Saturday, 20 July 2019

Flüelapass

When we were in Davos in last July we went for a litle drive in the mountains and discovered that we were on somewhere famous. The Flüelapass was once claimed to be one of the best driver's roads by the British motoring show Top Gear.


Fluela Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.383 m (7,818ft) above the sea level, located in the Swiss Alps in the canton of Graubünden. The pass road connects the cities of Davos and Susch in the lower Engadin valley. Since the Vereina Tunnel opened in 1999, the road is no longer open all year.

It was half way up the pass we stopped for lunch, accompanied by a choir of Marmots.


Friday, 19 July 2019

Severe Water Restrictions


The lower Claise Valley is drought declared, with severe water restrictions, since Wednesday. No one has ever seen anything like it. Water usage is limited to health and hygiene functions. Yohann Sionneau, the river technician has issued a note to clarify the Prefecture's regulations.


The rules for householders and individuals are as follows:

  • car washing except at carwash stations forbidden
  • watering flower beds and lawns forbidden
  • watering vegetable gardens forbidden between 10 am and 8 pm
  • topping up private swimming pools, ponds and dams forbidden
  • water bodies established on watercourses should restore all incoming flow
  • water bodies established as diversions from a watercourse must have their intakes closed
  • operation of the infrastructure is forbidden
  • emptying a water body is forbidden

Yohann signs off with the following cautionary note:

'I draw your attention to the fact that this drought and its repercussions on the flow rate of rivers is exceptional in its intensity and especially in how early it the season it is. There is a good chance that from the next Prefectural Order the upper Claise (at least) will also have extractions forbidden. The flow rate is already at critically low limits, leading to fears of drastic consequences if the weather doesn't change.

It is the duty of everyone to conserve our public water resources...'

In addition, businesses and local authorities are forbidden from street cleaning except where there is a public health issue. Lawns, playing fields and parks can only be watered after sunset and before sunrise. Planters and pots can be watered by hand.

Farmers are forbidden to irrigate unless they apply for a derogation for their maize crop.

These rules apply to all communities along the Claise and its tributaries, from the border with Indre to the confluence with the Aigronne at Le Grand Pressigny, as well as along the Muanne.


For a wider view of how the drought is treating France, you can check this colour coded map.

The price of fruit edges ever upwards as the drought continues. It's hot and dry and we are expecting another official heatwave period from Tuesday to Saturday next week.

UPDATE: I wrote this last night. At 3.30 this morning it rained heavily enough to waken me. Not enough to break the drought of course, and who knows when the next rain will be. The forecast says tomorrow, which will be incredibly frustrating, as we have a wonderful outdoor theatre event planned to fundraise for the Chapel. If you are in or near Preuilly please come -- tickets are 8 euros, payable at  the Maison de Pays or on the night.


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Traction News

At the moment Claudette is giving us some grief. She has developed a habit of intermittantly cutting out, then lurching to a restart. This means that at times we progress down the road in a series of kangaroo hops - not dignified, or comfortable, or even good news for her gearbox (which is fragile on a Traction).

So far we have replaced the coil (bobine) and checked the ignition timing. Her spark plugs have been replaced, and all the electrical leads checked. After that we took her for a drive or about 80km, and she started playing up after 10km, then she behaved impeccably for the next 20km, before shuddering again.

No, Claudette hasn't changed. This is Jean-Louis' 1939 Cabriolet.

On our return she was difficult to start, then shuddered after 25km, before behaving like a lady all the way home.

Because it's an intermittant problem we need to work through all the possible causes. Our next stop is to check the fuel system, because the electricals all seem good. As far as we can tell the fuel pump is working fine and the fuel filter is clean, so it's not dirty fuel. We have ordered a kit to overhaul the carburetor, and replace the air filter.

We are also replacing her ignition key, because that's always been a bit dodgy, and I am pretty sure I could start her using an old teaspoon.

Cars, eh...

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Swallowtail Pestering


Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Swallowtail chrysalis.

One of the rewards of not mowing the orchard until the autumn is that Swallowtail Papilio machaon (Fr. Machaon) can successfully breed there. Their chrysalises, low down in the vegetation, are in no danger of being destroyed by me, although I do have to watch out for their caterpillars, on Wild Carrot Daucus carota (Fr. Carotte), and have been known to mow around them.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Newly emerged Swallowtail.

The other day I encountered a newly emerged Swallowtail. That would have been reward enough, but some very odd behaviour was being displayed by a different butterfly in the vicinity. The Swallowtail was being repeatedly landed on by a Marbled White Melanargia galanthea (Fr. Demi-deuil). No idea what it was about, but it clearly bothered the Swallowtail. It seemed like some sort of attack or insistent demand for attention.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Newly emerged Swallowtail being pestered by a male Marbled White.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Repeatedly.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Clematis viticella


Years ago now, Nicole from Chezania gave me a couple of Clematis viticella. These have long been my favourite clematis group and the ones she gave me have taken over the back fence. This year has been so hot and dry that their flowering season was very short. They still have flowers, but nothing like their peak back in early July.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Monday, 15 July 2019

Beef Mince


Beef mince in France is made from good quality meat and run through the grinder once on a fairly coarse setting. It is frequently made to order, when the customer asks for it. No preservatives are allowed to be added and the law does not permit it to sit on the supermaket refrigerator shelf longer than three days unless packaged with gas to store it in an oxygen free environment, whereupon it is granted a couple more day's shelf presence.

A steak haché pattie, produced to order by my local butcher.
Cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The French preference for eating beef mince raw or virtually raw means that Europe wide the rules about how beef mince is sold are very strict. The ubiquitous steak haché is considered best if served seared on the outside but still fridge cold in the middle. Steak tartare is very popular in workers restaurants. The British and Irish complain the regulations are too stringent and restricting, because in their cultures mince is always well cooked so there is less risk of consumers being made ill by bacterial contamination. They argue that the strict rules about what goes into beef mince (no sulphur dioxide preservatives, no connective tissue, limited fat) make what should be a staple unnecessarily expensive.

My butcher makes steak haché to order.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Despite the traditional attachment to fresh raw beef mince, consumer habits are changing, even in France. Beef sales in France are split 70% to household consumers, with the remaining 30% sold to the catering trade. Forty years ago mince only made up one percent of total beef sales, now it is 30%. These days households purchase 80% of their mince from the supermarket, with the remaining 20% being purchased from independent butchers and specialist retailers. Consumers are also increasingly choosing processed products that require less skill and time to cook and are cheaper. Mince that has been processed further than just pure meat once through the mincer is classed as a 'preparation' and may be finer (more mushy in texture), containing connective tissue, more fat, sulphur dioxide to preserve colour and prevent bacterial growth, spices and herbs. All of this must be clearly indicated on labelling.

However, the most popular product remains the standard and ubiquitous 15% fat steak haché pur boeuf which retails for around €10/kg. Many customers still prefer to buy from an independent butcher because of concerns around provinence (after BSE and horse meat scandals). 

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The rules in Australia regarding the sale of beef mince are very similar, but it is less common to have mince prepared on the spot as customers demand it.



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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.