Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Climate Influencer


We live about an hour south of the Loire River. Our climate is a mixture of continental and maritime. The Loire is a big enough river to make it's own climate, drawing up moist air from the Atlantic, and often it is visible as a band of cloud as you drive towards it. The picture below was taken on Boxing Day 2018, just outside Preuilly as we travel north towards Loches and on to the Loire beyond.

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

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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.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Woodworms and Bookworms


Polychrome wood, in the collection of the Chateau of Langeais. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

This battered polychrome wooden scuplture is in the collection of the Chateau of Langeais. We think it is probably 14th century. It depicts Saint Anne. She is holding a book, and as Niall pointed out to me, the pale bit on her right must be the Virgin Mary, who she is teaching to read.

This story of Saint Anne teaching Mary to read was part of a campaign in the Middle Ages to encourage parents to teach their daughters to read. Middle class and aristocratic girls were frequently destined to run the family business on behalf of their husbands or fathers once they were grown women. While the men were away on business trips or working for the king, the women were at home making sure the family estate or shop continued to earn. Capable women were left in charge because although educated, they could not usurp the absent men.

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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.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Henry of Navarre Would be Proud


Poule au pot is one of the most well known and simplest French country recipes. It is nothing more than a boiling hen simmered for hours with root vegetables and some herbs but it was made famous by King Henry IV, known as le bon roi Henri, announcing that he wanted every labourer in his kingdom to be able to have poule au pot on Sundays. I make it with a chicken from my local poultry producer and vegetables from my local organic market gardeners.

Ingredients:
A 1.5 kg boiling hen or chicken, with or without giblets
3 litres chicken stock
2 shallots, peeled and halved
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of majoram or oregano
2 sprigs of lemon thyme
A bay leaf
2 carrots, cut in half
A leek, thickly sliced
Half a celeriac, peeled and diced
1/2 a green cabbage, shredded
A cup of peas
Salt

Method:
  1. Put the chicken in a boiler and pour in the stock. If the chicken is not covered add some water.
  2. Add the shallots, garlic, herbs, carrots, leek and celeriac and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 2 hours until the chicken is falling apart.
  4. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. Serve in bowls with chunks of chicken, vegetables and a couple of ladles full of stock and some pieces of crusty bread. 

A truly traditional poule au pot would have turnips as well as carrots so you can add them if you like them. The traditional dish would not have peas and cabbage added at the end either. For something more in keeping with the simple peasant origins of this dish you could add white dried beans along with the carrots and leek. This isn't a classic addition, but is a variation I'm sure appeared quite regularly on people's tables. In season, broccoli rabe added at the end would be nice too.

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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.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

White-tailed Spider


Until recently this was arguably the most feared Australian spider. It is common and it can bite. The bite causes burning pain and inflammation. It was widely believed to be the cause of necrotic ulcers, but a well designed study by a respected toxicologist concluded that the spider bites had not caused infection or necrosis. Typically the reports of necrosis were not associated with proven spider bites and the belief seems to have arisen because of reports associated with a spider that does not occur in Australia.


There are two very similar species of White-tailed Spider Lampona spp, both native to Australia. They live in and around human habitation and bites often occur when the victim is dressing because the spider hides in clothing or linen.

These nocturnal hunters prey on other spiders, especially House Spiders Badumna spp.

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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.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Granite Quarry


From the motorway near Bellinzona the Graniti Maurini granite quarry is very visible. The Maurini family own four quarries in the area and are extracting granite (gneiss) from quarries opened in the last quarter of the 19th century, to supply the building of the Swiss trans-alpine Gotthard railway line. Branches of the family also sell jewellery and sculptures made from granite and engage in property development.

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

Nearly a quarter of the population of Lodrino, the nearest village, work in quarrying. That's 53 people, many of whom are Portuguese in origin. The quarrying industry is in decline, after a peak during 1939 and the construction of the Lona Line (a 10 km line of anti-tank forts). 

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

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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.

Friday, 11 January 2019

No, It's Not The French Lieutenant's Woman


The market day in Preuilly between Christmas and New Year was very cold. This sort of weather is always unpleasant for the traders as not only do they have to spend the whole morning outdoors standing on cold pavement, but their customers might compound the misery by staying indoors in the warm and not spending at the market.

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

Dotty at the Jardins Vergers organic veg stall chose to combat the cold by wearing an antique cape. It was a superb garment, that I would guess dates from about 1900. It had belonged to the grandmother of a friend of Dotty's mother. Because Dotty is very small it fitted her perfectly.

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

The cape is fully lined black wool, fastened by two cut steel buttons at the throat. It is pleated into the shoulders so that it sits and hangs perfectly. The hood is also pleated in such a way to make it stay in place rather than blowing off in the slightest breeze. 

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

Underneath it Dotty was wearing a down jacket, a scarf and three pairs of socks. She was also wearing knitted fingerless gloves with mitten pockets so she could adjust them for handling money.


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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.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

A Walk in the Cold


Our last walking club outing for 2018 was on Thursday 13 December, around Le Grand Pressigny. The weather was bleak, misty and the temperature didn't get above about 2C. Here are some pictures from the walk:

A lovely rustic shutter on a barn in a hamlet.

A view of one of the chateau towers.

Rosehips are in abundance this year in the hedgerows and brownfield sites.

Another glimpse through the mist, this time of both the chateau towers.

The self-proclaimed 'Free Commune of Mouillepot'
 - just outside Le Grand Pressigny, but separate and independent.

Hounds in their kennel -- for once not completely concreted over.

Look at all our river technician Yohann's good work in restoring the natural flow of the Claise.

Where the Aigronne meets the Claise.

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

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Municipal Recycling and Mulching


The mulch is recycled ground up tree branches from pruning. Photo taken by Susan of Loire Valley Time Travel.

The other day I encountered one of our municipal workers putting fresh mulch on the garden beds out the front of the Post Office. The mulch is ground up tree branches from the council's pruning program so the municipality is recycling in a thoroughly economical and ecological way.

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Winter is the time that Simon looks at our website, updates the prices, and does any little changes that might make us more user friendly. This year he has transferred us to a secured server, and made a couple of minor changes, but for the first time he is really feeling out of his depth with all the ancilliary coding - sitemaps, php, htaccess, and htc are foreign languages. And then there's the mystery cookies warning that should only pop up once, but randomly reappears...

If there's anyone out there who knows about this kind of stuff and who would care to cast an eye over his efforts (and there's really not much of it) we'd really appreciate it.


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Provincial Portraits


The Chateau of Langeais has quite a collection of 16th century provincial furniture. You can tell it is furniture made by country joiners for comfortable but not really wealthy families. The pieces feature 'portrait' roundels but some of them look awfully familiar and it is clear that the sculptors are working from standard pattern books. The 'portraits' represent social 'types' not actual individuals. They are also clearly not the work of highly skilled carvers.

A woman in a headdress.
On a 16C provincial piece of furniture in the collection of the Chateau of Langeais. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

A sadly chinless woman (I don't think she's lost it, I think she was carved that way).
On a 16C provincial piece of furniture in the collection of the Chateau of Langeais. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

A man in a cap.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

A man with the most extraordinary forked beard.
He is wearing a fashionable cap at a jaunty angle -- and check out that extraordinary beard! Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

You may think this is a woman in a bonnet, but in fact it will be a mercenary soldier in a helmet.
The character is a mercenary soldier in a fancy helmet. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

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

Monday, 7 January 2019

Dandelion Leaf Salad


Dandelion leaf on sale at the market.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Around Christmas time I had a conversation with a couple of people at the market about dandelion leaf. Apparently the Christmas and New Year period is the time you forage for it. And you eat the root too. The leaf is made into salad and the root goes into soup. The window when the dandelion is young, tender and not too bitter is very short. Once it starts to flower at the end of winter or early spring it is way too late. It is believed to be a tonic, refreshing the blood after winter in preparation for spring. To my surprise, at the first market after the New Year, the big fruit and veg stall from Le Blanc had dandelion leaf for sale. 

I posted on Facebook about it and received the following response from someone who used to live further west in the Loire Valley: "A friend used to collect them for salad...with lardons, croutons made from dry bread rubbed with garlic and a vinaigrette. He said that his mother used to grow them in her garden as his father liked the salad, but she used to earth them up to reduce the bitterness."

By the way, if you are intrigued by the beautiful tomatoes below the dandelion, and/or horrified by their price, you may like to check out this blog post about a rather special producer.


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

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Monster Mantis


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

The Monster Mantis Archimantis monstrosa lives up to its vernacular name, often reaching 9 cm long (for comparison, the European Mantis Mantis religiosa usually only reaches 7 cm). Monsters are not especially abundant, and not the most common Australian mantis species. They occur in the northern half of the country, and are more often seen at the coast than inland.

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

The photos above were taken in Canberra, but quite by chance, the day I wrote this post a friend in Lismore sent me photos of one hanging from her wheelie bin, which I suspect is the same species.

Archimantis monstrosa.
Photo courtesy of Christine James.

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

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Heath Spotted Orchid


Heath Spotted Orchid / Orchis tacheté. Photographed by Susan of Loire Valley Time Travel https://tourtheloire.com

In July we stopped at the side of the road on our way up over the Nufenen Pass and there was a small colony of Dactylorhiza orchids. These are my least favourite group of orchids to try and identify. On the one hand, all the species look the same, and on the other, there is considerable variation of flower colour and pattern within the same species. So far as I can tell, from careful reading of my French field guide and the Swiss online flora, I should identify this specimen as Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata.

Heath Spotted Orchid / Orchis tacheté. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Frankly, it looks a lot like Common Spotted Orchid D. fuchsii, but apparently that is the thing you have to be wary of. It seems that in the high mountains D. maculata takes on the appearance, and habitat preferences, of D. fuchsii


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

Friday, 4 January 2019

Beetle Bag


My sister managed to find the perfect gift for me at my last birthday. It was lightweight and easy to post as well as being something I will use and is entomology themed. It's not easy putting that sort of combination together.

Artist Cheryl Hodges. Photo by Susan @ https://tourtheloire.com

The artist is Canberra based natural history specialist Cheryl Hodges.

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

Thursday, 3 January 2019

New Street Lights in Preuilly


New low energy street lighting was installed in Preuilly sur Claise at the end of 2018. Photo taken by Susan @ https://tourtheloire.com

The municipality has installed new street lights throughout Preuilly. The old lights emitted a yellow light. The new lights are daylight low energy bulbs. The light fittings themselves have been changed too, going from an industrial looking metal shade to an olde worlde gas lantern look. The frame below the bulb is just for aesthetics. There is no glass in it.

New and old together, mid-installation.
Preuilly sur Claise installed new low energy street lights at the end of 2018. Photo taken by Susan @ https://tourtheloire.com

The new street light in action.
Preuilly sur Claise installed new low energy street lighting at the end of 2018. Photo taken by Susan @ https://tourtheloire.com

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

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Costume and Games at the Chateau


Over the Christmas period the Chateau of Langeais was offering medieval games and dressing up for kids.

A costumed performer leads visiting kids in a game.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The game involved a song where the kids had to find birds, owls, rabbits and squirrels on the tapestry, then get a squirrel into the basket.

Dressing up in medieval costume.
A Christmas activity for families. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The boy is wearing a linen shirt under a padded woollen jacket. His parents are handling a fur lined jacket and exclaiming at how heavy it is. Wearing historical costume is a great aid to the imagination and a learning experience leading to lots of insights into life in the past.

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

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year 2019



Wishing all our readers a peaceful and happy year to come.

Nous vous souhaitons à vous ainsi qu'à votre famille une nouvelle année prospère et heureuse ! Que tous nos meilleurs vœux vous accompagnent.