Saturday, 29 February 2020

Fort de Socoa


Fort de Socoa, Ciboure, Pyrenees-Atlantiques.  France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The Fort de Socoa at Ciboure is an important edifice in the history of the town, and starts under Henry of Navarre (Henri IV of France). Anxious to protect Saint Jean de Luz from the Spanish enemy, he envisaged the construction of a fortress. But differences of opinion between the two communities of Ciboure and Saint Jean de Luz meant that the project ground to a halt. The Fort of Socoa wouldn't see the light of day until the reign of Louis XIII.

Fort de Socoa, Ciboure, Pyrenees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

In 1636 the Spanish took the Fort and renamed the citadel Fort Castile. Some years later French souvereignty was re-established, work was undertaken again and the Fort took on its current name.

Fort de Socoa, Ciboure, Pyrenees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

In 1686 Vauban reinforced the Fort as part of his tour of the Pyrenees and had a jetty constructed to improve access. The work on the Fort was done by Fleury and finished in 1698. The site includes a barracks and a chapel.

Photos taken on our summer holiday in the Basque Country September 2019.

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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, 28 February 2020

Moss Outing to an Abandoned Vineyard


On Sunday 22 February Franck the Forestier led an outing to an abandoned vineyard near Antogny le Tillac. It was up on the heights behind the village, overlooking the Vienne Valley. Like many of these ridges, created as the Vienne moved around and changed course over the centuries, there is a fair bit of sand and flint in the clay soil.

Downy Oak Quercus pubescens (Fr. Chêne pubescent) now grow in the old vine rows.
An abandoned vineyard, being overtaken by Downy Oak Quercus pubescens. Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The rows of vines are being succeeded by Downy Oak. It looks like they have been planted and at first I thought it was a truffle orchard. But the oaks have simply propagated naturally in this pattern following the vines.

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio (Fr. Orchis bouffon) leaf rosettes.
Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio leaf rosettes, February, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Green-winged Orchids are often associated with old vineyards.

Rusty Swan-neck Moss Campylopus flexuosus.
Rusty Swan-neck Moss Campylopus flexuosus, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A very variable species which favours wet acidic spots such as rotting tree stumps.

Franck explaining the finer points of moss identification to Michel.
Forest Technician Franck Masse leads a moss outing, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

One of the most abundant arboreal lichens, Parmelia sulcata.
Parmelia sulcata, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum (Fr. Asplénium noir).
Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Black Spleenwort is a widespread fern, but not all that abundant in Vienne and Indre et Loire. It's not too fussy about soil.

Capillary Thread Moss Bryum capillare.
Capillary Thread Moss Bryum capillare, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
One of the most abundant mosses, with distinctive large drooping capsules on reddish setae (stems) and growing almost everywhere.

Common Frillwort Fossombronia pusilla.
Common Frillwort Fossombronia pusilla, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
This little liverwort was the star species for the site. It looks just like tiny frilly lettuce. The species can only be distinguished from other similar frillworts by microscopic examination of certain features. Common Frillwort is a medium sized species, which grows on bare acid ground such as tracks and bare patches in cultivation.

Redshank Ceratodon purpureus (Fr. mousse de feu).
Redshanks Ceratodon purpureus, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
This is a common, variable and widespread species which grows in cushions on sites which have been burnt. In this case, it was growing where piles of vine prunings had been burnt amongst the vines.

Bonfire Moss Funaria hygrometrica.
Bonfire Moss Funaria hygrometrica, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A moss that is even more strongly associated with burnt areas and favours rich disturbed ground. Easy to identify with large fat capsules dangling from swan-necked setae each emerging from a tiny rosette of leaves. A new record for the site.

Silky Wall Feather Homalothecium sericeum.
Silky Wall Feather Moss Homalothecium sericeum, Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Often found on dead wood, especially base rich species such as Ash and Elder.

Twenty-one species of moss and four species of liverwort have been recorded on this site. On the day we saw thirteen of the mosses and one liverwort.

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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, 27 February 2020

A New Camera

We have a new camera. For about 4 years now my camera has had a problem with its on/off switch, and has been turning itself off just as I am ready to take a photo. This has produced mutterings and resulted in any number of missed photo opportunities.

Last month we succumbed to temptation and bought a new camera. It's the cheapest new camera we could find that just abour fulfills all requirements. It doesn't have a viewfinder, and it's low light photos are a bit dodgy, but we bought it half price at the soldes at E.Leclerc and it fits in my pocket. I didn't want a camera that hangs around the neck because I am finding that carrying a heavy camera gives me neckache.




When were are out and taking photos I will still be carrying the infuriating Fuji, but now (in theory) we will always have a small camera in our pockets to capture those moments that until now have escaped us.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Is it Spring?

It won't come as a surprise to anyone that it appears the weather is all a bit messed up: our neighbour's apricot tree has been blossoming for almost a month, and on Monday we saw irises blooming. A month ago I was passed by a bumble bee with a tempest as a tailwind,  and a week ago we saw a bat feeding above a local lake.




Strange days indeed.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

La Chapelle de Notre-Dame de Prélong


At the edge of the forest, on the road that leads from La Petite Guerche to Le Rond du Chêne, at the foot of a wooded hill, near the Fontaine de Prélong, stand the ruins of a chapel that you can barely see from the road. The small ruined chapel from the fifteenth century, known originally as Notre-Dame de Preslong is now covered with vegetation. Only a section of wall with an arch remains. About a kilometre away from the very dense woods of the Forêt de Guerche, the chapel and spring are at the end of a small sheltered valley. A stream from the spring runs down the base of the valley towards the River Creuse, and the road runs parallel to the stream. The land has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic period.

The site was home to a Saint Rigommier, a pious hermit who performed miracles. Local legend also says that Agnès Sorel lived in the nearby Chateau de la Guerche, which had been built for her by Charles VII. So far as I know this is not true, but Agnès' cousin Antoinette lived there, as the wife of the local lord, and she became Charles VII's mistress after Agnès died.

Ruin of the Chapelle de Prelong, near la Guerche. Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The main legend associated with the chapel is that of a young falconer, out walking with his beautiful young love and looking for Turtle Dove nests. They were attacked by a wolf, who threw itself savagely on the young woman and mauled her to death. Charles VII, on hearing the sad story, built the chapel and had his falconner's fiancée buried in the centre of the building. Shortly afterwards war broke out between the French and English and the young falconner went off to fight. After distinguishing himself on the battlefield he returned to set up as a hermit in the chapel to mourn his beloved.

Local historians believe there is some truth to the story. Today we can still see a hole in the middle of the chapel, which is perhaps the remains of a grave. Supposedly there are inscriptions relating to the lovers still visible on the walls, but I didn't notice anything like that.

Ruin of the Chapelle de Prelong, near la Guerche. Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The second wolf story associated with the chapel concerns an old woman, who one day tied her only nanny goat to the door latch of the chapel. A wolf caught the scent of the goat, which was frightened. But the goat was held by a rather long rope and it was able to run inside the chapel. The wolf followed, and the goat quickly exited, pulling the latch when the rope was taut, thus locking the wolf in the church, to be dealt with by the villagers.

As a result the chapel is sometimes referred to as the "wolf chapel" by the locals. The wolf was present and active enough in the area to frighten the population. The last wolf in Vienne (county or département) was shot in 1923.

Ruin of the Chapelle de Prelong, near la Guerche. Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Finally abandoned in the Revolution it took less than a century to turn it into a picturesque ruin. The forest invaded the clearing around the chapel, the roof became damp and rotten, creepers and vegetation covered the walls and the open meadow at the front of the building became narrower and narrower until it disappeared altogether.

The chapel of Notre Dame de Prélong was originally placed under the dependence of the Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Preuilly. During the 17th century, it became the responsibility of la Guerche, being at that time located in the territory of the Comte de la Guerche.

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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, 24 February 2020

Alcohol Serving and Consumption Laws in France


You will see this notice displayed in every bar and restaurant in France.

Obligatory legal notice on the door of a restaurant about the serving and consumption of alcohol.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

It says it is forbidden to sell alcohol to anyone under 18 years old and bar staff are responsible for  asking for proof of age. It is forbidden to offer alcohol to minors in licensed premises, shops and any public place. Anyone under 16 years of age is not allowed into licensed premises unless accompanied by one of their parents or a responsible adult.

It is forbidden to offer discounted alcoholic drinks during a 'Happy Hour' type event without also offering equally discounted non-alcoholic drinks.

It is forbidden for licensed premises to offer alcohol to manifestly drunk people, or to allow them to enter the premises.

It is forbidden to be obviously drunk in a public place.

For comparison, in Australia, the law on serving alcohol varies a bit from State to State, but broadly, you can't serve alcohol to anyone under 18, you can't be obviously drunk in public and bars are not allowed to serve drunk people. Both countries have regulations about drinking on the street, with curfews or rules about glass containers or opened containers, in particular problem areas. The only difference I can see is that I am unaware of any rules in Australia that insist on equivalency for non-alcoholic beverages during Happy Hours (but I'm happy for readers to correct me on that if they know better).

Both countries have a blood alcohol limit of 0.05% for driving.

Heather over at Secrets of Paris has written a very good and comprehensive post about liquor laws in France, and Paris in particular. 

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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, 23 February 2020

Australian Wood Duck


Taxonomists aren't quite sure what to make of the Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata. Maybe it's a goose, maybe it's a duck. Maybe it's a shelduck, maybe it's a teal. Its closest relative is an extinct flightless New Zealand goose like duck.

Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata. Cotter Dam, Australian Capital Territory. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

They are found just about everywhere, grazing on lush damp grass and are a species that thrives in agricultural surroundings.


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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, 22 February 2020

Paddleboarding But Not Necessarily Standing Up


Standup paddleboarding, Nivelle inlet, Ciboure, Pyrenees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

While we were in the Basque country in September, we took a tourist ferry across the inlet from Saint Jean de Luz to the Fort de Socoa over at Ciboure, and several times we encountered a couple stand up paddleboarding across the water. It was clearly long and arduous, because they periodically gave up standing, and would lie down or kneel. By the time I spotted them arriving at the fort the young woman looked quite fed up.

Standup paddleboarding, Nivelle inlet, Ciboure, ,Pyrenees-Atlantiques. France. 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. 

Friday, 21 February 2020

First Cowslip Photo 2020


This year the wild Primroses are much in advance of the Cowslips on the roadsides. They are closely related but this is the first time I can remember the Primroses beating the Cowslips to flower. There are now a few cowslips out, and on Wednesday we stopped at a layby on the way home from swimming to photograph a little patch by the roadside ditch.

Cowslip Primula veris. February.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

We've posted a cowslip photo every year since 2007. This year the photo is the earliest we've ever posted, but the flowers have appeared in late February around this date in at least two previous years (2015 and 2016).

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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, 20 February 2020

The Saffron Fair 2020


The Saffron Fair in Preuilly is an annual gourmet food fair that has been going for more than twenty years. It is held in municipal gymnasium. Here are some photos I took this year.

Basket weaver.
Basket weaver at the Saffron Fair, Preuilly sur Claise.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
These are made of rushes and brambles. I have one of the long ones for bread.

Products from Cognac.
Products from Cognac at the Saffron Fair, Preuilly sur Claise.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Cognac itself of course, but also liqueurs and pineau de Charentes.

A new gastronomic club.
Confrerie Gastronomique at the Saffron Fair, Preuilly sur Claise.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Gastronomic clubs like this exist all over France and usually concentrate on a single dish. This one has created a chocolate based on the shape of a well known local prehistoric tool.

Touraine Noble Joué rosé.
Joue Noble rose, a tiny wine appellation in the Loire Valley.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Touraine Noble Joué is a tiny rosé wine appellation of just five producers and forty hectares of vines. It is generally rather highly rated, but almost unknown outside our area.

The restaurant area.
Restaurant area at the Saffron Fair, Preuilly sur Claise.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
We ate here with friends, as usual. Excellent value for money, and the main course and dessert in particular were really good and enjoyed by all. All with a hint of saffron of course.

Dry cured sausage (saucisson) for sale.
Dry cured sausages (aka saucisson or salami) on sale at a gourmet market.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Spice merchant.
Spice merchant at a gourmet market.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
I buy vanilla pods every year from the spice merchant. The quality is excellent and they are good value compared to the supermarket, especially if you buy in quantity. This year I also bought paprika and allspice berries.

In the background, local artist Olivier Lorain (aka Lolo) is sketching and manning the stand for the artists' group he set up and continues to run with weekly meetings for drawing and painting together.

Gourmet groceries.
Gourmet grocer stall at a food market.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
My friend Sylvain runs a gourmet grocery business selling local produce. He sells at markets and delivers orders made over the phone to your home.

Chef Jean-Michel Chedozeau leads the team preparing the lunch menu he's created for the Fair.
Prepping the meal at the Saffron Fair, Preuilly sur Claise.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Main course of sturgeon with herbed mashed potato and carrot saffron sauce.
Main course of sturgeon with herbed mashed potato and carrot saffron sauce.  Indre et Loire, France. 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. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

The Self-service Grocery at Paulmy


Poultry in refrigerated lockers.
Self-service poultry vending machine.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

These are beginning to be known as 'casiers de campagne' ('country checkouts'), self-service facilities selling local products seven days a week. The one in Paulmy has been open for just under a year now, and the municipal authority is a big fan. They encourage others to do it at every opportunity. The deal is the local authority acquires or provides a premises and local producers form an association to keep it stocked and run it.

The meat cabinet.
Meat cabinet in a self-service grocery in a rural village.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Paulmy is a rural community with a population of 240. There are no shops, and the last business in town, the bar, closed in 2011. The mayor sought a solution that would re-energise the centre of the village, and create a local service. He didn't want the local council to have to manage it, as he felt that was too risky. Instead, he asked a group of local producers to form an association and create a distribution point for their produce, in the form of self-service vending machines in a public building. The really clever part of the idea is making it a joint venture, whereas up till now this sort of thing has only been present on individual farms.

 Juice, fruit, eggs, terrine and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetable vending machine.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

In 2018 the municipality bought the former bar and renovated it, funded by a combination of municipal investments and grants. At the same time they encouraged a group of six local producers to form a company, which would come to be called Casiers de campagne. As part of the renovation the municality installed doors that automatically lock and unlock; a surveillance camera; airconditioning set to 18C; and a cold room for storage. For their part, the producers company bought the vending cabinets, some of which are refrigerated; and a bank card machine for taking payment (no cash is taken).

Terrines and vegetables.
Terrines and tomatoes in a vending machine.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Opened in March 2019, the distribution facility is open seven days a week, from six in the morning to eleven at night. There are 94 lockers, for divers types of products: poultry and eggs, cheese, vegetables, fruits and juice, bread, pastries and baked goods. The local produce is complemented by non-perishable store cupboard basics: flour, pasta, lentils, rice. Purchasing is effected by bank card at the facility, or when ordering directly from the producers. Orders are placed in a locker and the customer is given a code. In time, once the village gets fibre optic, the mayor envisages that orders will be able to be placed online.

There are six producers in the company, one of whom is a baker. They all come from within a ten kilometre radius of Paulmy, and they co-ordinate the restocking of the lockers themselves. Because they have the cold room, any of them can come and restock for all of them. The baker calls in three times a day to restock the baguette distributor, a service that is highly valued by the residents of Paulmy. The takings, €32 420 in the first six months, have been slightly lower than expected, but the producers are happy with this type of co-operative selling and have recently increased the number of lockers.

For the municipality, creating a shop where there was no shop was a bit of a challenge. But the mayor is really happy with how it has created a new meeting place for the community and provides a real service to the local area. The Communauté des Communes Loches Sud Touraine (67 municipalities, population 52 000), who were one of the grant givers for the project, are following the experiment closely, with the idea of duplicating the facility in other municipalities. Paulmy's mayor says it can be done in other places, but the Comcom doesn't hold the key -- the local councillors do.

The municipality invested €65 000 to buy the building and €10 000 on improvements. The remaining work (a total of €27 000) was covered by a grant from the Rural Communities Equipment Agency (DETR) and funds from the inter-municipalities economic development budget. On their side, the producers acquired the 94 vending lockers for €43 200. Forty percent of that was covered by the Chamber of Trades and forty percent by the Leader fund. 

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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, 18 February 2020

Restoration of the Church at La Celle Guenand


The church at La Celle Guenand is in a really bad state and has been closed to the public for a couple of years. Luckily it was one of the early winners of money from Mission Bern, an ambitious nationwide programme to save heritage buildings at risk, fronted by the television presenter Stéphane Bern.

At La Celle Guenand the work will involve restoring the choir, north transept, sacristy and western facade.

The church has looked like this for about year now.
The church at La Celle Guenand under scaffolding for restoration.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The church has been listed as a historic monument since 1908, and is a remarkable Romanesque edifice. It represents a rich and stratified architectural history, with vault styles from virtually every Medieval period. In addition the church has sculpture from the 11th to the 15th century, with some rather unexpected iconography, and painted decoration, particularly in the choir vault.

The choir roof will be replaced and the walls of the choir, sacristy, north transept and western facade repaired, as well as the forecourt and external surroundings. Interiors will be cleaned by a partial removal of the render. These works will allow, in the short term, the worst problems to be fixed and the western door to be re-opened.

The work programme will be:
  • replacing the roof slates and tiles (€61 646).
  • restoring the carpentry (€51 275).
  • restoring the stone facings (€277 041).
  • restoring the sculpture (€34 274).
  • restoring the stained glass windows (€20 970).
  • restoring the exterior joinery (included in carpentry).
Mission Bern is funding the project with a grant of €473 000 and the Ministry of Culture (DRAC) will offer a further 10% of the total cost. The Fondation du Patrimoine is taking public donations to make up the rest.

Stone conservators taking samples to be analysed in the laboratory.
Stone conservators take samples from a church under restoration.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The origin of the church of Notre-Dame de La Celle-Guenand goes back to the last quarter of the 11th century, according to the oldest archival documents. Until 1570, the village of La Celle-Guenand was divided into two châtellenies giving rise to two separate parishes for a single church. This being the cause of a series of disagreements, the archbishop of Tours suppressed the parish of La Celle- Guenand in 1779. This is all we know about the history of the church.

The building presents an almost complete catalogue of medieval vaulting systems and a rich carved decoration dating from the 11th to the 15th century, sadly in a state of ruin. The history of this important church is largely Romanesque, and it is a notable example in the Touraine region. The present sacristy of the church was a seigneurial chapel. The nave, according to all the authors who have taken an interest in this edifice, would have been built in two stages, initially limited to the dome span or the area to the east of the staircase (attached later to the south), then enlarged to the current facade. The decorations on the capitals of the church attributable to the 12th century are not consistent with the dating of the vaulting in the west bay. The relative chronology of the currently visible vaults is probably spread over two centuries. Nevertheless, the façade of the church is pure Romanesque and is the building's most famous feature. It does not seem to have undergone any substantial restoration. Its structure is quite classical with three sections. The bell tower of the church may have been built on older supports whose cross-sections were sufficient, but the materials were not very durable. The most interesting part is at the level of the belfry above the upper part of the cross dome.

The church of Notre-Dame de La Celle-Guenand is therefore a remarkable archaeological example of Romanesque art in the Central Region of France or more particularly in Touraine and is one of the oldest buildings of its kind representing a piece of heritage of great value and undeniable historical importance that needs to be restored and saved.

We've never been inside this church, although we pass it regularly. But our friends over at Loire Valley Experiences were lucky enough to find the door open one day some years ago and have photos of the interior if you would like to see them.

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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, 17 February 2020

Chicken and Rabbit Pie


Chicken and rabbit pie with green beans. Cooked and Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

One day I happened to complain to my friend Jean, who writes Baking in Franglais, that I didn't have a traditional pie dish. I had plenty of flan, quiche and tart pans, but nothing that was really an old fashioned pie dish. The next thing I knew, Jean had scoured her local charity shops in England, and found me two Pyrex style dishes, which she very kindly gave to me. These chicken and rabbit pies were the first thing I made in them, and they worked a treat. This recipe makes enough for one double crust pie serving four and one single crust pie.

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

Ingredients
Pastry
3 cups flour
250 g cream cheese, cut into cubes
125 g butter, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks

Filling
1 tbsp oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
125 g lardons
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500 g chicken pieces
500 g rabbit pieces
60 g butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
125 g grated cheese (Cheddar, comté or similar)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp seedy mustard

An egg yolk
A tsp of milk

Method
  1. Grease two pie dishes.
  2. Make pastry (steps 3 - 4)
  3. Rub cheese and butter into flour using a food processor on pulse.
  4. Add the two egg yolks and process until the dough forms a ball, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Make the filling (steps 6 - 13)
  6. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions and bacon, cook until the onions are soft, then add the garlic, stirring for a few seconds.
  7. Transfer the onion and bacon mixture to a bowl and reheat the pan.
  8. Brown the chicken, then the rabbit.
  9. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for a minute.
  10. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk gradually.
  11. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly until it thickens.
  12. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheeses and mustard.
  13. Combine the onion and bacon mixture, and chicken and rabbit, with the cheese sauce and put aside to cool.
  14. Put the pies together and bake (steps 15 - 26).
  15. Heat the oven to 200C.
  16. Divide the dough into three and roll one third out to line one pie dish.
  17. Trim the pastry then cover with baking paper and weigh it down (I use copper coins).
  18. Bake the pie case for 20 minutes then remove the paper and weights and bake a further five minutes.
  19. Let the pastry case cool and put a pie funnel in the centre of the other pie dish.
  20. Put half the filling in the pastry case and the other half in the unlined dish.
  21. Whisk together the extra egg yolk and milk.
  22. Roll out another third of the pastry, brush the edge of the prepared pastry base with the egg yolk and milk mixture, and lay the newly rolled pastry over the pie.
  23. Press the pastry edges together carefully and decoratively then trim.
  24. Roll out the final third of pastry and lay over the other pie, pressing lightly into the edge of the dish and trimming the excess.
  25. Cut slits in the pastry tops and brush them with the egg wash.
  26. Bake for 35 minutes.
Chicken and rabbit pie. Cooked and Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The flour I used was purchased at my local Intermarché supermarket at Yzeures sur Creuse, and comes from the last working flour windmill (Fr. minoterie) in Berry. Local butter, from the Laiterie  Cooperative de Verneuil, can be purchased from their factory shop or local supermarkets and corner stores.

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

The chicken and rabbit came from my local poultry producer, who sells at the market in Preuilly on Thursday mornings and Loches market Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The milk came from a local dairy farm that home delivers. She also supplies the EpiServices in Preuilly and Le Grand Pressigny, and the Intermarché supermarket in Yzeures sur Creuse.

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

The parmesan cheese was bought from the Italian pasta stall in Loches market on Saturdays.

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

Chicken and rabbit at a farmers market, Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Stoneground flour from the Berry, France.  Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Unsalted butter from the Laiterie de Verneuil, France. 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. 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

This Little Black Duck


Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa. Cotter Dam near Canberra, Australia. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa isn't really black, but it's been known by that name since first seen by white explorers. They are the Mallards of the southern hemisphere, being closely related and occupying the same ecological niche. Pacific Black Ducks are found all over the Pacific region. Unlike Mallards, male and female Pacific Black Ducks look similar.

Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa. Cotter Dam near Canberra, Australia. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

They are dabbling ducks, eating aquatic vegetation. Like many Australian bird species they breed in response to environmental conditions (ie rainfall), to ensure there is sufficient resources rather than strictly seasonal. The species is abundant and not threatened.

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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, 15 February 2020

Ciboure


Ciboure. Pyrenees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Ciboure is the town across the harbour from the much better known Saint Jean de Luz on the Nivelle inlet. Its main claim to fame is being the birthplace of the composer Maurice Ravel.

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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, 14 February 2020

Preuilly Municipal Council January 2020 Meeting Report


Documentary: Local film maker Sylvain Desclous is making a documentary about the upcoming municipal elections, and was present to film one of the last council meetings to be presided over by current mayor Gilles Bertucelli.

Sylvain Desclous and the actors answer questions at the preview of Vendeur, also filmed locally.
Director and actors take questions at preview of the film Vendeur.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Town Water: Responsibility for the town water supply and sanitation has transferred to the Communauté des Communes and Preuilly has handed over equipment relevant to managing the system. Several councillors brought up the complaint by various residents that the water has been very chloriney since the Comcom handed management of the system to Véolia in 2019. Prior to this Preuilly had been one of only three municipalities who managed their own water.

 The water tower in Preuilly is buried in the chateau ramparts.
Water tower buried in the chateau ramparts.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Place des Halles: The refurbishment of the market place has been suspended as Batiment de France, the State agency responsible for heritage buildings, wants changes to the plans that the council does not agree with, such as the removal of parking places, the existing trees and the proposed steps. They feel the project is jeopardised to the extent that they will leave it for the next elected team to take up.

 Place des Halles, decorated for Christmas.
Place des Halles, Preuilly sur Claise, decorated for Christmas.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

New Doctor: The current local doctor, Patrick Mureau, is due to retire in the next four years. It was envisaged that the wife of the current dentist, who is a doctor, would replace him. However, she is Romanian, and has still not received authorisation to practice in France. The Romanian government is making it more and more difficult for their nationals to work in foreign countries as they want to retain doctors trained in Romania. The new council will maybe have to use an agency to find a new doctor.

Simon at the doctor's.
At the doctors.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Seasonal Jobs: Every year the municipality creates two seasonal jobs -- swimming pool lifeguard (maitre-nageur) and camping grounds manager. These posts are currently unfilled and the council is searching for candidates.

 The municipal pool in Preuilly, with a former maitre-nageur on the left.
A municipal swimming pool.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Solar Farm: The modification of use of the Dennery factory site has been approved and the public enquiry completed. It is not yet clear if the photovoltaic panels will be erected after the demolition of the existing buildings, or if they will be kept. The facility will produce 8.074 kW from 4.12 hectares of panels on 8.6 hectares of land. The annual production is estimated at being the equivalent of the consumption (except heating) of 7786 households.

 Site of the former Dennery factory.
Site of the former Dennery factory.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Grants: A grant of €50 per primary school pupil was agreed for a science discovery stay at Azay le Ferron. A grant of €2970 was agreed for the Sports Union, for the club itself and towards salaries and expenses of personnel.


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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.