Saturday, November 01, 2014

A few days ago we had apero with a French couple along with our English hosts here in the commune of Saint Romaine sur Cher. Our hosts are the reason that we have the opportunity to experience life in the Loire, not so much as the usual tourist but as far as possible for us, to be a very small part of the local community. Two years ago when staying with Carol and Michael we expressed Sue’s dream of living in a French city or village for a longer period than a few weeks. The longest we as Australians can live in the European Union is three months without going through complicated paperwork. So Carol and Michael generously offered us the opportunity to house sit (take care of cats) while they attended to certain things back in the UK. They also offered us their cottage in Thenay before we had to return to Australia. My employer in Australia being generous as well allowed me to take 10 weeks leave which was part long service leave and accumulated annual leave. And so the adventure began from that dinner party two years ago. That dinner party was re-enacted a little after our arrival two weeks ago with the same guilty parties from 2012.

These photos are from our dinner earlier in the week with Carol, Michael, Annick, Gerard, Sylvie, Ken and Walt and ourselves.
Carol says to Ken, you sit there while Annick looks on but Gerard has already taken his seat at the head of the table.
A table set for 9.
For starters - Crevette and Saumon

Smoked Mackerel
Then Gerard introduced us to a palate cleaner before our main course.
Carol and Michael have friends no more than a kilometre further down the country lane from their house. On a previous visit we met Annick and Gerard and have enjoined their company on this visit as well. This particular nigt we sat in their home with good wine, good food, good company and much laughter.

I personally am very frustrated that I find it difficult to express myself in their language but Sue is enjoying the learning process and seems be getting a good grasp of communicating in French.
The main course of Guinea Fowl arrived but after this and many drinks, not only did I forget to take a photo of desert but it has now sen lost to my memory. It is enough said that we had a very merry night with good friends.
With an inquisitive mind, I probably ask to many questions but I find that you learn more by asking and listening. Gerard and Annick’s lives are probably similar to others in rural Australia however their’s is intertwined with the wine industry and interrupted by World War II. 
From what I could grasp from our conversation on the night, Gerard’s involvement in the wine industry dates back to his father and grandfather. He and Annick sleep in the bed where Gerard was born. During the second world war, the family’s home was on the German occupied side of the Cher from free France. Gerard on our previous visit showed me graffiti carved in the soft stone walls of the family home.

During Gerard and Annick’s time of tending the vineyards, they grew Gamay, Cabernet and Sauvignon blanc. They grew the grapes, made the wine and bottled it for sale.

Tonight’s apero - something that traditionally starts at 6.30 pm I think came to an end at 10.00 pm. I say that I think it finished then because after what seemed like four or five bottles (I lost count) of sparkling and many courses of nibbles with much laughter, the night came to an end.

We feel fortunate to have been invited into Annick and Gerard’s home and to enjoy their wonderful friendship.

We are now at Carol and Michael’s cottage in Thenay and today we visit other Blogging friends for the first time but more about that soon.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Just another Saturday Market in the Loire

It’s been an amazing day (Saturday), I really don’t know how we fit so many things into one day.
It started out as a visit to the Saint Aignan market. We arrived around 9ish without having breakfast. We like to buy some delicacies from a patisserie and then find a bar to order a coffee and watch the world go by. I took Sue to the same bar where I enjoyed my arvo Pelforth Blonde the other day after my bike ride. The lady who runs the bar remembered me and was really nice. I think we should come back while we are here.

The French now put their fizzy pop in boxes - Oh No!!!!

What kind of mushrooms would you like - this lady has them all.
Halloween is just around the corner.
Trousers and towers
I wonder what country girls wear these sassy dresses!!!

French markets are fun, they have some great produce, and some very tacky clothes. When we walked towards the market at Saint Aignan, we could hear recorded music being piped into the streets and all the town folk were milling around the stalls - seafood, cheeses, meats, veggies and those tacky clothes I mentioned earlier.

I think that the markets are also a meeting place for the locals to catch up with each other. We saw many examples of this over the morning. In fact it happened to us! We met a local American who lives in Saint Aignan with a friend visiting from the west coast of the US. We had dinner with him a few nights back.

After the market, we took a drive to investigate a place recommended by friends that we are staying with. It’s called Chateauvieux not far from Saint Aignan. Yes, there is a Chateau but also it has a few examples of Troglodyte homes. These are homes that are dug into the sides of the soft hillsides of the valley. These days, many of the extensive caves and tunnels are used to store wine or grow varieties of mushrooms. 
As we drove into Chateauvieux we noticed these balls of green growth which we are told is a parasitic mistletoe.

Look closely and you see homes that are part of the some cliff faces - we saw much of this a few trips back in the Dordogne region of France. 
A closer image. - Further up the road in Beurre on the way to Montrichard, there are extensive cave networks that meander for many kilometres under the hills. I should imagine that the French resistance used these tunnel networks to their advantage.
After leaving Chateauvieux we travelled to the village of Contres where they have a rather modern and upmarket supermarket as Sue was cooking dinner for our hosts in the commune of Saint Romaine sur Cher. 
Throughout France you see in the small villages, memorials
to the locals  that lost their lives during the war. In this case there are only six names, three from two families.
One has to wonder why they were transported to Germany from this little village on the Cher River in the Loire never to return. Were they part of the resistance?  Were they found out? Were they posing as French when they may have been Jewish. I wonder if there is anyone in Chateauvieux that could tell us - how sad.
BUT!!!! Beforehand I had a one hour window of opportunity to shed a few calories with a 32 kms ride along the Cher on the Saint Aignan side, cross over and come up the other side and home - what can I say, it keeps me sane.

Tomorrow being Sunday brings new experiences with an afternoon apero with our hosts and their French friends, Annick and Gerard. 
Our friends tell us that Gerard sleeps in the same bed that he was born in. During the war, the Germans took over his home and there is still some graffiti scratched into the soft stone walls. We've now met for a group dinner on a couple of occasions and they are always jolly company.

Something that I was not quite use to back home. So much for privacy.

Monday we move to a cottage in the village of Thenay via the generosity of our hosts Carol and Michael. If you ever decide to come to the Loire Valley, their cottage is in the middle of the Chateaux district and really worth renting. We'll tell you about the life of living in a rural village in the Loire over the next four weeks while at Thenay

I took a longer ride today (60 kms) being Sunday. The hunt season is in operation in rural France currently so you need to ride on the main roads and keep your distance from the forests. This morning as I was riding along the banks of the Cher river, I heard the sound of several large blasts - I hope the hunter's shots were unsuccessful. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scenes from Loches

We’d been to Loches previously on the Wednesday’s market day. It consisted of the usual, food, wine, plants and clothes. The central older part of the town hosted the market and it felt familiar to us on this visit.
Loches, Montresor and Montpoupon are all close together and make a great day out.
Ensure you have lunch somewhere in Loches.
The market was well underway when we arrived at mid-morning.
Loches is not far south of Saint Aignan in the Touraine region. It’s an easy and picturesque drive from the banks of the Cher. You travel over rolling hills and through a few dark forests along the way. Either on the way or on the return drive you can stop at the smaller chateaux of Montresor and Montpoupon which we may post before we leave the region. We find that these smaller chateaux are kinder to the senses than the huge ones such as Chenonceau and Chambord.

Plants, food and clothing are all the part of the Loches market.

Now this is the sort of creative art you can appreciate. Come to think of it, there seems very little graffiti in France compared to Italy or maybe its just a large city thing! 

The name of the business just appealed to me - I wonder what business it is!
What we didn’t experience on the previous visit was the medieval Citadel -  and the royal residence of the King of France, Charles VII. Logis Royal. Here he also entertained his mistress, the La Dame de Beaute, Agnes Sorel. The nearby church is where she is buried and there is a alabaster effigy with angels beside her head. Its thought provoking that a King’s mistress should be given such a resting  place but there you go!!!!

Charlie's home away from home with Agnes in Loches
The effigy of Agnes Sorel with sheep at her feet.
And angels at her head.
The church where Agnes Sorel's effigy is close by the Chateau high overlooking Loches.
Many of the figures had almost a pagan look about them.
Carvings from the columns within the church.

The other woman in Charlie’s life was most definitely a saint - Jean d’Arc. Initially she met Charlie at Chinon despite that he had put one of his men in his robes to fool her, but Joanie didn’t fall for the masquerade. Convincing Charlie to give her an army to defeat the English at Orleans, she returned to Loches to implore the Dauphin to be crowned King of France. Her devotion to Charles was not returned as she was, in the end burnt at the stake with no intervention by Charles.

I have many photos of Jean d'Arc from our travels through France. The most dramatic is her on horseback in the square at Chinon where she first met Charles VII
Towards the end of our walk around the Citadel of Loches and back to the lower reaches of town, I noticed some very old photos of street scenes. It was after looking at the photos more closely and the street we were in, that I realised they were the same but with possibly with over a100 year gap.

After descending from the Citadel of Loches, we were in time for lunch. As we returned to the area where the market was, it was deserted and pristine by 2.00 pm as if it never existed. It was time to leave Loches for the supermarche, and home to feed our host’s cats.