Saturday, February 27, 2021

Une lucarne

There is always a splash of color among the greys and browns of a French city. A bright red pot and some greenery on the sill of this lucarne (dormer window) give this scene a simple but effective punch.

A dormer window in a slate roof. Loches, June 2011.

We're back down to single digits (but above freezing) now that the clouds are gone. And the full moon lights the night.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Simple elegance

There's something quite inviting about these small urban spaces in French cities and towns. They're often not visible to passersby, tucked behind walls, in courtyards. But from up in the Cité royale above Loches, visitors can catch a glimpse of a few of these private spaces.

Access to the street, a respite from town. Loches, September 2003.

A little outdoor space in a crowded town is nice to have, especially if it's separated from the street. An oasis of calm, a little bit of nature, a place to putter around with flower pots. City dwellers seem to have a knack for making simple, seemingly left-over spaces like this beautiful.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Porte royale

This is a sideways view of the Porte royale (Royal Gate) that leads into the upper city at Loches. Only local traffic is allowed inside the gate (residents, workers) so visitors need to park outside and walk up. There are a couple of parking lots just outside the gate, as you can see, but most people have to park farther below.

Looking south toward the Porte royale, Loches, September 2003.

Our nice weather is expected to end after today with a cold and rainy system predicted for Friday. I did get out yesterday to trim the daisy patch. I use a hedge trimmer to cut the dead stems down, then I rake them up and take them to the compost pile. The new daisy plants are already starting to come up. Daffodils around the yard are on the verge of blooming and the forsythia is starting, too. I'll see how the rain affects all that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A taste of spring

Tuesday turned out to be a beautiful day after some morning overcast cleared away. Our neighbors from Blois were out (parents, children, grandchildren, and friends) working in their yard all day, mowing, weed whacking, trimming, raking, and who knows what else. I, on the other hand, got two things done: I cleaned up and mowed the oregano patch and pruned our eight grape vines. I could get more done if I had a small army to help. But it's still only February. We have a lot of time.

Fresh spring geraniums on a window ledge. Loches, May 2006.

Today may be the best day of our spring-like spell before it cools off and the rain comes back. I've got one or two more things I might tackle outside today. It feels good to be outdoors and starting the spring cleanup. It doesn't have to be all done at once. As they say in France, petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid (little by little, the bird builds its nest).

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tasha Tuesday -- birthday edition

Today is Natasha's fourth birthday! Notice I used her full name. She was born in an "N" year and, according to French pedigree rules, her name had to begin with an "N." And so it does. In case you were wondering, 2021 is an "S" year. There was no "Q" year.

Tasha on "birthday eve," yesterday.

I wish I had gotten it together to get Tasha groomed, but it hasn't happened yet. So here she is in her scraggly splendor, a little unkempt around the edges, but still beautiful. And since we switched her back to her normal food, she's much more "regular." Thank goodness.

Happy birthday, Tasha! Extra biscuits today!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Laundry day

Sometimes you just have to take advantage of a dry, sunny spring day to get some chores done. Like hanging out the laundry. Or some of it.

Hanging out clothes also adds a little color to the city. Loches, May 2006.

We hang laundry outside during the nice weather in spring, summer, and fall. Otherwise, we hang it indoors or use the dryer. In winter, Ken likes to stretch certain items out on the radiators to dry, taking advantage of the heat to dry them and put some humidity into the air. I don't remember us hanging clothes out before we moved here. We always had and used dryers. I do remember my mother and grandmother using clotheslines when I was a kid. They had dryers, too, but they either liked how clothes dried outside or wanted to save the cost of running the dryer.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Walls and roofs

Here's a more abstract view from up in the Cité royale in Loches. The stone walls of the upper city contrast with the clay roof tiles on the houses in the lower part of the city.

A mix of shades and textures, Loches, May 2006.

The weather was nice yesterday, as predicted, and I got the hydrangeas pruned. We're expecting similar weather for the next few days and there are other little jobs I'd like to do. For instance, the oregano patch needs to be trimmed of last year's growth to make room for this year's. Same for the Jerusalem artichokes and the daisies. I wonder if our landscape contractor will want to get started on the garden path renovation and tree removals this week. Time will tell. I should take some "before" photos.

The neighborhood is almost full this weekend. Our next door neighbor and a friend of hers are here. The people from Blois who own the house across the road are here for a week. And the house two doors down that was converted to an Airbnb rental is occupied.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A (not so) private garden

This private garden is walled off from the street, but it's in full view from the ramparts of the Cité royale in Loches. Whoever owns it did a really nice job. I wouldn't mind a place like this in the middle of the city. I wonder how much it would go for.

Bird's eye view of someone's back yard. Loches, May 2006.

We're expecting a high temperature of 18ºC (64ºF) today. The one thing I want to accomplish outside today is the pruning back of our hydrangeas. They're planted under the deck on either side of the garage door, so when the deck work starts, they'll be vulnerable. Better to have them pruned back than broken. I'm sure the contractor has a way to protect plants while doing the sand-blasting that will be part of the renovation work. We still don't know when he plans to start, but I'm hopeful it will be in the next month or so. I guess it will depend on his other jobs and the weather.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Another view over Loches

This photo was taken near the northern point of the Cité royale in Loches, very close to the royal residence (visible on the right). It's looking roughly eastward. You can see the fifteenth century Porte de Cordeliers down below (with the pointy conical roofs), the eastern gate in what was then the wall around the lower city. The Indre River is just beyond.

There's Ken taking a photo of the Porte des Cordeliers, Loches, May 2006.

From that gate, a street winds around the promontory and up to the Porte Royale on its eastern flank, the only access to the Cité royale above. It's a nice walk through the center of Loches if you don't mind walking uphill.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

O'er the ramparts

The city of Loches is actually two cities. The medieval château, the church of Saint-Ours, the renaissance royal residence, and many private residences are built on a rocky promontory above the Indre River. Below, on the flanks of the higher city and in the river valley itself, is where Loches expanded and grew in the centuries after its founding.

Ramparts that once protected the Cité royale in Loches, May 2006.

This is a view of a section of the ramparts that protected the Cité royale (royal city) up on the promontory. There is only one gate that leads up and into the highest part of the city. Other gates were built in the walls of the lower city as it expanded below.

I didn't know much about the history of Loches when I first started going there. My photos are random snapshots of what I saw while wandering around, without rhyme or reason. Since then I've learned a little more about what I was seeing and why it's there.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wall and window

I think, based on the order these photos are in, that this is one of the walls of the medieval château at Loches. But I wouldn't bet my life on it. I think it's an interesting composition nonetheless.

A castle wall at Loches, May 2006.

We've been having a little trouble recently with Tasha's, um, "bathroom" habits. She's been having a hard time "going" and, when she does, well, the result is wet and runny and not at all normal for her. Sorry.

It occurred to me the other day that it may be her food. Duh. A couple of weeks ago, we changed her wet food to a different brand after getting a coupon for it. It's the same format as her regular pouch food, but made by another (well-known) brand. So we switched her back to the old brand. This morning she had no trouble going and the result was a nice healthy-looking poop. Having animals is so much fun!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Just another day in the 'hood

About a year ago, a young couple bought one of the houses in our hamlet. It's a small house that was used as someone's vacation home during summer months. We met them last summer when another of our summertime neighbors invited them and us for drinks one evening. We were hesitant because of covid, but the gathering was small and outdoors, so we went. It was nice to meet the new neighbors.

You know you live in the country when... The guy out by his red car is pruning the grape vines.

One of them works at the zoo and the other is an agricultural consultant who works with small farm milk producers. And they have a pair of goats. Every now and then, most recently on Monday, they take the goats out for a walk through the vineyard. It's a sight that makes me smile.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Pigeon in a rain spout

Some of the walls of the donjon in Loches are fitted with a modern gutter system to keep rainwater from damaging the stonework. This simple outlet looks to be made of copper. It serves the same purpose as a gargoyle (to project water away from the sides of the building), but is not ornately sculpted.

Pigeon in a rain spout, Loches, May 2006.

The pigeon was standing in the dry outlet, keeping an eye on me as I pointed my camera and snapped the photo. I'm sure I was using my zoom lens and was, therefore, much farther away than it looks.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Inside the donjon

So far I've only found one photo in my collection of the inside of the donjon (keep) at the Château de Loches. I think I may have more, but I obviously didn't label them well enough to find them easily. This one will have to do.

Looking up inside the donjon walls at the medieval castle at Loches, June 2011.

As you can see, the interior structure (beams, floors, walls, and anything else that was not made from stone) is gone. The tower is an empty shell, except for the traces of fireplaces and windows and the numerous small rectangular niches in the walls that, I presume, once supported joists and beams. On the upper left you can see part of the modern metallic walkway and stair that visitors use to get to the top. The vertiginous climb is not for everyone.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Le donjon de Loches

Here I'm standing at the base of the 11th century donjon (keep) at the Château de Loches, looking up. This is a view of the exterior. Visitors can go inside the castle and climb up a modern stair built inside to get views of the surrounding region from the top. The tower is 36 meters (118 feet) tall.

Try scaling those castle walls! Donjon de Loches, May 2006.

There's a lot to see inside the castle, too. It's a paid entry, but well worth it, unless you're mobility impaired. There are many stairs up and down inside the walls and towers that make access difficult. I read on the website that wheelchairs can access the ground floor, but that's about it.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Art imitates life

That's what I called this photo back in 2006 when I took it. It was a sunny and warm May day. Our friend Sue from California was visiting and we took her to see Loches. We visited the old donjon, the church of Saint-Ours, and the renaissance château, and we walked around in the city center for a while.

The Tour St.-Antoine, Loches, in real life and as seen by 19th century painter Emmanuel Lansyer.
Photo from May 2006.

It's difficult to make out what the words below the painting say. The first line might read un amoureux du Lochois (one who loves the region of Loches). And I think the last line might end with ...peint en 1889 (painted in 1889), but I can't be sure.

After I wrote this, I did some extensive quick and dirty research on line and I think I found the painting. It seems to be the work of Emmanuel Lansyer (the big white letters on the poster probably spell out "Lansyer") who lived between 1835 and 1893, and it was indeed painted in 1889. A museum of Lansyer's works exists in Loches, not far from the royal residence where I took this photo.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Let it snow!

A dusting. That's what we used to call this meager amount of snow. But it was fun to watch Wednesday morning as it gently floated down from the sky and start to stick on roofs, tree branches, and other cold surfaces. Our morning low started out just above freezing, then got colder as the day went on. We had snow flurries on and off all day. I built a nice fire in the wood stove and we hunkered down.

Our neighbors' house across the road. Snow began sticking to cold surfaces as it got light outside yesterday morning.

This morning it's cold. We're down close to minus five Celsius (twenty-three Fahrenheit). We're expecting the same for Friday morning. The highs aren't expected to get much above 1ºC through the weekend. At least the mud and puddles will freeze and Tasha won't be so dirty after her walks. February is often our coldest month and this one certainly is, so far.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Random views from Loches

I've taken pictures in Loches a few times over the years, so I thought I'd dust a few of them off and post them, even if I've posted them before. There are two distinct buildings in this view. On the right is a corner of the renaissance château built on a bluff above the center of the city. On the left is the Tour Saint-Antoine, the bell tower of a chapel that's long gone.

The top of the Tour Saint-Antoine seen from the bluff above the city of Loches, September 2003.

The chapel and its bell tower were built in the sixteenth century at what was then the northern edge of the city. After the French Revolution, the tower served as the city's bell tower until it was "decommissioned" in the early nineteenth century following a lightning strike that weakened the structure. The tower remains a nationally listed historic monument.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha was out with me when I took the photos of the cyclamens. So I took one (actually several) of her, too. It's evident from this photo that she needs a bath and a good brushing. Weeks of muddy walks have taken their toll. Since her birthday is later this month, I may go ahead and make a grooming appointment for her.

Shaggy dog. What you can't see is the sand that she spreads around the house.

Apparently the north of France is getting some snow today. We're too far south for this storm, but the forecasters are saying we may get a little bit later this evening, quickly changing to rain. Then it's going to get cold, like -5ºC (23ºF). If they're right, it will be our coldest low so far this winter.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Another fog foto

Not more fog, just another picture from Saturday. We actually saw some sun on Sunday (imagine!) and it was nice. And the hunting season is over (for individual hunters, group hunts can still happen) so we don't have to worry about getting shot during Sunday walks. This weekend is the start of school winter vacations and I noticed more than the usual folks walking/jogging/cycling through the vineyard yesterday. Tasha notices them, too, and barks wildly whenever someone passes the house.

Fog outside the back yard on Saturday.

Some people around here have things called quads. I can only describe them as four-wheeled motorcycles. They love to drive them up our road and out into the vineyards. Vroooom-vroooom. Almost as annoying as leaf blowers and weed whackers, but not quite. The noise doesn't last as long.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Socked in

Saturday was foggy. All day. Then it rained. It was a gloomy day, but still pretty. The muted light really showed up the grassy (and mossy) greens in the yard and the pinks and purples of the cyclamen. It doesn't show in these photos, but the sky had a very slight orange tint. We found out on the noon news that it wasn't our imaginations. The tint was caused by sand from the Sahara blowing northward over Europe. The orange color was much more pronounced down south than it was here. Still, we noticed it.

These are the same cyclamens from yesterday's photo, seen from up on the deck, looking westerly from the north side of the house.

This morning the fog is gone and the sky is starry. That, of course, means that it's cold outside. Not freezing, but close. The forecasters are predicting freezing temperatures for Monday and Tuesday. At least there's no rain in the forecast. Many places around France are dealing with flooding after the weeks of rain we've had.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Cyclamen time

This is the time of year that the cyclamen in our yard bloom. They're all pink and purple in color and brighten up the winter. We have several patches here and there in the yard, mostly on the shaded north side of the house. Interspersed with the cyclamen are primroses, but they're just starting to get flowers. They will bloom more in the coming weeks.

The north side of our house is not visible from the street, so I store firewood under the narrow section of the deck that wraps around. We keep the Peugeot under the carport and the Citroën lives in the garage.

The daffodils are up, too, but they're not ready to bloom yet. It's nice to see the flowers again. A sure sign that spring will come. But we know that it's likely to get cold again. We normally get some snow in February and sometimes in March. It never lasts long, but it's fun to see.

Friday, February 05, 2021

A front door in Loches

Loches is a small city (just under 7,000 people) about forty minutes south and west of us. Its prominent features include the ruins of a medieval château and its donjon, an interesting church, and a renaissance château, all built on the high bluff that dominates the city. The church is the final resting place of Agnès Sorel (1422-1450), the official mistress of king Charles VII.

Someone's beautfully maintained front door on the streets of Loches, September 2003.

Loches hosts an animated market every Wednesday and Saturday. I haven't been down to Loches in a while, especially since the pandemic hit, but it's a great destination for an easy day trip on a nice day. Besides the castles, the city is quite walkable with lots of shops and restaurants to tempt visitors.

Loches rhymes with a standard American pronunciation of the word "lush."

Thursday, February 04, 2021

One year ago today

I'm still lacking in new photos. The weather has been crazy wet and I don't like taking the camera out in it. The river is flooding in the usual places down below. Tasha comes back from her walks soaked and muddy and needs an "undercarriage wash" after each one, mainly to rinse the sand off before it dries and falls all over the house. It still does, but to a lesser extent.

Threatening skies over the vineyards, 04 February 2020.

I don't know how the vineyard workers deal with the soggy ground, but they're out there most days pruning. Even in the wind and rain. And the wind! It keeps blowing back through the boiler's exhaust system and putting the flame out. Some days we've had to reset the boiler several times to keep the radiators warm. The past few days have been mild, but still.

I'm getting my hair cut this morning. We found out yesterday that our stylist, who just had twins last summer, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She's so young and is now facing surgery this summer. Very sad.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Crêpe day

Tuesday was la Chandeleur, a holiday on which it is traditional to eat crêpes. I made two batters, one with sarrasin (buckwheat) flour for the savory crêpes and one with standard flour for the dessert crêpes. Both batters rested in the fridge for a couple of hours so the flours could absorb the liquid.

Making the buckwheat crêpes. They're gluten free!

Buckwheat crêpes are known as galettes bretonnes in France because Brittany is where the grain was (and still is) grown. We stuffed ours with ham slices, sautéed mushrooms, and a little Mornay (cheese) sauce, then folded each crêpe around the stuffing and heated them up in the oven. We served them with a fried egg on top.

The stuffed savory crêpe. We each ate two.

The dessert crêpes are made with wheat flour. I used a cake/pastry flour, type 45 in France. We served some of them with butter and sugar, others with jam from the fridge. I didn't take any photos of those and, as always, there are none left over.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

La tour de l'horloge

This may be the most recognizable feature of the château at Chinon. It's the tour de l'horloge (clock tower) that also serves as the gate into what they call the "middle" château. The tower was constructed in the year 1200 by Jean sans Terre (John Lackland, King of England, son of Henri II Plantagenêt) as he reinforced the château in advance of an invasion by Philippe Auguste of France.

The Tour de L'Horloge seen from the center of Chinon, September 2003.

Le Château du Milieu (the Middle Castle) is where the royal residence is located. It's flanked on the west by the Fort du Coudray and on the east by the Fort Saint-Georges. Together, the three châteaux make up the Forteresse Royale de Chinon. Visitors can climb the stairs to the top of the tower for impressive views of the town below and the river valley.

Monday, February 01, 2021

On the streets of Chinon

I think I've finished with the abbey at Fontevraud. This is a street in the nearby city of Chinon, a well-known wine town and home to the famed castle where Henri II and Eleanor or Aquitaine spent time. A few centuries later, Joan of Arc visited king Charles VII there.

A 2CV parked on a street in Chinon. That's Ken and Collette walking. September 2003.

It's been a while since we've been to Chinon, but we used to go frequently to buy wine (it's about an hour and half drive from us). The town below the castle is pretty with many nice restaurants and shopping opportunities. The castle itself, mostly in ruins (part of the royal residence was recently restored), is well worth a visit, and the vineyards on the banks of the Vienne River are beautiful. Of course, the pandemic has stopped most of that kind of tourism for now.