Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Museum of Prehistory, Le Grand Pressigny

We've had a friend staying with us over the last 10 days and consequently have been motivated to catch up with visits to places we really should have visited long ago.

In 2009 the new Museum of Prehistory building was opened in the grounds of the Chateau of Le Grand Pressigny. The collection of prehistoric objects had been housed in the chateau and we had visited it in its old incarnation back in 2006.

The new building was widely reviled. Many people didn't understand why the new wing of the museum was unashamedly modern and not a pastiche designed to 'blend in', 'tastefully' and 'discreetly'.

We've always liked the new building, noting its clever use of matching new lines with old, but at the same time ensuring no one is deceived into thinking new build is old.

Now we've seen the interior we are even more impressed. The architect has borrowed the landscape at every opportunity, and the space is airy and light. The collection has been displayed in a way that enhances understanding of global context and sequence as well as highlighting how important the many local finds have been. There are study and activity spaces that look great for engaging kids, and we took a guided tour of the temporary exhibition Bêtes à Tout Faire (All Purpose Animals). The guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic and we were impressed (and learned stuff).

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Covered Market, Richelieu

The 17th century covered market in Richelieu has not long been fully restored. The wooden pillars stabilised, carpentry whitewashed, new floor and services installed, practical glass wind breaks around the perimeter, and a new slate roof with copper guttering.

I noticed that the slates are not fixed with the usual 'S' shaped hooks, but must be nailed on. I liked the nifty solution to divert water from rushing down the junction between the market roof and the adjoining building's gable -- a little lip which sends the water to the right and then allows it to fall down into the gutter, very practical, aesthetic and clever.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Commuting from Tours to Paris on the TGV

Thankfully I don't have to commute to Paris from Tours every day, but here are some statistics about those who do:

  • 4000 people do the Tours-Paris return voyage every day.
  • the journey takes about an hour (compared to minimum 2.5 hours by car).
  • parking at Saint Pierre des Corps will cost you €78/month and there is a 2 year waiting list for places.
  • a monthly ticket for the TGV costs €600. This goes down to €462 at the end of three years of commuting.
A TGV pulls in to Saint Pierre des Corps (Tours) station.
Commuters generally catch the 7.31 from Saint Pierre des Corps and return on the 18.37 from Paris Montparnasse. Many commuters keep a scooter parked at Montparnasse for getting to and from their place of work. They usually sleep on the train on the way up and work on the way back.

Commuter bikes next to the TGV in Tours Central station.
The commuters are known as pendulaires (pendulums) or navetteurs (shuttlers/commuters). They do it because of property prices in Paris and because employment prospects and wages in Tours are so much more limited. Especially once couples have children they simply can't afford a suitable property in Paris, but they can in Tours (an apartment in the best location, such as near the cathedral, will go for about €3000/m²). Saint Pierre des Corps is cheaper, at €1454/m² for an apartment, €2034 for a house. Compared to paying nearly €10000/m² for an apartment in central Paris (€6600/m² in the suburbs) no wonder people make the move and are prepared to commit to the slog of commuting 500km a day on a fast and relatively efficient service. Some of them are lucky enough to have employers who reimburse half their fare, but others have to deal with employers who are dubious about the reliability of the train and the effect of commuting on their employees.

The commuters have formed a rail users group, just to make sure that SNCF and the local authorities keep on their toes and provide the best possible service. Some of their concerns are that track maintenance has been downgraded in the last couple of years and the track is deteriorating which causes delays; there are fears that the new high speed line to Bordeaux will sideline the TGV to Tours; the price of tickets continues to go up (34% in the last 10 years); and only the deputy mayor of Tours attends their meetings, not the mayor (the mayor of Saint Pierre des Corps attends), so they feel their concerns may not be getting the full attention of the local authority.
International Earth Day: Today has been officially designated International Earth Day by the UN. It's a day to think about how we interact with the earth and what is special about this planet. It's a day to celebrate our wonderful world, but also to remember that the world we know is changing and that perhaps we should show more respect. If anyone has organised an event near you, please support them by attending or participating. This year's theme is Green Cities.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Bells and Bunnies

In France the church bells go to Rome and bring back Easter eggs, so you also find chocolate bells amongst the chickens, eggs and rabbits on the supermarket shelves.

Lindt make Cloches d'or and Lapins d'Or as special treats for Easter.
Honey Bee Swarms: Chris Luck has written a timely post on what to do if you have a honey bee swarm on your property. We noticed a beekeeper dealing with a swarm only a couple of days ago in Richelieu.