Thursday, November 30, 2023


We made our way up past the castle and toward the main entrance: a gate at the end of a large park. It was shut and locked. We couldn't even see the castle from there. So, we made our way back down the hill to the Verteuil's market square thinking we'd console ourselves with a coffee or a glass of wine.

The château de Verteuil rises above the town's market square.

The main café on the square was closed and wouldn't open until 18h00. Another café was setting up, but the guy said they wouldn't start serving for about twenty minutes. We decided to bag it and head back toward the car. As we left the market square, the views of the castle got a little better.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

At the foot of the castle

We got up to the foot of the castle in Verteuil, but there was no way in. This gate, if it even gave access at all, was closed up tight. But we kept on going up, up the street that ran toward the castle's park and main entrance.

Knock, knock. Anybody home?

Below zero temperatures are expected this weekend. Better get the winter squash in before that. Tomorrow I go back to the dentist for my permanent crown. King me!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Table for two

During our walk through Verteuil, we found a street that led to a bridge over the Charente. Looking downstream from the bridge, I noticed this little scene. Directly above it is a restaurant called Jeux de Pots, so I assume that this table belongs to it. Access is through a portal in the retaining wall. What I don't know is whether this little table is actually used by the restaurant or if it's just part of the décor.

Waterfront table for two. That table looks too small to be used for meal service. Maybe apéritifs?

We had quite a strong rain shower over night. I don't remember exactly when it went through; maybe some time around midnight. It pounded the roof for a while (about ten minutes or so) and then stopped as abruptly as it had started. When it was over, the clouds parted and the just-after-full moon shone bright again.

Monday, November 27, 2023


We made our way toward the center of Verteuil, not really knowing where we'd end up or what we would find. Our goal was to get to the château and see what we could see. It's a privately owned castle, be we held out hope that we'd be allowed to at least walk on the grounds and view the building from the outside. No such luck. All doors and gates were shut and locked. Maybe it was the time of day, maybe the time of year, or maybe it's not open to the public at all.

The château rises above central Verteuil.

I harvested another sucrine de Berry (winter squash) yesterday. Ken used a good part of it in a tajine recipe, using up leftover lamb from last Thursday. The rest I opted not to roast. Rather, I peeled and cut it into cubes, par-boiled it, then froze the cubes for another time. Peeling the squash was not easy. I wonder if I should have boiled the cubes before peeling them. That might have made it easier to remove the thick skin. I might try that the next time. There are two more squash in the garden. And they're big ones.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

A stroll through Verteuil

We walked from the picnic area on the Charente River (where we parked) toward the center of Verteuil, at first along the river then into the main street. The château, built on a bluff above the river, came into view now and then, but it was difficult to get more than a piece of it in a photo, at least from the places we walked.

A glimpse of the château in Verteuil-sur-Charente.

Our outdoor thermometer read 1ºC when I woke up this morning. I'm sure that it's below freezing out in the vineyard. Tasha and I will bundle up (well, I will) and venture out at first light. Sunrise is at 08h13.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Leftovers again?

We're enjoying our leftover Thanksgiving leg of lamb. Yesterday, we ate slices of cold lamb and boiled potatoes with Ken's home-made mayonnaise. And Brussels sprouts. Today, he's making moussaka, a Greek-style casserole of eggplant and ground lamb; there will likely be leftovers of that. And, if there's enough meat left, we may use it to make stuffed cabbage leaves.

Pumpkin pie.

The dessert for all these lamby meals is pumpkin pie, made with one of the sucrine de Berry winter squashes from the garden. Bon appétit !

Friday, November 24, 2023

Another day, another church

After our quick stop in St.-Amant-de-Boixe, we made our way to the small town of Verteuil-sur-Charente. The owner of our gîte recommended it as a beautiful place to see. I think he grew up there, or nearby. He said that the town (population just over 600) was home to a number of English people. Probably more so in summer than in October.

The 12th century church of Saint-Médard in Verteuil.

When we arrived, we parked the car in a riverside lot just behind the town's church and headed into town toward the château on foot, Tasha in tow. The town is indeed picturesque, especially along the river, and it was a beautiful morning for a walk.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all our USA friends and family!

Quai Jean-Jacques Delorme, Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Once more, with scaffolding

Here's another shot of the abbey church in Saint-Amant-de-Boixe, taken as we headed back to the car and our next destination. I read in Wikipedia that the bell tower has been renovated extensively. By the looks of things, the rest of the church is getting its share as well.

Scaffolding on the abbey.

Our temperatures are getting more seasonable. We're expecting single digits (Celsius) for a couple of days. No frosts in sight, though. I had a fire in the wood stove all day yesterday. I expect I'll do the same for the next two days. I harvested another sucrine squash from the garden yesterday and roasted it. Some of it will go into a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, the rest will go into the freezer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Am I blue?

I peeked inside the door of the abbey church at Saint-Amant-de-Boixe as we walked through the grounds. A woman was working on the stairs that descended from the door to the floor of the nave. I don't know what she was doing to them. Whatever it was, I couldn't use the steps, so I stayed put just long enough to snap a photo of the intensely blue choir and stained glass window.

The blue was so intense. My photo doesn't do it justice.

My visit to the dentist went reasonably well. He had trouble separating the temporary crown from the post in the implant. He pulled so hard that, for a moment, I thought he might rip the implant right out of my jaw. But then I heard him say, "There it is," and all was well. It's all back together now and it feels as though nothing happened. The permanent crown will be ready next week.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Le tympan

In English, it's the tympanum. I should have remembered this word from architecture school, but I've long forgotten and had to look it up. It's the triangular or semi-circular space over a door or window, framed by arches and a lintel, often adorned with sculpture. This is the tympan over the main entrance to the abbey church at Saint-Amant-de-Boixe.

The tympanum over the western entry to the abbey church at Saint-Amant-de-Boixe.

Today I go to the dentist (my regular dentist) to get measured for a permanent crown for the implant I got last summer. The dentist will remove the temporary crown and use a fancy camera to photograph and measure the space. Then he'll put the temporary back on while the permanent crown gets made. I have an appointment in ten days to have that put in.

So, the saga of my broken bicuspid (broken last spring) is coming to a happy end.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The abbey church

This is the bell tower on the abbey church in Saint-Amant-de-Boixe, seen from the street below. We parked the car and took a little walk around the abbey complex. Dogs are allowed on the grounds, but we didn't go into the church or cloister since we were on our way to another place. We did, however, take a short walk around the complex, but not far enough away to get more of it in a photo.

The imposing bell tower on the romanesque church of St.-Amant-de-Boixe.

The abbey was completed in the fifteenth century and has been, according to Wikipedia, extensively restored. In fact, the day we saw it, there was scaffolding over a portion of the church and adjoining buildings. Restoration and maintenance never end.

Saturday, November 18, 2023


The town of Saint-Amant-de-Boixe is about ten kilometers north from the house we rented back in October. The attraction there is a rather large benedictine abbey. But more about that later. This building is the town hall. It looks rather grand for a town of just over a thousand inhabitants.

Town hall in St.-Amant-de-Boixe. Adorned with purple umbrellas.

It finally happened. We had a sunny, still, and relatively warm day on Friday. I got my butt in gear and cleaned up the barbecue grill and covered it for the winter. What a greasy mess it was. And, to be honest, it still is, just less so.

Today I'm planning a quick trip to the market in St.-Aignan for some nems (Vietnamese egg rolls) from the Asian vendor. I hope he's there.

Friday, November 17, 2023


A couple of weeks ago, another vineyard parcel out back was dug up in preparation for replanting (I hope). I posted a photo of the big tractor they used to do the work when it was happening. It took two or three days to do the whole parcel. The grape vine trunks are now piled up and will likely be burned this fall or winter. Until then, they stand like volcano cones in the distance.

Grape vine volcanos. Canon 6D, f10, 1/1000, focal length 255mm.

There are eight of these "volcanos" out there. Only these three are visible from the guest room in our house. I used my telephoto lens for the shot, but didn't use the tripod, so there's still some blurriness from camera shake. It was also windy, so that would also cause some blur.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Just dying to get in

Just a couple more photos from the cemetery in Jarnac. Then I'll stop. One of the reasons we wanted to see the grave of former French president François Mitterrand is, well, we were there. Another is that he was newly elected the year that Ken and I met.

Graves and tombs in the cemetery at Jarnac.

It was a big change for France to have a left-wing president and government, at least for a while before the right regained control of the parliament. He was a force for change, both politically and culturally. Like many French presidents, he was responsible for significant redevelopment projects in Paris. The "new" national library, built on the banks of the Seine in the thirteenth arrondissment, was built during his term; it now bears his name. He also, perhaps more famously, directed the relocation of the French finance ministry from the Louvre to a new, modern complex at Bercy (twelfth arrondissement) in order to expand and modernize the Louvre museum. The resulting improvements are no less than stunning.

The tomb of François Mitterrand.

Mitterrand was re-elected to a second term in 1988. He served fourteen years (two terms) as president. Since that time, France changed the length of presidential terms from seven years to five years.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

I see dead people

Not far from where we were staying in Vindelle is the town of Jarnac. It's the home town of former French president François Mitterrand. It's also where he is buried. Ken and I wanted to go to Cognac, and Jarnac is on the way, so we stopped. We parked the car and took a stroll around the center of town with Tasha, then we headed for the cemetery. Ken got directions from a public utility guy that was working in the street, so we knew which way to go.

A section of the Jarnac cemetery. Mitterrand's grave is off to the right, out of the photo.

The guy's directions were perfect and we pulled up outside the cemetery's entrance with ease. There was a big sign saying that dogs are not allowed inside. We had to go in one at a time while the other stayed outside with Tasha. Ken went in first and looked for the grave. Turns out there are a few signs that direct people to it. After a short while, he was back, and I took my turn.

He was 79 years old when he died. His term as president ended the year before.

We decided after that not to continue on to Cognac (after all, we had just been there in 1989!). It was getting close to noon and we would need to find a restaurant for lunch. After our experience a couple of days prior, we decided not to do the restaurant thing. We stopped at a supermarket outside of town for a few supplies then we headed back to the house to make lunch.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Maple sugar

Our twin maple trees reached their fall color peak in recent days. The golden color is brilliant and I look forward to seeing it every year. The leaves are tumbling now, helped along by some windy weather. Soon the branches will be bare.

The view from the deck. The hedge (bottom) stays green all year. Some of the maple branches are already bare.

Thanksgiving (USA) is coming up next week. Already! We've started planning our annual meal. Not that there's much to plan; it's basically the same every year. Roasted leg of lamb, flageolet beans, Beaujolais Nouveau (being released this Thursday), and.pumpkin pie made with our garden sucrine squash.

Monday, November 13, 2023

I tawt I taw a bunny wabbit

I did! I did taw a bunny wabbit! While walking with Tasha in Vindelle, I saw this in a small square in town. I didn't have the right lens to take a good photo from this far away and I was afraid the dog would scare the rabbit away. It looks like a domestic rabbit to me. I wonder what it was doing out like this?

As soon as I snapped this, we turned and went the other way. I didn't want Tasha to bark like crazy so early in the morning.

Many people in rural France keep rabbits. And chickens, too. The answer to the question "Pets or meat?" is, well, meat. Just in case you're wondering, the rabbits we eat come from the market. I couldn't kill a cute wittle bunny wabbit.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Mushroom bloom

Apparently, it's a good year for wild mushrooms. I've been seeing them "pop up" in social media, so here's my entry. These are growing in our back yard in a wide arc under a fir tree. And there they'll stay. I'm no expert in mushroom lore and would never eat a wild mushroom. Like I'm fond of saying: all mushrooms are edible. Once. Our fungus comes from the supermarket or the mushroom vendor at the outdoor market who grows her 'shrooms in a local cave.

Mushrooms in our back yard.

The wind is howling again this morning, but nowhere near what it was like just a short while ago. And it rained over night. I didn't sleep much, but I don't think it was the weather's fault.

Champignons in French. More from the back yard.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Wines from Alsace

Ken made a choucroute garnie (sauerkraut) last week. It's the time of year when one of our local supermarkets carries raw sauerkraut and it's very good. Ken cooks it in white wine and other flavoring ingredients (among them: carrots, juniper berries, onions, and smoked lardons) and serves it with several meats, including a couple types of smoked pork and Alsatian hot dogs called knack (knackwurst). This time he added poached chicken since we had some chicken in the fridge that needed to be used. So far, we've had two sauerkraut meals and today will be the third (and probably last for this batch).

Rosenhof wines from Alsace.

Since choucroute is a favorite dish in the eastern France region of Alsace, it makes sense to serve it with Alsatian wine. I went to the supermarket and found these. Riesling, Sylvaner, and Edelzwicker by Rosenhof. All are light and fruity, but dry, whites that go very well with a hearty dish of sauerkraut. I was attracted by the labels. Each features a stylized stork (Alsace is famous for being a nesting ground for storks) of a different color and in a different pose. So far we've tasted the Riesling and the Edelzwicker. This weekend we'll enjoy the Sylvaner.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Vending bread

Vindelle is a small town. So small, in fact, that it doesn't have, and maybe can't support, a single bakery. A French town without a boulangerie? There are likely many more than we think. In Vindelle's center, we saw a vending machine for bread. The bakery (le Fournil d'Anaïs, Anaïs' Oven) that makes the bread and stocks the machine is located six kilometers away in a town called Vars.

The bakery in Vars also sells roasted chickens on Sundays, birthday cakes, wedding cakes, and Italian ice cream.

Of course, it happened that we needed a baguette one day, so Ken walked into town and bought one from the machine. It takes debit cards, so he didn't even need cash. The baguette was perfect, as fresh and good as if he had bought it in a bakery. I'll never chuckle about bread vending machines again.

Thursday, November 09, 2023


As in many French cities and towns, the people of Vindelle erected a monument to the memory of local men who lost their lives in service to the country. This one commemorates soldiers from the first and second world wars and the war in Southeast Asia. The monument stands near the town hall (I didn't take a photo of that) and it looks like somebody recently hit it with a vehicle.

1914 - 1918
1939 - 1945

Today I'm going to see the dental surgeon who did my implant for a final look-see before he gives me the go-ahead for the permanent crown. My regular dentist will have that made and do the installation when it's ready. I'm not expecting any problems; all has gone very well since the beginning.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023


This is central Vindelle, the little town outside of Angoulême where we rented a gîte (vacation rental house) for a week in October. As I mentioned earlier, the tiny bourg of about a thousand people is little more than an intersection. Besides the town hall, there is a café/restaurant that also serves as newsstand and cigarette shop. It also provides postal services.

Dawn in downtown Vindelle.

I took this picture on one of my early morning walks with Tasha, before things opened up for the day. During the day, the sidewalk outside the cafë is set up with a few tables and umbrellas for shade. The times we passed by or through, there were always people sitting outside eating, drinking, and/or reading the news.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Eglise Saint-Christophe de Vindelle

Vindelle is the name of the little town where our gîte (vacation rental) is located. It's not much more than an intersection. The town's population is about 1,000 people. The church, an eleventh and twelfth century romanesque building, is called Saint-Christophe.

The bell tower of St.-Christophe de Vindelle. I didn't go inside because I had Tasha with me.

The center of town is about a ten minute walk along the Méronne from our rental house. The road is called le Riz. I'm not sure what that means. Riz means "rice" in French, but I don't think there's any rice production going on around Vindelle. There are some areas planted with grains (wheat, corn) here and there, as well as vineyards whose grapes are used to make local wines and Cognac. Maybe they grew rice back in the middle ages? Or maybe that name means something else.

Monday, November 06, 2023

La Méronne

Our rental house was just off a narrow road that paralleled a little arm of the Charente River called la Méronne. There wasn't much to it. The bottom was just a few inches from the surface. A short walk from our driveway was this little stepping-stone bridge.

A little stone bridge over the Méronne.

I didn't attempt to cross the bridge with Tasha in tow on her leash. We kept to the road. As we passed, we saw a guy throwing a stick into the river. He had a big dog that was getting his exercise fetching the stick back from the shallow water. We also saw this woman filling up plastic bottles with river water. I don't know if the man and woman were together (something gave me the impression they weren't), but both had gone by the time we passed again on our way home.

I sneaked a shot of this woman filling water bottles from the river.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Two in a row

The storms have moved on and the winds are calming. But not until after a mildly rocky night. We lost electricity at just about 21h00 last night. It was a brief outage, a few minutes at most. The power flickered off and on a couple of times after, then stabilized. The wind howled through the night. It's still blowing out there this morning, but with much less force. From what I can tell, our neighborhood hasn't suffered any damage; the trees remain upright.

All single-story houses. No stairs to climb!

The photo above shows the house we rented a few weeks ago in Vindelle, near Angoulême. The house on the left is the owner's home and the one next to that is the rental property. We couldn't see the houses in the background from where we were.

One end of the covered terrace where we ate our lunches.

We were really lucky with the weather. It was shorts and tee shirts weather the whole week. I forgot to pack a pair of shorts, but Ken had his. We ate all our meals out on the covered patio. Not bad for the second week of October. When we got back home, the weather changed and it felt much more like fall. And now, after the storms, high pressure is expected to build back in clearing the skies and causing temperatures to fall. 'Tis the season.

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Et la tête

This bust of Hergé sits in the place of the same name in central Angoulême. Who is Hergé? He was a Belgian artist who created the famous comic book series, Tintin. His name is Georges Remi. His nickname comes from his initials, GR, transposed to RG. Pronounced in French, they sound like Hergé [air-zhay].

Hergé, by sculptor Tchang Tchong-jen, in Angoulême.

The only thing I could find about a connection to Angoulême is that the sculpture, done by a friend of his, was placed during the city's international comic book festival in 2003. Hergé died in 1983 at the age of seventy-five.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Roof work

I saw this in the courtyard of the buildings adjoining the cathédrale St.-Pierre d'Angoulême. There's an attachement at the end of this crane for lifting materials, in this case new roof tiles, up to the roof.

A whopping crane.

Now that the storm Ciarán has passed, and the cleanup is under way in the hardest-hit areas, the weather people are predicting a second storm for Saturday night. More high winds, more rain. It's not officially une tempête (storm) yet; it's still classified as une dépression (a low pressure system). But it's got a name. I haven't yet seen a projected path for "Domingos," but we're likely on the southern edge again.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Stormy weather

The power came back on at 08h00 this morning. It went out around 0h30 last night. That was weird since the storm hadn't really started yet. Not only was our neighborhood dark through the night, but, according to the power company's web site, there was no power in all of our town and none in all of Saint-Aignan. I was going to look up other nearby places, but the site conked out on me. I was worried about the freezers, but now that the power's back on I don't have to.

Sucrine du Berry. Very similar to butternut squash.

I got up just after six this morning to build a fire in the wood stove (with the help of a flashlight so I could see) and light some candles. The wind was still blowing, but at no time did it seem very bad. There was some rain, but not a lot. Things are starting to calm down now that it's light. The news from the coast, however, is not so good. I've only heard of one death at this point, but there is considerable wind and flood damage out there.

The photo is one of the sucrine squash picked from this year's garden. After cutting it in half, I roasted it and froze most of it. I used the rest to make a loaf of pumpkin bread. Tasty!

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Vine removal

Work started yesterday to dig out then next parcel of grape vines and prepare the land for replanting. A big digger was delivered on Monday afternoon. It's got a huge rake-like tool attached to the arm for digging out the vines and then moving them into piles. I tried to get some photos, but I wanted to be discreet about it. The best photo I got was from our guestroom window with the telephoto lens on the camera. I'm assuming that, like the previous replanted parcels, this one will lie fallow for a year or two before the actual planting happens.

The Big Digger ripping out old grape vines in preparation for re-planting.

The big storm named Ciarán is heading for France's northwest coast today. Later this evening and overnight, the storm's southern edge will cross our region, bringing rain and high winds, but thankfully nothing like what the coastal regions are expected to get. We've prepared as much as we can, moving plants to sheltered locations and bringing indoors anything that can be blown around. Météo France predicts that we could get gusts up to 100 kph. The Citroën is in the garage and the Peugeot is under the carport. Why do these things always come at night when it's scarier?