Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The road to nowhere

You might recognize the Artsy Organized Neighbor's road through the woods. It connects the vineyard road out back to an overgrown path down into the ravine to our south called la rouère de l'aulne (Alder Stream). We use it when walking Tasha to get to another path through a patch of woods next to the vineyards. He (the neighbor) maintains the short road and even mows the grass in a wooded glade near his piles of firewood, roof tiles, and outmoded construction equipment.

The road ends at the log pile in the background. At my back, it forms a loop and a small spur that connects to the vineyard road.

Nobody lives on this land; there's no house there, no access to utilities. The AON himself lives down in town and uses this plot of land next to the vines to store stuff. This past winter he harvested a good number of hornbeam trees that grow in the woods and made some new log piles here and there. He knows we walk on his little road to get through the woods and doesn't mind. We've been doing it for at least fifteen years now.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Poppies will put them to sleep

This is the patch of ground in the north forty where the juniper bush grew. You might remember that we had it removed last fall. In its place, all manner of weeds and things have popped up, including these poppies. I haven't mowed in the patch because I'm enjoying the poppy show, and I want them to re-seed themselves so that maybe next spring there will be more.

Bright red poppies in the north forty. I didn't plant them, but I'm glad they popped up.

I did sow some grass seed here back in April (or was it March?). Some of it came up, so there are little patches of grass in the mix. Hopefully it will spread. It's supposed to be drought tolerant, and we're in a drought now. We shall see.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Out with the old

Looking back toward our hamlet from the vineyard, you can clearly see the parcel that was torn up this spring. The vine trunks are piled in neat rows and the ground between them has been plowed a few times. The vine trunks may be grouped together at some point and burned, probably in the fall or winter. After a year or two of lying fallow, the ground will be plowed again and re-planted with new grape vines. I look forward to that.

Friday morning was chilly and overcast.

I'm hardening off our tomato seedlings by putting them outside during the day and bringing them back into the greenhouse in the evening. I hope to plant them out in the next few days. Our nights have been cold recently, and the weather gurus are predicting a morning low of 5ºC (41ºF) on Monday. After that, things should warm up a little. The tomatoes are anxious to get out into the ground. Yes, I can tell. They're getting a little too big for their pots.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Where the deer get in

This is the space between our hedge (left) and our neighbor's fence (right) where deer got access to our back yard. At first, they stepped over the existing low fence and followed the narrow "corridor" between the hedge and the neighbor's fence to the other end, took a left, and into the north forty. When I first noticed they did this, I strung another section of low fence above the first. But they weren't dissuaded and knocked that patch job down. Maybe the deer just can't see fence and bounded through as if it wasn't there.

The new patch in place, looking down the property line from the road.

A few days ago I cut an 80cm section of taller fencing to fit the gap and fastened it in. I attached the right side directly to the neighbor's fence. I pounded a stake in the ground on the hedge side (that was tricky) and attached the other end of the new fence piece to it. I also tied the stake to the thick hedge trunks with wire to provide some extra strength. I'm hopeful that this new patch will deter the deer and, if not, will provide an effective barrier if they try to force it. We're talking roe deer, here, so they're on the small side. Time will tell.

UPDATE: This morning I tied strips of white fabric to the fence so the deer will be more likely to see it and not try to go through.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Buildings in Bergerac

There are many examples of maisons à colombages (half-timbered buildings) in Bergerac. Here are two that I photographed during our 1989 visit to town. We had enough time in the evening and/or the next morning to walk around the center of town. And yes, we saw the statue of Cyrano, the fictional character with the long nose from Edmond Rostand's famous play. 

As a student of architecture, I was interested in these buildings. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I thought I took a picture of the statue, but I don't know where it is now. But that's what the internet is for, right? Turns out there are more than one statue of Cyrano in the small city. 

There's a building very similar to this one right here in St-Aignan. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I have no memory of where we stayed or where and what we ate that night. Maybe Ken does; he's better at keeping those memories than I am.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Le Vieux Pont de Bergerac

In my extensive quick and dirty research about this bridge, I saw that it's also called le pont St.-Jean. I don't know what the Bergeracois call it. Probably just le vieux pont. Opened in 1825, it's the older of the two bridges that cross the Dordogne River in central Bergerac. The newer bridge is visible in the photo's background. From the pictures I see on the web, the sleek modern street lamps on the bridge in this photo were replaced with retro nineteenth century lamps at some point. A more appropriate look, I suppose.

The Old Bridge at Bergerac, taken from the right bank of the Dordogne. Digitized color slide, 1989.

This morning when I got out of bed, I glanced out the north window as I usually do and noticed un chevreuil (a roe deer) standing in the north forty munching on the little weeds that grow in the lawn. Our fence is supposed to keep the deer out, but there's a breach in one spot and the deer found it. I closed it off once last year, but they obviously pushed through. It's not the first time. I'll be out there today trying again with a stronger patch. I went outside, opened the back gate, and Bert and I shooed the deer out into the vineyard.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Down in the valley

The Dordogne Valley, that is. I took this photo from up at the Château de Monbazillac, so I'm assuming those vineyards produce grapes that go into Monbazillac wines. I'm also assuming that complex of buildings in the foreground is a winery.

Vineyards near Monbazillac. I tried to identify the winery on Google maps with no luck. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Monbazillac wines are, from what I read, blends of mostly three grapes: muscadelle, sauvignon, and semillon. Other grape varieties (chenin being one) are permitted in smaller quantities.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


I mentioned yesterday that we stopped in at the Château de Monbazillac on our way to Bergerac. We were the only visitors at the winery (it was early November). An older woman greeted us and presided over our tasting. I knew nothing about the wine beforehand. We noticed that it tasted very sweet and either Ken or I mentioned this to the woman. Non monsieur, she said with authority, il est liquoreux ! That means it has more than 45 grams of residual sugar per liter. Just don't call it sweet. So we learned something new. I'm sure we bought at least one bottle before heading out.

The Château de Monbazillac overlooking the Dordogne Valley near Bergerac. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Monbazillac is a white wine and, while it's less famous than the high end Sauternes from farther south, it can stand in for them admirably. We've enjoyed Monbazillac with foie gras during the holiday season many a time.

Since we visited the château in 1989, the place has gone upscale. The building was renovated (and is undergoing another renovation now) and began to offer rooms (bed and breakfast, I think) to tourists and meeting rooms to organizations. The grounds were also upgraded to serve as a venue for parties and other events. I saw all this on a television show some years ago.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Pique-nique sur Lot

During our road trips in France, Ken and I would have a picnic lunch whenever it was nice enough outdoors. We'd stop at a market or a store and a bakery along our route for provisions, then find a spot to eat at mid-day. If we didn't find an actual picnic spot with tables, we'd sit on a park bench or on the ground, if necessary. Here's Ken opening a bottle on a bench somewhere along the Lot River.

Ken opens a bottle of red at our picnic spot overlooking the Lot River. Digitized color slide, 1989.

After lunch that day, we made our way north toward the vineyards of Monbazillac in the Dordogne Valley. We stopped at the Château de Monbazillac and tasted the wine (a sweet white, similar to Sauternes), then headed a little farther north to Bergerac to see the town and find a hotel for the night.

Our lunchtime view. I'm sure we recovered that cheese box that fell on the ground. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Pizza day

Saturday was pizza day. We had some leftover grilled eggplant to use up, so we added some tomato sauce, roasted chicken tenders, bell peppers, black olives, and a southern Italian cheese called Caciocavallo des Pouilles, also in need of finishing up. The crust was my standard home-made pizza dough.

We each ate one of these, a delicious and satisfying Saturday lunch.

It's supposed to be another warm/hot day, but storms are predicted for the evening hours and a cool-down is expected to follow. Maybe next week we can get the vegetable seedlings in the ground.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

And another

Old favorite, that is. In 1989, Ken and I drove from Grenoble through Provence and the Pays d'Oc, spending nights in Nîmes and Castelnaudary, then westward through Toulouse for another night in Bergerac. After that, we skirted around Bordeaux, headed up through Médoc to the Atlantic coast and stayed a night in the seaside town of Soulac-sur-Mer. Then we headed up to the Pointe de Grave (why is there no accent grave on the word grave?) to take a ferry across the Gironde estuary, a distance of about 6.5 km or 4 miles, to Royan. Just after leaving the ferry terminal, we saw this:

Seen on the jetty at the Pointe de Grave. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Our road trip continued northerly to Cognac, Saintes, Poitiers, Chartres, and on to Paris. Interestingly, we actually drove through Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher on our way north that year. We took little notice, having no idea that we'd end up moving here in 2003, fourteen years later.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Another old favorite

This is one of my favorite photos from our trip to southwestern France in 1989. A well-dressed woman standing outside her car talking to the woman who's pumping her gas on a street in Toulouse. I don't know what they were looking at that caught their attention. The gas pump is on the sidewalk, probably outside a mechanic's garage or a convenience shop. That is, or was, common in urban areas where space is limited. From what I can tell (the logo on the hubcaps), the car is an Opel Corsa.

Faites le plein ! (Fill 'er up!). Digitized color slide, Toulouse 1989.

We awoke to lightning and thunder this morning as a storm moved through. We got some rain, but not a whole lot. According to the weather radar, the bulk of the storm was to our west and we just caught the eastern edge of it.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Can't do that anymore

This is the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built over the Gardon River in Provence. Ken and I visited the monument, which is just outside the city of Nîmes, back in 1989. It was my first time there. Back then, tourists could walk across the top level at their leisure and we did. I don't think I'd do it today. As you can see from the photos, the top level is kind of narrow and has no safety rails whatsoever. Just beneath the top layer of stone is where the water flowed and visitors could also walk through the tunnel that carried it.

The Pont du Gard seen from the left bank of the Gardon. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Sometime after 1989, the top two levels were closed to visitors. You can imagine why. But I read that people can sign up for a guided tour that takes them to the top. The aqueduct is an amazing structure, especially in that it's still standing after more than two thousand years. Almost no mortar was used in its construction, another amazing fact.

Walking on top of the Pont du Gard. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I originally posted these photos on the blog back in 2007 (click on "southwest france trip" in the sidebar and scroll through). I've reworked them and made them bigger for today. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Some time in the early 1990s, Ken and I visited the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte. We saw the interior rooms that were open to the public and, of course, the gardens. The château and its gardens were the inspiration for much of the château at Versailles. The story is famous: King Louis XIV's finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, had the elaborate estate built. When it was complete, he held several grand parties, including one in the honor of the king. The king was outraged that one of his ministers had a more opulent palace than he, and he later had Fouquet arrested and confiscated the estate as well as Fouquet's wealth. He then engaged the same architects and designers who built Vaux-le-Vicomte to take over the design and construction of the palace at Versailles. Among them are some of the most famous names of the time: Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun, and André Le Nôtre.

The southern façade of the château de Vaux-le-Vicomte near Melun, outside of Paris.
Digitized color slide, early 90s.

Fortunately for us, the château survived the turmoil and the revolution and has been maintained and restored as necessary since. I would like to go back one day as my memories are a little fuzzy. I have a few photos, but not many.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is no stranger to this blog. It might be the monument that shows up most often in my posts about Paris. I have not done the research to confirm that. The photo is taken from the top of the Tour Montparnasse. This was before they had installed plexiglass barriers around the rooftop observation platform. I haven't been up there since they did that.

The Eiffel Tower, looking up the avenue de Saxe and the Champ de Mars. The Ecole Militaire and UNESCO headquarters are visible in the center.
Digitized color slide, Paris, early 1990s (I think).

Our current weather is sunny, dry, and almost hot. We're planning some more work in the vegetable garden today in advance of setting out seedlings. It will need to cool off a little before we do that. Yesterday I did a little indoor paint project that I've been putting off for a while. It feels good to have it finally done.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Arc de Triomphe

Here's an old shot of Napoleon Bonaparte's triumphal arch taken, I believe, from up in the Eiffel Tower. It probably dates from the early fall of 1988, but I'm not at all certain. I haven't been up in the tower in decades, the last time being in the early 90s.

L'Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l'Etoile, Paris. Digitized color slide, 1988.

The thunderstorms we were expecting last evening didn't happen, at least not in our area. There were storms to our north and east. I woke up at midnight (when Bert decided to come indoors) and noticed lightning off in that direction, but I heard no thunder. The moon was shining pretty brightly. So, no rain for us.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Our path

This is one of Tasha's favorite paths to walk. It leads to the woods she likes to walk through. She sniffs the ground a lot along this path. It's probably frequented by deer and other wild critters and is therefore much more interesting than the dirt road used by cars and tractors.

A path in the margin between woods and vineyards. I took the photo ten days ago.

Our spell of warm summery weather continues. There may even be a thunderstorm later this evening. We really need rain. The ground is so dry that our lawn is getting its summer brown look already.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Grape buds

The recent spate of warm days has been good for the grape vines. I'm noticing more and more flower buds on the vines as the canes and leaves grow longer and larger. Soon they'll flower (which is almost imperceptible if you don't look closely). Since there wasn't an April freeze this year like there has been in the past few years, the grapes look to be on the fast track. One of the vineyard guys told Ken that there should be a lot of fruit this year.

Flower buds on grape vines look like tiny bunches of grapes. 🍇🍇🍇

Today is market day, which means strawberries. We're going to take a break from asparagus since we still have some in the fridge. I plan to take our recyclables to the recycling center down the road, too. They're overflowing their bins in the garage. A few other projects are on the list for the weekend. We'll see how industrious we feel.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Not my idea.

I wish I had had the idea of taking this photo myself. I saw it on a postcard and only then decided to try my own version. I wonder how many others have done the same thing.

It was my idea to turn the photo into a black and white. Digitized color slide, Paris region, early 90s.

If you don't recognize it, I'm standing under the Grande Arche at La Défense, looking up through a canopy toward the cylindrical glass elevators (one is visible on the left) and the underside of the roof. We rode the elevator up and took in the views from the top of the Arche, which tops out at 100 meters, 37 floors, back in the early 90s..

Thursday, May 12, 2022


This is one of the vineyard parcels out behind our house (our house is not visible in this photo). The ground between the vine rows hasn't been plowed, nor has herbicide been applied. Grass and clover and other small plants grow under the vines instead. At some point they'll get mowed.

These are older vines, planted long before we moved here.

Other vineyard parcels out back are dealt with differently, either by plowing up the weeds or by applying herbicide to kill them. I've seen both methods, and other grassy parcels, out there, but it's obvious that herbicides are used less and less. The grower with the largest parcels uses a mix of the three methods. I wonder how they decide what method to use in which parcel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

More logs

Here's another of the log piles on the Artsy Organized Neighbor's property. I think it's the biggest one, or at least it's the biggest one that we walk by. There are so many logs that the pile takes a turn part way along its length.

That's a lotta logs!

This stretch of summery weather is kind of nice. Shorts and t-shirts. I'm getting the grass cut again, but without any significant rain its growth is slowing down. And there are brown spots already. Ken's getting the garden plot tilled, but it's slow going because the ground is so dry. Running the tiller through our hardened rocky clay soil is almost like tilling concrete.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tasha Tuesday

It's been a while, eh? I found what I needed to attach Tasha's retractable leash to my waist, freeing up my hands for the camera. This is probably the first outdoor photo of the dog since before her injury back in January.

I'm targeting June for a grooming appointment.

She's doing great. We're taking longer walks now, she doesn't skip steps any more, she's trying to run (fortunately, she can't get far on the leash), and she picks up sticks to play "keep away" with me. Oh, and she still barks at birds flying by. Next week, she goes in for her annual shots. We'll also do a weigh-in and see if she's continued to lose weight. Tasha doesn't like dieting, but it seems to be working.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Log piles

All through winter, we noticed that there was a lot of logging going on. Swaths of forest* are being cut (and will likely be replanted) and the woods on many smaller properties are being thinned out. The logs are cut into meter lengths and stacked in the new clearings where they once grew. Why? Ken heard from a neighbor that it's because companies are paying well for wood to turn into granulés (pellets) for home heating fuel.

Very neatly stacked logs, covered with corrugated steel sheets.

France already has a policy in place that bans the installation of new oil-based heating systems after July 1 of this year. People will need to turn to alternatives like gas, solar, heat pumps and, of course, wood, either whole wood (not really practical in urbanized areas) or processed wood products like pellets. Those of us with existing fuel-oil systems can keep them, but when they reach the end of their useful lives, we will have to choose a new technology.

This is a photo of one of the Artsy Organized Neighbor's log piles. His older, darker logs are visible on the bottom of the stack, and the recently cut, light colored logs are on top. Log piles like this have popped up here and there in the woods around us. One nice thing is that the underbrush in many parcels has been cleared as well, making it easier for us to walk through. Until it grows back, of course.

*Many of the big forests around us are privately owned and managed for wood production, so this is nothing new. It's just that we're seeing more of it than usual.

Sunday, May 08, 2022


The weather is getting nicer by the day. We're promised a very summery week this week. T-shirt weather. I'm planning to grill burgers for lunch today. The vineyard is leafing out and I've seen some flower buds on the vines. It would be nice if work started on the deck this week. Hope springs eternal.

Tasha likes to walk through these woods regularly.

We kind of took Saturday off from yard work. I did go to the market and got some white asparagus, strawberries, and a beautiful bunch of sweet radishes. I also noticed that a new restaurant is opening is Saint-Aignan. I wonder what it will be like.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

That's a billboard, baby

Here's an interesting piece of advertising, or art, on the side of a building near the Montparnasse train station. The only clue I had that it was the former and not the latter is the word "Volvo" at the bottom. Nothing else about the mural tells me it's about the Swedish car manufacturer.

Advertisement mural. Digitized color slide, Paris, late 80s/early 90s.

The weather was pleasant yesterday and I did accomplish my goal of clearing the strip outside our north fence. The woods are slowly winning the war, but I carried the day's battle. I wish whoever owns the land (and no one seems to know who it is) would clean up all the fallen trees and limbs and clear out the undergrowth. It's a mess out there.

We're expecting summer-like weather next week. There is more work to be done.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Almost there

The weather forecast looks good for not having a freeze in the coming week. A week from now is when frost danger normally ends and I'm sure the grape growers are looking forward to that. The vines are leafing out now and a freeze could do serious damage.

Fresh young leaves in the vineyards out back at sunrise Thursday morning.

We're expecting highs around 20ºC (68ºF) over the weekend and perhaps warmer as next week arrives. We will be getting busy in the yard and garden to prepare for planting the seedlings out. My goal for today is to clear out the meter-wide strip outside our north fence, pruning back invading brambles and mowing down growing weeds to prevent them from climbing the fence. This needs to be done several times a year to keep the woods to our north at bay.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Damp day

Wednesday was mostly overcast and rainy, although the sun did make an appearance later in the afternoon. The workers out back spent most of the day plowing up two of the plots that will be replanted. They used a tractor with a plow-like attachment that digs up the vine trunks, then the guys manually gather them up into the piles you see in the picture. I think the parcels will lie fallow for a year or two before the new planting happens.

Spring green on a damp day. The rain will help.

We got an estimate from the plumbing contractor for the work we want done. We're accepting it. We've been trying for months to get a plumber to even call us back with no luck, so now that we've found someone responsive, we don't want to hesitate. He does work for one of our neighbors and she recommended him.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Le pont Alexandre-III

Continuing with old favorites, here's a shot of the Alexandre-III bridge over the Seine in Paris. It links the Esplanade des Invalides on the Left Bank with the Grand Palais and the Champs-Elysées on the Right Bank. The bridge was inaugurated in 1900 for the Universal Exposition that year.

The pont Alexandre-III and the Esplanade and Hôtel des Invalides. Digitized color slide, Paris, late 80s/early 90s.

We woke up to rain this morning. It seems like it hasn't rained in a while, and we need it. I'm hoping it softens the ground a little to make tilling the garden easier. It's just about time to do that now. Frost danger is over, en principe, toward the end of next week. Then it will be time to plant. The seedlings are doing well in the greenhouse.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022


Here's another old favorite: the glass pyramid at the Louvre. I've posted this photo before in a much smaller format. So here it is again, larger and, I hope, better.

The pyramid entrance to the Louvre by world renown architect I. M. Pei. Digitized color slide, Paris 1988.

The pyramid marks the entrance to the Louvre museum, something that was seriously lacking before its construction. Visitors to the museum had to navigate a parking lot (France's Ministry of Finance used to be located in the building) to get inside. The entrance was neither obvious nor elegant. All of that changed when the Finance folks moved to a new building (by order of then-President François Mitterrand) and the parking lot became a courtyard for pedestrians. 

The Louvre Palace has always been a work in progress. From its early days as a medieval castle (vistors can see the foundations in the museum's lower levels) to its expansion under various kings through the Renaissance, its abandonment as the royal residence with the building of Versailles under Louis XIV, the destruction by fire of the Tuileries wing during the uprising of 1871, and now with improvement and expansion through the modern era, the palace continues to evolve and inspire.

Monday, May 02, 2022

An old favorite

I've posted this photo before, but I've re-worked it a little for today's post. It's a section of the eastern façade of the Louvre palace, constructed in the seventeenth century under King Louis XIV, and the Pavillon de l'horloge, built around the same time. Beyond the Louvre, you can see the obélisque in the Place de la Concorde. Further beyond stretches the Avenue des Champs-Elysées at the top of which is the nineteenth century Arc de Triomphe commissioned by Napoléon Bonaparte. In the background is the La Défense high-rise business district with its very modern Grande Arche, still under construction in this photo.

The Louvre's grand colonnade. Digitized color slide, Paris 1988.

I think I took this photo in 1988 from up on the roof of the Samaritaine department store. There was an outdoor café on the roof, one of the best places for views of the city. Back in 1981-82, it was a real café with waiters. In nice weather, we could (and did) spend hours up there sipping wine and enjoying the views. By the time I took this photo, the café had been transformed to a self-serve kind of place. Same great views, not so much ambiance. Later, the café was closed altogether.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Wine delivery

This is one of those "right place at the right time" photos. The wine delivery guy is offloading a case for a customer. Visitors to France may be familiar with the Nicolas brand, which was established in 1822. According to Wikipedia, there are more than 500 Nicolas boutiques in the world today, most of them in France and most of those in the Paris region. When I lived in Paris in 1981-82, the small Nicolas shops sold basic and inexpensive wines. Since the 90s, the shops have gone upscale and now they sell a lot of pricey vintages. I haven't been to a Nicolas boutique in a long time.

The vehicle is called "un triporteur." Digitized color slide, early 90s.

And who's that guy walking down the other side of the street? To me, he looks like Gérard Depardieu. It's likely not him, but there's a resemblance. I only noticed him after I had the film developed.