Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Safety and Security Tightened


Recently Chenonceau has been reviewing its safety and security arrangements, both on land and on the river. Checks were carried out on tourism service providers in and around the chateau to test safety.

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

The checks, carried out in the vicinity of Chenonceau and within the chateau itself, were necessary. Four canoe and boat rental companies were checked by the police and government services. One boat operator has been issued with a request for compliance. He uses about 50 small rowing boats, while his authorization stipulates 30. A warning was sent to him for non-compliance with the authorization granted.

Boating on the Cher near the Chateau of Chenonceau.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Another service provider has received a formal notice to cease activity immediately. A third is suspected of carrying out an economic activity under the guise of not-for profit and reportedly employs undeclared staff.

Poster advising visitors they will be cat scanned.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The security arrangements at the Château de Chenonceau entrance failed their first random anonymous test. On July 6, two plainclothes policemen tested the security by trying to bring their weapons in. Only the chateau security coordinator was aware of the procedure.

Bag inspection at the entrance to the chateau.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

They didn't do too badly, as the security guard in charge of the entry searches, an employee in training, detected one of the pistols. Another chateau security guard detected, a little further on, the second pistol after some suspicions. "No danger to the public" but it was felt to be a first test that indicated the need for improvement.  Less than three weeks later, the site was equipped with a metal detector in addition to the visual inspection and opening of the bags, which have shown their limits.

A security guard at Chenonceau.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Now only experienced security guards get to man the entry point, and on a second random unannounced test, with the metal detector, they did much better. The purpose of these reviews was not just to discover any gaps in the procedure, but to remind staff to remain vigilant. With 800 000 visitors annually, Chenonceau is the most visited tourist site in Indre et Loire, by a long way. Security is important, but so is the quality of the welcome.

Obviously they cannot guarantee absolute safety, but the reviews have ensured the best possible procedures.

(Rather appealingly, being the head of security at Chenonceau involves some slightly unusual duties.)

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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, 30 July 2019

Dancing With Death


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

On Saturday 20 July the Preuilly community got together to put on an original performance, Ars Moriendi, created as a fundraiser for the restoration of the medieval danse macabre painted on the walls of the Chapelle de tous les saints.

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

In the 14th and 15 centuries, one tragic event followed another. Wars, famines and the Black Death ravaged Europe. It was in these dark times that the funerary art known as Ars Moriendi developed. Numerous churchs came to be decorated with danses macabres, murals in which 24 characters are confronted by Death, who comes looking for them. All levels of society are represented from the Pope to the villager.

Retired local policeman, dressed in Napoleonic era uniforms, providing traffic direction services.
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Above the characters is written the dialogue between Death and the future deceased. They demand clemency from the Grim Reaper, but he reminds them of their destiny. The educative aim of these wall paintings was to show that everyone was equal in front of Death, whether great or minor in their Earthly life. And that everyone must make the most of life now, because Death could come at any moment.

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

Very few medieval danses macabres have survived the centuries. There are only a dozen extant in France. The one at Preuilly sur Claise is unique because it shows not one, but two dances -- one of the men and the other of women. Was Preuilly ahead of its time in granting women equality to men in society?

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

The script was written by Christian Caillet, and inspired by a document dating from 1485, from the cemetery of Saints-Innocents de Paris. But rest assured, the performance was not sinister. With colourful costumes, merry songs and joyful music the performance was far from sad. The verbal sparring between the different protagonists was laced with humour. The wife was told not to worry, her husband would remarry and not miss her. The minstrel sang a lament, but so beautifully he was one of the stars of the show. The Legate, played by the president of the local history society, was asked if he had come seeking a grant. The performers were all locals, with an age gap of exactly 80 years between the oldest (Albert, playing the Archbishop) and the youngest (Léa, playing the little girl).

The Wife, with her painted backdrop (dubbed by the artists 'La Parisienne').
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Yolande Deberne directed and made the costumes. When they were casting, Christian said to her that they needed someone really special to play Death, as they carry the show and are on stage more or less all the time. Christian thought they needed someone skinny and lithe, who would caper about, and could properly act. Yolande apparently looked at him and responded 'I've got one of those at home' -- and so her husband Michel got to play Death.

The orchestra of the dead, in the skeleton suits, and the young minstrel, in red, who sang a beautiful solo before meeting Death.
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

To provide interludes and links, the local medieval troupe Les trouvères du val de Claise played medieval songs and tunes to accompany a local choir, assisted by the percussionists from the School of Music. The scenery was painted by the folk who attend the local drawing evening classes. Lighting was provided by the fire brigade and set up by Paris Bruno, who is a lighting engineer for big stage events in real life. Various local groups helped make the scenery. Several retired policemen got dressed up to direct traffic. Dozens and dozens of people volunteered in some way, and 450 people attended the performance.

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

Everything was financed by grants from the Fund for the Development of Community Life, the municipality of Preuilly sur Claise and the bank Crédit Agricole. This means that the €8 ticket price was pure profit. You do the maths -- 450 x 8...A terrific contribution to the restoration fund.

The married couple enter, with the orchestra of the dead on the left and choir on the right.
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The restoration of the chapel is being managed by the local history association, known as the SAP. The first part, the repair of the walls and roof and conservation of the painted ceiling vault has been successfully completed and this performance is to raise money for the middle stage, the conservation of the danse macabre paintings themselves.

The whole cast at the end of the performance.
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The chapel dates from the end of the 15th century and sits in a park that was once a cemetery. Abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century, it fell into ruin and the municipality at the time planned to demolish it. A local architect stepped in and purchased it in order to save it. To his surprise he discovered the danse macabre paintings hidden under later render. In 2001 the chapel was handed back to the municipality and in 2014 a campaign began to restore the building. The first stage was completed in 2017 and included the carpentry, roof, masonry and the wooden panelled vaulted ceiling, thanks to help from DRAC (the Regional Department for Arts and Culture), the municipality, the SAP (the local history society) and other arts charities. 

Other blog posts about the Chapelle de tous les saints.

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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 July 2019

Dry Cured Duck


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

Fat duck breasts (magret de canard) are a by-product of foie gras production and therefore widely available at quite reasonable prices. I can buy them directly from my local producer, or from the supermarket, year round. The supermarket has 3-packs of them on special a couple of times a year, so I can buy three magret for under €15 and freeze them. (No, I don't know why they are packaged in threes...). In this recipe the raw duck breast is 'cooked', or more accurately 'cold cured' or 'dry cured' in salt. This is an easy, traditional technique to create a delicious luxury product at home.

Prepared and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Dry cured duck used to garnish a salade composée (mixed salad).

Ingredients
1 kg preserving salt
An uncooked fat duck breast (magret de canard)
2 tsp freshly ground mixed peppercorns
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tbsp lapsang souchong tea, ground to a powder

Method
  1. Carefully slice off the silvery membrane and any bits of tendon on the flesh of the duck breast.
  2. Put a thick layer of salt in a deep oval ceramic dish big enough to take the duck breast flat.
  3. Put the duck breast, skin side up, on the salt then cover it completely with salt.
  4. Cover the dish and put the duck in the fridge to cure for about 12 hours.
  5. When the duck is removed from the salt it will have shrunk and become stiff due to the loss of water.
  6. Brush the salt off the surface of the duck and rinse very thoroughly under the tap.
  7. Dry with kitchen paper towel as thoroughly as possible.
  8. Mix the pepper, paprika, thyme, cayenne and tea powder and generously season the duck breast with the mixture, concentrating on the meat side more than the skin side.
  9. Pat the seasoning into the duck breast a bit.
  10. Lay out a clean tea towel.
  11. Place the duck skin side up near the top of the towel and sprinkle over any seasoning you have left.
  12. Fold the top edge of the towel over the duck, then roll the duck in the towel to turn it over and completely enclose it. Keep rolling until you reach the end of the towel, then turn under the sides of the towel so you have a neat package.
  13. Put the duck in the fridge and leave for 3 weeks to cure.
  14. Once cured, unroll the duck and slice very thinly.
  15. Only slice what you are going to eat immediately. Leave the rest whole and wrapped in the towel in the fridge.
Prepared and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Duck breast, showing the membrane that must be trimmed.

Prepared and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A fat duck breast, skin side up (and in this case, prepared for searing rather than curing).

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Dry cured duck being used in a Salade Tourangelle by my friend, professional chef Jean-Michel Chedozeau.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Smoke cured duck breast (in a local restaurant).

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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 July 2019

Toadfish

This is a smooth toadfish (Tetractenos glaber), a member of the pufferfish family. I suspect that the first fish I ever caught was a toadfish, which rapidly inflated itself and scared the hell out of me. What would make someone want to eat one - just on looks alone - is beyond me. The fact that they are deadly poisonous only adds to the general air of menace about them. I photographed it from a jetty in Narooma on the NSW South Coast as it went about its business.


Saturday, 27 July 2019

No Blog Post Again

Instead a refreshing view of Switzerland.

12 months ago we were watching my brother run across mountains (GO JB!!),
in 12 months time I hope we will be walking them.


It rained yesterday and last night, but the drought continues.


Friday, 26 July 2019

Walking From Charnizay


On Thursday 18 July a small group of us met at the town hall at Charnizay at 8 am, to avoid the heat. Simon had planned a route of 5 km, crossing the Aigronne, and up the pilgrim path, then through wide open fields, back down to the Aigronne, past the grain silo and finishing behing the town hall where we'd started. Here is a selection of photos from the walk.

Photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Bridge over the Aigronne at the sports field in Charnizay.

Photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Walking part of the Saint Martin pilgrim trail near Charnizay.

Photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Looking towards the silo, from the Saint Martin's pilgrim trail.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The lovely pale blue flowers of Chicory Cichorium intybus (Fr. Chicorée sauvage) are everywhere on field margins and roadsides at the moment.

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

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

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
An assortment of chook breeds, including cou nu (naked neck).

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Simon claims that when he looked on the map there was a bridge here.
 
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Maize crop with the village of Charnizay behind.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A big pile of wheat at the silo facility. This is where the famous bread starts, and we are part of the largest cereal growing area in western Europe.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A farm truck laden with grain heads for the silo.

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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 July 2019

Downed Bat


On Tuesday, in the heatwave, Simon went outside to hang washing on the line and discovered what he thought was a dead bat by the terrace. I was about to head off to the supermarket, but thought I'd better take some photos of the bat for the record and bag it up for the bat guys to collect later (yes, you need to put them in the freezer...)

Happily, it turned out the bat was not dead! Dehydration is usually the reason bats end up stuck on the ground, so I offered it a drink. I was pleased to see (and hear) it lap up the water eagerly. Once it was refusing more water I gathered it up and put it in the relative cool of the garage. A Facebook friend suggested getting rescued bats to cling on to a blanket or towel and hanging it at a couple of metres off the ground so the bat can easily take off when it feels recovered. If you have to rescue a bat always wear gloves when handling them, as they can carry rabies and related viruses. Restrict speaking to the bare necessities, as bats, like all wild animals, find the human very frightening. A downed bat is profoundly stressed, so you must work quickly, gently and quietly.

My bat expert friend Virginie confirms that the bat is a Serotine Eptesicus serotinus. It's a large species (for France, which only has micro-bats), inhabiting lowland parks, gardens, and open country on the edges of towns. They live in association with people, very often choosing attics to roost. They are timid creatures though, and usually don't cope well with disturbance. During the active period, from March to October, they hunt beetles and moths on the wing, circling gardens, copses  or street lights.

During hot weather it is a nice gesture if gardners can put out shallow water bowls for the use of birds, bees and bats. Make sure there are some pebbles in the saucer to allow easier access and prevent drowning. Set the dishes somewhere that will be relatively safe from cats, with a bit of height for ease of take off.

Remember that bats are completely protected in France, and it is illegal to handle them (except in emergencies such as we encountered).

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

No Blog Today

Yesterday was just too hot.

This photo was taken at 17:48 in the shade in the coolest part of our garden.
Heat index was (supposedly) 48°C

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

ArchaeoLab


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

Archaéolab was installed at the site of a dig on the outskirts of the village of Abilly, at the end of the research dig which went from 1981 to 1991. It is a teaching facility, ideally to be visited after a visit to the Museum of Prehistory in le Grand Pressigny, so you can experience a real archaeology site. It offers the general public a way of better understanding how an archaeological dig works, what one might find, how to talk about the artefacts that come from the site and finally, how one can reconstruct the lives of the prehistoric men and women who lived here.

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

It is the first Neolithic site discovered in the area, dating from between 3000 and 2400 BC. People lived and worked here -- cooked food has been found, as well as the livres de beurre core stone tools that the area is famous for. People were not just living here, but making flint tools here. The Archaéolab site is just one of several scattered sites across this slope -- not really constituting a village, because the habitations are too far from one another, but presumably some sort of community (possibly seasonal). The site also includes a Paleolithic phase and a Medieval one.

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

The site aims to show people how archaeological research is done, from the moment you ascertain that you have good stratification to allow a dig, to the moment when you reconstruct, as far as possible, the sequence of events which have unfolded on the site.

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

Sadly, none of this can happen this year, as Patrimoine Vivant en Claise Tourangelle ('Living Heritage on the Claise River in the Touraine'), the not for profit association which manages the site, has been unable to access funding to run the usual archaeology summer school. This year it will only be open for visits from the general public on the Journées de Patrimoine in September. Nevertheless, the site needs to be maintained, and last week my friend François, who is the President of the PVCT, asked if I wanted to visit while they had a working bee. Vegetation needs to be controlled where it has climbed up the wire mesh of the protective cage or grown in spots where rain blows in.

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

Thousands of years ago, the fashioning of long flint blades in a number of centres established a common European culture, covering an area about 2500 kilometres across, and lasting 2000 years, from the Ukraine to Spain. The long blades were used as knives, daggers and sickles, but also as ritual objects. Although copper tools existed simultaneously, flint was more suitable in many situations, and was traded over vast distances, both as cores and as finished tools. They were both items of exchange, but also of prestige. It was only after bronze technology developed that flint production slowed and finally disappeared.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The remains of a grape vine that has been removed from the protective cage.

For a period of several hundred years flint from Le Grand Pressigny, fashioned into semi-finished tools, furnished the market with the materials people needed. Similarly, Bodaki in the Ukraine supplied south-eastern Europe, and there are other centres in Andalusia and Bulgaria. The people using these tools were no longer hunter-gatherers, but farmers, with domesticated stock and crops. They made textiles and ceramics, and permanent settlements from wood, cob and stone. And they erected the first funerary edifices in the form of mounds and megaliths.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
François burning weeds inside the protective cage, as advised by the regional archaeology service (it's tricky because you can't use a technique that will disturb the archaeology).

Blades would be traded over networks of 500 kilometres. Flint knappers must have travelled widely, plying their trade. Other, differently resourced areas, operated as centres of ceramics manufacturing and distributing, weaving, salt production or antler tool making. 

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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 July 2019

Hamburgers en Croute


Cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

I heard Tim Anderson describe a variation on beef Wellington on The Kitchen Cabinet and thought I'd give it a go.

Cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Ingredients
400 g mince (I used beef, but chicken or pork would work too)
250 g mushrooms, finely chopped
An onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp spicy tomato ketchup
4 rashers of bacon
4 slices of cheese (I used raclette with flecks of truffle)
Salt and pepper
Butter and oil
Puff pastry (I made my own, but a pack of ready made will be fine)
1 egg, beaten

Method
  1. Make the pastry and chill for an hour.
  2. Fry the onions in a mixture of butter and oil until lightly golden, season with salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms and cook for a couple more minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Mix the mince, mushrooms, onion and ketchup, and form into 4 patties.
  4. Roll out the pastry and cut eight 20 cm circles (I use a soup plate as a template) then return the pastry to the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 220C and line oven trays with silicone mat.
  6. Lay out 4 pastry circles on the oven trays, top each with a pattie, a rasher of bacon folded to fit and a slice of cheese.
  7. Brush the edges of the loaded pastry circles with egg wash then top with the remaining pastry circles.
  8. Pinch the edges of the pastry to seal them.
  9. Cut a vent in the top, and brush the tops with egg.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes.
  11. Serves 4, with a side salad.
Cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Vegemite Delivery


Earlier in the year Marie-France and Gérard (who grew up in our house) called me to say they were going on a world trip and were having trouble with the website for getting Australian visas. I went up and couldn't make it work either and eventually they resorted to using a third party commercial agent to get one, which of course meant they paid a bit extra. Also of course, once they got to Australia, it seemed like no one was interested in their visa! (I suspect it's all electronic these days.)

Marie-France was determined to come home with some Vegemite that she could give me. When in Australia they amused their guide by persisting in asking her if they could stop off at a supermarket to buy Vegemite. The guide (a French woman married to an Australian) didn't take them very seriously and it took several days to achieve the mission.

Photographed by Susan Walter.
Marie-France, Gérard and Simon with a jar of Vegemite.

Once back in France they tried to set up a date with me to deliver the goods. Twice we had a date, and twice it fell through for one reason or another. Then on Friday, they were coming down our way to pick up their daughter in La Roche Posay, so they let me know they would call in that morning. They arrived at 9.10 am, just as I was vaccuuming in preparation. That set Marie-France off into hoots of laughter about being such an important guest, and in fact, it was much nicer outside at that hour, so we sat on the terrace for a cool drink and an account of their trip.

First we discussed the state of the middle garage at the back of our place. It's now owned by Franck from Lyon. He inherited it last year from his uncle, and doesn't really know what to do with it. He's been here twice for a day to try to clean it up and do some emergency repairs. On his last visit we discussed renting it from him to cover the cost of his insurance and property tax. That's a potential win-win while we both work on the finances and a plan for repairing the building.

Anyway, it turns out that Gérard is a model train enthusiast and in his youth, the train set was up in the loft of this garage. I told Marie-France that Simon would love to have a model train and her advice was not to let him start. Once it starts, there is no cure, and no end to the ordering bits online and visiting model shops. We now have an invitation to see Gérard's set up at home. Marie-France says that she is willing to claim they won't be home on the day if I let her know I don't want to take the risk of Simon suffering irreversible train envy.

Finally we got back to their trip. It began very badly indeed, with a problem with Gérard's US visa meaning that he was not allowed on the plane in Paris that would take them to the US. Marie-France had already gone through all the checks. They managed to get Gérard an emergency visa and on the same plane the next day, but it meant that he was chasing the tour for a couple of days before catching them in Las Vegas. They never found out what the problem was and had to pay for extra hotel nights and so on. Their guide didn't seem to care, and blamed them for messing up the visa application in some unspecified way. They are now using their legal action insurance (standard with all home insurance here) to make a claim via the national consumer watchdog organisation.

Luckily after that things improved and went smoothly, but in a couple of places they didn't really find their guide very good. Marie-France commented that she was disappointed with how little Aboriginal culture they were exposed to. They did get told all about Lapérouse though, and how close Australia came to being French. She loved the Opera House, the Bridge and Taronga Park Zoo (although she had hoped to see the Komodo Dragon there, but ran out of time). She also observed that it seemed that Australian pensions weren't very generous and work hours long. I suspect that Rotorua, in New Zealand was the highlight of the tour, despite the fact it rained all the time they were there. She also contrasted how much the Maori culture features in New Zealand compared to the Aboriginals in Australia. Bangkok was very humid, Pape'ete and Tahiti didn't get much of a mention (not so challenging I guess, as they are French speaking).

For an account of another French-Australian interaction with Vegemite, read this post on Papilles et Pupilles

And you can see Simon's beautiful Vegemite sandwiches in this post.


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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 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.