Saturday, 16 November 2019

Petit Train de la Rhune

Back in April 2016 I wrote about the panel in Tours station depicting St Jean de Luz, and how we wanted to visit and ride the Petit Train de la Rhune. Although we have written about visiting la Rhune and seeing Vultures and a Northern Wheatear, I have somehow managed to miss out writing about the reason we went in the first place.

The Train de la Rhune is a metre gauge rack railway that runs for 4.2 km from near Sare to the top of La Rhune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It starts at 169 metres above sea level and climbs to the summit of la Rhune (905 metres). The railway was opened in 1924, and is still run using the original train locomotive and carriages. It's ace.

Saint Jean de Luz from the train.

It really is that steep.

Here comes the next train.

The village in the distance is Sare.

This is the drive mechanism for the cogwheel.

We first tried to ride the train on the first day after school started. There were cars parked along the side of the road for a kilometre either side of the station, and both car parks were overflowing. We decided that we would have to give it a miss and went off for a picnic.

A couple of days later we had some spare time (and the weather was cold and foggy) so we tried again, to find no crowd, plenty of parking, and an opportunity to catch the next train. We did that, and managed to spend 35 minutes at the summit of la Rhune in bright sunshine with views for miles.

You can read more about the Petit Train de la Rhune on their website

Friday, 15 November 2019

A New Cheese (for us)

A couple of weeks ago Susan was doing the shopping at Intermarché. Whilst there she bought a cheese we hadn't seen before.

Of course, being a Touraine cheese it's chevre (goats' cheese) - there is no cow cheese made here, all the cows milk goes to either milk, butter or yoghurt. This cheese is really very good - it was the perfect age - softly chalky in the middle, but there was a layer of tangy creaminess just below the salt and ash exterior. Perfect.

Doesn't everybody colour code their cheese to match the kitchen worktops?

I am not sure how often we will see this cheese, but it needs buying again.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

A Vented Step

We were in Loches last weekend, and I noticed this architectural detail at the entry to one of the award winning boulangeries. It's a very elegant solution to the problem of what you do when the only practical place to put a door is over the ventilation for the cellar.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Armistice Day 2019

Armistice Day was on Monday. In France it's a public holiday, and every town has a ceremony. This year in Preuilly it rained appallingly, and everybody got soaking wet. We went, but I left early, because I didn't fancy standing around in the rain whilst still trying to recover from bronchitis.


The parade is starting to form


This year the ceremony was shorter: normally we would leave the War Memorial and parade to the opposite end of town for a ceremony at the Cemetery. This year (and probably in future) that part of the ceremony was cancelled because the volunteers of the Preuilly branch of the organisation Souvenir Française, which cares for the war graves and conducts the ceremony in the cemetery have disbanded. The municipal council has taken over the care of the military section of the cemetery.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Fungi Foray in the Forest of Loches November 2019


The 5 November fungi foray to the Forest of Loches was led by Didier Raas, a pharmacist from Loches. He leads outings a couple of times a year to teach anyone who chooses to turn up about how to identify mushrooms, and best practice when foraging. Outings are often in partnership with the Association de botany and de mycology de Sainte Maure de Touraine. They are advertised in the local press and at the Tourist Office in Loches. He's leading another one today in the Forest of Preuilly, from 9.30 am.

Fungi foragers gather in the car park of the Pyramide de Saint Quentin.
Fungi foragers gather before an outing.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

A dry rot Serpulaceae (Fr. mérule) growing on a stump. Not the species that can damage your house.
A dry rot Serpulaceae growing on a stump in the forest.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Cream coloured 'milk' forming on the gills of Oak Milkcap Lactaria quietus (Fr. Lactaire tranquille) after they are touched. This species smells strongly of bedbugs or wet laundry.
'Milk' forming on the gills of Oak Milkcap Lactaria quietus.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

A slime mould Myxomycetes (Fr. Myxomycète).
A slime mould Myxomycetes.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

A curtain crust Stereum sp (Fr. une stérée).
A curtain crust Stereum sp.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Dominique explaining how to identify Death Cap Amanita phalloides (Fr. Amanite phalloïdes),
 the most toxic mushroom in the forest.
An experienced fungi forager explains how to identify Death Cap Amanita phalloides.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Bicoloured Deceiver Laccaria bicolor (Fr. Laccaire bicolore).
These can be found everywhere, in the forest and in damp grass in light woodland such as orchards.
They are abundant and a mushroom you most likely see every day.
Bicoloured Deceiver Laccaria bicolor.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Mostly bracket fungi. Includes Strict-branched Coral Ramaria stricta (Fr. Clavaire dressée),Variable Oysterling Crepidotus variabilis (Fr. Crépidote variable), Turkey Tail Trametes versicolor (Fr. polypore versicolore) and Lingzhi Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (Fr. Reishi). The latter is made into a syrup used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the usual plethora of ailments.
Mostly bracket fungi.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The mushrooms are laid out in their family groups at the end of the outing to be identified. 
Amanita spp left foreground, Russula spp right foreground.
Mushrooms being sorted into family groups at the end of a fungi foray.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Didier showing the two groups of mushrooms that have pores (not gills, like 'supermarket' mushrooms). Bracket fungus on the left, Bolete on the right.
An expert mycologist teaching fungi foragers about species with pores.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Didier holding an Edible Cep Boletus edulis (Fr. Cèpe de Bordeaux) and explaining how to recognise this prized edible species. Other edible boletes on the left hand end of the table.
An expert mycologist holding an Edible Cep Boletus edulis at a training session for fungi foragers.  Indre et Loire, France. 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, 11 November 2019

11 November

If you're driving through Preuilly sur Claise this morning, please be careful - and patient.

At 10.30 there will be a group of people gathered in front of the Mairie to comemmorate the end of the First World War, 101 years ago. From there we will be walking behind representatives of the Veterans Associations to the War Memorial, then on to the cemetery at the other end of town. This means that there could be a considerable number of people on the main road up until about midday.

Please don't try force your way through in your car, as some have done in the past. The march is always led by the pompiers (firemen), and there is also usually a ceremonial police presence.



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If you're not doing anything today and you live in France, the transit of Mercury across the face of the sun will be visible from about 12:30. If you go to this website you can set the cursor to your location and get the exact times. This is your last chance until November 13, 2032.

PS - don't look directly - here is more information. Assuming you can see the sun...