Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Dome and bell tower

Here's a view of the back, eastern end, or apse, of the cathédrale St.-Pierre d'Angoulême. We walked around the building, but I took no photos of the western façade. I didn't get far enough away to get a decent shot. The dome covers the octagonal walls over the crossing of the nave and transept below. The bell tower rises over the northern end of the transept.

A prominent feature of Romanesque architecture is the rounded arch. There are plenty of them here.

The weather people are still warning us of the tempête (storm), now named Ciarán, that's headed for the northwestern regions of France. As usual, our area is on the eastern edge of the storm, so the forecasts vary for the amount of wind and rain we should expect between Wednesday and Thursday. For certain, the brunt of the storm will hit the coast of Brittany with extreme winds and dangerous storm surges. Wind and flood warnings are posted for most of the Atlantic and Channel coasts.

Monday, October 30, 2023

La rue d'Arc

As we approached the cathédrale St.-Pierre d'Angoulême, I noticed this little street and decided to take it. It's easier to have the dog on the little streets that have less traffic than the larger ones. It led us right to the back side of the cathedral.

La rue d'Arc, Angoulême

The weather people are talking about a storm on Thursday that will bring very high winds. I am not looking forward to that. We'll spend the next day or so putting away anything outside that could blow away.

Sunday, October 29, 2023


We interrupt the Angoulême travelogue for a little fall color. This is our neighbors' catalpa (one of two, the other is directly behind this one). Every autumn we get a nice burst of yellow and gold from these trees, not to mention other trees and shrubs in their yard. We're moving into the peak for fall color now.

Our neighbors' catalpa, seen from our deck.

It rained most of the day and through the night last night. I don't know how much we got, yet. It's still too dark to read the rain gauge. Last week, the gauge overflowed, so we know we're getting a good amount. The rain comes in bands, so it has a chance to soak in between bands rather than run off. That's a good thing.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

The bell tower in black and white

As we got closer to the cathedral, the views changed. We ended up walking around the building, but not going in. With Tasha in tow, we'd have to go inside one at a time, the other keeping the dog occupied. Since Ken didn't have his camera, he wasn't all that interested in seeing inside. And, while I'm sure it's an impressive sight, I've seen a few cathedrals in my time. Still, walking around the building, and through the neighborhood, was good.

Le clocher, cathédrale de Saint-Pierre d'Angoulême.

This morning we woke up to gusty wind and some rain. I'm planning to go to the market this morning for some egg rolls from the Asian vendor, to have with today's lunch of a shrimp and snow pea stir-fry. That is, unless the weather gets worse. I'm also going to make a supermarket run. And tonight is the night we turn our clocks back an hour. The excitement never ends!

Friday, October 27, 2023

A glimpse

I've mentioned a few times that Ken and I were heading toward the cathedral on our walk through central Angloulême. After leaving the Carnot monument, we caught a glimpse of it: the dome over the transept and the bell tower poking up above the neighborhood.

Looking up the Rempart Desaix toward the cathedral.

The Cathédrale Saint-Pierre d'Angoulême, built in the romanesque style, was completed in the twelfth century. The bell tower was completely reconstructed in the nineteenth century. All according to Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Looking north

Well, sort of. It's actually kind of northwest. This is the rue Waldeck Rousseau, seen from just behind the Carnot monument in central Angoulême.

Rue Waldeck Rousseau, Angoulême.

I had no special reasons for taking this photo other than the fact that I was there. As it turns out, I was looking in the general direction of the town where our vacation rental is located. We were making our way toward the cathedral.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Looking south

This is the view from just behind the Carnot monument (yesterday's photo), looking south over Angoulême and its suburbs. The street below is the rue Louis Desbrandes.

The view toward the south from the Rempart Desaix, Angoulême.

As I mentioned before, Angoulême is built on a plateau above the Charente River. Streets climb, some rather steeply and with hairpin switchbacks, up the hill to the old city. I stood at the edge of what remains of the city's defensive wall for this photo.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Carnot monument

This monument by Raoul Verlet is dedicated to Sadi Carnot, fifth president of the Republic. He was assassinated in the city of Lyon in 1894 by an Italian anarchist. I'm not at all sure he had a connection to Angoulême, except that he was born in the nearby city of Limoges. I'm guessing that he was popular; Wikipedia points out that close to four hundred streets throughout France were named for him after his death.

Monument to Marie François Sadi Carnot, Angoulême.

I kept a fire going in the wood stove all day yesterday. It rained pretty steadily most of the day. Normal fall weather. We can't complain; we enjoyed a lovely Indian summer and we really need the rain.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Théâtre d'Angoulême

About halfway between Angoulême's city hall and the statue seen in yesterday's post (more about that later) is the Théâtre d'Angoulême, built in the late nineteenth century. Its main theater has a capacity of 730; two smaller performance spaces in the building accommodate 150 and 60 people.

Théâtre d'Angoulême.

I see on the radar this morning that the rain we're expecting is heading up from the southwest, the standard pattern for weather systems here. I'm going to try to get the dog walked and some firewood brought in before it gets here. It'll be close. The sun doesn't come up until 08h24 today, but it will be light enough to walk in the half-hour before then.

Sunday, October 22, 2023


We made our way west in central Angoulême, heading toward the old city's ramparts and the cathedral. A broad tree-lined avenue (actually two avenues with a pedestrian area between) connects city hall with streets that more or less follow the lines of the old city's fortifications.

Avenue des Maréchaux on the left, avenue Georges Clemenceau on the right.

Our weather right now is chilly. I had a fire going most of the day yesterday, and probably will again today and tomorrow. We're expecting some more rain and wind tomorrow, too. The rain is welcome, but the wind is not.

The house is cold in the morning. The inside temperature goes down to 18.5ºC (65ºF), but not below, meaning that it's not cold enough inside for the central heat to come on. Once it gets colder outdoors, the inside temperature will dip, too, and we'll have warm radiators in the morning. I know, I could adjust the thermostat. But I don't.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

L'hôtel de ville

This is part of the massive city hall building in Angoulême. With the 50mm lens on the camera, this is the widest view I could get from where I stood. I just didn't feel like changing lenses during our walk. The other limiting factor is that the farther I got from the building in an attempt to get more of it in the shot, the less of it I could see because of other buildings in the way.

Two distinct architectural styles in this shot of the Angoulême city hall.

All this has started me thinking again about a short zoom lens. I used one on my last camera, but it's from a different line of Canon lenses and it doesn't work with the 6D that I've got now (my other lenses do). I could carry two cameras around with me, but that seems kind of crazy. Besides, I've got the phone. It has a wider angle. I just wasn't thinking about it when I took this picture.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Tasha's new "do"

The groomer arrived as expected on Thursday morning. She spent a little more than and hour and a half brushing, clipping, and bathing our Tasha. I asked for a shorter cut than is normal for a Shetland. That will help with the burs and the muddy mess Tasha gets to be in wet weather. And, it will all grow back. She really is a skinny little dog under all that fur.

Above, Tasha after, taken yesterday with the phone. Below, Tasha before, taken last week with the DSLR camera.

Laugh it up, fuzzball!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Grooming day

This morning, Tasha has her long-awaited appointment for a shampoo and a haircut. The mobile groomer is expected soon in her converted camper van. I was very happy with the job she did last time and I was willing to wait six weeks for the appointment. I think Tasha will be happy, too. Her long hair gets matted if we don't brush it out regularly (and I'm not very good at that) and it catches a lot of burs this time of year. And she sheds a lot.

Quite an ornate steeple.

This photo is of the steeple on the church Saint-Martial d'Angoulême. I didn't go inside, but I suspect it looks pretty churchy in there. By the way, if I haven't mentioned it, I took all the photos from this trip with my DSLR and the 50mm fixed lens. I never once put on the wide angle or the zoom lens, although some of my shots might have turned out better if I had. And I didn't use the phone camera, either.

Also, I am now, for some reason, unable to comment on my own blog. Not even anonymously. Ken's research indicates it may be a problem with Firefox, but we're not sure. I may try using Edge or Chrome if that works, but I'm not there yet. Rest assured that I'm reading your comments and look forward to being able to respond again, soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023


This is almost the same photo from yesterday, I just pivoted away from the "Escape Yourself" storefront for a shot of the street without the big sign in English. You can see how the street heads downhill. The center of Angoulême is on a plateau above the Charente River valley. All roads lead up. Or down.

Rue du Sauvage in central Angoulême.

On Tuesday, our first full day in the area, we settled in after our morning outing and lunch to watch some tennis and other things via the internet. The rental house had a basic tv package called TNT, Télévision Numérique Terrestre. I think that could be translated to "land-based digital television." It's a mix of mostly national and some local television channels that are received free of charge off the air with a special antenna. Some of the stations we wanted to watch are not available on TNT, so we hooked the tv up to Ken's laptop to access our own tv package on the internet.

Little did we know that the house's internet access was limited, like a cell phone, and we bumped up against the limit for the current billing cycle. The feed got so slow that it was impossible to watch television and nearly impossible to upload a blog post. Hence our "technical difficulties" last week. We talked to the owners and they told us that this hadn't happened before. We felt bad about it, but we didn't know about the limit; our own package at home is not limited at all. They contacted their service provider and, after some initial confusion, were able to increase the limit. But it took a while to kick in.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

It all started with a big bang

I first learned of "escape rooms" from The Big Bang Theory, that nerdy comedy show from the US. The principle, if I understand it correctly, is that players are locked in a room where they need to find clues and solve puzzles to make their "escape." Apparently, this is a global thing that I had otherwise not heard of. Last week, I saw this storefront in central Angoulême. I was curious, so I googled it and found out that it's indeed a chain of locations around France that offers "escape games." Who knew?

We escaped from central Angoulême. Ourselves.

Driving into and out of central Angoulême was challenge enough for me. Here's a puzzle: why is "into" one word and "out of" two words?

Monday, October 16, 2023

The city

Angoulême is a small (about 40,000 inhabitants, metro population around 100,000) hilltop city in the southwest. Our vacation rental was about eight kilometers north, as the crow flies. On Tuesday, our first full day in the area, we ventured into the center of town for a look. As you'd expect, the center of town is at the top of the hill. The streets we took to get up there were steep and very curvy. It took us about twenty minutes to find a place to park the car. The streets at the top were narrow, winding, many were one-way, and some were blocked by delivery trucks or construction. But we wound our way through looking for parking with only a minimum of curse words.

Ken and Tasha heading toward the towers of city hall in central Angoulême.

We found an empty spot on the street and paid for about an hour and a half of time on the meter (the first hour was free!), put Tasha on her leash and headed out on foot toward what looked to be the center of town. Soon we were in a pedestrian district lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés. It was early in the morning and most businesses were just opening up. We were looking for the cathedral, but the first monument we saw was city hall. It looked like a cross between a medieval castle and a monastery. Fortunately, signs pointed us toward the major monuments, so we felt reassured that we wouldn't get lost. And we didn't.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The house

The house we rented was at the end of the long driveway that you saw in yesterday's post. Between it and the road were the owners' house, a swimming pool and picnic shelter, and a garage/out building. Our house felt very private with no neighbors (except the owners) to be seen. There were three bedrooms and one bath. The kitchen was comfortable and well equipped. The great room, living and dining, was spacious and included a large tv and a huge, slippery, leather sofa; we each slid off a few times.

One of the bedrooms was a converted garage (there's a new, larger garage to the left, just out of the photo). The living room is behind the shutters on the right. The covered terrace is around the corner.

Outside was a covered terrace with bbq equipment (we didn't make use of that), a large table where we ate most of our meals, and a big back yard. The property, separated from the owners' house and garage by a gate, was nearly as big as our property here in the Loire Valley. And, as I mentioned, there were no other neighbors to be seen. The house itself had a southern feel, almost tropical, with its salmon color and southern-style clay tile roof. The illusion was helped along by the balmy weather we had all week.

One end of the covered terrace was filled with lounge chairs. Not in the photo (to the right) are the dining table and bbq, with more chairs for relaxing.

With three bedrooms, the place could accommodate at least six people. But with only one bath, it might prove a challenge to get up and out in the mornings. With just us two, it was easy.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

A little trip

For the past week (well, since Monday), Ken and Tasha and I spent some time at a gîte (vacation rental) down near the southwestern city of Angoulême in the Charente. The trip has been in the planning for a couple of months. It seemed to be a good way to get back into travelling since covid. We had a good time and couldn't have had better weather. Clear skies, summer-like temperatures every day.

The entrance to our home away from home.

There were, however, several bumps along the way. First off, about an hour after we left home on Monday, we realized that we had left Ken's camera bag on the living room floor. It was too late to turn back. Ken had to resign himself to not taking pictures all week. Bummer.

We stopped in a picturesque town along the way for lunch. But, as it was Monday, most places were closed. There was one restaurant open and we could sit outside with Tasha. The food was delicious and soon we were on our way again. Little did we know that we'd both be sick over night, probably from some mayonnaise that had sat out a little too long. I'll refrain from sharing the gory details, except that it was not at all pleasant. But it passed and we were both fine the next morning.

The long driveway, with two gates. Although closed in this shot, both were open waiting for our arrival.

Finally, when we got close to our destination, we couldn't find it. The driving directions we had left a lot to be desired. We stopped several times during the next hour for directions and seemed to be going in circles. The third time was the charm. We were able to glean enough information from the confusing, and rather lengthy, set of directions we got from two very nice gentlemen to get close, and then, voilà, there it was.

The owners are lovely people who welcomed us warmly and, after a tour of the house and some sightseeing advice, we settled in, sipping one of the local specialties, pineau des Charentes, that the landlady offered us when we arrived.

I had my camera, so I'll share some of the photos from the trip over the next few (or more) days.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Peaceful mornings

There's not much in the way of weather this week.  The skies are sunny. The afternoons are shorts and tee shirt weather, and here we are, almost in the middle of October. Indian summer, indeed.

A recent calm, clear morning out among the grape vines.

Of course, as they say, all good things...

Thursday, October 12, 2023

C'est la fin des tomates

This is the last gasp for our tomato plants. They'll give us a few more tomatoes, but not many. I've stopped watering them.

The last of this year's tomato crop.

Our internet seems to be working again, but it's spotty for the moment. Please bear with us!

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Technical diffiulties

 Ken and I are having a weird internet problem. We'll be back soon. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

A little fall color

It'll be two or three weeks, I think, until we reach "peak" color around these parts. Here's a preview!

The grape leaves are still mostly green, but there's color around if you look for it.

The warm weather continues. And it's still dry. We're having an invasion of "stink bugs," also called "shield bugs" because their bodies resemble shields. I think we've seen more of them inside and outside than we ever have. I find myself wishing for a cold winter to reduce the population of the little beasties. And some snow would be nice. I can wait, however.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Feeling sluggish

Now that fall is here, so are the orange slugs. They like the heavy dew we've been having lately, probably because it's been so dry otherwise. This one was crossing a desert (the dirt road through the vineyards) when I took its picture.

Orange slugs are about ten centimeters (four inches) long.

And the weather is still dry, at least through Thursday.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Autumn rose

This flower showed up recently on one of our few remaining rose bushes. It's an old, scraggly plant, but the flowers are pretty.

These roses bloom in late spring and early fall.

Today is a hunt day. So far this season, which started a week or so ago, I haven't seen any hunters in the vineyards out back. I have heard gunshots in the distance, but no active hunters near us. And there hasn't yet been an organized hunt out back. It's only a matter of time. Meanwhile, our Sunday morning walks with Tasha are careful ones.

Saturday, October 07, 2023

Morning clouds

About a week ago, the morning sky looked like this. Since then, it's been more or less clear, save for a couple of foggy mornings. The fog formed at sunrise and burned off shortly after. The thermostat in our house is set to 18.5ºC (65ºF), but the heat hasn't come on yet, despite the chilly mornings. The indoor temperature has been falling to exactly 18.5º but not below (yet!), so the radiators stay cold.

Looking back toward our hamlet from out among the grape vines.

I'm not building fires yet, either (except for two mornings in late September when the heat did come on). Since the daytime temps are pretty warm, I don't see the need to use firewood yet. But I will when the boiler starts coming on again, not only for warmth, but also to conserve expensive heating fuel.

Friday, October 06, 2023

A new warm spell

High temperatures are moving upward again and will continue to into next week. The mornings are chilly -- it's about 8ºC outside this morning -- but we're expecting a high in the low 20s this afternoon. It's also quite dry, with no rain predicted in the next week.

This field, tinted gold by the rising sun, was a vineyard about two years ago. I don't know when, or if, it will be replanted.

Cloudless sunrises, like this one, are the norm at the moment. The grape harvest seems to be done now, at least in the vineyards around us. Still, activity continues. Workers are plowing up weeds between the vines in preparation for winter. Pruning will probably start soon.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Monster morning glories

In one small corner of the newly replanted vineyard out back, something strange has happened. Giant morning glory plants have sprouted among the grape vines. They're bigger than the vines. I've never seen this kind of plant in or around the vineyards before. Small, almost tiny, morning glories are quite common, but not these giants.

A big morning glory plant dwarfs its grape vine neighbor.

And why are they only in one spot? I wonder if some soil from somewhere else was dumped here. Indeed, truckloads of fertilizer in the form of composted manure were applied to the parcel while it was being prepared for planting. Maybe that's where the seeds came from. Or maybe a bird or some other critter dropped them. I wonder.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Holey back yard, Batman

You read that right. Holey with an "e." As in holes. Our property is punctured with holes. They're everywhere. I'd say there are at least a hundred of them, probably more. They're not mole hills (we get those, too). These holes are used by some other rodent(s), as yet unidentified. I've never seen so many holes in the ground. And it's not just us; our neighbors have them, too. But we seem to have more per square meter. I worry about Tasha getting hurt by stepping into one of the holes while running around in the yard. So far, we've been lucky.

At least four holes in this picture, with my foot for scale.

I wonder if the proliferation of these holes, in our yard at least, has something to do with Bert the cat being gone. He caught (and ate) a lot of mice during his life. I'd guess about one a day, on average. He spent a lot of time hunting. Now that he's gone, there's no predator in our yard.

On the bright side, we don't have mice in the house. Bert used to bring them in after he caught them. He ate most of those, but we still had to clean up after him. Yuck.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Sucrine du Berry

A local favorite, the sucrine du Berry, which originated here in central France, resembles the more familiar butternut squash in both color and flavor. The flesh is orange in color and sweet in taste. I've grown them a time or two in years past and like them. This year, I planted what I thought were pumpkin seeds only to be surprised when the fruit appeared. Somehow I had mixed up the seeds and got sucrines instead. No matter.

Two of the half-dozen or so sucrines in this year's vegetable garden.

Sucrines are prepared like almost any other winter squash. I like to roast them, then puree the flesh. Excess roasted squash can go into the freezer without fear. We like the puree as a side dish, but we also enjoy using it in recipes, including as an alternative to pumpkin in pies, biscotti, and breads (cakes). We even use it in enchilada sauce.

Monday, October 02, 2023

Fly me to the moon

I saw this on Saturday morning's walk with Tasha. The sun was rising in the east and the just-past-full moon was setting in the west. Two airliners (does anyone say "airliner" any more?) heading south passed just above the moon. It looked cooler as it happened than this photo shows. I had to scramble with the DSLR settings before I could shoot. The 50mm prime lens was on the camera so I had no zoom capability.

Once in a while a jet will cross right in front of the moon, but I usually don't have a camera with me when that happens.

Today is predicted to be the hottest of our current Indian summer days at 31ºC (almost 88ºF). After that, temperatures and weather should be more seasonable. I'm going to miss shorts-and-tee-shirts weather.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Fall flowers

The Jerusalem artichokes out by the garden shed are flowering now. I'm amazed at how they look, given the warm, dry summer we had and the fact that I never watered them. Not even once.

They've seen better years, but the flowers are still pretty.

So here we are in October. Well into fall. Leaves are starting to turn and some are tumbling to the ground already. We're still harvesting tomatoes; the zucchini are done. There are at least four good-sized winter squash on the vine and a few smaller ones. I'll start picking them in a few weeks. We'll certainly eat what we can, the rest will get roasted and pureed for the freezer. If there's room.