Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking down

These are the back yards of some of the houses right below the royal residence at Amboise. As you can see, there is not much privacy considering the thousands of tourists that can peer into your garden and windows from on high.

The front sides of these buildings face the Loire River. Must be some pricey real estate. Click to spycamify.

And I wonder what it's like at night, when the castle and its ramparts are all lit up. Still, the houses look to be in very nice shape and the gardens well tended. In fact, just to the right of the buildings in this photo, another house was having renovation work done.

It must be interesting, to say the least, to live at the foot of one of France's most famous châteaux.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gargoyle at Amboise

No gothic structure is complete without a gargoyle or two. The château at Amboise has them in spades (now I'm going to have to look up the origin of that phrase). You can see them sticking out from the castle walls in the photo I posted on Thursday. And here's a close up.

There is only one gargoyle in this picture. I don't know who the people are. Click to griffinate.

The gargouille (gargoyle) is essentially a water spout which drains the roofs and terraces of stone buildings. They're designed to eject water away from a building's masonry walls. The gargoyle is typically found on gothic churches and cathedrals and are carved in the form of grotesque creatures to scare away evil and frighten people into attending church.

But gargoyles in other forms existed long before the gothic period and their use can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt and Greece.

Friday, July 29, 2011

This is where we started

When Ken and I decided to buy a house in France, our first idea was to look for one in or around Amboise. We had vacationed across the river in Vouvray a couple of times and really liked the area. Amboise is a good sized town with a population of about 12,500.

Central Amboise, looking down river, seen from the château's terraces.

The town itself is very pretty. It's a big tourist destination because of the château and consequently is filled with restaurants and shops and a significant pedestrian section in the heart of town. Amboise's Sunday market on the banks of the Loire river is a huge regional attraction; it's easily the largest weekly market around us.

We looked at three houses in Amboise back in 2002, but none of them interested us for one reason or another. Our realtor told us that we could get more of what we had in mind, along with more for our money, if we looked a little farther afield. It was because of him that we found Saint-Aignan, about twenty-five miles from Amboise, and the rest is history!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amboise on the Loire

Another of the famous and well-visited châteaux in the Loire Valley is the Château d'Amboise. It was one of the royal castles, inhabited by the same king who built Chambord: François the First. It had been a few years since we were inside this one, and we had an opportunity to revisit it when our friends J and C were in town last week.

La Tour des Minimes above the Loire River at Amboise. Click on the picture to crenelate.

This photo features la Tour des Minimes. It's taken from up on one of the terraces of the castle which sits on a bluff about forty meters above the Loire River. The tower encloses an amazing spiral ramp up which horses and carriages could climb from the town below. The self-guided tour of the castle takes visitors partway up the ramp.

The Château d'Amboise is the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci; his tomb is built into the floor of the Chapelle Saint-Hubert on the castle grounds. The chapel was completed in the late fifteenth century by then King Charles VIII. King François the First brought da Vinci to Amboise in 1516 where he lived out his final days. He died here on May 2, 1519.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A local retirement home

The castle at Châteauvieux in the Cher Valley is about five miles from our house. Built on the foundations of an old feudal manor, the renaissance style castle is now a privately owned retirement home. The adjacent chapel dates from the thirteenth century.

The castle at Châteauvieux, now a retirement home, and its chapel (on the right).

The village at the base of the castle is pretty small with a population of about five hundred fifty. That's about half what the population was in the mid nineteenth century when the castle was rebuilt. I'd wager that the village's principal activity is agriculture, mostly grape growing. The village's web site lists six growers. There's also a poultry farm in Châteauvieux.

Ken, J, and C, pondering the grave of one of the prominent former owners of the castle.

This was one of the drive-by visits we did with our friends J and C last week. We did stop for some photos and to look at the weathered headstones in the chapel's graveyard.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A small stairwell

The tower in this picture encloses the main stairway inside the Château de Saint-Aignan. I've never been inside to see it, of course, but I can tell the stairs are in there. If you look closely you can trace the line of the stair winding up the outside wall.

The stair tower at the château de St.-Aignan.

We're between house guests this morning. Later this afternoon we'll be welcoming Mike and his dog Munson from El Loco & El Lobo for an overnight visit. They're on their way up north to Scandinavia and the U.K. for the month of August. This will be our first meeting, but we've been reading each other's blogs for quite a while.

Callie should have a good time with Munson, a rather large Alaskan Malamute.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Private parking

The château in our neigboring town of Saint-Aignan is privately owned and lived in. There are no tours of the castle itself, but the courtyard is open for the public to walk through. From up there you can get some nice views of the Cher Valley and the town of Saint-Aignan below.

Two cars parked against the old stables in the gravel courtyard of the Château de Saint-Aignan.

On their second day with us, we took our friends J and C to see a few more local châteaux, starting with Saint-Aignan. The weather threatened rain, but the temperature was nice enough to enjoy walking outdoors.

Because the castle is someone's home, their cars are often parked in the courtyard. These two sat in front of the old castle stables. I have no idea whose they were, of course. We did spy a woman doing some cleaning in what looked like a kitchen window above our heads. Maybe the cars belong to the help?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Friends at Chambord

I call the château at Chambord the "grandaddy" of the Loire Valley château circuit. It may be the most famous and most visited of them all (it certainly is the largest), with Chenonceaux coming in a close second, I'm sure. I took some visiting friends to see the château earlier this week.

Friends J and C at Chambord. J and I were at graduate school together back in the last century.

Our friends are in France for three weeks and they're staying in the Paris region. They took the train down to see us on Tuesday and on the way back from the station I was able to drive them by a few of our neighboring castles.

We parked at Chambord and walked around for a while, but we didn't go inside the building. You can walk the grounds without paying an entrance fee (there is a small parking fee). Otherwise, you could spend an entire day at this place, visiting it inside and out, renting pedal carts to ride around inside the park, or hiring a row boat to ply the moat and the rather impressive water course east of the castle.

But we didn't have that much time. In all I whisked my friends past five châteaux on the ride from the station to our house: Blois, Chambord, Cheverny, Fougères-sur-Bièvre, and Saint-Aignan. Quite a whirlwind!

I hope that arriving at our modest house wasn't too much of a disappointment after all that...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pump you up

Another random street scene in Le Grand Pressigny. This time, a street that descends from up near the château down toward the center of town. I liked how the pump (I presume for water, although I don't really know what purpose it served) is tucked in beside the buildings.

Subtle blues and reds are quite noticeable in town.

The subtle light blue color of the shutters and the reddish asphalt of the street make this shot for me. It reflects something that I've always liked about France. Most buildings in French cities and towns (and there are exceptions) are very plain in color. Raw stone, or a rendering in gray, white, or beige, seem to be the rule.

Color is introduced with shutters and flowers. The bright red geraniums that you see everywhere in France, on balconies, window sills, and doorsteps make amazing points of color. Add that to the amazing variety of color flowers in springtime and summer and what otherwise might be described as drab towns come alive.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Up a lazy river

Here is a view of the Claise River at Le Grand Pressigny looking upstream from one of the small spillways just west of town. A small wooden walkway goes out over the spillway for access to the mechanisms that control the water flow. The bridge carries the main road west and south out of town and is one of three bridges here; you saw one of the others in Wednesday's post.

You can see a lot of water plants on the surface of the river.

The flow is slowed here because of the spillway, but I think the river was moving extraordinarily slow on this day because of our drought situation. We've been getting some rain since I took this picture, so there may be more water in the river this week than there was last week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Periodic Puppy Pics

Again? So soon? Yup. While we were visiting our friends in Le Grand Pressigny last Friday, Callie was visiting her friend, too. Lulu, a standard poodle, lives in England, but spends her holidays in France with her humans. Callie and Lulu see each other a couple times a year now.

Callie and Lulu on the grounds of the Château du Grand Pressigny. Happy dogs!

We've noticed that Callie really likes other dogs' toys more than her own. It can be embarrassing because Callie will destroy a dog toy in no time. We have to be careful to warn people about that so that precious toys can be put out of harm's way. Callie was lucky on this day that Lulu had an old stuffed toy that Callie was welcome to rip to shreds. And she did.

After our lunch we went on a walk (you've been seeing photos from that walk for a few days now) and Callie enjoyed romping around. The dogs were on leashes at the château and in town, but when we got out to the fields they got to run off leash for a while. Such fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Like a bridge over stagnant water

This bridge, just outside Le Grand Pressigny, crosses the Claise River. The Claise is a smaller river, a tributary of the Creuse, which in turn feeds the Vienne and eventually the Loire. According to my limited research, the Claise is 87.5 kilometers (just over 54 miles) long.

A single lane bridge over the Claise at Le Grand Pressigny, last Friday at rush hour.

This year's drought has brought water levels down in most of the rivers in our region. The Claise is no exception. There is at least one spillway on the river at Le Grand Pressigny which slows the river down. It could have been done to create a basin to power a water wheel at some point in time, although I saw now evidence of that. It could also been built for flood control.

But there's no need to worry about floods this year. The river is flowing very slowly right now. From the bridges you can see the river bottom and watch fish moving about, but only at the clear spots that haven't been covered by lily pads and other aquatic plants. The water is quite clear.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ateliers du meuble

This building, which looked somewhat abandoned, is along the Claise River in Le Grand Pressigny. The sign means that a furniture making business was the most recent occupant. The building still looks to be in good shape, so maybe some other business will see fit to set up shop inside.

That sign has seen better days.

The economics of running a business like this out in the countryside are not particularly good. With the cities and big chain stores (like Ikea) offering mass-produced furniture at reasonable prices, a local artisan would have to build himself a specialty niche or find a dedicated clientele. That seems like a difficult thing to do outside of the larger population centers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

French doors

For an American, the term "French doors" has a very specific meaning. They are a pair of windowed doors that open onto a patio or terrace. I suppose the reason they're called "French" is that it's a fairly common door configuration here in France. Our house has two pair, an exterior pair that open onto our deck and an interior pair that separate our stairs from the dining room.

A house's front door in Le Grand Pressigny.

In France those kinds of doors are called portes-fenêtres (window doors). They typically have glass from top to bottom. Sometimes the bottom panels are solid with no glass, but at least three quarters of the height of the the door is glass. And there are always two swinging panels.

So, the door I've pictured here is not une porte-fenêtre. There's only one moving door; the windows on either side may or may not open, but they're not doors. Of course, since it's in France, it's still a French door, non?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

On Friday we drove down to a nearby town called Le Grand Pressigny to have lunch with some friends at their holiday home. It was a terrific day with yummy food and wine and all the things that make lunch with friends fun. After the meal, we took a nice rambling walk around the town's château, then down through the main square and along the river for a while.

A field of sunflowers near the Château du Grand Pressigny.

On the last leg of the walk we passed a field of sunflowers. The sun was in the wrong place for good pictures, but I took a bunch anyway. Then it occurred to me, the sunflowers have their backs to the sun! Aren't they supposed to face the sun?

In French, sunflowers are called tournesols, precisely because they turn (tourner) toward the sun (le soleil). This batch obviously didn't get the memo.

UPDATE: Actually, it was me who didn't get the memo. After some comments and a little research, I found out that sunflowers stop turning with the sun as they mature. And when they stop, they face east, with their backs to the afternoon sun, just like in this picture.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Periodic Puppy Pics

This summer has been quite nice. Not too hot, but there have been hot days. Not rainy, of course we could use some more rain. But still. The weather has been overall very pleasant and we're still enjoying it. Even if I can now notice the days getting a bit shorter. Grrrrr.

Can you see her tongue sticking out? She does this all the time. It's so cute.

On the nice days, after I've done a few chores in the morning and had a good lunch, I often sit out on the deck. Sometimes I plug in the discman and listen to some music. Other times I just sit there and watch the jet airliners drift by. Callie is often out there with me, snoozing. Like this time.

Callie snoozing next to the geraniums. Typical summer fun.

I couldn't resist taking a few dozen photos of her sleeping. She's a pretty dog.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rhinoceros? Preposterous!

Or maybe not. There are indeed rhinos in our neighborhood. Luckily for us, they're at the zoo. These guys are huge! I wouldn't want to be on their bad side.

A couple of rhinoceros keeping their eyes on a small herd of springbok.

The rhinos are part of the African Savanna exhibit at the Beauval zoo, a bit of open space surrounded by a large dry moat and some very subtle electrified fencing. Included in the exhibit with the rhinos are zebra, springbok, antelope, giraffe, storks, and ostriches.

The exhibit covers three hectares, nearly seven and a half acres.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Seal-ed with a kiss

To be more accurate, sea-lioned with a kiss. The sea lions at the Beauval zoo put on a little show daily. They do lots of swimming, jumping, balancing of balls on noses, fetching, clapping and barking, and kissing. It's a nice demonstration of the agility and intelligence of these big marine creatures. A sea lion is une otarie in French.


The commentary during the show is very heavy on the ecological. For example, at one point one sea lion fetches a plastic water bottle that someone has carelessly "discarded in the ocean." He takes it to the keeper who then tosses it into a waste can. But something is wrong. The sea lion barks and barks and finally jumps up onto the platform. He retrieves the bottle from the waste can and deposits it in the adjacent recycle bin. The narrator reminds the audience to look for the recycle bins throughout the park and be sure to separate trash from recyclables. Lesson learned.

All the animals have names, but I don't remember any of them. The keepers have names, too. I don't remember those, either.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Le Tour part four: les coureurs

Finally, the bikes came by. And then it was over. Seriously, they go by so fast that you wonder what all the fuss was about. There's not even time to spot your favorite racer. Unless you know he's at the head of the pack. But first, you hear, then see, the helicopters.

The helicopter that provides aerial images of le peloton (the pack) throughout the race.

The sound of that many bikes racing by is memorable. It was a very subtle, but strong, whoooosh over a base of whirrrrr. Got it? There are over one-hundred fifty cyclists in the pack. I'm underestimating because I think there were over one-hundred ninety that started out.

The leaders of the pack on Friday. I think there were four.

Four racers were out in front by about five minutes. They're called la tête de la course (the head of the race) and are effectively the stage leaders at that particular point in the race. They have their own escort and television cameras because, well, they're out in front.

And here they come!

The actual leader of the race isn't necessarily out in front. It's very complicated and I don't rightly understand it, so I won't attempt to explain it here. But the leader wears le maillot jaune (the yellow jersey) and is often found somewhere in the larger pack. But of course, he's nowhere to be seen in my pictures.

And there they go! It's over in a flash.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Le Tour part three: le crap

Like I said, while the caravane passes, the race sponsors throw little trinkets, samples, and junk to the people along the roads. We raked it in. In fact, we were in competition with some little kids for the junk, er, crap, er, souvenirs, that were thrown our way.

Tour de France snack party! This is a package of fried cheese snacks.

So you don't think we were taking candy from the mouths of babes, I did toss some of what we got toward the kids. Just some. These events tend to make one competitive. Even against little French kids.

A French guy with a noise maker in his pocket. We got one, too. You shake it and it makes noise. Shake your booty.

We gave most of our crap to our friend H. since we were at her house. Just tribute. And she can take it back to her school for educational purposes. Right? I learned a new word when a knotted cloth came our way. It looked like a scarf, but H. said it was a do-rag. Look it up.

Our friend H. with her orange do-rag and several hats on top. Don't tell her I posted this. She'll hate me. That's our gendarme in the back.

It's amazing how otherwise sane adults (yes, I count myself among them) can turn into raving maniacs (I count myself among them, too) when free stuff is being thrown at them. I came away with a key chain that somehow made its way into my pocket. I don't know how that happened.

My key chain. Cofidis is one of the teams in the race. Ken pointed out that the round thing is a token for your supermarket caddy, which is why it's on a detachable hook. Very handy!

But it's my crap now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Le Tour part two: la caravane

After the road closes to traffic, the police and Tour officials do sweeps to ensure that everyone is off the road and that the way is clear for the race. A couple of hours before the bicyclists arrive, a parade of vehicles goes by. At first they are very official looking and police related.

The first of the official and police vehicles to come by us.

As we were waiting, I was reminded of the scene in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where people set up along side a road waiting for the space ships to go zooming by. That was us. And zoom by they did. When the caravane started, we were treated to such a sight. Amazing, cartoony, funny, and weird is how I'd describe it.

LCL is a bank. This is their contingent.

Then come the event sponsors. As each sponsor passed, we'd hear announcements and advertising from their loud speakers. The people working in the caravane threw stuff to the spectators on the side of the road. We had quite a little collection of key chains, hats, magnets, and pouches of cookies and other food products when it was all over. We called it "crap." We wanted them to throw crap at us. And they did.

More of the LCL parade. Banks have a lot of money to spend on this stuff.

Lest you get the wrong idea, this was not a slow parade. These vehicles were moving by us very fast, probably at about 40mph. There was a gendarme stationed at the end of the road we were on to keep us from venturing out into the traffic. I was amazed at how fast they passed by. That's why many of these photos have some blur in them. Speed.

Mickey Mouse!

In between the sponsors there were often more official looking cars or motorcycles and some vehicles with the television logos on them. We couldn't figure out what their purpose might be other than having fun. Everybody waved. I'll stop writing now and let you see what we saw. As usual, click on any of the pictures to see them bigger.

Several cars advertising laundry detergent. Okay...

The car manufacturer Skoda is a huge sponsor of the Tour de France.

This company makes sweet syrups that you add to bubbly water for a refreshing drink.

I don't remember what the ducks were advertising... I found out: a newspaper called Aujourd'hui en France (Today in France).

This rooster is crowing for a brand of cookie.

Vittel, the bottled water people, had several of these strange things going by.

After the caravane had finished, we still had more than an hour to wait for the cyclists. Some of us walked back up to the house for a bathroom break and to get some more wine and snacks for the big show.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Le Tour part one: le set-up

Last Friday, the Tour de France bicycle race came perilously close to us. So close, in fact, that it ran right by the summer house of some American friends of ours. They happened to be here, so we planned a day at their place to eat, drink, and watch the spectacle.

Our little group set up at the end of the driveway. Left to right: H, J, K, Callie and Ken, and A.

H & A's house is in the middle of some fields where wheat, barley, sunflowers, or colza is grown, depending on the year. This year I think it was barley. The grain was recently harvested, leaving fields of stubble all around. The house is about a quarter mile (maybe less) down a dirt road from the paved road where the Tour would be going by.

A glimpse of our friends' house next to the field of freshly harvested barley.

We got there early because the road itself closed at noon. We spent a couple of hours eating and drinking before gathering up our lawn chairs and heading down to watch the Tour. Ken and I made Greek-style chicken wings, some carrot sticks with blue cheese dressing, and took along some wine. Other friends, K & J, brought pressed sandwiches on baguettes with grilled garden vegetables and meats along with a blueberry and peach crumble and freshly picked Sologne blueberries. We enjoyed it all!

This is a view of the (harvested) barley field from where we were sitting at the side of the road.

After the meal we took our folding chairs and headed down to the end of the driveway and set ourselves up to watch the Tour. First up was what they call the caravane, a parade of Tour sponsors that drives by tossing goodies to people on the side of the road.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program

There are still more zoo pictures to come. But I wanted to show you what's going on in our garden at the moment. The squash plants are producing!

A round zucchini still on the vine. Never mind the weeds.

As you know, we have six squash plants this year. Two of them are round zucchini. Two are yellow sunburst. Both of those varieties are summer squash. Then we also have two potimarron plants, a winter squash.

Two round zukes, three yellow sunburst squash, and a cucumber, from our garden.

We are harvesting the summer squash now. We should be able to continue harvesting them right through to the end of August, if all goes well. The other plants are coming along well. The corn gets higher every day. We have green bell peppers, but will wait for them to turn red before picking them. The tomatoes are full of blossoms and many of them have fruit now.

We are in debt to our friends K & J for their gift of the summer squash plants. These are two varieties that we haven't had in our garden until now. We really like them, so they'll probably make a reappearance next year.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The paws that refreshes

We did see white lions and tigers at the zoo. The tigers were moving about, but the lions were calmly napping. It's easier to take photos of big cats when they're sleeping. The enclosures for these guys seemed a little small, but I imagine they can't be put in the larger habitats with other animals due to their predatory nature.

A male white lion resting in the shade with its paws sticking out into the sunshine.

Still, they are majestic animals. I understand that white lions have been born at this zoo and that some of them have gone to other zoos in Europe.

Zoos are difficult for some people, as many of you have noted in the comments. But not all zoos are equal, and, for the most part, I think the days of animals in cages with concrete floors are fading into the past. Many zoos around the world are doing a great job of building expanded and more natural habitats for their animals. Beauval is one of them.

And with so many natural habitats around the world disappearing due to human activity, sometimes the zoo network is the only way to keep a species from going extinct. It's a fact of life these days.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


In French, it's une autruche. What zoo is complete without a few of these? The Beauval zoo does not disappoint. Except when it does.

I looked on the internet before we went for the zoo hours and the web site said that the zoo was open until dark, around 10:30pm this time of year. What the site didn't tell me (or what I didn't see) was that many of the big animals are brought indoors for feeding in the evening, long before closing.

We missed seeing the elephants outdoors as they were inside eating when we got to them. We still got to see them, however, because most of the indoor pavilions have public viewing areas, either through glass or from above. But it's not quite the same as seeing the animals in the outdoor habitats.

One disappointment was that we missed the Australian pavilion. It closed at 7:00pm, five minutes before we got to it, but the closing time was not obviously noted* in the zoo guide brochure. Inside that pavilion are the koalas and other Aussie animals, including a beautiful representation of the Great Barrier Reef with corals and tropical fish. Still, we did get to see some wallabies outside.

It pays to check out the web site and brochures thoroughly when planning a trip to the zoo. There are specific feeding times listed for many of the animals, and the keepers do commentary during many of the feedings. We didn't figure any of that out on our afternoon visit. We did, by luck, get to the penguin pool just after the feeding, so we saw the final fish being devoured by the birds.

*I've since given the zoo guide brochure a second look, and yes, all the times for bringing the animals into their pavilions and the closing of others is clearly noted along with all the commented feeding times. But I didn't take the time to read the brochure thoroughly as we wandered around. My bad.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Les manchots

Penguins! The penguin pool at the Beauval zoo was installed in 2007, so I hadn't seen it the first time I went in 2003. It's nicely done, built into the side of a slope so that on one side people are looking down toward the penguins and on the other they look into the tank below water level.

Humboldt penguins above the water...

As cute as the penguins are above the water, they are sheer elegance below. Speedy and precise swimmers, they are. They zipped by so fast it was hard to get a good clear shot of them under water. And they're much bigger birds than I imagined. These are Humboldt penguins, not the even bigger Emperors.

...and below.

In French, there is a distinction between manchots (penguins in the southern hemisphere) and pinguoins (penguins in the northern hemisphere). The surviving species of pingouin can fly, apparently, whereas manchots cannot fly. Most languages related to French (including English) have dropped the distinction between the two birds and call them all by a form of the word "penguin."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

And the zookeeper is very fond of rum

I spent a recent afternoon where it's all happening: at the zoo. Just outside of Saint-Aignan is a pretty amazing zoological park. A local woman founded the zoo in 1980, starting out with a large collection of birds in aviaries. Since then, the park has expanded amazingly. The collection includes over 4,000 animals from over 400 species.

Some of the ring-tailed lemurs on Lemur Island. They were preoccupied and wouldn't turn around.

One of the first exhibits you see after entering the zoo is the island of lemurs. There are several varieties including the ring-tailed lemurs pictured above. They hang out on the ground and swing from trees. They seem as curious about the people going by as the people are about them.

There are lions and tigers and bears (oh my). Also zebra, rhinos, giraffe, sea lions, eagles, penguins, koalas, snakes, chimps, and elephants. They even have manatees and raccoons. The exhibits include amazing natural enclosures where the animals can wander around outdoors.

The zoo boasts the largest sea lion tank in Europe and there is a daily show starring the sea lions and free-flying raptors (eagles, kites, condors, etc.). It's quite a spectacle.

There are large aviaries you can enter and walk through while exotic birds fly around you. There are vivariums with snakes and other reptiles behind glass. It's everything you expect a zoo to be and more.

I didn't take a lot of photos while walking around, but there are a few that I'll share over the next days.

Monday, July 04, 2011

One more from Loches

I hesitated about posting this photo. I'm not really happy with the way it came out, but it does highlight the unique roof of the church of Saint-Ours. The church dates from the twelfth century, I think. The two roofs between the church's towers are octagonal hollow vaults and are unusual in church construction.

On the grounds of the royal residence in the old medieval section of Loches.

The picture is taken from the grounds of the royal residence, part of which you can see on the left. The building on the right is used as a meeting hall and behind it is the gift shop. The grounds are not extensive since the château is up on the heights. You can stroll along the ramparts and enjoy the views of the newer town below. You do have to pay an entry fee to get in, but the church is outside the paid area so that can be seen for free.

The photos in the last twelve posts (with the exception of the garden photo from July 1) were all taken on the same day, Wednesday 22 June, with our friends from California.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Pardon me...

...would you have any Montpoupon? That's what I think of whenever I see this château out in the countryside near where we live. For the non-Americans among you, the line is from a television advertising campaign for the dijon-style mustard called "Grey Poupon." That commercial has gone down in the annals of advertising history, I'm sure.

The Château de Montpoupon in its picturesque country setting. Click to pouponify.

Once, in San Francisco, I was in traffic on what was apparently "Prom Night." A rented limousine filled with teenagers was in the traffic flow. While waiting for a stoplight, one of the young revelers, all gussied up in a tuxedo, stood up through the car's moon roof and yelled, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" It was pretty funny. Of course, I checked my glove box but I was fresh out.

The Château de Montpoupon is home to a renowned hunting museum. Two towers remain from the original thirteenth century castle; most of the current building dates from the fifteenth century. Montpoupon is privately owned and lived in.