Friday, March 31, 2023

Men at work

Here's a good-bye shot from the Château de Chenonceau, at least for now. The renovation project that required this scaffolding in the river was completed over a decade ago. I'm not aware of any projects going on now, but with these monuments there's always something that needs doing.

Hory-Chauvelin is a local masonry company that specializes in the renovation/restoration of historic monuments. September 2011.

The wind howled through the night. Again. Apparently there's a named storm crossing the British Isles and its southern edge is passing over us. According to the forecast, the wind is expected to continue through the day today.

Our landscape contractor is coming by next week to till up our vegetable garden plot. When we told him we had a heck of a time last year because the ground was as hard as concrete, he said, "Well, I can do that. We do it for many of our customers toward the end of March." The first tilling of the season is the most difficult, so getting that done by a pro will be a big help, not to mention a relief. I'll try to get some before and after photos, weather permitting.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Cherry blossom festival

Our flowering, but fruitless, cherry is finishing up its spring bloom. I though I'd get a shot before the blossoms start falling to the ground.

The cherry tree towers over our little carport. View from the deck.

Good news on the contractor front. A little background: last spring, we got an estimate for some plumbing work we've wanted done for a while, accepted it, and made a 30% down payment, which is customary. The contractor promptly cashed the check, but then we didn't hear from him. For months. Over the winter, I sent him an email but it went unanswered.

So, yesterday afternoon his truck showed up at the house of one of our neighbors. Ken and I walked right over. He was all smiles and said that he scheduled us for the end of April, and that he needed to take our central heating off-line for two days to do the job. Which, we presume, is why he didn't do anything over the fall and winter. I just wish he had let us know that we were in the queue.

Have you ever seen "A Year in Provence?"

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Lights, camera...

These are some of the lights that light up the Château de Chenonceau at night. Or at least they were. I wonder if they're still there or if they've been replaced by something more modern.

Lights. September 2011.

Something curious is going on with Blogger comments. I noticed that my spam folder is suddenly filled with "spam" comments. Eighty-one of them at last count. And they are all from current and former regular commenters, so they're legit, not actual spam. And they go back to 2008. When I check the original post that one of these comments was made on, it's missing. I restored one, and it showed up once again on the original post. I know these comments have not been sitting in the spam folder all this time -- I regularly check that folder. They just moved from certain posts to the spam folder all of a sudden, seemingly on their own and with no rhyme or reason. I guess I'll restore them all, but I fear that this might be some web pirate's nefarious plot and my blog might blow up. Well, stand back, here goes nothing...

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Sticky coconut chicken and rice

This one-pot meal recipe from the New York Times food section was not difficult to make, although the cooking time needed to be extended by about fifteen minutes to get the rice done. It might have been because I used round rice, but that's just a guess. I also should have browned the chicken a little more. My version came out much paler than the one in the NYT photo.

La mise en place. I used chives instead of scallions (we can't find them here) and frozen peppers instead of fresh.

First, the chicken (I used boneless, skinless breast), seasoned with salt and pepper, gets cut into good-sized pieces and browned in oil. When the chicken pieces are evenly browned, they come out and the minced garlic and ginger go in to sweat. The rice goes in next with a little more oil if necessary and gets stirred so it's evenly coated. Then the chives, bell pepper, and cashews go in, followed by the chicken broth and coconut milk. Once that's stirred around well, the browned chicken pieces get placed on top.

"Browned" chicken pieces, round rice, and home-made chicken broth (which is a bit cloudy but that didn't change the flavor).

The next step is to cover the pot and put it in a moderate oven for 25 minutes until the rice is done. I covered the wok and let it simmer on top of the stove. That could be another reason why it took longer for the rice to cook.

Lunch is served. If this had been for guests, I would have transferred it to an impeccably clean serving dish.
We added the sriracha (Thai hot sauce) at the table.

Other than looking whiter than a country club in Westchester, the end result, garnished with cilantro and a splash of sriracha, tasted delicious. We ate most of it; there's another serving left over. I would definitely try this again with an eye toward a more appetizing color.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Window pain

As in: it must be a pain to clean those windows.

And they're spotless! Château de Chenonceau, September 2011.

We're back to chilly weather for a few days. It's colder this morning than yesterday and we're not expecting it to get very warm through the day. I'll certainly get a fire going before too long.

But first I'm going to the store to pick up a couple of ingredients for lunch. I want to try a recipe that I saw in the New York Times recently called "Sticky coconut chicken and rice." I need some cilantro and some cashews. The rest of the ingredients are on hand. It's billed as a one-pot meal. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Somewhere over there

This was a morning rainbow, formed as giboulées (rain showers) passed over us from the west while the sun rose, as it does, in the east on Saturday. Ken posted a photo of an afternoon rainbow a few days ago.

If happy little bluebirds fly... Looking westerly on Saturday morning.

Our current weather is kind of typical for March. We're getting a series of rain showers alternating with blue sky. And lots of wind, which makes the house feel chilly. We haven't seen sleet or hail, but they're always a possibility this time of year. We had a nice fire yesterday and I will probably build another today and likely on Monday, too.

The transition to Summer Time (or Daylight Saving Time) went smoothly. The majority of clocks and timers in the house have to be set manually and I typically make the rounds on Saturday afternoon. I still have the kitchen appliance clocks to adjust, and the cars need to be done. One clock that never got changed last fall is showing the correct time now.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fancy stone work

And we're back at Chenonceau! I've forgotten where on the château this is, but I was under it looking up. It seems like some level of restoration was done and the workers moved on.

An example of fancy corbelling. September 2011.

We had a thunderstorm last night. It wasn't close, but we saw some very bright lightning flashes and heard the thunder rumbling off in the distance. Tasha jumped up onto the bed. She doesn't like thunder and lightning.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Something old, something new

I guess I'm what's old. The glasses are new. I went to the optical shop yesterday morning (one I've never been to), arriving at 09h00, just as it was opening up. The only staff member there was a young guy, probably in his late twenties, and there were as yet no other customers. So I posed my question about taking the lenses (yes, they are progressives) out of a pair of frames I don't like (my backup pair) and putting them into another pair that I do like. Ken bought a new pair of frames a while back, but for some reason his lenses weren't right and his eyelashes brushed against the lenses when he blinked. He didn't ever get used to them and stopped wearing them. But I like the frames.

Walt's got a new pair of glasses.

The optician said that yes, if the new frames were smaller than the old frames, the lenses could be cut to fit. Then he asked me, "Do you have other errands to run? I can have these ready in about fifteen minutes." I was so surprised at the "instant" service that I didn't even ask about price. I just said yes and walked up the street to a café and enjoyed a double expresso. When I got back to the shop, the guy was done and he handed me the "new" glasses to try on. Perfect! I can see even better than with my "good" pair. I was amazed. I asked the guy if he needed to see my health care and insurance cards and he said no. Nothing required. No cost at all. Have a nice day! Again, gobsmacked.

So, for now, I have this new pair of glasses and my old favorites (that I've been wearing since 2016) are relegated to "backup" status. Ken's going to get his most recent prescription put in my former backup frames. He likes that they're bigger and is hopeful that he'll be able to see better with them.

I left the optical shop and walked up to the health food store, arriving at 09h30 just as it was opening. I found barley (pearl barley) and some corn meal and was quite happy. I was on the road back home by 09h45.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Sleepy pigeons

I think they're sleeping. One of them looks awake, but the others don't with their heads tucked into their feathers. I wonder if pigeons dream. I wonder if they snore. I don't wonder very long.

Pigeons snoozing on the Château de Chenonceau. September 2011.

I'm going to the optical shop this morning, so I'll get some answers to my questions. I hope. I'm also going to stop into a nearby health food shop to look for some barley. Our supermarkets don't carry it, but the health food place might. We stopped going to that store a while back. Its hours were kind of weird and it was almost hidden inside a courtyard. But they've since moved into the main street of town and into a larger shop. I only found that out by looking at Google maps, so yay, Google!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Building blocks

A few of the replacement stones ready for installation at the Château de Chenonceau, back in 2011. 

Masons have their own way of identifying which stone is which. September 2011.

Not much going on here right now. Our central heating boiler gets its annual service tomorrow. Bert goes to the vet's office for his annual shots on Friday. We're expecting more rain showers through the week.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Scaffolding. The last time I visited Chenonceau, back in 2011, a three-year restoration project was under way. Because the bulk of the building sits in the river, the project scaffolding had to be anchored under water. It would be interesting to know how, but I haven't a clue.

Scaffolding in the river. Château de Chenonceau, September 2011.

Do any of my readers know something about eyeglasses? I'm going over to an optical shop in a few days to ask a question. Can the lenses in an existing pair of glasses be re-cut to fit a new set of frames? I have a pair of glasses that are about a year old and it turns out that I don't really like them. I also have another set of frames that I'd like to have fitted with my prescription. The frames I like are smaller than the existing pair.

I'm not opposed to just getting new lenses, if that's the way it works. But I wonder if re-using the existing pair would be less costly.

Monday, March 20, 2023

La rive gauche

The left bank of the Cher at Chenonceau is home to a small walled-in forest. Visitors to the castle can exit on the left bank and wander around. They need their tickets to get back inside the building. However, other visitors can walk freely on the left bank without a ticket. There are parking places just downstream from the castle and a well worn path along the riverbank. The views are pretty nice.

The left bank of the Cher at the Château de Chenonceau. September 2011.

I did build a fire in the wood stove yesterday. I'm not sure it was necessary, but it does keep the central heating from clicking on and off during the day and that saves on fuel. I noticed, though, that the wood pile is getting rather small. Fire season will be over in a month or so. I think we'll make it.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


Alone. It's unlikely that this woman was alone, visiting Chenonceau. But she was the only person in the shot, looking over the Cher River near the castle's front door.

A big pot of geraniums in the center of this forecourt.* September 2011.

I haven't been motivated to build a fire in the past couple of days. The weather's been relatively warm. Today it's supposed to be chilly again, so maybe I'll get it together to clean out the stove and split some wood. Ken's making a poule au pot (chicken in a pot) for lunch. That will warm us up if nothing else does.

* I don't know what a forecourt is or if this is one. Just go along.

Saturday, March 18, 2023


That's "lightning rod" in French. This one is atop the Château de Chenonceau, seen through one of the castle's windows. The shot looked mostly black and white, so I took out the remaining bits of color. I also rotated the image so that the roof and the rod were vertical. I don't know what I was aiming for, but the original photo had them at a curious angle.

Lightning rod at Chenonceau. May 2007.

Today marks twenty years since the sale closed and Ken and I completed the move out of our San Francisco house. We, with our dog Collette, stayed with friends in the Bay Area, then southern California before heading east to Illinois (more friends) and North Carolina. We stayed at Ken's mother's house in coastal NC until we received our visas and headed to France, via Washington, DC, on the first of June.

Friday, March 17, 2023

The other garden

The smaller of the two main gardens at Chenonceau is that of Catherine de Médicis. She took over the castle when she became regent after her husband, King Henri II, died. She's the one who had the galleries built on the bridge over the river. The king's mistress, Diane de Poitiers, had the bridge built when she occupied the castle.

Jardin de Catherine de Médicis, Chenonceau. May 2007.

The garden has a central water basin with a single jet spraying upward in its center. In the times I've been there, I got the impression that the Médicis garden is more intimate and is planted with more colorful flowers than the larger Poitiers garden.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Once more, with people

Here's another shot of the gallery at Chenonceau that spans the river, this time with people in it. I crouched down toward the floor to snap it. A simple change in elevation can make a big difference in the feel of a photo.

People add some scale to the room. Chenonceau, September 2011.

The "empty" gallery photo that I posted previously was from March 2006. This one is from September 2011, more than five years later. I think that was the last time I was inside the château.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Keep it clean

I guess I thought this was interesting. A wastepaper basket bolted to a wall on the grounds of the Château de Chenonceau. People do need a place to get rid of wrappers, tissues, brochures, and maybe even newspapers. I can't believe there are people visiting the castle who would throw trash on the ground (except for maybe small children who haven't yet learned not to litter). But, if you don't want trash on the ground, then you've got to provide receptacles. Et voilà.

Put your trash here. May 2007.

We had a few spring-like days. Trees and shrubs are starting to flower. Bulbs are up. Birds are singing. This morning it's cold again, but not below freezing. I know the grape growers are starting to worry about April. Early warm weather starts the vines budding, and damaging April freezes are not uncommon. We'll see what this season brings.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The wind is back

It's been a-howlin' and a-gustin' all night and will probably continue through the morning before dying down again. I suppose this weather is typical of the famed giboulées de mars. I would call giboulées a combination of March winds and April showers in English. As in: If March winds bring April showers, and April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring (you may need to be an American to know the answer)?

Château de Chenonceau, May 2007.

This is the little bridge that visitors to the Château de Chenonceau must cross to get into the castle.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Let's change seasons

Still at Chenonceau, but now it's May of 2007. Friends from California were visiting and we spent a little time at the château. There were certainly a lot more visitors there than there were in March the year before, but it wasn't as crowded as it gets in high summer.

Le jardin de Diane de Poitiers is a lot greener in spring than in winter. May 2007.

This is the garden of Diane de Poitiers, the bigger of the two main formal gardens on the grounds. The other was created by Catherine de Médicis in the second half of the 16th century. When Catherine's husband, King Henry II, died, she became regent, kicked Diane (the king's mistress) out of Chenonceau, and took over management. Thus the château reverted to royal hands. In exchange, Catherine gave Diane the Château de Chaumont up on the Loire.

Sunday, March 12, 2023


As many châteaux do, especially royal châteaux, Chenonceau has a chapel. On this rainy day back in 2006, there were so few people visiting the castle that I was able to lie on my back on the floor to take this picture. I wouldn't recommend trying that on a normal day.

The chapel at the Château de Chenonceau. March 2006.

My trip to the market yesterday was successful. I got a nice dos de cabillaud (boned cod) for our Saturday lunch. I didn't take any photos, but I think Ken did. He made a beurre blanc sauce with shallots and capers to serve it with. We also had some small steamed potatoes and steamed broccoli along side. A very tasty lunch!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

C'mon in

I think this might be the front door of the Château de Chenonceau, but I don't remember exactly what it looks like from inside. Once again, it's one of those shots I got with no people in it. The castle is known for its elaborate cut flower arrangements.

If anyone recognizes this as not Chenonceau's front door, please let me know. March 2006.

Today is market day in Saint-Aignan. I hope to find some cabillaud (cod) at the fish monger's stand. I saw some last weekend that looked amazingly good. We don't eat a lot of fish these days, mostly because it's become very expensive. But once in a while it's worth a splurge. I remember when cod was considered a common fish and it was cheap. Those days are gone.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Seldom seen

Here's something that we tourists don't often get to see. The main gallery that stretches over the Cher River in the Château de Chenonceau devoid of people. I was able to get this shot on that rainy March day in 2006 when there were very few visitors wandering through the castle's rooms. As soon as I snapped a few shots, other people appeared and the "pristine" view was gone.

I'm sure the castle staff get to see this all the time, but it's a rarity for the average tourist. March 2006.

We're having a windstorm now that's lasted a few days. It's not horrible, but the wind is just howling out there. Every now and again there's a gust that shakes the house de fond en comble (from the foundation to the rafters). It's predicted to die down for a couple of days after today.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Back to Chenonceau

Like I said, I didn't take too many photos on my day in Paris. So now I'll dip back into the archives for some more shots from the Château de Chenonceau. This is a view of Diane de Poitiers' garden from a window inside the castle.

Le jardin de Diane de Poitiers vue du château de Chenonceau, March 2006.

Rain came yesterday afternoon an lasted, off and on, through the night last night. At around 22h30, I was awakened by thunder and lightning. It lasted for about fifteen minutes and then was gone.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Heading home from Paris

The first thing I did when I arrived in the train hall at Montparnasse was to check the departures board. My train was listed as on time. I had about fifteen minutes before it left. There was also a bulletin that all trains in and out of the station were delayed due to some deer on the tracks. Indeed, all the trains scheduled to depart before mine were posting between five and ten minutes late. Lovely. Still, about five minutes later my train posted its track number and it was still on time. I walked, briskly, to the track and boarded the train. It pulled out of the station on time.

The train hall at the Gare Montparnasse. My train left from track 19.

As I was getting settled in, I noticed that we were moving very slowly. Then, after we were well out of the station, the train stopped altogether. The conductor announced that the deer were gone, but now the trains ahead of us had to re-space themselves before getting up to speed. We expected to be under way again soon and we'd be about fifteen minutes late to our station. As promised, the train started moving again and before long we were up to high speed.

Now, fifteen minutes is not too bad for a late arrival. Except when you only have 23 minutes to make your connection. If all went well, I would have about eight minutes to off-board and get to the other platform for my train to Saint-Aignan. I stressed for a while, but there was nothing I could do, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride. There was no view because it was dark outside.

Again, as promised by the conductor (who kept us informed of what was happening at regular intervals), we arrived at St.-Pierre-des-Corps (the high-speed station just outside of Tours) exactly when he said we would and I (and many others) made the connection with a couple of minutes to spare. I called Ken to let him know that I'd be arriving at our station at 21h40 as scheduled. He and Tasha picked me up and we were home in less than ten minutes.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Rush hour in Paris

Having not lived in a city for the last twenty years, I kind of forget about things like "rush hour." I was reminded last week. I think it was around 18h15 when I left Andy at the Gare de l'Est and headed across town to Montparnasse. I took the Number 4 line, the most direct route and the main north-south métro line across town. I had to ride through fourteen station stops, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow passengers all the way. I was the only person I saw wearing a mask.

One of the pedestrian tunnels between the subway and the train station. Not a mask in sight.

When I got to my stop, Gare Montparnasse, I had a long trek through tunnels from the métro to the train station. You can bet I took advantage of escalators and moving sidewalks to speed my walk. Hey, I'm a senior citizen now!

Monday, March 06, 2023

Drinks in Paris

After our lunch, my friend Andy and I went up to La Villette and the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (Science and Industry Museum). We spent most of our time there wandering through an exhibit on industrialization across the globe. The museum is huge, I described it as the Pompidou Center on steroids, and it's surrounded by a large park. Once back outside, we started walking toward the Gare de l'Est (where Andy's train would depart that evening). Realizing it was a little farther than we thought, we hopped on the métro.

Me (l) and Andy (r) taking selfies outside The Place To...

We stopped at a café called À la Ville de Provins just outside the station for a couple of drinks in the sun. When the sun dropped behind a building, it started to feel very cold, so we got up and went to have a look inside the station. It's been renovated since the last time I saw it, turned into a huge shopping mall on several levels just in front of the train hall.

We went back outside to a bar called The Place To... Strange name, but the place was nice. Andy and I sat at the bar and had another glass before going our separate ways, he to the station across the street and me to the métro. My train was leaving in just over an hour from the Montparnasse station across town.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Lunch in Paris

I had a couple of ideas for restaurants and a couple of others recommended by friends. Andy wanted to go someplace typically "French," so we headed over to Bastille and a traditional style bistro called Chez Paul. Thanks go to regular reader Bettyann for the recommendation! We were a little early, so we took a stroll around the neighborhood. We were the first to be seated for lunch, but the place filled up pretty quickly after that.

Andy snapped this photo during the first course. I don't know what was going on with my hair...

We both decided to order the menu du jour. If I remember correctly, Andy's appetizer was a salade de maquereau fumé (smoked mackerel salad) with warm potatoes and other vegetables in vinaigrette. I chose gésiers confits avec sauce au Porto (preserved gizzards served in a Port wine sauce). Wine was a demi-pichet (50cl pitcher) of Côtes du Rhône red. Perfect.

One of two waitresses (behind the bar). Friendly, professional, and fun!

We both took the same main dish, araignée de cochon (a tender cut of pork, I'm not at all certain what it's called in English) in a honey/vinegar sauce with a side of thick French-fried potatoes. The potatoes were perfectly crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. We continued with the Côtes du Rhône. Again, perfect.

The room was full of happy diners. There's another room upstairs and another, bigger room on the other side of the bar.

We each had a slice of apple tart for dessert and coffee after. A wonderful meal all around, made even better by the bustling atmosphere, the friendly staff and, of course, the company.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

A day in Paris

I didn't take many photos yesterday. It was more fun just being in the moment, reminiscing with my colleague and friend, Andy. And the train ride. Remember, I'm a transit nerd and Andy and I worked together in a transportation policy and planning agency back in the '90s. Early Friday morning, I took a regional train from Saint-Aignan over to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (just outside of Tours) where I transferred to a high-speed train up to Paris. There was a lot of fog outside, but it was pretty much broken up when we arrived in Paris. The full trip took about two hours, and that with a 30-minute layover between trains.

Windmills in the fog out the window of my train as we zipped along at over 300 kilometers per hour.

I arrived at the Montparnasse station pretty much on time and walked over to a café called Au Chien qui Fume (At the Smoking Dog) on the Boulevard Montparnasse and the rue du Cherche-Midi where Andy and I had agreed to meet. The atmosphere was so typically Parisian and the coffee hit the spot. We spent a good hour gabbing about old times and people we knew before moving on. But first we had to decide where to have lunch.

Friday, March 03, 2023


This is the Chancery on the grounds of the Château de Chenonceau. I don't know anything about it or why it's there. I'm sure some industrious internet researchers could find out. I like the photo, but I'm not sure about the big tree. I cropped most of it out for this post.

The chancery faces the river. March 2006.

I'm heading up to Paris for the day today. A former colleague of mine is in town and we're going to have lunch together. The last time we saw each other was almost twenty years ago (yikes!) when he and his wife visited us here in the Loire Valley. I'm looking forward to catching up.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Another snack bar

It's a little bigger than the one at Valençay. The snack bar at Chenonceau is a nice place to have a bite. In the nice weather, there has been an ice cream cone vendor there. I don't know if that's always the case, but a cool cone on a hot day while strolling in the gardens can be refreshing. Not on this day, however.

If there were customers, they were inside. March 2006.

It's still just below freezing in the mornings. But our days have been bright and sunny. When the breeze calms down, it can feel quite nice.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Docking bay

Because the Château de Chenonceau is built on a river, the Cher, it makes sense that there would be a place to park a boat. And this is it, just upstream of the castle on the river's right bank.

A long time ago there was commercial traffic on the Cher. No more. March 2006.

Just in case you're confused, when you face downstream, a river's right bank is on your right and its left bank is, well, on your left.