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. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scenes from Saint Aignan-sur-Cher

Saint Aignan is one of the villages in the local area here in Loire Valley on the Cher River. We drove in last week and had a spot of lunch before meeting up with friends where we are staying in the commune of Saint Romaine sur Cher. 

Do people send telegrams or post letters anymore?
So many places to see in all directions
The bridge over the River Cher to enter Saint Aignan.

Hopefully a new cafe is about to open once the renovations are complete.

A section of the walls that protected Saint Aignan in medieval times
Some of the ancient buildings make great subjects. Much renovation is apparent just the same.

Note the carved face - top left. How old would these wood beams be?
This trip is I think our fourth visit to the region and we become acquainted with several people in the area now. Our friends for whom we are house sitting (looking after cats) while they take a quick visit to the UK, we met when we rented their cottage in Thenay. It is a small rural village, yet central to most of the grand Chateaux of the Loire. We’ll be staying at the cottage later and we will give you more of an insight into life in a French rural community in future posts. Many of my cycling will be centred around the Thenay region. The roads are almost car free and traverse many other villages of this wine growing district.

Possibly the gate house to the Chateau?

This morning we decided to cross the Cher river and have a mid-morning breakfast at Saint Aignan. Being a Tuesday, several businesses were slow to open. Mondays are worse with most non-essential businesses closed.
The town promotes itself as “Cite Medievale”  and it certainly does have some fine architectural examples of the period.
Saint Aignan also has the most amazing Chateau, unfortunately not open to the public as it is privately owned, although the gardens are accessible.
Coming from our side of the Cher, the Chateau as you cross the river is a most imposing sight. Beside the chateau are the remnants of the 11th century fortress and donjon. 
I took the opportunity to walk around the perimeter of the Chateau which also took me closer to its  amazing ramparts.

The Chateau from below - we must enter the gardens while here.

Above the bridge - the remnants of the castle Donjon

As you walk back to the centre of the village, you are faced with “collegial de St Aignan”. Its origins date from the 11th century and in its lower depths is the crypt with brightly coloured painting of religious scenes.

With time on your hands, you can walk the many small walkways nestled among the part wood and part stone medieval buildings to experience what it may have been like to live in this village through the centuries. Be prepared to have comfortable walking shoes as the only flat streets seem to be on the river.

Lunch today took us to the Montrichard but that’s another post for another time.
Today we go to the Loches market and will try to post some photos later. This post comes to you through the generosity of fellow bloggers here in Saint Aignan while we feed their cat.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

THIERS - a surprise stop to RIOM

I'd heard of Theirs in the Auvergne region through our France travel books but never made the visit despite being close by on a previous trip. The town's main commercial claim to fame was its knife manufacturing industry of which Sue after becoming aware, could not contain her excitement. Being a tragic cook, she has this knife fetish and travels with them. She now has two additions to the collection - one especially for boning fish.

Several past scenes are on show as you walk Theirs. Some today scenes differ little from  the past.
We parked at Rue Terrasse overlooking the valley. 
It's possible I may have a door or window fetish. It's hard not to when you see such age and art in many of them.

This half wood house is now the Tourism Centre (much the same as Montrichard, not far from where we will be staying tomorrow. 

The town itself is quite magical and our short lunchtime visit only gave us a glimpse of its hidden treasures. Sitting high in a ridge, it's buildings and streets follow the lay of the land with many windy and narrow passageways to explore. Although today there are many derelict medieval buildings, there are also an increasing restoration happening. These buildings date back to the 14th and 15th centuries when Theirs was in its most prosperous period up to the 18th century.

Supposedly the largest church dome in the Auvergne region.
We stumbled apon the Church of St Genes as we wandered aimlessly through the lane ways. Many flowers sat in the doorway when we arrived and we expect that there was a funeral service not far off in the afternoon.
We read in the notes provided while sitting inside the church that it was claimed to have been initially built in 575 and rebuilt in the 12th century. A small portion of the ancient fresco still remained and the stained glass was impressive for a small church.

Hard not to appreciate the stained glass as the sun pours through.
To the right are scenes of Adam and Eve. Click for a larger view. 
The church organ. It would take a rather slim and fit organist to climb  the very small enclosed stairway to the left. 

and yesteryear.
Not wanting to be there when the funeral service arrived, it was time to find some lunch. This we discovered in a half wooden medieval building around the corner. It was a Creperie and it seemed to be more locals than tourists eating there. We prefer this.
Behind the doors which seemed to accommodate a small number of tables, I later discovered that further stairways, both up and down opened up into further eating areas. It seemed that these rooms were carved out of the cliffside. Oh, yes - and the crepes with a beer went down well.

The Creperie was to the left via the wooden doors.
The same street scene.
We left the relaxed quietness of Theirs (approx 11,000 pop) for the larger busier town of Riom for our last overnight stay before reaching friends at Saint Romaine sur Cher, 250 kms away.