded plastic kind. Those seemed more suited for backyard patios than for chic cafés.

Thankfully, however, the nicer looking woven chairs are coming back, at least in Paris. Of course, in some places they never left, but it's nice to see fewer of the plastic patio chairs and more of these:

A café on the rue Montorgueil.

On the Grands Boulevards.
There are, of course, many more, but you'll have to go to Paris to see them!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Paris Trip

You may know by now that Ken and I spent the past week in Paris. It was a great trip and we are exhausted, but in a good way. We saw some friends and made some new ones. In fact, there were only two days out of seven when it was just the two of us! We rented an apartment in the 3rd arrondissement next to the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. The weather was good, the food was copius, and we got to see some of the demonstrations that were happening to protest the government's proposed youth employment act.

I'm going to post a few photos from the trip over the next few days. Ken will be posting many more photos and descriptions of our days, so be sure to check out his blog, too!

In keeping with the spring theme, here are some flowers from outside a florist's shop on the rue Montorgueil, near Les Halles:

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Chimney Tops

These are the fancy chimney tops that rise out of the kitchen at the Abbey of Fontevraud near Chinon in the Loire Valley. There are several different ovens and fireplaces in the kitchen that were used to prepare breads and other foods for the abbey's occupants.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pescadero Cemetery

The amaryllis were in full bloom that foggy day in this cemetery outside Pescadero, California. I took these shots during a camping trip to Butano State Park on the San Mateo coast in 2002. Butano is known for its majestic redwood grove. We camped among those beautiful trees (that's my tent in the lower right corner of this picture):

I hope you don't mind if I pepper my posts with the occasional not-in-France picture. We'll be back to the France pictures soon!