Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Wild Flowers of Saint-Epain, Part I


Recently my friend Chantal, president of the Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine emailed to ask all the club members to send her photos of the species of wild flowers found in the streets and parks of the small town of Saint-Epain. The local authority is planning to install an info board and wants our input. We won't get credited and I don't know yet if any of my photos will be chosen, but it's a nice initiative, worth supporting. Since I'd got a portfolio together I thought I'd share them on the blog. This is Part I, Part II will follow. Our club has previously surveyed the plants in town and I wrote about it here.

Photograph Susan Walter.
Snakeshead Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris (Fr. la Fritillaire pintade).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Lady's Smock Cardamine pratensis (Fr. Cressonnette).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Purple Toothwort Lathraea clandestina (Fr. la Lathrée clandestine).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Wild Oregano Origanum vulgare (Fr. l'Origan).

Photograph Susan Walter.
White Rock-rose Helianthemum appenninum (Fr. Hélianthème des Apennins).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Tassle Hyacinth Muscari comosum (Fr. Muscari à toupet).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Common Globularia Globularia vulgaris (Fr. la Globulaire commune).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Wild Liquorice Astragalus glyciphylos (Fr. Astragale à feuilles de réglisse).

Photograph Susan Walter.
Venus's Looking Glass Legousia speculum-veneris (Fr. Miroir-de-Vénus).



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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, 29 April 2019

The Hungry Gap is Over


The hungry gap is over! Organic spring veg has appeared in abundance at the market -- kohlrabi, carrots, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, rhubarb, chard, spinach, spring onions...

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

Here are some of my favourite recipes to use these ingredients:

Kohlrabi with Smoked Fish (a flavour and texture combo made in heaven).

Carottes Rapées (this recipe has raw beetroot as well, but you can substitute more carrots or baby turnips in the spring time. I recommend julienning the vegetables rather than grating, for more crunch).

Pommes de terre à la boulangère (leeks and potatoes is a great combo, especially as you'll be wanting to use up all those old potatoes before the new ones are ready).

Kimchi (using pointed spring cabbage, carrots, radishes and onions. Finely shred the cabbage but don't chop the vegetables into such little bits as this recipe suggests. Keep it on the shelf or in the fridge for 18 months before eating).

Cauliflower Cheese (season the cheese sauce with a teaspoon of dry mustard and a pinch of cayenne. Under no circumstances use your lovely spring cauliflower for making a pretend pizza base or pretend rice. By all means make Aloo Gobi Saag though.)

Pickled Radishes (neither of us are fans of fresh raw radishes, but pickling them is a great way to make Simon happy, and our French friends, especially the car club guys, love them).

For the turnips -- use them in the Kimchi or pickle them like the radishes, or julienne and add to the carottes rapées. All much nicer than cooked.

Rhubarb Crumble and Custard (both nuts and rolled oats are a good addition to the crumble, apples or strawberries work well with the rhubarb).

Green Goddess Soup (either spinach or chard will work well for this surprisingly good and rich soup).

Thinly sliced spring onions, both the white and the green, are an ideal addition to chopped salads.

The other two seasonal delights that have appeared at the farmers markets are asparagus and strawberries.

Oh, and congratulations to Sylvain (my local organic market gardener) on the birth of his baby. Her name is Marie-Lou and according to her father she is an agreeable companion at the moment (although she did make him wait a whole day while she was being born).


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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. 

Sunday, 28 April 2019

A Suburban House


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

A typical older style Australian suburban house in south-east Queensland -- single storey, very large footprint, made of painted timber with a galvanised corrugated iron roof, surrounded by a verandah, raised up on stumps for protection against termites. A simple drought resistant garden with a large gum tree and a row of olive trees.

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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. 

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Branched Gentian


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

Branched Gentian Gentiana ramosa, photographed on Saaseralp at nearly 2000 metres above sea level. A common gentian of the flinty Lepontine Alps (between Switzerland and Italy), which as far as I can tell sometimes has four petals, sometimes five.



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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. 

Friday, 26 April 2019

How Chateaux Manage Fire Risk


You can't fool around with fire safety on large sites like the chateaux of Amboise and Chenonceau. Your equipment and training has to be up to date and meeting current best practice codes. The fire in Notre-Dame de Paris has made everyone nervous and all the Loire chateaux are reviewing their procedures and equipment.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Local firefighters on exercises.

Like Notre-Dame de Paris, the big heritage sites follow strict rules in the matter of security, overseen by the State regulatory body whether the property is State or privately owned. The safety of people on site is paramount, and there must be sufficient equipment on site to enable the containment of the flames in the most rapid way possible. The Chateau of Amboise, for example, organises one or two fire exercises per year.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A local exercise to rescue an unconscious person from a smoke filled workshop.

Whether it is fire risk or terrorist attack risk, the procedures are similar and highly orchestrated. The sites are insured and the insurance companies monitor the chateaux's adherence to the rules. In addition to the regulations there is a written risk assessment done in conjuction with the fire brigade for each of the chateaux, with a very precise analysis of the potential risks and the equipment on site.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A fire damaged chateau roof is repaired.

Staff are trained for the event of a fire and each has their alloted tasks and role to play. The written evacuation protocol, for a chateau such as Amboise, also includes the priority works of art and artefacts. In these old listed buildings, protocols for maintenance work are also strictly laid out and adherence is monitored.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The remains of a fire damaged roof at the Chateau of Rivau, now turned into a memorial.

At Chenonceau, a chateau that receives 800 000 visitors a year, they must put in place the means to prevent risks. Like any other monument it comes under the 2005 fire prevention regulations and these days has even gone above and beyond what it is legally obliged to do. They have appointed a chief fire officer and two assistants to the staff, whose role is to conduct fire drills on a monthly basis and do daily checks of the alarm system and security lights, all of which is recorded in the safety register. Chambord has a team of nine fire safety staff, plus access to all the mounted police based there.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Braising copper pipes would require a permit, and most likely would not be allowed at all.

The building has automatic detectors and sprinklers plus additional means of extinguishing a fire such as armed fire valves. Extinguishers are dotted about everywhere, there are fire hydrants and the site is equipped with a dry riser (a rigid pipe to which you can attach a fire hose), which allows the fire brigade to pump directly from the Cher. Chateaux and cathedrals pose particular technical problems for fire fighters and dry risers allow hoses to be fitted at different levels without having to run hoses up staircases or ladders.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Small spaces fire engine at Paris Montparnasse railway station 
-- the sort of thing required for cathedral fires in old city centres.

In March last year Chenonceau conducted a major exercise with the fire brigade, simulating a fire in the attic, with an injured person. A month earlier, the chateau of Blois had done a similar exercise. In October it was Chambord's turn.

Any external cleaning or building company doing work on site must be logged in and out, and must keep their own fire safety register. The chief security officer developed and manages the procedures. Companies are monitored before and after their work by the security officers and the work is certified on site three hours after it is finished. Any hot work eg soldering, requires a permit.

In the case of a fire the priority is the evacuation of people. From the sound of the alarm the staff at Chenonceau have three minutes to be in their positions and ready to act. The whole of the chateau personnel, which includes a lot of seasonal staff, is trained in evacuation procedures. This has to be particularly well rehearsed in these large old buildings where emergency exits may not be obvious to visitors. At Chenonceau the aim is to evacuate before the fire brigade arrive to fight the fire, but at Chambord, with more personnel, the aim is to simultaneously evacuate visitors and begin fighting the fire with extinguishers whilst waiting for the fire brigade to get there. The second priority is the removal of works of art, and there also, a written salvage plan is enacted. 

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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, 25 April 2019

Frankie Kicked a Mine


The sound track to my childhood was the Vietnam War. Sixty thousand Australians served in Vietnam and there is a memorial to them on Anzac Parade in Canberra. Australia's involvement began in 1962 and lasted until 1973. Australian troops went back briefly during the fall of Saigon in 1975 to evacuate Australian embassy staff.

Quotations wall.

It is a memorial you can walk into and be enclosed by. There are six benches inside and around the space created by three concrete stele set into a pool. Each of the benches is dedicated to one of the men still listed as missing in action at the end of the war. Five hundred and twenty one Australians were killed in the conflict and about 3000 wounded. The names of all the Australians who died in Vietnam are recorded on a scroll which is sealed within the memorial.

One of the stele has quotations from diaries, press releases and songs. Very few are attributed but several are very well known and their source would be recognised by many Australians. 

 Troops waiting to be airlifted.

The stele at the back is etched with a reproduction of a photograph of troops waiting to be airlifted by US helicopters back to their base at Nui Dat after a cordon and search operation. 

My uncle Ric was lucky to avoid the draft (whether you were called up was a lottery, based on date of birth for men in their 21st year), and Simon can remember Darwin airport heaving with soldiers en route to or from Vietnam when his family landed there when they emigrated to Australia from England in 1967.

Today is ANZAC Day, the Australian official war dead memorial day.

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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.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A Walk Along the Sauvaget, Part II


Here are some more photos from our walk from Preuilly, along the Sauvaget and back again. Part I is here.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The back of the Abbey at Preuilly.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
This was taken in Preuilly from the top of the chateau's outer defensive bank, looking over Belvedere's garage roof.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A male Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis (Fr. Alouette des champs) hovering and delivering his scritchy scratchy song, much romanticised by English poets, composers and writers.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Passing some lovely flowering trees.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
This little stream, the Sauvaget, provided the power to start the Industrial Revolution between Preuilly and Bossay. Mills along this tiny stream were processing locally mined iron ore.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The setting for this house in a hollow is attractive, but I think a frost pocket.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Flint nodules, no doubt gathered locally, topping a roof terrace wall in a hamlet along the Sauvaget.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Antique bird cage (thankfully unoccupied).

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The rear entrace to a property in the hamlet of Sauvaget.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Blossoming pear trees in pasture.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Typical rolling Claise Valley countryside.

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For those of you interested in how Facebook is undermining democracy, this is required watching -- a TED talk by journalist Carole Cadwalladr. I hope you all recognise the journalist's name and know how much courageous work she put in to revealing the irregularities of the Brexit referendum campaign.

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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, 23 April 2019

A Walk Along the Sauvaget, Part I


Thursday 4 April's club walk started in Preuilly and did a loop along the small Sauvaget stream which runs from the Forest of Preuilly to the Claise near Bossay. Here are some photos. (Part II is here.)

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The owner of this house in Preuilly is an artist, and has decoratively carved her front door surround.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Whenever Simon and I walk by on our own these horses on the outskirts of Preuilly ignore us, but apparently a bigger group of walkers is something to come and investigate.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Ponies can never resist coming up and poking their noses over the fence at people.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata (Fr. Saxifrage à bulbilles), a localised spring wild flower.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Cowslips Primula veris (Fr. coucou) are at their peak in early April when these were photographed.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
There is an extensive patch of this white flowered Lesser Periwinkle Vinca minor (Fr. Petit pervenche) around the bridge over the Sauvaget near the site of a 17th century iron mill. Expert opinion is that it is a garden cultivar, associated with human activity at the site. Vinca minor var alba was first scientifically described in 1770, so at some point a mutation must have occurred and come to the attention of professional horticulturalists who propagated and distributed it. Annoyingly, none of the wild flower guides mention this. They tell you that the flowers are always violet-blue. François Lefebvre, the ecologist responsible for the Zone naturelle d'intérêt écologique, faunistique et floristique along the Sauvaget says that he's read that the presence of Lesser Periwinkle is a good indicator of ancient occupation along former Roman roads.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A rooster crowing in his new home of a week (his owners have just retired from goat cheese making and bought a house along the Sauvaget -- we stopped to chat with them).

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A semi-troglodytic cottage in a hamlet along the Sauvaget.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The rather dramatic and unexpected hamlet of Sauvaget.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Check out the twisted metal handrail on the stairs up to the back of this house in the hamlet of Sauvaget.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A male Violet Oil Beetle Meloe violaceus (Fr. Méloé violet), munching on Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria (Fr. Ficaire) and being ectoparasitised (externally parasitised) by biting midges Atrichopogon (Melohelea) sp who are feeding on the beetle's hemolymph (what beetle's have instead of blood). Many thanks to the members of Diptera.info for helping with the identification of the midges.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Walking back into Preuilly.



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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, 22 April 2019

Bean and Mushroom Soup


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

This unctuous winter treat is my adaptation of a recipe that appeared on Taste of France. She can't comment on this blog due to technical reasons, but we've been communicating via her blog comments on how to tweak the recipe. She got it as an 'official truffle recipe' and chose to present it as the original, but because I resorted to shiitakes rather than truffles I felt free to modify it to my personal tastes and ingredients.

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

Ingredients
500 g dried white beans*
200 g fresh shiitake mushrooms
200 ml cream
An onion, finely chopped
Half a celeriac, peeled and grated
2 carrots, peeled and grated
A dash of olive oil
A litre of chicken or vegetable stock
About half a teaspoon of garlic flakes
About a teaspoon of salt
Pepper (freshly ground mixed peppercorns is good)

Method
  1. Soak beans in cold water overnight.
  2. Tear up the shiitake, add to the cream and blend in the food processor so the mushrooms are finely chopped. Leave to infuse overnight.
  3. Drain beans, put in a large pot, cover well with water, bring to the boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours.
  5. Drain the beans.
  6. Heat the oil in a large pot and sweat the onion, carrots and celeriac for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the beans and the stock.
  8. Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer for half an hour.
  9. Remove from the heat then add the creamy mushroom mix and season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic.
  10. Using a stick blender, puree the soup to a thick velvety consistency.
  11. Gently reheat and serve. Feeds 9.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Locally grown white beans, known as lingots.

*I had a kilo of lingots, so cooked all of them and froze half for use later.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Shiitake growing in the caves at Bourré.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Hendrick, the mushroom producer who cultivates mushrooms in a cave at Selles sur Cher. He has a stall at the markets in Loches and Amboise, and I always buy my shiitake from him.



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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. 

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Typical Streetscape


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

A typical streetscape in a small rural town in south-east Queensland. No curbing, with a wide 'nature strip' maintained and planted by the residents but owned by the municipality. No footpath, one simply walks on the grass. Most gardens are fenced around their boundary, probably because there are dogs or children living there.

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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. 

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Betony-leaved Rampion


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

Betony-leaved Rampion Phyteuma betonicifolia is a properly Alpine plant. I photographed this one at nearly 2000 metres in Switzerland. The two flies are some sort of Muscidae, probably House Fly Musca domestica, associated with the nearby piggery. Both are female.




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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.