Thursday, 31 October 2019

Livre de beurre


The area around Le Grand Pressigny has a subsoil littered with massive slabs of flint. In the late Neolithic (about five thousand years ago, for a period of 500 years) it was a hub for the production of long blades which then found their way all over France and into the Netherlands, Switzerland and the Rhineland.

The more recently much prized white chalk limestone tuffeau formed in the Paris Basin when it was a sea 90 million years ago. The flint formed at the same time, but millenia later the chalk surrounding it degraded into clay that protected the slabs of flint's integrity during the Ice Ages.

Livres de beurre are found so commonly around Le Grand Pressigny 
that they are used as home decor.
Prehistoric flint cores of a type known as livres de beurre. Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Around 3000 BC flint was being extracted from hillsides and hilltops around le Grand Pressigny. Cores were being shaped on site, then transported to workshops and houses in the small hamlets where people lived. Craftsmen began to emerge, who could create fluted cores known as livres de beurre (pounds of butter) which they then struck long thin blades from. The blades were made into daggers and sent north, east and west, where they have been found in Brittany, Poitou, and the Jura.

A 'master craftsman' of the period could produce a couple of dozen blades from two cores in a day. That's an estimated 800 blades over the summer. To knap blades like this takes immense concentration over a two to three hour period per core as well as knowledge and experience, and involves hundreds of hammer strikes and pressure shaping nibbles.

A livre de beurre in a private collection.
A flint core of a type known as a livre de beurre.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

It is obvious that years of training to become truly skilled was required to produce these types of tools, which means a system of masters and apprentices. About 10% of cores found by archaeologists have been clumsily worked or reworked, suggesting they are practice pieces.

The evidence, particularly from a site at Barrou, shows that there was a flint knapping season, when work was concentrated into about a month every year during which 50 to 80 cores were processed at the site, resulting in 500 to 800 blades. Not all the flint is top quality, which suggests that local farmers extracted nodules or slabs from their land in readiness for handing it over to the blade makers when they arrived for the season. In exchange for the 'raw' flint, the farmers would have got blades in return, the number probably varying depending on the quality of the unprocessed stone. The farmers could then use the blades for their own daggers, or as items for other exchanges of goods.

At the time all this was going on, the area around Le Grand Pressigny would have been a mosaic of small farming communities, connected by footpaths and rivers such as the Creuse and the Claise, with pasture, cultivation, open cleared fallow land along with forest and burial grounds. The population lived in wood and clay houses topped with bark or thatch roofs. The pottery found at homesteads is crude but they used a wide range of stone tools, many of which were made from the waste flint from the fine blade making and primarily used for working wood. No wooden artefacts survive from around Le Grand Pressigny, but based on contemporary communities in other places they would have been making bowls, spoons, butter churns and a wide range of other objects for the home and farm. The livre de beurre cores themselves were also sometimes reworked for a new life as a tool in their own right. The fine blades themselves don't seem to have much of a role in daily life in Le Grand Pressigny, and the techniques used to make them have been found in the Dordogne and Charente, so it is now believed that the master blade makers were not local but itinerant.

 I've written previously about flint production in my blog post about the Archaeolab. I wrote about the problem of what to do with the remains of modern flint knapping demonstrations and a description of a local archaeologist showing how it is done.


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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. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Walking From Charnizay


The weather wasn't looking that promising for our walking club outing on 24 October but we persevered through a couple of light showers. Here are some pictures of the highlights.

An attractive house and barn (shame about the modern tiles, but otherwise very nicely restored).
Picturesque rural houses, Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Horse Mushroom Agaricus arvensis (Fr. Boule de neige).
Macro Mushroom Agaricus albertii, Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Curiously, although this mushroom is listed as good eating in all the literature, all my French companions eschewed it. I couldn't work out if they were worried about mistaking it for one of several similar toxic species, but since they all confidently referred to them as 'boules de neige' when we saw them, that doesn't seem a likely explanation. Perhaps they were worried about the species reputation as a bioaccumulator of cadmium and copper. Foragers are advised to limit their consumption of such species.

My photo shows the diagnostic double stem ring, with the lower ring characteristically 'cogwheel' shaped. This is a large mushroom with a pure white cap and pink gills when young. There is a faint smell of aniseed and the stem will slowly stain yellow if cut. This is useful when checking that you do not have the Yellow Stainer A. xanthodermus (Fr. Agaric jaunissante) which instantaneously goes chrome yellow when cut, smells nasty (phenolic) and will give you a stomach upset if you eat it.

Yellow Toadflax Linaria vulgaris (Fr. Linaire commune).
Joël picked this sprig and pointed out that it has a distinctive and quite pungent smell when crushed. I am not surprised to read that it has a number of traditional medicinal uses.

This digger caused a detour through a farmyard.
A digger on a farm, Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

New cattle sheds under construction.
New cattle sheds, Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Poachers Corner.
'Poachers Corner', Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Carrefour means crossroads and braconnier means poacher.

Denise picking Parasol Mushrooms Macrolepiota procera (Fr. Coulemelle).
Foraging for Parasol Mushrooms Macrolepiota procera. Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the   Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
There were a great many of these much prized mushrooms and it was a good thing Denise just happened to have a decent sized bag to put them in. If you are picking them, make sure you are correctly identifying them, as there are lookalike toxic species. Parasols are the ones with the snakeskin pattern on their stem (which Denise says you don't eat, by the way -- I assume a bit fibrous and unappetising).

A traditional longère style house in the countryside.
A traditional longere style house in the countryside. Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the   Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Release the hounds!
Release the hounds! Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the   Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The farmer let these hounds out just as we were passing and admiring his fruit press. The dogs hurtled about, checking on all the new smells, including us.

Loading hounds into a homemade trailer.
Hounds getting into a homemade trailer. Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the   Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Then they were called to get in the trailer, clearly a homemade affair fashioned out of the rear end of a Renault 4L with a giraffe hatch. Once inside the excited dogs caused considerable rocking and rolling. It was hilarious.

Eurasian Robin Erithacus rubecula (Fr. Rougegorge familier).
Eurasian Robin Erithracus rubecula. Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
As we descended a gully on a very narrow track, Joël quietly called my attention to this robin lurking on the forest floor. The light wasn't very good, so the photo isn't topnotch.

This will be the last walk I report on for a while. I have tendonitis in my right knee and after 5 kilometres I was in agony. I had to abort at the 8 kilometre mark and Simon charged off to get the car so he could pick me up. I've tried ignoring it, but when it flares up I can walk and drive only if I'm prepared to deal with severe pain. So I am spending a couple of months doing nothing but sitting on the couch. The doctor tells me there is nothing I can do except wait and not walk too much. Painkillers, anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy exercises all have had no effect on its progress.

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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, 29 October 2019

The Terracotta Tile Factory


Recently I've had a number of conversations about terracotta tiles, both roof and floor versions. I thought I'd refresh and repost what Simon wrote in July 2009 about going to a local manufacturer of tiles. Sadly, since then this factory, making terracotta tiles in the traditional artisanal way, has ceased operating.

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Tomettes are terracotta (in french terre cuite) floor tiles. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, dependent on location; the traditional shape in Provence is hexagonal, but around here the standard is for square tiles about 20 cm (8 inches) across for the ground floor, and 16 cm (6 inches) across for upstairs. At one time every large town had its own tomette (and roof tile) producer, with the result that every town had tiles of slightly different size and thickness. This can make repairing an old tomette floor very difficult - finding a match for your old tomettes can take a long time and you may have to be content with the next best thing.

We don't have that problem. The floor of what will one day once again be our kitchen is covered in fairly modern glazed tiles, but we have decided that tomettes would look a lot better and be more in keeping with the general age and appearance of the house.

Susan choosing tomettes.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
After talking to John and Jill and Pierre-Yves and Sylvie we decided to visit Terres Cuites de la Lorne, a traditional tile making concern about 40 km away from Preuilly sur Claise just outside of Ruffec le Château in la Brenne. This factory is an accredited supplier of traditional artisanal terracotta floor and roof tiles and bricks for historic buildings. They make a range of less expensive machine made floor tiles as well as handmade carreaux vieillis and these square tomettes come in three sizes, priced at €45 per square metre for machine made and €61 per square metre for handmade (which is much the same price as for salvaged tomettes). The clay they are made from is sourced locally at Ruffec or Pouligny.

After much discussion - in hushed English between ourselves and in broken French with the staff from the factory - we decided to buy the old style handmade tiles. This was the most expensive option, but we felt that it would be more in keeping with the character of the house. We placed an order for 30 square metres of the 16 cm (6 inches more or less) square tiles, with 4 metres to be collected within a week, and the rest to be delivered.

Empty tile boxes waiting to be loaded from the kiln.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
When we placed the order we asked for the 16 cm tiles because the waiting time for the 20 cm tiles is 6 months. Only later did it occur to us that as we will be laying the main body of tiles after the mason has been in April next year a six month wait wasn't the issue it might have been.

Roof tiles being stacked in the kiln
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide. 
Last Thursday after visiting the decheterie we returned to la Lorne and picked up 4 metres of 16 cm tiles for the area under the stairs and changed the rest of our order to 20 cm tiles. The area under the stairs has to be laid before the staircase goes in, and we decided that if we are slightly creative with laying the smaller tiles the change in size will be a bit of a decorative feature rather than a sign of not being able to make up our minds...

Loading our small tiles into the trailer
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The factory is really interesting: big lumps of machinery and huge ovens, stacks of tiles waiting to be fired, tiles in between firings, and tiles baked and waiting to be sold. It would be great to visit there when production is underway, but the first time we visited they were stacking the kiln with roof tiles, and the second time they had just finished a firing and were letting the oven cool.

The unbaked tiles are grey, but after firing the colours
range from soft pale peachy pink to brick red and brown.
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, 28 October 2019

French Restaurant Vouchers


The subject of restaurant vouchers came up recently during lunch with anglophone friends, so I thought I would refresh and repost what I wrote about the subject a year ago.

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Many French employers offer their employees luncheon vouchers known officially as titres-restaurant, but usually referred to as tickets-resto. The scheme is run by various private-public partnerships such as Ticket Restaurant, Chèque Déjeuner, Chèque de Table and Pass Restaurant and overseen by the Commission Nationale de Titres Restaurant.

There is no obligation for employers to offer restaurant vouchers, nor for restaurants to accept them. Employers can choose to feed their workers by having an onsite works canteen or to reimburse an amount towards meals. If employees wish to eat on the premises the employer is obliged to provide a suitable space, separate to the work space. Effectively it is forbidden to eat your lunch at your desk in France. If there are more than 25 employees there must be a dedicated food storage area with a fridge and means of reheating meals.

This restaurant accepts four different types of tickets-resto.

If an employer offers restaurant vouchers they must cover 50-60% of the value of the voucher. The remainder is part of the employee's salary. So for example, for a titre-restaurant worth €11 the employer must cover €5.50 to €6.60 of the value, and the employee €4.40 to €5.50.

Employers don't have to make social security contributions (up to a limit of €5.43 per titre-restaurant). That means if the employer covers 50% of the titre-restaurant, the value of the voucher up to €10.86 is exempt from social contributions. Likewise, the employer's contribution to the vouchers do not count as salary for the calculation of the employee's income tax, up to a limit of €1350 pa.

Theoretically the value of titres-restaurant is up to the employer, but in practice it is limited by considerations such as the social security contributions, the maximum percentage the employer can cover, and the fact that the employee is only allowed to use vouchers to a maximum value of €19 per day.

Normally all employees receive the same value vouchers, and it is not possible to simply receive the equivalent as part of their salary (except under very rare circumstances). Obviously employees can't use a luncheon voucher and then claim the meal as an expense -- that would be double dipping. The number of vouchers issued to an employee is based on the number of days they are present at their usual worksite. If they are working away they get paid expenses instead.

Titres-restaurant can only be used in restaurants, supermarkets and food shops, and the paper vouchers cannot be exchanged for their monetary value (or the difference between the price of the items purchased and the value of the voucher). The vouchers are transferable and can be given to colleagues, friends, or, as is the tradition in December, just before the vouchers expire, given to homeless people. Nowadays some of the schemes are electronic and involve using a 'tap and go' card which only registers the exact amount spent, leaving the balance in your account. Presumably this will bring to an end the ability to transfer vouchers as a charitable act. Supposedly they cannot be used to obtain non-food items such as alcohol or cigarettes, but I hear that in practice they can, so long as you buy some food as well. They can only be used in the département of their issue and the adjoining ones, and are valid for the year they are issued. Their use dates from the Second World War, when they were part of the food rationing system. Restaurants have 60 days to send the vouchers they have collected to the centralised payment administrator for reimbursement.


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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, 27 October 2019

Respecting the Rock


From now on you can't climb Uluru. And a good thing too. The traditional owners have been extremely patient on this issue.


The rock is an important sacred site for the Anangu people of central Australia. Quite apart from that, for years the rock has mostly been forbidden to climbers because so many people required medical treatment for injuries or dehydration after making the attempt when it was hot or windy. Uluru is a large site and despite its fame and popularity, still quite isolated. No wonder the management had qualms about people climbing.

Me, my sister and her husband circumnavigating the Rock.

You don't have to climb the rock to enjoy it. It is spectacular and interesting at ground level.

My Mum, relaxing at the base of the Rock a decade ago.

Apparently the nationality most likely to climb Uluru in the past were Australians. Foreign tourists have read the literature and have considerably more respect for the traditional culture of the Australian desert than the average urban Australian on holiday. 


Fewer than a quarter of visitors climbed the rock anyway, so I don't suppose there will be any noticeable impact on tourist numbers.


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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, 26 October 2019

The Best Cathedral of All?

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This is a refreshed post, originally from July 2008.
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Recently we took my parents up to the north of France, mainly to see the World War II D-Day landing beaches (aka Operation Overlord sites) and the World War I cemeteries. A good place to base oneself for visiting these places is the city of Amiens in Picardy, and indeed Amiens is well worth visiting just for its own sake. It has a magnificent cathedral for one thing - the biggest and tallest in France, and deservedly a World Heritage Site.

The western facade of Notre-Dame d'Amiens.
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Amiens Cathedral is big. Really big. And packed with so much detail you don't know where to look next in order to take it all in and not miss any of the characterful carving (in stone on the front, in wood in the choir) or the outrageous Baroque confections that make up the high altar, the pulpit and some of the tombs. The detail is from every century since the Cathedral was begun in 1220 and the quality is superb. So is the space - the place is huge, swallowing all this detail and still being awe-inspiring the way a Cathedral should be.

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

Look at the great airy spire, with its attenuated angels keeping watch. This is the real thing (unlike the recently destroyed example on Notre Dame de Paris, whose similar looking spire was a 19th century interpretation of a medieval spire). In French this style of lead covered timber spire is called a flèche (ie arrow).

Baroque altar.
Photographed by Susan Walter.   Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Look at this demonstration that more is more. (You can go round the back of this distinctly OTT but undeniably skillful arrangement and find that the artisans had thought of that too - the back is painted more simply, but maintains the trompe l'oeil.)


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

Look at the affecting scene being played out on the end of one of the choir stalls. For the type of single, relatively brief visit the average tourist is likely to make the choir is, in my opinion, the single best part of Amiens Cathedral and the 16th century choir carvings alone makes it worth a visit. You can get right up close to little vignettes like this one we photographed. At this level, the carvings are unpainted, but higher up, in the choir screen, they are polychrome masterpieces, even more detailed than the stalls.

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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, 25 October 2019

Cluster Flies


One day I visited friends in the next valley and was surprised by the level of buzzing coming from the vicinity of their front door. At first I assumed it was late season bees in the Russian Sage but then I realised it was dozens of golden haired flies.

Female cluster fly.
Female cluster fly Pollenia sp, Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The identity of these flies wasn't much of a mystery. The golden hairs make them unmistakable as cluster flies Pollenia sp. They are parasites of earthworms and will have mass emergences from time to time, especially if there is well rotted cow manure around to attract earthworms and therefore the flies. That was the case here, as a few days earlier the neighbouring farmer had been muck spreading.

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

The flies can be a bit of a nuisance, in that they come indoors to hibernate in nooks and crannies, and where they will die in large numbers on windowsills and in attics. They are not attracted to human food so do not represent a health hasard, but once they are present in a house you will likely never get rid of them, as each new generation seems to return to a favoured location. I can remember housesitting at Tyntesfield in England before the National Trust opened the property to the public. Crossing the floor in the attic was to crunch across a carpet of cluster flies that had accumulated over several years.

Cluster flies on the exterior of the house.
Photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

There are 18 species of Pollenia in France, not very easy to identify to species level. These are probably the most abundant species, the Common Cluster Fly P. rudis (Fr. Mouche des greniers).

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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, 24 October 2019

A Pile of Plaquettes


A big pile of wood chips (Fr. plaquettes).
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

This pile of wood chips represents one of the latest banes of the countryside. An enterprising local farmer has invested in some big forestry equipment and is going around convincing other landowners to allow him to harvest small patches of woodland. The bigger trunks he sends off to become lumber at the sawmill, but the tree tops and smaller and less valuable trees he munches up in his giant chipper to sell as fuel for big modern 'eco-friendly' heating systems, or as the raw material for paper making at the big factory in Descartes.

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

The problem is that he is targetting any and all parcels of woodland, destroying wildlife corridors and homogenising the landscape so it is no longer a mosaic of dozens of different habitats supporting a rich biodiversity. On top of that, nothing is being left to rot back into the soil to maintain fertility. With a site like this there is a risk of erosion and an invasion of weedy plant species (in this case, Robinia pseudoacacia) which will lower the biodiversity value. Current government policy unfortunately encourages this sort of wood chip production, as it is categorised as biofuel and/or a renewable resource. I don't see much evidence that tree planting is keeping up with tree removal in the Loire Valley at present.


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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. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

L'Art et Lard 2019


The second weekend in October is the art and food festival l'Art et Lard at Le Petit Pressigny. This year I concentrated on the Lardy bits rather than the Arty bits. I did notice that there was a lot of ceramics this year.

Weekend soccer game. The home team is in orange.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
I parked at the sports field and discovered there was a local league soccer game in progress, so stopped to watch for a few minutes.

Someone prepared for the event early.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The ever popular English Tea Room, run by local British women every year, and a great success.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The most eye catching cake had an extraordinary green coconut and lime frosting. I thought it was very Rugby World Cup. It was proving very popular with the punters and more than half of it was gone by the time I got there at 10.30 am.

Tommy and his Braslou beer.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Braslou Bière is one of the many artisanal breweries springing up in the Loire Valley in the last few years. I haven't tried their beer yet, but I hear it is good.

My lovely friend Sandy, who with her partner Tony, grows and sells organic apples.

Gaetan Raguin prepares fouaces, the local version of pita breads.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Gaetan Raguin, who speaks excellent English, is the organic artisan baker behind Co-pain. These fouaces looked really good, although I did not try them. He does everything by hand, using locally grown wheat, barley and buckwheat and a sourdough levain.

Catherine Vandamme and her rare breed poultry and rabbit products.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Catherine Vandamme has established herself as a breeder of local rare breeds of poultry (the Géline de Touraine, a black hen) and the Gris de Touraine rabbit. Here is a recipe from Les Carnets de Julie for Géline à la lochoise.

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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, 22 October 2019

Preuilly Roof Styles


Recently I've had a number of conversations about terracotta tiles, both for roofs and floors. I've also discussed the problem of modern gutters exacerbating the problem of buildings cracking in the dry, which many people have experienced in the last couple of years. Some local authorities, such as Charnizay, have declared a catastrophe and residents are being advised to contact their insurance companies, who will be obliged to cover the costs of repairs. Preuilly has not gone down this route and has presumably been less affected by this year's drought. So I thought I would refresh and repost something I wrote in December 2016.

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Flat terracotta tiles.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Flat terracotta tiles on a roof, with some age, lots of lichen and moss. Theoretically you should clean off the growth to keep your roof in good condition, but hardly anybody bothers. Note the lack of gutter, which is traditional for here. Gutters are rather a modern affectation, and the old buildings can suffer if the soil around them dries up due to water off the roof being collected and piped away rather than being allowed to fall on the ground about half a metre beyond the walls.

Slate tiles and metal flashing and finials.
Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A nice smart slate roof on a tower peeps out above other long low roofs of slate or flat terracotta tile. The tower roof is finished with 'zinc' (actually pewter type alloy or galvanised steel). There is a decorative pattern in the slates (usually created by hanging the slates on a different alignment) and a monogram on the chimney of forged iron.

Another flat terracotta tile roof (with a bit less lichen and moss). 
On the right is a special curved tile with is for ventilation.
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, 21 October 2019

Walnut Snowballs


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

Ever on the search for delicious things to do with walnuts (since I have several young walnut trees in the orchard) I was delighted to find a recipe for some slightly quirky walnut based biscuits on Simply Recipes. Right on cue, as I made these back in January, it began to hail enough to dust the ground in white and to our east and north they had proper snow.

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

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1.5 cups walnuts, finely chopped
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I actually forgot to add this, and the biscuits didn't suffer)
125 g butter, cut into dice
A pinch of salt
About 5 generous tablespoons of icing sugar

Method
  1. Shell and chop the walnuts if you are using homegrown.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, walnuts, sugar) together.
  3. Add the vanilla.
  4. Rub the butter in to the dry mix until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. This will take a while because of the nuts.
  5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Heat the oven to 150C and line baking trays with silicone mats.
  7. Form the dough into large marble sized balls and place on the trays. They won't spread but leave a gap of a couple of centimetres.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. Once out of the oven cool for 5-10 minutes then roll in icing sugar.
  10. Put on a rack to cool completely then roll them in icing sugar a second time.
  11. Makes about 18 balls. They keep well in a sealed jar, and will freeze.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

I buy my flour from Farine du Berry, butter from the Laiterie de Verneuil, both available in the Intermarché supermarket in Yzeures sur Creuse. The vanilla comes from a guy I see every year at the Saffron Fair in Preuilly who has a mate in Réunion with a vanilla plantation.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Baked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Baked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Baked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Baked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Baked and 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.