All three of these things were photographed at Chez Les Filles, a bar in the village of La Borne, near Henrichemont. La Borne is home to dozens of potters and ceramicists, and has been since the 12th century, due to extensive clay deposits in the area. I visited with friends on a Sunday in September, and this being France, none of the potter's studios were open, so we went to the pub.
These little oval cakes made in scallop shell moulds come out with their bases fluted and a bump on top. They were made famous by Proust and many French people genuinely adore them. They are not very sweet and rather plain. Do not under any circumstances eat them unless freshly homemade or artisanal. Ones from a packet you bought in the supermarket, even in France, will be such a pale shadow of what a madeleine should be that you really must not poison your mind or body with such a thing.
Bars in the old days were commonly covered in pewter, known in French as zinc (pronounced 'zaing'). 'Le P'tit Zinc' is quite a common name for a bar here. The zinc on this bar does not appear to be old, nor does it appear to be pewter (galvanised, ie zinc coated, steel is a common substitute these days), but it is beautifully done and creates a real sense of style. Zinc bars were made famous by Zola and later by Hemingway. In their day, a bar zinc was not an overly salubrious drinking spot. Apollinaire puts it thus: 'Tu es debout devant le zinc d'un bar crapuleux, Tu prends un café à deux sous parmi les malheureux' ('You are standing at the metal counter of some sleazy bar, Downing a coffee or two amongst the malcontents', from the poem Zone, translated by me, with a nod to Donald Revell). The metal countertop protects the wooden bar from spilled drinks, and it wipes clean without staining. Pewter is an alloy which contains varying quantities of several metals, such as tin, copper, lead and antimony. It is malleable so can be pressed into decorative moulded edges and around curves, and can be buffed to a silvery shine if you want a more upmarket look. The stuff is also used on the exterior of buildings, as the flashing around slate roofs to ensure the angles between roof and masonry are sealed, to protect wooden or deteriorating stone windowsills and as smart decorative capping on gate pillars and the like.
A la turque toilet.
These squat toilets are slowly disappearing, but I know lots of places which still have them. They are a nuisance if you are wearing a skirt, wide legged trousers or don't bend as well as you used to. The floor of les toilettes à la turque are invariably wet as they always have ferocious flushes.
Loire Valley Nature: A new entry has been added for the distinctive parasitic plant Dodder Cuscuta epithymum.