You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2014.

Chinon was the last, largest, and most historically well known Chateau I visited. Even if you know nothing of French history, I’m sure you’ve heard of Joan of Arc or Jeanne d’Arc. She came here to ask for her army, and this chateau was a fortress more than than a luxurious home. The old town is still preserved with its meandering cobblestone streets just as it was in medieval times.

The road where Joan rode her horse up to the castle has remained unchanged except for the handrails constructed for the many tourists.

Looking down from the top of the climb, you can see the medieval town looks as unchanged as the path leading away from it.

The fortress is meant to be imposing and cold, and it retains that ambiance even in this century.

As with every other fortress, it had several modes of protection, like a deep moat.

Only a small part of the fortress is restored, and it takes about 10 years to complete even a small section because artisans who specialize in doing things as they did hundreds of years ago do the work and it takes almost as long as it did 800 years ago.

This is how most of the site looked after all the battles.

You can see here where they restored the top part of this section.

There are models of what was originally built at various times.

Some towers are partially restored

but you can’t climb some of the stairs yet.

Some parts are restored but still scary

as you descend into what used to hold prisoners four floors below ground!

Other towers held pigeons, more for food than correspondence!

The best part of the climb up

is the view

in every direction.

A modern elevator can take you to a nice view from the public parking lot.

Since this is a major attraction, they have videos in every room in English and French, explaining the history in fine cinematic form equivalent to a PBS show. The high tech self guided tour includes audio in whatever language you speak at certain points merely by passing your brochure over the black and white symbols. Admission is also discounted by 2 Euros if you’ve visited a neighboring chateau and retain the ticket stub, making it under $10 USD for entry.

There’s a nice park like sitting area in the middle of the fortress.

Heading back down the road where Joan of Arc rode

I was reminded that no matter how many wars people fight for land, there are always flowers which manage to fight through the stone and want nothing more than sunlight.

Advertisements

Little Red Riding Hood knew that going into the woods can be dangerous, not because of the wild animals or poisonous plants, but because hunters may mistake you for wild game unless you wear something like a red hooded cape!

 

My country friend showed us where she forages for mushrooms, trusting us with her secret spot, and knowing that city people without GPS, would never be able to find it again:)

 

We found a few scraggly chanterelles, but the season was definitely over.

The view had no season.

 

Signs of spring popped up in surprising patches of color along the way.

The medieval town of Chinon has remained pretty much the same since the Middle Ages.

 

Even the original pigeon repellant window treatments have remained in place.

About three quarters of the buildings have been restored or maintained to be functioning modern day offices or homes.

But not everyone has the money or desire to deal with restoration

or upkeep on a building from the 12th century. Town ordinances make it impossible to demolish and build a modern replacement, so if you are brave enough, patient enough, and rich enough to try, the prices are very low, but it may take a generation and a royal sum to make it habitable.

Some buildings still have open cellars

 

and stone wash basins, so keep in mind what “remodel” means here!

The Vienne River is the main waterway here and even though it is a smaller tributary of the Loire, it is still quite wide.

 

 

There is a monthly flea market along the banks of the river

selling everything from absolute rubbish to ancient gems like a working spinning wheel!

This area is known for wines based entirely on cabernet franc, and you can buy part of a vineyard for less than a new car, but like the medieval buildings, it’s not the price of the plot, it’s the cost of the maintenance. The side benefit of owning your own vineyard is you get to drink your own wine 🙂

Little ponds full of frogs also dot the landscape.

Some homes along the Vienne have their own private access to the river from their backyard

which makes for a perfect place to enjoy the sunset 🙂

 

 

 

Guess being born in NYC affected my DNA; I am a city person. My definition of being in the country is anyplace without at least one hotel, two post offices, three pharmacies, four gas stations, five grocery stores, six parking garages, seven sushi spots, eight boutiques, nine cafés, and ten restaurants.

Getting away to the country was literally a breath of fresh(er) air when pollution hit the city. I couldn’t live in the country, but I could definitely enjoy breathing and living in it for a few days. A friend lives three hours away from Paris, near Tours and as she said, she could survive if there was an apocalypse just on her garden and and preserves.

There are woods nearby where she goes to forage for mushrooms every year, preserving whatever she doesn’t use immediately so that she can use them throughout the rest of the year. She made an excellent omelet filled with mushrooms she picked!

Lunch was a leek tart made with goat cheese and comté cheese.

The goat cheeses are made locally and she had three in different stages of aging from one week to three; it was like sampling wine aged from one to three years old. I liked the oldest the most because it had the most intense flavor, but the youngest cheese was perfect as a delicate almost cream cheese.

The oldest cheese log is the one on the left.

This was the youngest cheese.

Her family has lived in the area for generations, and her brother made this assortment of dried boar and duck charcuterie.

She packed her homemade deer pâté, peach and mirabelle jams “to go” so I would have a taste of the country back in the city:)

The gardens are of the Chateau Villandry supply fruit, vegetables, and flowers, not only for the chateau, but for the neighborhood and visitors. During the months when they harvest the vegetables, guest are invited to take what is grown in return for a contribution for the grounds; a beautiful and practical way of maintaining the grounds and benefitting the community.

The view from the chateau.

The view in the gardens.

Some of the trees are still bare

as were some of the bushes

and the trellis

but signs of spring peeked out in the peach blossoms and a few flower beds.

The swans seemed to enjoy the cool weather.

The natural beauty of the gardens makes the artwork in the chateau pale by comparison 🙂

If you think only royalty lived in places like Chateau Villandry, it’s worth noting that one of the original owners was an American, Anne Coleman!

The entrance is actually via the back of the gardens

and of course there is a moat to cross

which also provides a scenic division between sections of the garden.

Inside the chateau even the ceilings are beautiful

like this splendid Mudejar ceiling in one of the drawing rooms,

not to mention the staircases.

Portraits of some of the ancestors hang on the restored rooms along with fresh flowers from the garden.

The nursery

had an adjoining play area, complete with a miniature puppet stage.

These flowers looked so perfect that we thought they were fake, but they were grown on the estate!

Next post will be on the grounds where these flowers were grown:)

The Loire Valley is dotted with picturesque towns, so today’s post is a photo mélange of the villages around Tours:)

Coming from Los Angeles, I have lived in smog, but it was so thick here that it was equal to Bejing, i.e., dangerous. I’ve had a headache and people have been coughing all week:( The air pollution in Paris was so bad over the week-end that all public transportation was free, including rentals of all Velib bikes and Autolib electric cars from Friday until midnight tonight.

Thanks to good timing, my friends and I planned to leave for Chateau country on Friday to visit friends near Tours, so even though the air was not clear three hours away, it was still better than it was in Paris. It was safe enough in the countryside to actually be outside, so we went on a tour of Chateau Azay-le-Rideau (8.50 € or about $12 per adult).

This chateau is on an island which made a natural moat of protection around it.

The entries and stairs were all sculpted out of marble

including the handrails.

One of the bedrooms, but

of course there was more than one bedroom.

Since the only heat was with fireplaces, every room had one.

One of their lounging areas for card games or conversation.

These are the windows in the previous shot that the sun was shining through.

Their billard table for times when the weather made staying indoors more fun.

This is the attic where they kept the grain; it takes a huge amount of food to feed a chateau full of people!

There was a place to pray in between rooms (maybe for luck before playing cards).

This is one of the smallest chateau, but it is so picturesque and well maintained that you can almost imagine living here:)

Just as small signs of Spring began to appear with slightly warmer temperatures, clearing skies, and budding blossoms, ever generous @John8600 sent me a memory card, a camera case, and a new WiFi 8x zoom 16 megapixel camera, so today’s photos were all taken with the new camera. As the note with my new camera quoted, “Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” Marc Riboud. Here are a few hundredths of a second of my savored life in France:)

Even though the trees were still bare, the grass has come to life after the rain.

Of course some patches of grass were lush and beautiful because no one is allowed on them except the gardeners!

The blossoms are appearing everywhere.

People are also starting to come back to the outdoor terraces.

Even a few animals ventured out of their shelters to enjoy the blue skies.

Although there aren’t many flowers adorning windows yet, one resident planted an evergreen view on their balcony.

The government has even started planting flowers around the city (in France, government spending on flowers is considered a necessary part of the budget, along with healthcare).

If you don’t have a green thumb or simply want to add a reason to smile in your home, you can always pick up some cut flowers.

Merci John:)

Winter in Paris has been gray, cold, rainy, and (yes I admit it) depressing. The glimpses of blue skies have been far too few and my first cold season after decades in Los Angeles has been challenging. Spring is coming, and like all those living in climates with freezing snow and ice, I am hopeful that one day this season will be a distant memory.

With no rain forecast for the next few days, I ventured out today and took some pictures because I could 🙂 I also acted like a photo obsessed tourist because ever generous @John8600 sent me a 16 GB memory card and I wanted to use it!

A day to celebrate is a day with blue skies:)

Have I already mentioned that I live near a chateau?

The chateau is now a museum, but the old vestiges of having once housed royalty remain, like a moat!

Of course no chateau would ever be built where there isn’t a view of the Seine. Some houses have the same view complete with huge lawns dotted with sculptures (yes, this is a private home).

Not all homes have sculptures, but a nice garden on the edge of the Seine is nice too (another private residence).

Their view probably looks like this.

Modern day bridges and cars now make access much easier.

Old fashioned walkways and bike paths still line the river.

The small uninhabited islands in the middle of the river give an idea of what it was like before auto routes and trains connected neighborhoods.

Although the paint color of choice is usually blue (because of preservation ordinances), a few places are painted other colors.

Instead of the “Braille” freeway markers, there are metal bittes (yes they really are called that and yes, they mean what the definition says) to keep drivers from swerving onto the sidewalk (yes, that narrow space between the building and the road is a sidewalk).

There is no need for me to use a gym here since walking around means climbing stairs

and more stairs

and streets which incline.

At the top of the street there was this cross, or maybe it was a compass, either way, it was pretty.

Even prettier were the buds on the trees

and the small sprouting gardens.

The whole point of my outing was to get some groceries, so time for lunch with champignons de Paris sautéed with shallots and garlic 🙂

Categories

%d bloggers like this: