Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gallo-Roman Ruins, Here We Come

A theatre, which originally had 15 M high walls at the rear, with seating for 3000 people.
The first time we tried to visit the Gallo-Roman ruins near La Lude, the serpentine belt on the car started fraying, so we returned home instead.  Now, with a new belt in place, we were ready to venture forth.  Bill looked at Google Maps to find a direct route on larger roads, so the trip there would go quicker.  Unfortunately, it didn't show the road construction deviations.  One was so awkwardly signed, that a policeman was standing in the middle of an intersection talking to each car and sending them in the correct direction.  We showed him our map, to which he pointed with his key,  "C'est la, la, a la"  We answered "D'accord" and went on our way.  Driving in France is always an adventure!

Always fun to imagine how it must have looked when new.

The site included a forum, theatre, large temple and baths.  You could also see the underground aquaduct that fed the baths from a spring 3k away.  Archaeologists have been working this area for 35 years.  The ruins are surrounded by farmland, some in hay and some used for grazing.  Since this was someones farm before being dug up, the farmer still has use of the land. The hay had been cut and baled.  On the other side of a fence from the site, the owner was separating his cows into two fields, with much yelling and running.  The cows were very interested in what we were doing.   One field included a bull who was more than ready to do his job of insuring a new generation of cows.

I am the Bull!
Since we had no plans other than going to the SuperU in Descartes on the way home, Bill programmed BiB to take us there, by any way she wanted.  We traveled on small roads, past fields of wheat, bales of hay, sunflowers, tree farms and onions.  The villages were small and deserted, since it was lunchtime; everyone was eating except us.

A field of onions grown for seed.
While in the SuperU in Descarte, there was a tremendous downpour.  By the time we had finished with our shopping, the sun was shining again.  Our weather for the past few days has been this way.  So far, we have missed getting wet.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Orchids in Touraine

Round headed Ranpion, Phytenma , with a male thick legged flower beetle, Oedemera hobilis. Though very beautiful, this is not an orchid.
We were lucky to spend an afternoon with Susan from Days on the Claise blog, who was kind enough to include us.  Susan spends one afternoon a month counting butterflies for the Natural History Museum in Paris.  She has 5 different sections to walk over, keeping track of what flies by.  We found it very interesting.  The count has been down this year, partly to the cold and rain, and partly to last years being down too.  Butterflies are a bit like bees, if they are thriving, nature is thriving.

A hummingbird  hawk moth, Marroglossum stellatarum, enjoying the fragrant orchid, Cymnadema canopsea,.  Can you see his tongue?

The blooms are so delicate.
Susan also shared her knowledge of the local plants, including orchids.  Orchids like limestone ridges, so that is where we walked.  Susan was also kind enough to identify our pictures, because we couldn't remember all the information.   If you look at flowers, you will always find insects, they go together.

Starting to open.

Opened to the top.

The last place we stopped to look for orchids was a wonderful surprise.  There were two species blooming and a Hummingbird Hawk Moth enjoying one of them.  This was not our first encounter with a Hummingbird Hawk Moth; we had met them in the Lot many years ago with our son, John.  At first they fooled us into thinking they were birds, until one landed on John's hand!  They are adept at pollinating orchids.

Spiders like orchids, too.

A beautiful cluster of  red helleborine orchids, Cephalanthera rubin.

We ended our afternoon on Susan's shady patio sharing a drink with her and Simon.  A very enjoyable afternoon in sunny Touraine.
Dragon Fly sitting for a portrait.  

Susan in her element.
Thank you Susan!  Perhaps you can visit Arizona one day and let us show you around!

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Secret Chateau

Chateau de Grillemont
We found a new friend and a secret chateau!  A call from Paula, a friend of our home owners, who wished to show us a special place.  We met in the parking lot at the Simply Market in Liguiel, then on to her house. What a lovely place!  Paula has lived in France for 4 years, didn't speak any French before coming here and now gets along very well!
Walking up to the chateau, the couple waiting on us are from The Netherlands.

 There are thousands of chateaux in France and most of them are privately owned.  Paula knew of such a chateau that is only opened two weeks a year.  The tour guide is a neighbor of hers, a delightful young woman, who is working of a degree in literature.

The lower level of the chateau.

Chateau de Grillemont is on a quiet country road, away from everything.  The owner, who is 93, still lives there, but in a small part of the building.  When we arrived, there was another couple already there, who were Dutch.  Turns out Paula speaks a bit of Dutch, so we all got along well.  Plus, the man had played basketball in the US!  He spoke English with an American accent and had played in Arizona, so he knew of the University of Arizona's basketball team
Bill took this picture of the music room before realizing that pictures were not allowed.
The chateau had only a few rooms opened, but they were beautifully furnished.  The best part was a library, hidden behind a wall.  It has very old books, handmade books, and newer books, all in beautiful shelving.  No pictures, though, as they weren't allowed.  We could have spent days in this room.

Paula and Mary walking around the chateau and talking.
It isn't often you come across such a grand place that still feels like a home.  We enjoyed our visit here and getting to know Paula as well.

Friday, July 26, 2013

No Gallo-Roman Ruins Today

The plan for the day was to visit the Gallo-Roman ruins near Le Lude.  We were up early, dogs walked, all animals fed; including us.  The rain gear was stashed in the back, just in case.   We stopped in Descartes to fill up with diesel and check the tire pressure.  Smooth Sailing!

We were over half way there when: Thump, thump, thump!  What's that? Pull over now!  I thought it might be a flat tire, but the tires looked good.  Then I heard the thump, thump, thump from under the hood of the car.  Popped open the hood to discover a belt was starting to fray.  It had already hit the hose that connected to the water pump and dislodged it from the brackets, but no holes, yet.  Bill turned off the motor so I could put the hose back into the brackets.

On closer inspection,  it wasn't just any old belt, but the serpentine that controls everything!  Bill was able to use his French Traveling Pocket Knife to trim the frayed end, but had to leave about 1/2 inch hanging because he couldn't reach it.  We turned the car around and started the the most direct route home.  No more BiB and her scenic routes! About a third of the way home, it started thumping again.  Pull off the road, turn off the engine, pop the hood. This time, Bill was able to reach enough to cut the belt flush; no excess hanging about.  On the road again, this time all the way home.  A leisurely drive, but no particularly relaxing.

We sent an email to the owners to please call their mechanic to arrange repairs, then let us know.  This sort of expenditure is beyond our budget.  Because of the time difference between France and Texas, it was 4 pm before we heard back.  They had talked to their mechanic and a neighbor, who would come to show us where to take the car, as well as give Bill a ride back.  Thanks to David and Pauline for responding so quickly to the problem!  If all goes well, we should pick the car up Friday afternoon.  If it doesn't go well, we will be walking this weekend.  Oh well.  The brochant in La Celle-Guenana on Sunday is only 5.6k away.  Just a nice stroll!

The belt is suppose to cover all of the wheel.
The day wasn't entirely wasted.  I did get two loads of laundry done and Bill vacuumed upstairs, while I did the downstairs.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Les Cles d'Euphonia

Laetitia Trouve is the conductor.  I enjoyed her conducting style.
Walking through the market at Loches, we came upon a small orchestra setting up to play.  This was a small performance intended to draw attention to their evening performance at Espace Agnes Sorel.  They were playing all weekend;  Friday in Ste-Maure-de-Touraine, Saturday in Loches and Sunday in Fondettes.  All of the performances were free, sponsored by several local governing agencies.

The musicians getting ready.

Time to tune to the oboe.  The oboe had several outstanding solos.

The program for the evening performances were:

Moussorgski     Une nuit sur le Mont Chauve
Chostakovitch   9th symphonie  en Mi benol opus 70
Grieg  Danses Norvegiennes  opus 35

We didn't make it back for the evening concert, but their noon time performance was extremely good.  It was also nice to see all the children bringing their parents over to listen as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013



Built by Francios I as a hunting lodge, Chambord is huge.  The building was never used as a home, so was never furnished.  All the trappings of royalty were packed in when they arrived and packed out when they left.  For this visit, we arrived late afternoon, for the quality of the light on the building.  We had planned to go inside, but soon realized it would be closing at 6pm, unlike most of the other chateaux, which are opened until 8pm.  We should have checked on the website.  Bill wanted to take pictures from the terraces on the top, but it didn't happen this visit.  I did miss seeing Leonardo da Vinci's double helix staircase; such a wonder of design and engineering.

The terrace runs along the top; the view is wonderful.

The chateau has water on three sides.  It wasn't build as a defensive feature, but to be enjoyed by the guests of the King.   Today, visitors may rent small motor boats and canoes, to float around the chateau.  On a hot day, such as this, it would certainly beat walking.

The bridge over the water feature.  You can tell there wasn't a bit of a breeze.

Motor boats for rent.
The old buildings around the chateau are filled with restaurants and tourists shops.  The shade of trees and umbrellas are wonderful to sit under while enjoying a meal or, like us, a sorbet.

Ice Cream anyone?

Linden trees pruned to provide wonderful shade.

There are bicycle and 4 person peddle bikes for rent.  We saw an Italian family, sons peddling, Mom and daughter riding, with a defective bike.  They couldn't give it enough push to get up the rise to the road. Finally, amid much laughter, Bill and two other men came to their rescue, helping to push the bike onto the flatter main road.   Watching as they tried to continue, Bill decided the steering wasn't working.  As we walked by the rental place, he told one of the employees, who promptly went to the bridge to fix the problem.  We later saw the family happily continuing their tour around Chambord.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chateau de Chenonceau

Looking over the Catherine de'Medici garden toward the chateau.

 Chenonceau is considered by many to be the most beautiful chateau in France.  Built straddling the River Cher, water runs around it as well as through.  On this visit we decided to try something different; a boat ride to view the chateau from the water.

Bill enjoying his Leffe Rosie, a beer with a raspberry flavor.  We will try most anything once.

We arrived early, so had a light lunch at a campground snack bar across the road from the dock.  The majority of the patrons in the cafe were also waiting for the boat ride.  When the time came to board the boat, I gave the woman our 18 euros, but she said "Quatorze"  When I looked puzzled, the reply was since the river was lower, we would only be doing a 45 minute trip instead of 55 minutes.  Guess that's good for a discount!

Looking toward the bow of the boat.  Most of the people were French, but we heard Dutch and British English being spoken.
This damsel fly was bright blue.  I think he was speaking French.
The tour was in French, with guides main focus on the large catfish that live in the river.  He passed around pictures for all to see, with English translations.  There were some pretty good sized catfish!  Would have been perfect fried with hushpuppies and potatoes!  The water on the Cher is so clear you can see the bottom, as well as all the fish swimming by.  We saw some of those catfish  for ourselves!

No catfish, but you can see the bottom of the river.

Kayakers cooling off in the river.  They really had to paddle hard to come back upstream.

Then Chenonceau came into view.  Breathtaking!  Our boat stopped in the water for quite a while, so we could take pictures. Then the captain brought it around and stopped again at a different angle.  We were out more than 45 minutes.
Chenonceau from the water.  Who put that tree in the middle of the picture?
We then drove to the chateau to walk through the building and gardens.  It was a very hot day.  The number of tourists inside the building was staggering, especially in the kitchen area.  Too hot and humid for me!  We went upstairs, where there was more of a breeze though the hallways and rooms.

The wall paper is hand painted.

Too hot to cook, but if it wasn't this stove would do the trick!
There are two gardens named for two of the famous and powerful women who lived here; Diane de Poitier and Catherine de'Medici.  They both loved the same man, King Henri II; Diane was his mistress and Catherine his wife.  After Henri's death, Catherine tossed Diane out and took Chenonceau as her own. Catherine ruled France from here, as Regent for her son.  Catherine was also mother to five daughters, who all became queens through marriage.  Quite a powerful legacy.

Flower filled urns top the wall surrounding the garden.
Silent sentinel, keeping watch for 600 years.
Bill on the down river side of the chateau.  You can walk out the "back door" to stroll along the river and cool off.

On the property, there is also a 16th century farm, which grows all the lovely flowers for the chateau, as well fruits and vegetables used in the restaurant.   We really enjoyed this visit to Chenonceau.

In the farm's gardens, all the pathways were bordered with apple trees espaliered on a wire only 2 feet off the ground.  They were covered in fruit.  What a unique way to grow apples.

Monday, July 22, 2013


The past two days on our morning walks, the dogs and I have seen lots of yellow flowers.  These were taken with my iphone, as Bill uses my camera on his morning walks.  There are flowers everywhere!
Not sure, but they look like a buttercup
An intensely yellow bloom.
The sunflowers are finally blooming.
A little daisy, but all the blooms are on one stalk, instead of stems.
Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.
As we walked, we could hear the two different combines harvesting the wheat.  Our little village is surrounded by fields of corn, wheat, and sunflowers.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

The chateau Azay-le-Rideau is often pictured in the travel brochures for France.  It is very photogenic. We have it up as the banner on our blog, if you are reading this close to the published date.   Although it is now in the middle of the town, one still has to walk down a fairly long tree lined lane to get to the main gate. The entire chateau is surrounded by flowing waters, so there is a peacefulness about the place.  As we were crossing the first bridge over the moat, a small English girl said, "Oh look!  A moat!  And it isn't broken!" That's right, there are no dry moats here!

The unbroken moat as seen from inside the chateau.

The gardens are mainly given over to lawn and trees.  We wished the trees were labeled as some looked like California Redwoods, but not quite right.  Maybe it's the French influence.  There were also several bushes blooming that really needed a name.  I told Bill they were "Walter Willmon's" as he would have loved the way they looked!  Pop was always a sucker for beautiful blooms!
Similar, but not exact.

I name thee "Walter Willmon".

The blooms were huge!

Inside the chateau there have been many renovations.  One was to open up the attics so visitors can see the beautiful support beams that allowed for the high ceilings in the rooms.  It was a new idea at the time this was being built, 1522.  The wood is oak taken from neighboring forests.

The most recent restoration is that of Philippe Lesbahy's bedchamber.  The results are breathtaking!  From the brochure: "The reproduction of the textile trimmings results from a scientific study based on the comparison of various painting from the second half of the 16th century with textiles from the Renaissance period preserved in public collections.  Covering the walls and floors with bulrush mats was common during the Renaissance. Although it seems that no such mat exist today in France, the remains of 16th century mat can be observed in Hampton Court Palace in England."   Since the mat has been recently made and hung, the smell in the room is like new mown hay.  A nice change from musty and old.
The lady of the house had a fancy bedchamber.
 The house has been owned by many people and now belongs to the State.  For a while, it must have stood empty for there is graffiti carved in several places.  Now, it is guarded by CCTV; hopefully no more graffiti.  There is, however, carvings on doors, ceilings and panels, by skilled artisans.
Graffiti from 1918 on a wall by one of the windows.

Beautifully carved front door.

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,...