Sunday, June 30, 2013

Agnes Sorel

Considered to be the most beautiful woman in France, Agnes Sorel was the favorite mistress of King Charles VII.  She was very powerful during her 10 years at court, but died of a strange stomach malady at the age of 25.  In 2005, testing on her skeleton revealed she died of mercury poisoning.  It's hard to know if it was intentional poisoning by a jealous court member or from wearing too much makeup, which had a great deal of mercury in it.  The researchers also used current techniques to reconstruct her face.  It looks very much like all the paintings of her.  Agnes was painted in the fashion of the time, with one breast bare.

Angels guarding Agnes Sorel.

The lighting on the tomb is beautifully done.

After years of her tomb being kept in her namesake tower in the chateau, Agnes Sorel now rests in the collegiate church of Saint-Ours, as she had wished.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Loches, a Royal City

Courtyard of the Chateau de Loches

Loches is the nearest Big town to where we live.  We have visited here before, so knew where we wished to go; the Keep, built in the 11th century and the Royal Quarters from the French Renaissance.  We were able to park at the base of the ramparts and walk up the cobble street to an entrance gate in the walls.  There has been a lot of cleaning and restoration since we were in 2000 with Amy and John.

One of the chateau's more famous occupants was Agnes Sorel, considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in France during her life.  It also helped that she was the king's favorite mistress.

The Donjon, built in the 11th century, is considered the best preserved Keep in Europe. 

The two young women working at the front desk were very helpful.  We asked about a pass which would get us into several places; while they didn't have that, what they did have was a pass that would give us a year of admission to Loches chateau, as well as discounted admission to 7 other places.  All for only 4 euro more than the normal price.

Walls are an important part of any fortress.

When we looked over the wall from the top of the Donjon, we saw our car, way down below.

Canons were mounted on top of the Donjon.

To get to the top, we climbed many, many stairs.  Several were worn down in the middle from centuries of use.  Watch your step!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Garden Wall or Roman Aquaduct?

The good thing about using a GPS is it gets you close to where you wish to be when finding old things that are out in the middle of nowhere.  The bad thing about a GPS is it sometimes only gets you close, so you have to find a higher, clear spot to look for where you want to be.  So it was with the Roman Aquaduct near Luynes.  Fortunately, aquaducts are tall things, so they show up in the middle of crop fields.

Built about 200, there are 14 arches still standing.

A bit of height comparison, I'm 5'7".

The landowners sited their house so the aquaduct could be used as the garden wall.    On the other end of the house, the aquaduct is one side of the barn yard.

The aquaduct is now a protected ancient monument.  The locals have built a parking area, complete with sign and garden bench just across the road.  Bill sent a message to Garmin with the correct coordinates, so their newer maps will get you to the right place.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


In 1632, with permission from Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu (you may remember him from the "Three Musketeers", but he was a real and powerful person) built the original "Gated Village" for the rich and famous.  He also built himself a magnificent chateau, just outside the town, which did not survive the Revolution. Even after 200 years, he wasn't well thought of.

The gate house to Richelieu's gardens; the chateau is gone, but the gardens remain.
Being a modest man, he named the town after himself, Richelieu.  It is a walled rectangle with 4 gates.  At each end is a large square plaza;  shops and other public places on one, and the church anchoring the other.  Along the Grand Rue that connects the squares are 14 identical houses on each side.  Richelieu gave the land and built the houses for the rich and famous.  Each has a substantial gate large enough to drive a carriage into a courtyard with the house built around it, 3 stories tall.  Since the houses were identical, I assume the competition was to decorate them better than your neighbors.

One of the four gates into the village.
Plain or fancy?

The Market Hall, an essential part of village life, although I don't think they use this for their market days.

Rue Grande with the matching 14 houses on either side.
We enjoyed walking around Richelieu.  The gardens were closed, we think because of a violent storm that hit the area on June 17th.  It was easy to imagine how the houses on Rue Grande looked when they were new; shiny black slate roofs, beautifully painted stucco with the clean white of the limestone block trim for contrast.  The Market Hall has been refurbished with glass installed around the outside to make it more usable in all weather, as well as secure it for paid events.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Le Grand-Pressigny

Old part of the chateau and the donjon viewed from across the courtyard.

Le Grand-Pressigny is just a few kilometres from where we live.  We drove over in the rain, since it has rained a little every day we have been here.  In Le Grand-Pressigny we went to the Musee Prehistore which has recently opened a new wing and cave built on the grounds and attached of the Chateau Le Grand-Pressigny.  The original chateau is mainly a ruin, one of the towers fell down in 2009.  Wonder if this was the impetus to renovate, restore and eventually build a new museum?  The newer wing, built in the renaissance era, now has the new musee attached.  The grounds are well done, the view is spectacular, or at least it would have been if the sun had been out instead of clouds.  Instead, it has an impressionist feel.
Le Grand-Pressigny viewed from the chateau.

The old and the new meld together at Chateau  Le Grand-Pressigny.

The musee is not very large, but is very well done.  The displays are well signed, plus they have an audio guide in English.  The caves were recently restored and reopened.  They still feel ancient, but the displays are very modern.
Flint knife blades from one of the prehistoric cache sites around the area.

Flint core; to make the knives, they slough off ribs from the outside, the inside being too soft to use.

This area is famous for it's flint.  People have been mining it since the neolithic time to make points and knives.  Since we have found this out, we've started looking for flint used in buildings and walls.  We even found some in the rock used for paths at another chateau.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Tale of Two Cars

To get from Orly Airport in Paris to Ferriere Larcon, we rented a Peugeot 208.  A two day rental was only  $8 more than the one day, which would also give us the extra day to deal with our jetlag.   So, on Sunday morning we got up and drove to Descartes to the market.  (Silly us didn't take any pictures, blame it on the jetlag!)  The house car, a Citreon, stayed parked.

Peugeot 209

Monday, we did the morning chores and dog walking, ate a light lunch and cleaned up to return the car to Tours, planning to do a bit of grocery shopping on the way home.  Bill was to drive the rental, me the house car, but the house car wouldn't start!  The ominous sound of a dead battery was coming from under the hood.  We looked around for cables to jump it, but no luck.  What to do?  Bill found an illustrated French dictionary with the words we needed.  We tried calling the numbers left for friends who might help; one wasn't home, the other only spoke French and didn't understand mine, even though I did use my very best pronunciations. (Which were probably incorrect!)
Both cars in front of the house before we realized the battery was dead on the Citroen.

Bill took the dictionary and walked down the street to a neighbor, Jo Jo, we had met while walking the dogs the first evening.  When he arrived at her house, the top of the door was opened, so he knocked.  The couple were eating their lunch, the man looked up, we had not met him.  He said something in French, then his wife waved her arms, looking very angry and told Bill to go away!  Every time he tried to say something, she would repeat,  Go AWAY!  Bill stepped back from the door, then stood there thinking what to do next. She realized he was still there and came over to the door.  Before she could say anything, Bill said, in French, I am living in Pauline and David's house.  Jo Jo was immediately apologetic, saying she saw the book and thought Bill was a missionary!  Her husband, NauNau brought his cables and we jumped the car.   Merci!

The drive to the airport in Tours went smoothly, but I never turned the car off!  We drove back to Ligeuil to the smaller grocery store, Simply, instead of trying to find the big Le Clerc in Tours.  Bill sat in the running car while I did the shopping.  As he was waiting, a couple came up to the car saying in French, This is David's car!  Turned out they were the French speaking friends we had talked to earlier.  Between Bill's French and both of their use of charades, a fun conversation was had!  They were gone by the time I finished shopping.   We arrived home, finally turning off the engine.  Later in the evening, Nau Nau came with his battery charger to run over night.  It worked like a charm!   Merci pour votre assistance, Jo Jo and Nau Nau!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Hosts at Ferriere Larcon

We have four hosts while sitting at this house.  Two dogs, Caline and Harvey and two cats, Mossie and Fly, who want to be fed, loved and walked.

Caline and Fly

Harvey the Beagle.

We were here for two days before we met the yellow cat, Mossie.  We returned on the second evening from our walk with the dogs, and there she was, demanding to be fed.  The homeowners had warned us not to trust her.  Since she had been spayed, she was a real monster who would take your fingers off if touched.  We fixed her food, then she went off again.

The next morning as we were getting the dogs ready for their walk, up strolled Mossie.  Out the gates we went, she went over the fence.  Down the street we walked, she followed behind, her little bell dinging.  She walked with us the entire way.  If a car came, we stepped to the side of the road; Mossie would disappear into the bushes.  When we arrived back home, we came in through the gate, and Mossie went over the fence.  We have never had a cat go for a long walk with us; although it's the normal thing here as neighbors we saw greeted us, the dogs and Mossie. 

Mossie and Bill on the covered patio.

By that evening, Mossie had claimed Bill as her own.  He is able to give her rubs and she sleeps in his lap.  No missing fingers yet.

Bienvenue a Ferriere Larcon!

Our flight from Phoenix was uneventful, but warm, as the ventilation system wasn't working properly.  We arrived early into Heathrow, only to find our flight to Paris was delayed.  We had a good lunch, figuring it would be our only meal of the day; the breakfast served on the flight being inedible.  We wandered around the airport, looking in stores and windows, not buying anything.  At last our flight was announced.  The waiting area soon filled up, but no announcement as to loading.  An employee of British Airways told us the plane had landed, was being cleaned and refueled before we could load.  Another wait, then the same woman said there were still people "stuck on the plane" waiting for wheelchair assistance to disembark.  She looked very concerned; Bill and I laughed.  Finally, we were loaded and off.  Bill slept most of the way and I looked out the window.  The captain must have had his foot to the floor, because we arrived in a much shorted time than originally posted!

Landing went smoothly, our luggage arrived, the car was rented with little waiting and the atm worked!  After a false start because the GPS wasn't quite ready, we were on our way.  I had estimated we would leave the airport by 8 pm and it was closer to 9, not bad for a 2 hour flight delay.
Wind chargers were spaced beside the highway, with corn growing underneath.

21:46 and the sun is still shining.

The sun stays up much later this far north, so most of our drive on the toll road was in a bit of light.  By the time we paid up and took off on the smaller roads, it was dark, but we only had 25k to go.  BIB, our gps, took us right to the front gates of our new home.  I jumped out, opened them and Bill drove through.

While I located the bag of dog treats, Bill unlocked the doors.  The inside is a split door, so he carefully opened the top.  Looking in, he was immediately greeted by two barking, wiggle tailed dogs.  Opening the bottom, we both walked in, calling them by name.  Harvey is a Beagle and Caline is a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, crossed with a Bassett Hound.  They took the treats and a rub, then ran out the door to go pee, as well as inspect the car.  The black and white cat, Fly, showed up almost immediately.  We unloaded the car, carried our suitcases upstairs, located an opened box of wine and two glasses.  Sante!

Our home for the next two months.  Our bedroom is the dormer on the far left.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Our Bags Are Packed

After a cancelled flight due to the air controllers strike in France caused a 3 day delay, we are finally leaving on our next housesitting adventure. We are flying from Phoenix through London Heathrow, on to Paris Orly, where there will be a rental car to drive to Ferriere-Larcon in the Loire Valley.  Because of the flight changes, we will not be meeting the home owners as they will be in the air at the same time on their way to Dallas.  Maybe we can wave to each other as the planes pass in the sky.  Bon Jour!  Au Revoir!!

Bill's things are with the red suitcase, mine are with the grey.  Both suitcases are 22" carryon size, although we check them.
We really hope the two dogs will be friendly with the strangers arriving at their home very late in the evening.  Keep your fingers crossed that knowing their names and coming with treats will make friends with them!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Folks You Can Find on the Internet

Mary Anne and Charles ready to leave for the airport. 

Bill first met Mary Anne on Facebook through a mutual friend.  She seemed like an interesting person with an unique take on life, so why not become a friend?  The mutual friend died, but the friendship with Mary Anne continued. 

In one of life's little twists, they soon discovered that Mary Anne's husband, Charles, and Bill, are cousins, sharing the same ancester, one Isaiah Willmon.   Charles calls him Great Great Great Grandfather, while to Bill he is Great Great Grandfather.  To bring it closer in time, Bill's Grandfather and Charles' Great Mother are siblings.

This is the second time we have stayed in their home with Toby the Wonder Spaniel, while they are off on an adventure.  We will gladly stay here again, but first we are planning to get together at our home in the desert next spring.

I have long believed that friends are your chosen family; with Charles and Mary Anne, we have both!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bob's Hummingbirds

Our friend Bob, in Redding, has two hummingbird feeders hanging by the front walk of his house.  Every morning his fills the quart bottles of each and by nightfall they are both empty.  At any given moment, there are hummingbirds eating, whooshing by, chattering at each other and at you, if you stand still.  There is nothing quite like the feel of being dive bombed by a hummingbird!

Breakfast time!

All the seats are full and there is a waiting line.

They fill the perches as fast as they are empty.

All of these hummers are Anna's, the most common variety in Redding.

A very small, young bird.

A rare moment of stillness.

Hurry up Bob, it's time for a refill!


If you find yourself driving I-5 through Williams, California, be sure to stop at Granzella's.  They have everything you need for a nice break.  Lots of parking, clean restrooms, good food served either sit down or deli style and, although you may not know this is a necessity, lots and lots of olives to taste, for free!  We stop every time we pass through, which isn't nearly often enough.
What you get to look at while waiting for your food in the bar.

Everywhere you look, wild animals, except for the one hereford bull.  Who put him there?

They have had this polar bear for a long time.  He even survived a major fire several years ago.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Interstate 5 North to Redding

Driving from Sacramento to Redding on I-5 can be a pretty boring trip.  Honestly, the road is straight except for maybe 2 curves, except for driving through College City, population 290, which has an overpass and a curve!
Olive tree
Rest area built in an olive grove.

Corn field in front, coastal range in rear.
The center medians are filled with blooming oleanders.

Barn in the corn field.

But there is beauty to be found, if you just open your eyes.  It also helps you stay awake while driving.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Toby the Wonder Spaniel recommends Charity Miles

Toby and Mary on the patio in the garden.  He has the silkest hair on the very tiptop of his head.

Toby is the Wonder Spaniel, just ask anyone who knows him.  His breed is Springer Spaniel, with an added emphasis on the Spring part.  His favorite thing to do is chase the squirrels who run along the electric lines over the backyard, barking ferociously.  Since the last time we stayed with him, Toby has developed epilepsy, which requires him to be on fairly heavy doses of drugs.  These make him sleep a bit more and to be constantly hungry.  When he wants to eat, he will sit by you and put his left foot up and down, up and down, to get your attention.  He is very determined!

Toby and I walk at least 4 days a week, using my Iphone app for Charity Miles to earn money for the ASPCA, Toby's favorite organization.  You see, Toby thinks all animals should be as loved as he is!  If you walk, run or bike, have a smartphone and a sharing nature, check out Charity Miles. 

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...