Sunday, 31 May 2020

A Boat on the Harbour


Boat on Sydney Harbour. Australia. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

More or less everyone agrees that the best thing about Sydney is the Harbour. This photo was taken from a ferry in November 2002.



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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, 30 May 2020

Biarritz Buildings


Biarritz, being a fine old seaside resort town, has some fine old Belle Epoque grand seaside  villas and suchlike attractions. When we were there for the day in September last year we photographed some.

Villa Belza.
Villa Belza, Biarritz. Pyrennees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Villa Belza is a neo-gothic style building constructed between 1880 and 1895 on a rocky coastal outcrop in Biarritz. The site was originally an open field perched amongst the rocks, but in 1882 it was bought by the director general of Phoenix Insurance, Ange Dufresnay. His architect Alphonse Bertrand and his builder A Joly conceived the original rectancular house. The 'medieval' keep and pepper pot tower were added by Dominique Morin in 1889.

Dufresnay named the house after his wife, but the word 'belza' means black in Basque, and this coupled with the house's proximity to the 'Devils Hole' fed rumours of its association with sorcery and revenants (people who return from the dead).

In the early 20th century it was used as a movie location, and later became a luxurious and exotic Russian restaurant. The Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII dined there, as did various Russian Grand Dukes. In 1927 it was completely renovated and turned into a cabaret. In 1940 the occupying Germans requisitioned the Villa and constructed a blockhouse to defend the Old Port.

After the War, a wealthy French woman who had been living in America returned and bought it, to convert into seven apartments. The tenants did not get on and the building was set on fire  at one point. It was completely restored by new owners in 1974, but once again caught fire and the second and third floors were destroyed. The building was left derelict and occupied by squatters.

In 1990 a young business man bought it and once again it was restored into luxury apartments. One of these sold for the then record price of €8000 per square metre. Its condition is now monitored and managed by the municipality as an historic monument and between 2015 and 2018 it underwent extensive external restoration.

Villa Belza.
Villa Belza, Biarritz. Pyrennees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Rocher de la vierge ('The Virgin's Rock').
Rocher de la vierge, Biarritz. Pyrennees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The Rocher de la vierge is a natural rock formation, with a statue of the Virgin placed on top in the mid-19th century. From it you can see the whole of the Bay of Biarritz. It sits between the Vieux Port ('Old Port') and the Port des pêcheurs ('Fishermens Port'). It was used as a lookout point for whalers and can be accessed either by a foot bridge or a tunnel.


Villa Goéland.
Goelands, Biarritz. Pyrennees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Villa Goéland was constructed in 1851 on the heights above the Vieux Port. However, right from the beginning it suffered from damp and water damage. Happily now restored and operating as a guest house, the villa's mixture of stone, wood and bricks, with its roof and pepper pot towers, it is one of the few remaining testimonies to the Belle Epoque in Biarritz.


Villa Goeland, Biarritz. Pyrennees-Atlantiques. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide. France.



Biarritz. Pyrennees-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, 29 May 2020

Chateau de Bagneux


The Chateau of Bagneux at Bournan is a fortress style chateau, constructed between the 13th to 15th centuries, and allied to the Chateau of Sainte Maure.

Chateau de Bagneux.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The footprint is a square with towers at each corner. Two have been truncated and two have been given conical slate pepper pot roofs sometime after the 15th century and retain their defensive machicolations.  From the towers you can see the neighbouring fortresses, and communicate as far as Loches by lighting signal fires. Its mullioned windows in the towers and facade show the later transition from its military use to a leisure retreat.

Chateau de Bagneux.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

In 1912 the chateau was used in the finale of the annual military manoeuvres, with the President of France and the Arch Duke of Russia present.

The chateau is privately owned and not open to visitors.

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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, 28 May 2020

Two Villages, Barely Separated


We've been out and about again, exploring and sightseeing. Not much to report on the chateau front (with one stonking exception), and we couldn't get to the prehistoric tomb we could see marked on the map, but some interesting churches. I'll write about the churches and chateau later, but in the meantime, here is a typical scene from the Sainte Maure plateau, which is the direction we chose on Tuesday.

Civray sur Esves (foreground), Bournan (background).  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

This is a view of Bournan in the background, taken from Civray sur Esves in the foreground. The two villages are just 2.5 kilometres apart. This is typical of the Sainte Maure plateau, where you can often see one village from another. Unlike thirty kilometres south, where we live, where the villages are much further apart and the countryside not quite so rolling.

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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, 27 May 2020

The Green Donkeys


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

On our recent foray to check out some local chateaux we came across a locality called L'Ane Vert ('the green donkey') -- and guess what! Right there in the field was a little troupe of three donkeys. They were dark bay, not green though -- the big hairy sort of the breed known as Poitou Ass or Baudet du Poitou.

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

Of course we enticed them over to us, but there was a ditch and an electric fence in the way, so we didn't get too up close and personal. They were gentle creatures, a bit prone to looking like pantomime horses. Their ears are like anti-static dusters, and very large -- a particular feature of the breed.

L'Ane Vert signpost. Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Left unclipped and ungroomed, as is traditional, the Poitou Ass develops dreadlocks which can hang to the ground. They are the largest breed of donkey, with legs and joints as large and sturdy as a carriage horse and were principally used to cross with Poitevin ('mule breeder') mares to get Poitevin Mules, a major source of labour and transport in the old days. The Poitevin Mule was considered the finest working animal in the world and every year about 30 000 were bred locally and sold globally. The specialist breeders were secretive and engaged in some very dubious practices which did not take into account the animals' welfare (pregnant mares were often starved in the belief that it would result in a more valuable mule colt foal, for example). With the increasing mechanisation of agriculture and transport of goods all three breeds started to die out after the Second World War. By the 1970s numbers had dwindled to around 40 purebred Poitou Asses and conservation efforts were required to save the breed.

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

Nowadays, after the French National Stud stepped in, there is a breed association dedicated to saving the breed and administering the pedigrees. Animals are chipped and DNA tested to ensure crossbred donkeys are not passed off as purebred, as the purebreds are worth so much more. Even so, there are still fewer than 500 purebred animals in the world. Most of the ones you see will be crossbreeds, retaining the shaggy look even if they only have a small percentage of Poitou Ass in their genes. 

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

And no, we have no idea why the place was called 'the Green Donkey'.


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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, 26 May 2020

The Secret Chateaux of the Touraine Berrichonne


Once upon a time France was split up into Provinces, and even longer ago, where we live was the border between French held territory and English held territory. We live in what was the Touraine, but very close to the old Berry on one side and Poitou on the other. But then the administrative boundaries changed, and the Touraine became Indre et Loire, Berry became Indre. Except it wasn't quite as simple as that. Some communities from Touraine found themselves lumped in with the old Berry and were now in Indre. So we have a set of chateaux, most of them originally defensive sites dating back to the Hundred Year War, now administratively in Berry/Indre but culturally linked to the Touraine/Indre et Loire. So the area has come to be referred to as the Touraine Berrichonne.

The gatehouse to the Chateau de la Bernaudière. 
The roof of the chateau itself is only just visible if you stand further down the road.
Gatehouse to Chateau de la Bernaudiere. Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The immediate area we live in is one that few people have heard of and it gets very few visitors, although it is on the edge of the area known to foreign tourists as the Loire Valley. Despite the lack of tourist pull it does have a rich history of human activity, as well as its rich natural heritage and last Thursday, which was a beautiful day, we went for a little touristic drive. It was carefully planned by Simon who had looked on the map and identified a number of sites that he wanted to photograph. We had a lovely time, and were amused that we were not the only locals with the same idea. We kept running into the same people, clearly doing the same route as us, and clearly history enthusiasts too, like us attracted the somewhat obscure nature of the place. Luckily this didn't put a dampener on our outing. Everyone was friendly, keeping their distance politely. We hadn't expected to interact with anyone at all in such obscure locations, so had come out without masks or hand sanitizer (although we had wipes in the car) and I was a bit embarrassed to be caught out like that. It was fine though, with plenty of room to manoeuvre and avoid people. Only one of the other party put on a mask, and then only when we met up for the third time.

 The main residential block of the Chateau des Effes, built in the 15th century, 
but owned since the 18th century by the Le Souffleur family.
Chateau des Effes, Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

We were never more than 12 kilometres from home and we set out through the Forest of Preuilly. Once out on the other side it is clear to the trained eye that we are in a different landscape. The soil is different, the fields are different, with more grazing, more hedges. The whole landscape seems secretive and stuck in a timewarp from centuries ago. The chateaux we had come to photograph are down a network of narrow roads, which do sharp right angled bends when they come to the corner of a field - very medieval. These chateaux are privately owned, not open to the public, and form the hub of large farms, just as they would have done when they were built. Around them are enormous barns, often a private chapel and usually a defendable gatehouse and the remains of a moat. You just get glimpses of the chateaux themselves from the road.

Towers at the entrance to the Chateau des Effes. Beyond are the stables, 
which apparently have rather curiously shaped stalls.
Towers at the entrance to the Chateau des Effes, Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

These are not royal chateaux, but fortified and working farms, owing allegiance to the Barony of Preuilly. It's where the money was really made in the old days, and it shows in the size of the farm complexes. They are not flashy buildings for the most part though. Discreet, provincial and solid, like their owners. 

Outbuilding at the Chateau de l'Effougeard.
Barn, Chateau de l'Effougeard, Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The Chateau de l'Effougeard, near Obterre, once formed part of the chatellanie of Les Effes, but the original building was replaced in the 19th century. In 1960 the Belgian industrialist Léon Schrurs, bought the estate and whilst out on a walk in the area came upon some wild hops. He decided to try cultivating the plant and brought in the hop master Roger Top to run the business. For 25 years they grew hops on 20 hectares, becoming the biggest private grower in Europe and employing 30 seasonal workers from April to September. The hops were sold to Stella Artois.

The business ceased to be profitable in the 1980s, when the market was flooded with hops from Eastern Europe. Roger Top returned to his home in Belgium and became deputy mayor of his village. As he had been friendly with the mayor of Obterre at the time, the two villages were twinned and remain so today, and to this day Obterre holds an annual hop festival at the end of August.

Chateau de l'Effougeard.
Chateau de l'Effougeard, Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

 The gatehouse of the Manoir de la Girouardière.
Gatehouse, Manoir de la Girouardiere, Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Surrounded by the remains of a moat the manor of La Girouardière was almost certainly built in the 16th century. The gatehouse has lodgings above both a main drawbridge entrance and a foot drawbridge. Most of the buildings within the courtyard it is protecting date from the 18th century, but some are older and their architectural elements are clear testimony to this compound's defensive function in the past. There was a private chapel, but it has disappeared since the 18th century. The same family owned this manor and the Chateau de l'Effougeard in the 18th century, and they are only a few metres from one another. The last member of this family who inherited the manor in 1818 became a nun and sold the property to the family who currently own it.

Chateau des Michauds, with its private chapel.
Chateau des Michaux, Indre. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Built in a neo-Gothic style, the Chateau des Michauds is still occupied by the same family who constructed it in the 1860s. Although a rather eclectic collection of architectural features, the whole comes together to form an attractive and grand complex. Apparently the interior decor is unusual and interesting, including a Turkish Room, some noteworthy stained glass and medieval inspired wall paintings. The chapel is a reconstruction of a 16th century church, itself a remaking of an earlier Romanesque structure on the site.

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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, 25 May 2020

Cheese and Cherry Combo


Fromage blanc battu and homegrown cherries macerated in kirsch.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

This is a simple dessert using fresh cheese and seasonal fruit. I am lucky in that I can get the most delicious fresh cheese, called fromage blanc battu ('whipped white cheese'). It is creamy but not rich, with a gentle tang that pairs well with fruit. If you can't get it then I suggest substituting a nice creamy natural yoghurt.

Sweet Burlat cherries freshly picked in our orchard.
Homegrown Burlat sweet cherries.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Ingredients
200 g fresh cherries, stoned
2 tbsp kirsch
300 g fresh cheese or natural yoghurt
2 tbsp sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of a lime

Method
  1. Macerate three quarters of the cherries in the kirsch for at least an hour, crushing them a bit.
  2. Combine the cheese, sugar and lime zest and juice.
  3. Put alternating layers of fruit and cheese into 4 glasses, top with the remaining cherries and chill.
  4. Serves 4.
You could use alternative combinations of fruit and alcohol, for example, raspberries and Framboise or blueberries and vodka.

The fromage blanc battu is from a local dairy, who call at the house twice a week. The cherries were from our orchard.   

Another delicious cheese and cherry combo is aged Basque brebis (sheeps milk cheese) with black cherry jam, the way they serve it in the Basque country.

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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, 24 May 2020

Sydney Opera House


Sydney Opera House, Australia. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Sydney Opera House is one of the many venues all over the globe that have been closed due to Covid19. Like many of their counterparts they have spent the time going all out to provide the public with a substitute digital experience. And there really is something for everyone, from highbrow opera as you would expect, to grime and post-punk percussion. There is dance from ballet to corroboree and theatre from Shakespeare to contemporary plays. Podcasts, performances, interviews and recordings. Behind the scenes and unseen footage.

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Both of these photos were taken from a ferry in 2001.

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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, 23 May 2020

Biarritz Beaches


We visited Biarritz on a very hot day in September last year. Here are some pictures of their famous beaches.

Plage du Port Vieux ('old port beach').
Plage du Port Vieux, Biarritz, Pyrenees-Atlantiques.  France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Plage de la Côte des Basques ('Basque Coast Beach'). 
Biarritz was the first place in Europe where anyone surfed.
Plage de la Cote des Basques, Biarritz, Pyrenees-Atlantiques.  France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Snazzy rubbish bin on Boulevard du Prince de Galles ('Prince of Wales Boulevard').
Rubbish bin, Biarritz, Pyrenees-Atlantiques.  France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Staircase down to Boulevard du Prince de Galles and Plage de la Côte des Basques.
Staircase, Biarritz, 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, 22 May 2020

Saint Sauveur


On the way home from the ophthalmologist on Tuesday we decided to take a small detour and visit Saint Sauveur. It was a beautiful day and this lovely village did not disappoint.

The now privately owned 15th century gatehouse to the Commanderie de la Foucaudière.
Saint Sauveur. Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Saint Sauveur is five kilometres south-east of Chatellerault, with a community of about 450 households. The village is dominated by the medieval church and commanderie, built by the Order of Hospitallers of Saint Anthony, a group of monks dedicated to healing and running hospitals. The complex, officially known as the Commanderie de la Foucaudière, was destroyed and rebuilt as a result of the Hundred Years War, and again in the Wars of Religion. The Order of Saint Anthony was suppressed in 1775 and the church transferred to the parish. Major restoration was undertaken in the 20th century.

The striking and monumental church, with associated buildings on the left.
Saint Sauveur. Vienne. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The Order of Saint Anthony were dedicated to Saint Anthony of Vienne, and later associated with the Augustinians. Initially, in the 11th century, they specialised in Saint Anthony's Fire, a disease caused by the fungus ergot in cereals. Later, in the 14th century they also treated those with the Black Death. At one point they had over 300 hospitals.

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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, 21 May 2020

Lodged Barley


Lodged barley.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

After a storm blew through ten days or so ago the barley crop in certain places has lodged. This is a new term for me. It means the barley has fallen to the ground, bent at the base of the plant. At this stage of growth it may or may not recover. If it remains lodged it will be difficult to harvest.

The field in the middle distance has survived unscathed, but in the background, on the right, where it looks like mown hay -- that's a flattened barley crop.
Lodged barley.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The scene of devastation was so bad where I took these photos I had to look twice to be sure it wasn't hay meadow that had been mown. But all of these photos show barley, bent over to the ground.

Lodged barley.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

All of these photos were taken in the Claise Valley, between Humeau and Boussay.

 The field in the foreground is sunflowers, the field behind is entirely flattened barley.
Lodged barley crop.  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, 20 May 2020

Roadside Wild Flowers


The first day after the Covid19 lockdown eased the weather was awful and nobody went anywhere. The next day was much better, overcast but not extremely wet or windy. I took the opportunity on my way to the supermarket to check on a roadside colony of orchids at Humeau, a bit further down the Claise from us.

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis (Fr. Orchis pyramidal).
Colony of Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis in a hay meadow.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
These Pyramidal Orchids in the hay meadow just off the road were the stars of the show, but within days of me photographing them they were gone. The field had been mown.

White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium (Fr. Céphalanthère blanche).
White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Past its best.

Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum (Fr. Gaillet jaune).
Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Tassle Hyacinth Leopoldia comomsa (Fr. Muscari à toupet).
Tassle Hyacinth Leopoldia comosa.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A very vividly coloured and striking looking plant, that I get requests to identify every year from members of the public who've spotted it on a roadside near them and are amazed, and sure they've never seen it before.

Common Twayblade Neottia ovata (Fr. Listère ovale).
Common Twayblade Neottia ovata.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A discreet and overlooked orchid.

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe).
Monkey Orchid Orchis simia.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A species which often forms quite large colonies on the roadside, and will hybridise readily with Lady Orchid O. purpurea (Fr. Orchis pourpre).

Bath Asparagus Ornithogalum pyrenaicum (Fr. Ornithogale des Pyrénées).
Bath Asparagus Ornithogalum pyrenaicum.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Not closely related to asparagus, but for a couple of weeks at this time of year it can sometimes be found in the market sold as Asperges des bois ('wood asparagus'). Personally I've never found enough of it to feel comfortable about foraging for it, and, having tasted it, don't think it's worth bothering.

Hoary Plantain Plantago media (Fr. Plantain moyen).
Hoary Plantain Plantago media.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A rather weather beaten example of this unexpectedly lovely plant, with its palest pink plume. This is another plant I get enquiries from the public about.

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha (Fr. Platanthère verdâtre).
Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Another species that was past its best.


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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, 19 May 2020

Vine Leaf Roller Weevil


My winemaker friend Christophe posted this photo on his Domaine de la Chaise Facebook page so I asked if I could scrounge it. It shows, on the right, an adult Vine Leaf Roller Weevil Byctiscus betulae (Fr. Cigarier) and on the left, the 'cigar' it rolls from a vine leaf to enclose its egg and larva.

Vine Leaf Roller Weevil Bystiscus betulae.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Photograph courtesy of Christophe Davault.

In the old days these used to be considered a vineyard pest and no doubt gallons of some dreadfully toxic pesticide was poured on the vines to control the beetle. These days though, the damage they cause is viewed as minimal and vignerons take the view that they can be left to do their thing. Christophe commented that certainly as far back as his grandfather's day in the vineyard the beetle has not been controlled on his family estate. He himself is happy just to take its photo.

Although they are called Vine Leaf Rollers in English, in fact they are not very fussy about what type of leaf they use. Beech and Birch, as their scientific name suggests, are more likely to be used, but they will also use vines or fruit trees, especially pears and cherries. They are metallic in appearance and can be blue, green or bronze. The species belongs to the family Rhynchitidae, the tooth-nosed snout weevils.

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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, 18 May 2020

Super Simple Clafoutis


Grown and photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Burlat cherries, an early variety, picked at the end of May in our orchard last year.

This is a reposting of a recipe I first shared in June 2010. It has always been popular and many of my friends and readers use this recipe when they make this well known local dessert.

Photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Flour made from locally grown wheat.

A recipe for the all too brief cherry season. Clafoutis is a sort of riff on the Dutch Baby style of thick puffy pancake. It's really a pancake batter with fruit in it and baked in the oven. I habitually spiff it up a bit by replacing some of the flour with almond meal.

Cooked and photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Individual clafoutis ready for the oven.

Ingredients
Butter, to grease the dish/es
50 g plain flour
50 g almond meal
2 eggs
100 g castor sugar
250 ml milk or buttermilk (Fr. lait ribot)
300g cherries, washed, stems removed

Method
  1. Turn the oven to 180°C and set your baking dish or dishes on a baking tray. You can make one large clafoutis, round (eg in a quiche dish) or retangular (eg in a gratin dish), or 3 - 4 individual clafoutis (eg in souffle dishes).
  2. Butter the dish/es.
  3. Put flour, almond meal, eggs, sugar and milk into a tall jug and mix to a batter with a stick blender.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared dish/es.
  5. Drop the cherries on top.
  6. Cook for 30-40 minutes.
Cooked and photographed by Susan Walter.  Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
 Individual clafoutis in old ceramic pâté dishes.

Can be frozen and gently reheated in a very low oven.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
 Lait ribot (buttermilk).

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

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Sour cherries from our orchard, destemmed and washed, ready for clafoutis.


Cooked and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The quantity in the recipe above fits perfectly in a standard 24 cm ceramic quiche dish.

Cooked and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Made in a quiche dish, with sour cherries from our orchard and fresh out of the oven.

Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Freshly picked sour cherries (left) and sweet cherries (right) from our orchard.
The sweet cherries are a late variety called Giant.

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

Mirabelle clafoutis. Cooked and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
Mirabelle clafoutis (mirabelles are small plums).

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