Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Ducks in a row

A former boss of mine always talked about having his ducks in a row. This shot reminds me of him. It didn't turn out quite like I imagined, but you get the idea. If ever anyone needs to get their urns in a row, here's the model.

Three mallards and sixteen urns. Château de Chenonceau. March 2006.

We had a burst of energy yesterday and did what I'll call some early spring cleaning. It was basically just housework, including dusting, vacuuming, emptying drawers, and eliminating piles of papers and magazines. There is much more ahead of us when spring comes and we can open windows, but it felt good to get a start.

Monday, February 27, 2023

The front door

Did you notice that there are two spellings for Chenonceau? That one refers to the château itself. When it's spelled with a final "x," as in Chenonceaux, it refers to the name of the town where the castle is located. I read in Wikipedia that it was the owner of the castle (Louise Dupin de Franceuil) who, during the French Revolution, decided to drop the "x" to differentiate it as a royal property, as opposed to a property of the new Republic.

Northern façade, Chateau de Chenonceau. March 2006.

The castle's origins date back to the thirteenth century, but the bridge across the river and the galeries above weren't started until the sixteenth century.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Le château de Chenonceau

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Chenonceau is one of the "must see" castles in the Loire Valley. According to Wikipedia, it's the most visited private château in France, with about 850,000 visitors each year. In the height of summer, it can feel like they're all there on the same day. I've certainly been to the château a few times, the first being in 1982, but it's been a while since my last visit.

The Château de Chenonceau on the Cher River. March 2006.

This photo is from the end of winter in 2006. The place felt almost deserted. 

Our cold weather has come back. It's just above freezing this morning, and it's expected to get colder through the week. But there's no precipitation in the forecast.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Parting shot

I don't know where I'm going next. I think I've exhausted my collection of Valençay photos. And not a single one was from inside the château.

Rounded domes at Valençay. April 2004.

It looks like our winter weather might be coming back. That is, morning temperatures below freezing. Afternoon temperatures in the single digits. It is still February, after all.

Friday, February 24, 2023


I'm getting my hair cut today. The salon is one of two* store-front businesses in our little village, the other being a bakery and convenience shop. And there's a post office, but I don't count that as a business. I also don't count the wine makers or the contractors. They're businesses of another kind.

A window at Valençay. April 2004.

The reason I mention this is that we learned earlier in the week that the woman who runs the hair salon is closing it down in a few months. She says that she lost a lot of business to the pandemic and it just didn't come back. People have learned to do without coloring or other of the services that made money. Simple haircuts just don't cut it, as it were.

I'm sure I'll get an earful while I'm in the chair this morning. It probably won't be my last cut before she closes, but maybe the next to the last. Ken and I have been going to the same salon for almost twenty years now. The current owner is the second in all of that time. Unless some brave soul decides to buy the business and keep it going, it'll soon be time to look around for a new shop.

Update: I forgot the auto mechanic, just outside the center of town. I knew I'd forget somebody.

Thursday, February 23, 2023


A strip of garden filled with similar plantings, often acting as a border or separation, is called a plate-bande. It's not really a border in the English garden sense, as I understand it, but I think the two are related.

Plate-bandes at Valençay. April 2004.

I mustered enough strength yesterday to split some wood and build a fire in the wood stove. The heat from the fire felt good all day long, especially since the weather was chilly and damp. We're expecting some real rain this afternoon, so maybe I 'll get it together to build another fire this morning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


These are the steps we sat on while watching the little play in the courtyard of the Valençay château

Steps in black and white. April 2004.

Earlier this morning, Ken found Tasha carrying something strange around the living room. Turns out it was the severed head of a wild rabbit. I'm guessing that Bert caught and killed it and brought the remains into the house during the night. Shortly after Ken's gruesome discovery, I got up and turned the light on in the den. There was the rabbit's headless body on the floor. As soon as the sun comes up I'll dispose of it all (by chucking it into the woods). I'm going to have to start closing Bert in at night again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


Sometimes it's fun to leave the big picture behind and focus on the details. Like this gros plan (close-up) of a column on the Château de Valençay.

The base of a column. April 2004.

The weather forecasters were right about the spring-like weather we'd be having now. While the mornings are still chilly, by late afternoon it's quite pleasant outside. So much so, that there are way too many people out enjoying it. Usually we have free reign on the vineyard road to walk Tasha, but lately we've had to contend with other people and their pooches coming and going. Too much traffic! It's because this is the time of winter vacation and people are enjoying their time off. Now, however, rain is predicted toward the end of the week. We'll see if they're right about that.

Monday, February 20, 2023


Keeping those gravel walkways, not to mention the courtyard, at Valençay looking so pristine must be a difficult job. But I'm sure that the gardeners have a few secrets, like little tractors that pull machines that vacuum up leaves and/or rake the gravel smooth.

Zen patterns at Valençay. April 2004.

Thanks to all of you for your well-wishes. I can report that I'm starting to feel better. I hope it continues.

Sunday, February 19, 2023


This is another view of the snack bar on the grounds of the Château de Valençay. Very columnar.

A pretty place for an ice cream. September 2003.

Nothing much going on here right now. Ken and I are both under the weather. We're using a lot of kleenex.

Saturday, February 18, 2023


I really don't remember, but I think the woman arriving by coach is supposed to be the Duchess de Dino, wife of Talleyrand's nephew and, after her divorce, companion to Talleyrand himself. She spent some years at Valençay.

I wish I had included the horse in the photo. September 2003.

The women as coachmen seem a little out of place, but what the heck. There were other players as well, some of whom leaned out upstairs windows the greet the duchesse.

Friday, February 17, 2023


I think this barrier had something to do with the costume drama they put on in Valençay's courtyard the day we were there. As spectators, we sat on the steps you see below the windows. When the "play" started, a horse-drawn coach pulled into the courtyard carrying one of the principle players.

Cross this line and you risk being run over by a horse. September2003.

If I remember correctly, the play itself was kind of boring. More of a spoken history lesson than a play. But it didn't go overly long.

Thursday, February 16, 2023


There's a rather large circular basin in the Château de Valençay's courtyard. There's a modest water jet in the center next to another sculpture of cherubs, I think. Toward the right, behind the basin, you can see the top of the stairs from yesterday's post.

Again with the impeccably clean gravel. Must be nice to have staff. September 2003.

I'm plowing through my paper work, trying to catch up and get current. I'm still behind by two bank statements. Getting and setting up the new smartphone has put a dent in my routine, such as it is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023


This is the stair that I mentioned yesterday. It connects the castle's courtyard/terrasse with the paths that descend toward the river in Valençay. It's a little on the fancy side, no?

This is half the stair. The other half is out of the photo on the right. September 2003.

High pressure continues to dominate western Europe. That means clear skies, cold mornings, and warm afternoons. Relatively warm, around 14ºC (approaching 60ºF). I haven't been building fires for a couple of days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


I mentioned the Château de Valençay's terrasse/courtyard in yesterday's post. The castle is built on a high point overlooking the valley of the diminutive Nahon River. Its terrasse is open on the river side, making for some dramatic views over the countryside.

A grand stair leads down from the terrace toward the river below. September 2003.

Our mornings are foggy right now, with low temperatures just above freezing. The fog has been burning off late in the morning and we get a nice, sunny afternoon. It's very pleasant, almost like spring. Speaking of which, I think I heard and briefly saw a cuckoo fly though the yard yesterday. It's early for them to be here. Maybe that one's just trying to get a jump on the traffic.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Out building

According to my extensive quick and dirty research, this is the Rendez-vous de chasse de La Garenne in the Parc de Chantemerle. That's a mouthful. In essence, it's a hunting lodge. It sits down in the valley of the Nahon River which flows by Valençay. This view is from the terrace courtyard of the château across the river. The lodge, constructed in the early nineteenth century for Prince Talleyrand (who lived in the château), is on the northwestern end of a rather large forest that I believe is called Garsenland.

Not too shabby. September 2003.

Apparently, the building is privately owned and I find no information about whether or not it's open to the public or whether or not it still serves as a hunting lodge.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Snack bar

On the grounds of the Château de Valençay, not far from the ticket office and gift shop, is a small café where visitors can get a drink or a snack. Nothing fancy, but likely comparatively expensive. I wonder if it's still there?

A lovely spot for a snack. September 2003.

Just a reminder, these photos of Valençay date from 2003 and 2004, a year or so before I started blogging. Ken let me use one of his first digital cameras as I had not yet made the leap. I've posted some of these before, but I'm reprocessing to see if they can be better.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Cherubs in the fountain

I caught these cherubs having a good time playing under the fountain in one of the water features on the grounds of the Château de Valençay. I kept my distance so they wouldn't be frightened and run away.

I think I see two. September 2003.

The mystery of the missing dentist was solved yesterday. He did answer my original call and left me several voice mails in return. But he was using the number of the cell phone that we keep in the car for emergencies. I don't know why we gave him the number (except that he might have insisted on a mobile number). It's not a smart phone and we don't normally check it for messages unless we're expecting one (which is rare). He has our land line number and my email address, but for some reason he didn't try to reach me with either of those. The car phone just happened to be in the house when it rang yesterday morning, so I answered it. It was him. "I didn't hear back so I wanted to be sure you would be here for your appointment at two o'clock." That afternoon.

So, yes, I scrambled and made it to the appointment. I asked him to delete that cell number and gave him my new one. All is well with the logistics.

As for the tooth, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that I did not crack a crown as I had thought. The bad news is that I broke the adjacent bicuspid clean in two, a formerly healthy tooth. One of the halves is a little loose and is sensitive to cold. The dentist says the tooth can't be saved and that it needs to be pulled and replaced with an implant. Lovely. He'll refer me to a specialist for that.

Both halves of the broken tooth are still in there. There's no serious pain (unless I put pressure on the tooth), but there is some soreness. The dentist told me to chew on the other side for a while. That's a no-brainer; I've been doing that for a week already.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Still at Valençay

Here's a close-up of one of the round towers of the Château de Valençay. Straight lines, curves, slopes, slate, and stone. It's all about geometry.

Engineering and artisan craftsmanship from the 16th - 18th centuries. Amazing. September 2003.

As we get closer to the work actually happening on the deck, I'm thinking about getting it cleared off. Again. We did that the last time we were expecting the work to be done (more than two, or was it three, years ago now), but the work never started. There's not much to move this time, it's mostly plants and empty pots. There's one huge plant, an aucuba (on wheels, thankfully), that will have to find a temporary home indoors. And then there's the grill. That might have to go downstairs. Ugh.

Our mornings have been cold recently, with lows below freezing. Frost forms in all the usual places, but the days are bright and sunny. They say it will warm up some over the weekend.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Valençay vineyard [2]

Just to follow on from yesterday's post, this is the same vineyard outside the Château de Valençay. This one was taken in September instead of late April. What a difference a couple of seasons makes.

Part of central Valençay and its church in the background. September 2003.

I got an email from the deck contractor this morning. He got the tile specs and is heading over to the building supply store to place the order. Wowee!

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Valençay vineyard

Valençay, an AOC (now AOP) wine, is produced in and around the small city of Valençay and its château. As in our area, the primary grape varieties grown there are sauvignon (white) and gamay (red). The vineyard in this view is adjacent to the château, but most of the vineyards are outside of town.

A walled-in vineyard seen from the château's terrace in Valençay. April 2004.

I picked out tile for our deck renovation yesterday. I was surprised that there were very few square tiles to choose from at the building supply center, and I didn't like any of them, so I selected a rectangular tile. I'll send the details on to the contractor this morning.

I'm falling behind in my paperwork. Nothing serious, just bank statements and other little administrative things to do. By the way, I tried again to pay our annual car insurance bill on line with an American credit card. For the past few years, it wouldn't work (but it worked fine in the company's office). I suspect it had something to do with the insurance company's online security. It wasn't my bank. Lo and behold! When I tried again the other day, the payement went right through.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Tasha Tuesday

Tasha often likes to sit where she can watch what's going on outdoors and in the kitchen at the same time. You never know when a vehicle might go by or a tasty morsel might drop to the floor. Vigilance frequently pays off.

Deck doors to the right, kitchen at my back. Pay no attention to the paw prints on the tile.

I received the SIM card yesterday for the smart phone. Setting it up is more complicated than I expected, but I think I'm close. The phone is obviously smarter than I am. The devil is in the details. My new phone number, however, is easy to remember.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Potstickers and egg rolls

About a year ago, we found frozen potstickers, or gyoza, in an Asian supermarket over in Tours. We picked up a few bags (one each of pork, chicken, and shrimp) and they were delicious. Then I found them again in the Asian market up in Blois. And now we find them turning up in the standard supermarkets.They're all different brands, but all equally as good.

Egg rolls and potstickers. I didn't photograph the stir-fry.

We've been finding Vietnamese egg rolls, or nems, in the stores for a few years now. And there's an Asian vendor at the St.-Aignan Saturday market that sells them, too. Theirs are smaller than those in the photo above, but just as good. For Sunday's lunch, Ken made a beef with broccoli stir-fry and we served the potstickers and egg rolls along side. Yum!

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Face à la façade

This is the southwestern façade of the Château de Valençay. The domed towers on either end are hard to miss. The rooms of this wing are furnished and visitors can walk the length of the ground floor and the first floor, not to mention the basement where the kitchen is. I haven't found any photos of the interior; maybe I never took any.

Since I took this photo, the big lawn has been fancied up. Valençay, April 2004.

I got a message from our new deck contractor letting us know that the tile we selected is no longer available. We have to choose a different tile, so we'll head over to the building center this week to pick one out. I'm encouraged because his message means he's actually preparing to do the work this spring as promised. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Friday was pizza day

Are you getting tired of pizza photos? You've seen one, you've seen 'em all, right? This one is basic ham, mushrooms, cheese, and some Greek-style black olives. The twist is that the (store-bought) tomato sauce I used is spicy hot. We liked it just fine, but I think the hot pizza oil we usually use is more tasty.

The first of two pizzas for Friday's lunch.

Ken is continuing to work on optimizing our internet speeds since getting connected to the fiber optic network. It turns out that our wireless network slows things down a little. It's still faster than the old DSL connection through the telephone line, so there's no problem.

In other news, I finally ordered a calling plan for the smart phone. I'll have unlimited calls and texts inside France and 60Go of data. That should be a good place to start. Most of the internet surfing I do is from home, whether it's on the computer or the phone, via our wireless network. I'm waiting now for the SIM card to arrive.

Friday, February 03, 2023


Here's another shot of the "front yard" at the Château de Valençay. That's Ken and our (late) friend Cheryl posing for their portrait. Later, after passing through the arch, we waited for a troupe of actors in period costume to perform a scene from the castle's history. A little corny, but fun.

The gravel paths were impeccably clean. Valençay, September 2003.

Today I will call the dentist for an appointment. He'll probably want me to come in so he can have a look, maybe take an x-ray, then schedule another appointment for the actual work. I think I cracked a crown on a seed in some grain bread. The crown is still attached, but it feels loose. There's a moderate amount of pain, so I'm taking paracetamol (acetaminophen) and that's helping a lot.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Let's go back to Valençay

It's been a long time since I visited the Château de Valençay, but I have photos from many visits in the early 2000s. And isn't it strange that the early 2000s were already twenty years ago? Many of the following photos have already been posted here, but with older camera technology and older post-processing software. I can't do anything about the cameras, so I'm giving the images a new look with more recent software.

Château de Valençay. September 2003.

This is the main entrance to the château, once you pass through the small building where tickets are sold. The formal garden is not extensive, but it's beautiful and meticulously maintained. And, as with most gardens, it changes from year to year.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023


Before we leave Châteauvieux, here's a view of part of the many balustrades that adorn the castle's exterior stairs and terraces. The upright elements are called balustres (balusters in English).

Balustrades at Châteauvieux. April 2004.

The fiber optic connection has been made. The installer was friendly and patient. I tend to ask a lot of questions to ensure that I understand what's going to happen. I'm sure it can seem be annoying. Our new LiveBox (router/modem) is on line and working. There are still many tweaks and settings to deal with. That's Ken's domain and he'll be working on those in the coming days. I'll start on cleaning and putting away all the stuff we moved prior to the installation.

Meanwhile, I'm having a tooth issue and I think I need to call the dentist. Joy.