Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ball court

The streets of Souvigny were more or less deserted when we visited. Except, of course, for that guy and his dog. They were playing ball in the street next to the abbey church. The guy launched the ball against walls and it bounced high and far. The dog went after it with enthusiasm. There were no cars to speak of, so everybody was relatively safe.

Church on the left, houses on the right, ball court in between.

After our encounter, the guy and his dog disappeared into one of the houses across the street from the church. We continued on our way around the immediate neighborhood, looping back toward the car as the sky threatened rain.

I read that the town of Souvigny holds a medieval festival each summer featuring food, music, crafts, and acrobats that evoke the medieval history of the region. They've been doing it for twenty-five years now.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Let's go to Souvigny

Ken's already started posting his photos from Souvigny, an abbey town not far from where we stayed in the Allier. I told him just the other day that his pictures of the church are better than the ones I took. I had Tasha attached to my waist, and then we saw another dog nearby playing ball with his owner. So the dogs had to say hello, and the humans had to say hello. The other human asked what kind of dog Tasha is. He wanted a second dog, one smaller than his current black Labrador. A Shetland was a possibility.

The fountain in the main square of Souvigny.

Before we met up with dog and man, we parked in the main square in town. The big abbey church is behind where I'm standing in this photo. We made our way along-side the church, then around in the adjacent neighborhood before coming back to this square a little while later. It had started to rain by then.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Get oriented

Like most scenic overlooks that I've seen, the Puy Saint-Ambroise has what's called une table d'orientation, a kind of map of the landscape with compass directions and particular points of interest annotated. I'm not sure what these are called in English, but while Wikipedia says "orientation table" is common, the technical term is "toposcope." So I just learned a new word in my native language.

The table d'orientation and benches for contemplating the view. I think those mountains to the east are part of the Morvan range.

This is the toposcope on the Puy Saint-Ambroise. I didn't take a picture of the actual map, just the stone table. My excuse is that I was occupied keeping an eye on the dog while taking photos and it just slipped what's left of my mind.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Farm country

Agriculture is very important in France, and almost everywhere you go, family farms dot the landscape. From up on the mountain overlook, we could see dozens of farms. Most seemed to be set up for livestock. We could see many pastures being grazed by sheep and cows. One nearby town is known for raising turkeys for the end-of-year holidays and holds a national commercial market to sell them each December.

Hedgerows and oaks separate pastures and other agricultural lands in the Bourbonnais region.

The farm and pasture land is called le bocage. It's characterized by parcels of pasture or cultivated land surrounded by what the English call hedgerows, living "fences" of shrubs and trees. Hedgerows serve as windbreaks and physical/visual barriers. They also provide a habitat for wildlife that simple fences do not. Most of the larger trees you see in this photo are oaks. Many more are found in vast areas of forest that are maintained for wood products including firewood. Not far from here is La Forêt de Tronçais, which is particularly famous for supplying high quality oak for wine barrels.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Manor house

We could see all kinds of buildings in the farmscape below the Puy Saint-Ambroise. This one is a manor house, or stately home, un manoir in French. It's not fortified, and seems to sit on a large piece of property. If you look closely, you might see a small red-tile roofed chapel close to the lake.

The lake is a dammed section of a stream named Le Coulon, from which, I'm guessing, the manor takes its name.

A little bit of internet sleuthing revealed that this is the Château de Coulon, originally built in the 15th century and updated/renovated in the 19th. The property is available for group rentals, with fourteen bedrooms, a grand dining room, and other amenities.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Up top

It's funny what you find. We drove to a town that we wanted to see, and once there we saw on a map that there was a mountain overlook nearby that we didn't know about. And who doesn't want to go to a mountain overlook? So we found our way there. Ours was the only car up there. We had the place to ourselves and Tasha enjoyed being off her leash while we took pictures.

Our car, looking toward the northwest. The place we stayed is up there on the horizon. Somewhere.

You may have seen a similar shot to this on Ken's blog. But we each see things a little differently. Sometimes the same. But mostly differently. So over the next few days I'll post some of my photos from up on the Puy Saint-Ambroise.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Where's Bert?

According this sign, he's 14 kilometers to our east. But I knew for a fact that he was at home, more than 200 kilometers to our west. So, obviously, this Bert was not our Bert. Still, I got a kick out of the sign and had to take a photo of it.

Bert has a refuge, a restaurant, a picnic area, and a camping ground. Who knew?

We were up on a small mountain at a lookout point. The sign is for a hiking trail pointing the way to nearby towns. One of them is named Bert.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Before we left Lapalisse, I took advantage of a public rest room to, uh, rest. The little building next to the parking lot had two of these very sleek and modern facilities. Everything was automatic, so I snapped a photo while the toilet did its thing.

The toilet paper looks like it's almost out of reach if you're sitting down. Better to take some before you need it.

It's not a self-cleaning room like you find in many larger cities these days. It didn't lock up and disinfect itself when I was through, so I assume somebody has to come by periodically and manually clean it.*

* Never mind. I am completely wrong. Ken took a photo of the sign that says very clearly that these rest rooms clean and disinfect themselves after each use. D'oh!

Friday, March 23, 2018


This is that narrow "street" that we walked along that separates the Lapalisse castle wall and the town below it. The house on the left actually had a little "back yard" space between it and the street, and on the day we were there, the occupants' laundry was hanging out to dry.

Here's where we turned back and retraced our steps back up the hill toward the castle.

It was a good day to hang out clothes with mostly sunny skies and dry air. I'm sure that laundry has been hung out to dry since before the days when the castle was built. But they probably didn't use colorful plastic clothespins.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Narrow stair

While walking around the little street that runs between the castle wall and the rest of the town in Lapalisse, we saw this narrow passage that was a stair down to the main street. It was barely wide enough for a person. Somebody on the "rounder side" would have a difficult time. And the stair was steep.

Ken posted a photo of the shuttered building across the street a few days ago. He didn't go down the stair, but continued around the buildings on the left. I didn't get that far with the dog.

I did not attempt the stair since I had Tasha attached to my waist. I don't think she was too interested in going through there, either. That looks like some kind of air conditioning unit installed above the stair between the buildings.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We interrupt this program...

We got a little snow on Monday, so I took the camera out. The sky was leaden gray in the morning and the daylight was weak, but I got a few shots. This is our house looking back from across the little pond where the vines start. One of our roof windows has a radiator directly under it and the other doesn't. That's why one is clear and the other is covered by snow.

You can see that the roads, both paved and dirt, were clear. And the forsythia is in bloom.

Tasha had a good time in the snow. I'm not even sure she noticed the white stuff, but there were many tracks made by critters that were out and about in the wee hours. Tasha stopped and sniffed a lot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tasha Tuesday

Here's Tasha marveling at the château in Lapalisse. Well, not. She's actually looking in the direction that Ken went, waiting for me to take the photo so we can catch up to him.

Tasha keeps her eye on the spot where Ken disappeared.

The photo is a little distorted. I was using the 24mm wide angle lens and trying to get the top of the castle and the lamp post and the dog all in the frame, semi-successfully. I can't do much correction without losing one thing or another, so this is it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Street scene

Another view of a typical French street, especially in a small town. Sometimes the streets look like there is no life on them. Closed shutters, no people. But all that belies a life behind closed doors. People do live in these places, but because the quarters are close, they keep things closed up. Until it gets hot outside, then all bets are off.

The flowers give it away. Somebody lives here.

When you visit France, it's easy to think that some of these places are abandoned. But when you live here, you realize that they are indeed inhabited. They're just not open to public view.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Windows and signs

As promised, here is a typical street view. The shutters are closed. It may be a vacation house, or an unoccupied house. Hard to tell. Or maybe the people who live there just like their privacy.

The sign on the door says "beware of dog." Tasha paid no attention.

The blue sign says that the street is one way. I learned that when I got my French driver's license way back when. That would be 2005, by the way. Thirteen years ago. Wow.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What a load of...

Well, I won't say it. It was nice of the town to designate a spot for Spot. Tahsa didn't need it this time.

Please poop outside the castle walls. Merci.

We did carry plastic bags around with us just in case. Especially at the gîte, since she did her business on the owners' grass. I had to be a good guest and pick up after her.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Everywhere a sign

This sign made me chuckle. There's nothing inherently funny about it, it's just that the front door is somewhere else while the mail goes through the slot in this door. Un presbytère is the parish or clergy house for a nearby church. This one is close to the church I've been posting about, so I assume it's part of that.

Put the mail in here, enter over there.

The door here is in a little street that winds around the castle wall in Lapalisse. At one point, the street gets very narrow. All along the way we saw interesting architectural details, signs, windows, doors, mailboxes, and downspouts. I'll bore you with several of them in the coming days.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

La Palice à Lapalisse

The château de La Palice is located in the town of Lapalisse. Two spellings, same pronunciation, probably because of historically competing regional dialects. The castle was constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries by the La Palice family, who owned it through the 16th century. Then the ownerships get a little muddled, as the male heirs to the property were killed in battles, leaving it to the heiresses, who then married and re-married and had children who married and had children, etcetera, etcetera.

Part of the castle's ramparts and round tower as glimpsed from a nearby street.

The lineage is recounted in all its begotten detail in the Wikipedia entry about the castle, but I lost interest at some point between the 16th and 18th centuries. The castle remains privately owned, and guided tours are given in the summer months. It was, of course, closed when we visited, but again, we wouldn't have gone inside because of the dog.

I posted a photo of the castle above the town last week here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


As promised, here are some shots of the inside of Saint Jean Baptiste in the town of Lapalisse. The church is very clean and new looking inside, compared with the many much older churches and cathedrals that I've seen in France. But they were once new, too, and maybe they looked a little like this.

The altar. I think Ken has a better shot of those modern stained glass windows. They were cool.

The nave. Those aren't chandeliers, they're heaters. Stone churches get cold inside.

The gothic-style ceiling. The basic architectural style is neo-roman, but some gothic elements got in.

And although this is a "new" church, it's still over one-hundred years old.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Saint Jean Baptiste

This is the exterior of the church from yesterday's post. I got the name wrong; Ken found it on the internet. It's across the street from the château in Lapalisse. I didn't find anything about the building on the internet or in the guide books, but Ken found something that says it's of modern construction, not yet historically significant. Sometimes a church is just a church.

There's the Renault 4 parked next to a more modern car.

The church was obviously built in the Romanesque style, but it doesn't look old enough to be from the middle ages. Indeed, it was built in the 19th century. I snapped a few photos of the exterior, but was going quickly because I had Tasha attached to my belt. Ken was getting ahead of us and Tasha was pulling on me to keep up. She doesn't like the "pack" to get separated. We were also walking in a street and there were a couple of cars to avoid.

The front entrance to the church. We were parked up under those trees in the back.

After our brief walk, we came back to the church because our car was parked behind it. Ken and I took turns going inside since the door was open and we could. It wasn't spectacular, but it was pretty enough. I'll show some interiors tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Le gîte

Either I was too sick to think, or I was too occupied with Tasha, but I didn't take any photos of the outside of our vacation rental, called un gîte rural in French. I did remember to snap a few inside. This is the fourth time we've stayed in a gîte since moving to France. We started staying in rental properties, both country houses and apartments in Paris, on our annual trips to France back in 1993!

The living and dining area. The front door is on the right, between the brick wall and the mirror.

This is the living/dining area. There's a small sofa behind the louvered screen on the left that folds out into a bed, but we didn't need that. The regular sleeping area is behind where I'm standing. They had a nice flat-screen television, but it was small and it was hard to see anything. Still, we weren't there to watch a lot of TV, just the news and weather. The place had wifi, too, so we got to do our blogs, read internet news sites, and check the weather on line. Ken even watched television news via the internet on his tablet in the kitchen.

The eat-in kitchen was well-equipped. The little fridge is just under the oven. Behind where I'm standing (see my reflection above the sink?) is a big glass door that opens onto a private patio.

And, speaking of the kitchen, here it is. It was equipped with nearly everything you'd need for cooking and eating. The little wall oven worked well, as did the two-burner electric stove, but we didn't use the dishwasher at all. We washed dishes the old-fashioned way. Good thing we brought our own dish soap.

When Europeans rent gîtes, it's understood that they will bring with them their own bath and kitchen towels and bed linens. The owner can provide them, but at an extra cost. When we traveled from the States, we couldn't bring our own linens, so we had to pay for them. But now we can just load sheets and towels into the car with ease.

The place was very comfortable, over all. The bathroom (which I didn't photograph) was modern and clean, but the shower was a little cramped and the water pressure was weak. We ate all our meals here (mostly food we brought from home), except when we took picnic lunches out on the road. I like renting gîtes. It's a little like camping, but much more comfortable, and better than a hotel room.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Renault 4

This is the ubiquitous Renault 4, also known as the 4L, the second best-selling passenger car of all time in France, produced between 1961 and 1992 (the all-time best-selling French car is the Peugeot 206, one of which we own). This model is the Savane, which was made starting in 1986. We saw it parked outside the church of Notre Dame de l'Alliance Saint Jean Baptiste at Lapalisse, a pretty town we visited on our trip.

This 4L Savane looks like it's in pretty good shape for a car that's at least 26 years old.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I was having technical difficulties with photos. Well, the story is this (warning: boring technical stuff ahead): I take photos in RAW format and use Adobe Lightroom software to "develop" the images for export as JPG files. I do this for more control over how the JPG is made. Most digital cameras do the conversion automatically and invisibly and, in most cases, do a fine job. But they don't save the original RAW image. I like being nerdy about it and being able to adjust the photo myself before the conversion. Digital SLRs let you do that.

When traveling, I don't have Lightroom available. I have a stand-alone desktop version of the software so I'm not on the Creative Cloud and don't have LR Mobile on my tablet (I should probably get with the program one of these days). My camera has an option to save each photo it takes as both a RAW file and a camera-produced JPG, but I forgot this on my first day out. Once I remembered, I changed the setting so that my photos would be saved in both formats. I could easily do some editing on the JPG versions in Photoshop, which we have on the portable laptop computer, and still have the original RAW images to play with when I got home (our laptop version of PS is old and doesn't read my newer camera's RAW files).

I know there are other mobile solutions out there, but figuring those out while on a trip is no fun. So I skipped a day then used Photoshop to edit the JPG images you saw on Wednesday's, Thursday's, and Friday's blog posts. So there you have it.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Along the way

We rented a small gîte (vacation rental house) just across the Allier River from the small city of Moulins. It's about a two-hour drive from our house. Just before we arrived, we drove through an old spa town called Bourbon l'Archambault. It's more than a spa town, of course, being the home city of the Bourbon line of French kings. The ruins of a rather imposing fortress/castle rise above the town.

A glimpse of Bourbon l'Archambault. This is not the castle itself, but part of some other fortification.

We drove into town and parked the car, then walked Tasha up to the château which, I think, was closed. Either it was because it was Monday or because it has reduced hours in winter, I'm not sure. We weren't planning to go in, anyway, because we had Tasha with us. I had a small problem with the camera (it somehow got locked and I couldn't change the settings), so I didn't take many pictures. Our short walk was good, though, and we soon got back on the road to the gîte.

Our first dinner in the gîte: cold roasted turkey, Brussels sprouts, and boiled potatoes served with mayonnaise.

We stopped at a local bakery for some bread and something for dessert, then at a supermarket for a few things, including some local wine. While Ken was in the store, Tasha and I walked along the river then sat down while I had a coffee at an outdoor café. The sun was out and it felt warm. After checking in with the gîte owners, we settled in for what turned out to be Ken's birthday dinner (which we had brought with us).

Friday, March 09, 2018

Home again

Yes, we've been out and about. But now we're back. Now I'll have my home computer to work on some of the photos I took and more time to explain what and where they are.

Branching out.

It's nice to get out of the routine and the neighborhood for a while, but it's always nicer to come home.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Which way did he go?

Tasha is anxious because Ken disappeared around the bend. This is a street, believe it or not. It's about as wide as Tasha is long. I can take pictures while walking the dog because her leash attaches to a special belt that I'm wearing. So, she's always out in front of me. Unless she's winding the leash around my legs. Uh-oh.

He went that-a-way.

We found Ken again, so Tasha was relieved.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Back in bid'ness

My technical difficulties have been resolved and I'm back up and running! We had an interesting day on Tuesday, running errands and doing other stuff. Tasha continues to enjoy being out in the car.

Oh look, a castle!

The weather is not really warm, but it's not really cold, either. We're seeing the sun, but there are huge cumulus clouds blowing by. It's feeling less wintry and more like spring is near.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

No photos

I am experiencing technical difficulties and can't post a photo. It's not blogger, but it's too complicated to go into, having to do with my camera and software and stuff like that. So you get words today. You could draw a picture in your mind if you are so inclined!

On the head cold front, I am feeling much, much better. Less congestion, less coughing, throat is not as sore, no more aches and pains (except the usual ones). Still not 100%, but way above 50%. Let's hope it stays that way, and gets even better.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Here comes the sun

In between the recent rain squalls we've actually seen the sun. It's not been nearly enough to dry things out, but it's a welcome sight nonetheless. As we approach the equinox, the point on the horizon where the sun rises is moving back toward the east from it's south-easterly low point at the solstice. We get more daylight with each passing day; more opportunities for the sun to shine through breaks in the clouds.

The sun rises on a hazy winter morning.

March historically brings unsettled weather. In France, les giboulées de mars (March squalls) are well known. In the US, we say that March winds bring April showers, and April showers bring May flowers. In France they have the winds and the showers in the same month. How considerate!

Sunday, March 04, 2018

A matter of degree

I won't say I'm better, but I'm feeling less sick. I'm still taken to bouts of uncontrollable coughing. Waste cans are still filling up with crumpled Kleenex. My head still feels like it's stuffed with cotton. And rocks. I'm still taking my cough syrup. But there is a little improvement.

A dead tree in the piney woods.

I spent most of Friday on the couch under a blanket. I spent most of Saturday dressed and on my feet. Let's see what today brings. By the way, it's raining outside. Quelle surprise !

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Muddy paws

Needless to say, being sick has put a damper on taking pictures. I really don't want to be outdoors any more than I have to. That, and the fact that the weather is raining on us, off and on. We're in typical "muddy paws" days.

Heading toward home from a morning walk through the vineyards.

Ken is busy in the kitchen roasting a turkey that we bought on sale just after the holidays and froze. We're planning Brussels sprouts and winter squash to go along side. That's all I can muster this morning!

Friday, March 02, 2018

Back to brown

The little blanket of white we woke up to on Thursday morning melted away as expected and, by Thursday evening, we were back to our winter brown. I "woke up" to rain on the loft windows this morning. I put that in quotes because sleep has been erratic with this cold. I was in bed by 21h00 last night and did actually sleep until after 02h00. That's a good five hours, only getting up once about half-way through. After that it was choppy.

Winter brown has its attraction, but it's nice when the green of spring returns.

Ken's going to the pharmacy this morning to refill prescriptions, so he's going to get some cough syrup for me. In France they refer to une toux sèche (a dry cough) and une toux grasse (not dry; yuck). I'm currently experiencing the latter, so I need an expectorant. Oh, and not to worry, my appetite has not been affected.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Snow daze

As predicted, we had snow overnight. It looks like we got a couple of inches of wet snow. It should all melt away quickly, though, because the temperature is going up. I don't have any photos because it's still dark. But if I did have photos, they'd look a lot like this:

Tasha in our back yard on February 18, heading out for a snowy walk.

My cold is evolving, and not in a good way. I'll spare you the details, but sleeping is difficult, even with antihistamines and throat lozenges. I slept for a while between around 02h00 and 05h30. That seems to be when my body decides it's had enough. But I woke up without a voice, at least at first, a very sore throat, and a head that felt like it would explode. Ugh.

So, is it "feed a cold and starve a fever," or "starve a cold and feed a fever?" I suppose it doesn't matter. I feed everything. Unless I'm nauseated, and that hasn't happened yet.