Friday, December 12, 2014

BACK HOME

May I just leave you with one or two photos of our 10 weeks in Italy and France. We returned home on Sunday and I returned to work on Monday, very much jet lagged, I wake at 4 in the morning and at 3, my head drops on the office desk. Then I drive home from the office to have a nap before dinner.
Why is Australia so far from France. And also SO expensive to get there, did I forget also how uncomfortable while sitting in a tin can for what amounts to one whole day. Still the movies although forgettable, were entertaining.

Having complained about the time and discomfort of getting there and returning back home, it is always worth the effort to visit such a wonderful country and meeting up with old friends (you know who you are) and making new ones.

We consider ourselves most fortunate to have been welcomed by our fellow Bloggers in the Loire et Cher region, and especially a special couple who gave us the opportunity to live in the local area for an extended period. Without their genorosity, it would not have been possible. (they know who they are).....

Anyway here's a few of my favorite photos around the region where we stayed in Thenay.








Thursday, December 04, 2014

Richelieu - an intriguing past

Richelieu, like Chinon is a village that we seem to be drawn back to on each visit to the Loire. We think we might know the reason after this visit. It's not that Richelieu is a vibrant village - in fact quite the opposite. With each visit it seems to have familiar shops and businesses now closed. The houses seem a little neglected and yet the history of the village, like Chinon is fascinating.
Chinon has King Henry of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart and Jeanne d'Arc as part of its history and Richelieu of course has the Cardinal.

The great thing about travel and Blogging is that it opens your eyes to further knowledge. While writing this post, I started researching the Cardinal's history - all too much to relate here but I would suggest you delve into his life. He was one of the most powerful men of his era in French history.

The statue of Cardinal Richelieu stands at the gates of the vast parklands where his Chateau once stood.


I found this quote amongst many by the Cardinal on the internet which I guess gives some insight to his character.
"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

One of the reasons we wanted to return to Richelieu was to see the newly restored Market Halle and it also just happened to be market day at the time. We read a blog "Eminence Rouge" which is based on both the village and the Cardinal - http://richelieu-eminencerouge.blogspot.fr 
You may find it interesting as it gives both history and also daily life of the village.

In process of the Cardinal building his "Ideal City" of the 17th century, building materials were brought from other fortresses and castles such as Chinon and a castle owned by Gaston d'Orleans at Champigny-sur-Veude. The castle originally built (1499) was acquired by the Cardinal and demolished (1635) in the process except for one section of the wall. The church, Sainte Chapelle remains as well.  In 1656, the land was returned and another chateau built which stands today. We travelled by the village on a previous trip and again this time.

These gates lead to Richelieu parklands where the Cardinal's Chateau once stood. 
Possibly because it was not the tourist season, we found that market day was attended by mostly locals and parking in the square was not difficult although we did arrive towards midday.
On our last visit to Richelieu, the Halle was in the early stages of renovation. It is a renovation rather than a restoration as there are a few modern concessions to comfort such as glasses in walls either side.




So we say goodbye to Richelieu and like Chinon, we wonder if we will ever have the opportunity to return in the future, yet they remain as travel memories - don't they.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Chateauvieux

Chateauvieux is just a small village upstream on the Cher river from Saint Aignan. It was another discovery on one of those many rides in the Loire et Cher region. As you drive towards the village, there is nothing to indicate that a chateau exists until you look up the side of an enormously steep cliff face to your left.

The name of the village gives some idea that there just might be a chateau lingering somewhere in the area.
The chateau from below in the village
The road up to the chateau was extremely steep and only wide enough for one vehicle. We discovered later that there was another entrance that took you to a rather car park. Believe it or not, there was only us and another couple there.
I believe that the Chateau is used as an aged care facility or similar. I've endeavoured to  research more but have come up with a blank.
Lower down the hill was where the local wineries offered tastings. This particular Domaine took its name from the homes built into the cliff face. Domaine des Troglodyte.
Its quite a contrast to see the magnificent chateau looking down on these homes and caves below.
Apologies for the poor quality of this photo but it had a dramatic effect on us. The six names are from two families that were accused of being in the Resistance and were deported by the Germans. 
In need of a "rest room" I was fortunate that Chateauvieux offered this one.
We are coming to a close of our photo stories of the Loire et Cher region but there may just be a back log of photos that will keep "Wednesdays in France" going for some time.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Pontlevoy - a French Village

Village in France: Louis Clergeau's Photographic Portrait of Daily Life in Pontlevoy, 1902-1936

Louis Clergeau
By coincidence prior to leaving on a previous trip to France, I wandered into a book shop and purchased a book on the clearance counter about a little village in the Loire Valley called Pontlevoy. On that trip, maybe 2008, we discovered that the village was only 2 kms down the road from our rented cottage at Thenay.The book featured photos from the early part of the 1900s by a local amateur photographer and business person. Louis Clergeau's many photos are mounted on the walls of buildings, showing how they once were when Ponlevoy was a thriving village. Today it is rather sleepy as many of the villages are today. With only approx 1500 population it tries to sustain two restaurants, a few cafes, an excellent patisserie and Boulanger where we enjoyed breakfast on a couple of occasions. It does have a small supermarket that we never discovered. I'm sure there is much more commercial businesses behind the many walls in the back streets. The mounted photos around the village take you on a museum walk of which we did on a previous visit.


The Abbey founded in 1034 is explained better by a Wikipedia insert below.
The chapel is well worth a visit due to its medieval architecture.
The Abbey was founded by a knight, Gelduin Charmont in 1034. The local folklore is documented on Wikipedia here;
"It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of the Count of Blois. Allegedly, the Virgin dressed in white, appeared above the rolling deck and calmed the sea.
Geldiun endowed the abbey with enough revenue for Benedictine monks to build a huge church, dedicated to the White Virgin. From the east, it looks like a complete Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and trefoil stone tracery in the windows of the radiating chapels." 


Cafe du Commerce was not open on the day of our visit however we have had a beer there in the past. 
Pontlevoy during the first half of the 1900s had a great sporting tradition of cycling, football, tennis among many theatrical events as well. This photo was taken of the start of the race to Charmont in 1931
Georges Chenneveau ran the local bike shop and also was an organiser of the local club and thier races in the area.
Judging by the flowers held by him in this photo, he must have been a fairly handy sportsman himself.
Even aviation "took off" at Ponlevoy having its own airfield 1910.
Wine has always been the mainstay of the Touraine region as this photo from 1902 shows.
Note the building behind back then and below today.
Today it serves as a handy barn to the current owners who have renovated the building to a liveable property.

Little remains of the more interesting features of the local cobbler's shop above from the 1920s
This early photo doesn't show the building closer to the street that shows in my photo below.

Although this 1912 photo of the then local Mairie shows a little activity, today the building s indicates little sign of habitation.

One building that has survived economically in Ponlevoy is once school, now a Hotel and Restaurant.
We had a fine meal there one night washed down a locally produced bottle of rouge. 

It looks as though the sign dates back many decades, doesn't it.
It's a little sad to have seen what Pontlevoy once was, but I guess with little interest from the young to stay in rural France, these villages remain the home of older locals, retirees from various countries looking for a more quiet and less costly lifestyle.
I hope you've enjoyed our very small walk around Pontlevoy. There really so much to discover in the streets behind the main highway that quickly passes by. You may just have to put a visit to Pontlevoy on your list if you visit the Loire et Cher region.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

All Roads Lead into and out off MONTHOU sur CHER

Driving, riding to and from Thenay in most cases took us through the lovely village of Monthou sur Cher. Even if we didn't have to, we would anyway. Monthur sur Cher is nestled in a valley with all but one way out being up hill so I would mostly ride in and out for some hill work.

Scenes from Monthou sur Cher
There are so many roads leading in and out of Monthur sur Cher. For those not aware, many names are identified by the rivers that are nearby. Monthur is about 2 kms from the Cher river hence the "sur Cher".
This water way leads to the idyllic lake dividing the village into two areas. One side has the Marie, church and small commercial area, the other is the recreational centre and restaurant. 
It would not matter how many times you came through Monthur sur Cher, there would be another scene worth a photograph. 

We found out why so many restaurants seem so busy in these out of the way rural areas. It seems that many, as part of their employment package get lunch vouchers or concessions. From noon to 2.00 pm is the traditional lunch period and the farmers in their little white vans, and the road workers in their hi vis vests come in for whatever is on the menu for that day.
Like most of the villages in this area, photos from about one hundred years ago are displayed at different points to show the differences, or in some cases, no difference. The village from memory has six or more roads leading in (or out). There's two small waterways that pass by and quite a large lake with a restaurant overlooking it and playing fields. Naturally it has its own 12th or 13th century church.

The main road in from rue Nationale takes you by this scene from maybe early 1900s.
And today there are very few changes except that this house has been renovated and well cared for. Many are not and sometimes in ruins. It is in some cases more economical to rebuild rather than renovate houses of several centuries in age.
I don't remember the age of this church and one gets a bit blasé after seeing heaps of XII/XIII churches in the various villages. Although there is little change with the church, with the advent of cars, a square has been formed in front that allows for some parking.

Monthou had its own mill built on the small water way that runs to the Cher river. There is a small bridge and judging by the shape of the building, its not hard to imagine that the bridge was there first.
The old Mill comes to a sharp point where it meets the bridge. 
The owners in their sympathetic restoration of the Mill have retained the Mill wheel that can be seen by the wall.
It is however fairly overgrown with brambles.
Some other local scenes of the edges of Monthou sur Cher





With a population of less than 1000 residents, its been documented that the area was inhabited from Palaeolithic to Neolithic times. The land is rich in flint clay. The Roman's also settled at nearby Thesee less than two kilometres away. There ruins are still visible where it was said that the settlement produced pottery. I stole this photo from our Blogging friends Susan and Simon whom we always try to say hello when in the Loire. Susan tells its history with far more detail that I can.
Visit their site via the link.
http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.fr/2014/03/roman-ruins-near-thesee.html or see my side bar for their blog.

Thesee Roman ruins - photo taken by Susan from Days on the Claise
At the north east road leading out of the village is the Chateau of Gue Pean which was started in the 15th Century. Although closed for the season as we drove up, it looked to be in a fairly average state. You see several Chateaux in the Loire et Cher region that are now down at heel due to the great expense to maintain. The Chambord, Chenonceau and Charmont Chateaux are national treasures and therefore are financed both by the government and the general public passing through the gates.

On the other side of Monthou not more than 2 kms away is the local Chateau.
Gue Pean is also an equestrian centre. Unfortunately we were too late in the year to explore the inside.


Although we left the Loire et Cher region today and staying overnight at Versailles before settling in a Paris apartment for the last week, we still have several posts to publish before we leave for Melbourne, our Home by the Bay. The journey is not yet over.