Wednesday, 30 September 2020

A Short Walk From Betz-le-Chateau

 

Chateau de Betz-le-Chateau. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The chateau is in the final stages of a major restoration.

 

Ceramic bust in a niche on the exterior of a house. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A small ceramic bust in a niche in the wall of a house.

Courtyard of a rural village house. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A very neat looking classic car in a courtyard.

The village of Betz-le-Chateau (pronounced 'Be'l'Chateau).


 

Steps up to a public right of way through some charming and well maintained old houses.

A windvane depicting a roofer. I assume the occupant of the house it adorns commissioned it to reflect his trade.

A working model of an éolienne Bollée (wind turbine made by the Bollée foundry) in the garden of a local model maker.

 As a special treat we were taken up what looked like a private driveway, past a joinery workshop and into a terraced garden full of working models of different aspects of life in the Touraine in the early 20th century. Quite a few of our group were familiar with the model maker, but Simon and I had never encountered him before. Many of the models were based on his own family, for example the bar run by his grandmother (now sadly closed).

We were blown away by how much Betz-le-Chateau has changed since we last visited (probably a decade ago!). It has been transformed from a rundown rural backwater into a neatly maintained and picturesque small village with numerous attractive properties.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

The Restoration of the Church at La Celle Guenand

 

The western front of the church. The old wooden scaffolding slots have been filled with a sloping slate, presumably to discourage birds.

 

The church at La Celle Guenand has been in a sorry state for years, mainly due to serious damp issues. But now the first stage of a major restoration project has been completed, and it is saved. In parts it is beautiful, but in others, the damage is still all too obvious -- but at least now will not get worse.


Detail of the western door surround.

 

Much of the fabulous original detail of the church has been lost to weathering, overpainting or plastering, or the slow action of water seeping through, indicated by algal growth. Disasterously, a concrete render had been used on the inside, and has now been chipped away to allow the stones to 'breathe'.

The remnants of the northern transepts original apsoidal end.

 

An idea of what the church once looked like can be obtained by going to our friends at Loire Valley Eperience. They visited in 2013 and posted photos on their blog. [Church on Sunday...La Celle Guenand]

An interesting looking capital on the exterior. I can't quite make out the subject.

 

The church, consisting at the time of a single nave, western door and bell tower, was built in the 12th century, then enlarged in the 15th century with a choir, and again in the 16th century when a seigniorial chapel replaced the southern apse. It was restored in the 19th century ( I would guess this is when the concrete on the interior walls was applied).

The eastern end.

 

In the 12th century the church, built on the plan of a Latin cross, consisted of a single nave, a transept with crossings and absidioles (small apses), and a choir terminated by a an apse. In the 13th century the nave was vaulted and divided into a nave and two side aisles.

The Remillon River at the back of the church.

 

The damp walls of the nave are topped by a moulded cornice in the form of a line of chevrons. The walls are pierced by three unequal round arched windows. The most decorative is the first on the north side, with an arch which meets two small columns. A round arched lateral door opens on the south side, in the middle of solid masonry protruding from the wall. A forecourt with a staircase to the roofspace was added on the same side in the 13th century, when the vaulting was done. There are traces of a filled in doorway on the north side.

The oval cupola.

 

The original nave was in wood, later becoming a stone vaulted construction divided into nave and two side aisles, all with unequal spans. Three pointed arches connect the nave to the side aisles. The supports are solid piles, square on three faces, forming the backs for attached columns to support the arcades and cupolas. The capitals of the first archway are cubicular. The second and third have capitals decorated with foliage and volutes.

The first span of the nave was redone in the 15th century, keeping the original shape but with prominent moulded ribs. The second span kept its 13th century vault, with ribs of a different profile. The third vault is an unusual kidney shaped oval cupola.
The two side aisles are covered by short sided barrel vaults, resting on the piles and supporting the outer walls, with narrow crosswise pointed arches. The first barrel vault on the south supports a staircase to the roofspace and is reinforced on the west by a column decorated with a carved human head.
A short barrel vaulted bay connects the nave to the transept crossing, bounded by four semicircular arches from columns which are topped by openwork capitals with chamfered edges adorned with balls or foliage. The crossing is covered by an eight sided cupola. The transepts themselves have barrel vaulted ceilings done in the 19th century. A blind arcade adorns the south and west walls of the southern transept. The transepts were originally apsoidal ended, but the only remnant is part of the northern one.
The choir is rectangular, with pointed arches and illuminated on the north by a lancet window and on the east by another window. Next to it on the southern side is the seigniorial chapel dating from the 16th century. This chapel is now the sacristy. The arches are pointed. The space is lit by a Flamboyant Gothic window on the east and a simple bay with no mullion on the south.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Baked Apples

 

Homemade baked apples. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The new season's apples are in so I chose six nice medium sized ones, of several different varieties (Newtons Wonder, Reine de Reinette and Cybele), to make baked apples. It's a simple process and here is how I do it. I never worry too much about the variety or whether they are 'baking' apples or not, they just need to be a nice slightly bigger than a tennis ballish size without blemishes.

Wash the apples and take their cores out using an apple coring tool. Run a sharp knife around the equator to cut the skin, but don't cut into the flesh. Put the apples in a buttered baking tray. Turn the oven on to 180C.

In a small bowl mix up 100 g sultanas, 2 tablespoons almond meal, 30 g soft butter, 50 g brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice into a sort of paste. Pack the paste into the centres of the apples. 

Bake for 40 minutes, serve with custard.



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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 September 2020

Australia or France?

 

Detail of interior, Glengallan Homestead, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This interior could be an old house in France, with its limestone, laths, plaster and pink, but it is actually a detail from Glengallan Homestead in south-east Queensland, Australia.


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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, 26 September 2020

Oyster Farming

 

Oyster farm, Ile d'Oléron, Charente-Maritime. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Oyster producer selling direct to the public on the Ile d'Oléron.

Along the Atlantic coast of France around Marenne, Brouage, Moëze and Ile d'Oléron, oysters are farmed in large quantities. Part of the process in this area involves maturing them in pools called claires in the salt marshes. This process is known as affinage en claires and covers an area of about 3000 hectares. These specially matured oysters are the most prized by consumers and command a premium. They will be labelled either fines de claires or spéciales de claires, depending on how closely packed they are in the pools, and how big they are.

Oyster farm huts, Ile d'Oléron, Charente-maritime, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Oyster farm huts, Ile d'Oléron.


Oyster farmers are called ostréiculteurs in French and the farms are made up of a shack in the marsh, surrounded by pools. Often there are many colourful shacks together, in rows, each belonging to a different farmer. You can often buy oysters directly from the producer if you go to their shack.

Oyster maturing pools (claires), Brouage, Charente-Maritime, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Oyster farms at Brouage.


The water in the claires is salty. This area was once the biggest salt producing area in France and the pools that once produced salt are now maintained to farm oysters. They are manmade structures and are regularly dug out to keep them in good condition and prevent algal growths that would use oxygen needed by the oysters.

Oyster farms, Brouage, Charente-Maritime, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Oyster farms, Brouage, with the maturing pools (claires) in front of the huts.


The claires are the final stage of the oyster production. Before they come here they have been in chain mail pouches in the sea for two years. (The chain mail is to protect them from predators.)


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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, 25 September 2020

Saint Gaultier

On Sunday we went for a drive in our lovely new car and ended up at Saint Gaultier, in Indre (the old Province of Berry). The town sits on the Creuse River and bears the name of a saint who undoubtedly never lived there. It is 113 metres above sea level and has about 2000 inhabitants.

A Renaissance doorway.

The town is on a secondary pilgrim route that joins Vézelay to Poitiers, then on to Angouleme, and is part of the Camino de Santiago (or as it is known in French, the Chemin de St Jacques).  


A pair of doors into a large building complex stretching from rue du Cheval blanc (where these doors are) to rue de Creuse (opposite the old priory, now a school).

In Roman times Saint Gaultier was just a small villa with a river port. In those days, the neighbouring community of Rivarennes was more important.

The top of rue du Cheval blanc.

In 1040 land along both sides of the Creuse river belonging to a local Charente lord was confiscated after he burnt and plundered Abbot Gaultier's abbey at Lesterps near Confolens. The land was given to the abbey and two priories were established -- one at Rivarennes, and one on a ford upstream, which would grow into the town of Saint Gaultier. The priory by the ford constructed a bridge and charged a toll, thus becoming wealthy and fuelling the growth of the town. By the end of the 11th century they could also afford to construct a church dedicated to Abbot Gaultier. The town being effectively part of the Abbey of Lesterps meant that it was protected against local aristocratic squabbles and raids, and during the Hundred Years War and Wars of Religion which otherwise devastated Berry. But the bridge became unuseable at the beginning of the 14th century and had to be restored.


Looking up rue de Creuse. On the right the former priory, now school. On the left (middle distance) is the front of the building with the two interesting doorways on rue du Cheval blanc.

In the 16th century, there were more than 600 homes in the town, but the priory was almost ruined. The badly damaged bridge was washed away by the Creuse River in 1530 and was finally rebuilt in 1654.
The slopes around St Gaultier at that time produced the best wine in the Duchy of Berry.


The remains of the 17th century bridge.

At the beginning of the 18th century, famine was rampant. The mayor, in order to obtain wheat for the inhabitants, had the church bells sold. The Creuse destroyed the bridge once again, leaving only the ruins of a pile in the river.
 

Around 1830, a suspension bridge was built at the site of the present bridge, which was to replace it in 1878.

 

A path up from the river.

The remains of fortifications can be seen in gardens and buildings bordering the Creuse.


The 19th century bridge.


The wealth of the town in the 19th century came from the numerous clothing factories and workshops in the valley from Argenton sur Creuse to St Gaultier, and the manufacture of lime, with big kilns on the edge of town. The large bourgeois houses in the town testify to the economic success of this period. 


The Romanesque-Poitevin style church is 11th and 12th century.




 

Thursday, 24 September 2020

A Short Walk From Chambon

 Chambon is a small charming village full of pretty stone cottages and little alleyways. The village is set just as the land starts to rise above the Creuse Valley, and is surrounded by arable land. The forest is nearby on the plateau.

Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
An alley cat.

Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Mist in the Creuse Valley. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
All of a sudden it's autumn, with mist over the Creuse Valley.

Chateau de Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The chateau at Chambon, really a fortified farm.

Pixie cup lichen Cladonia sp. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Pixie cup lichen Cladonia sp in the forest.

Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Ceramic figurines on a chimney, Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ceramic figurines on a chimney, no doubt made by the potters whose workshop is opposite.

A bench by an oak in the forest. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A bench under a big oak in the middle of the forest.

Chambon. Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

 

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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 September 2020

River Life

I've been swimming a couple of times recently in the Anglin River with our friend Huub. It's a beautiful spot and the water temperature has been a steady 19C, which I find just right. I've taken the opportunity to photograph some of the nice wildlife in the area.

River Anglin, Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The River Anglin.

Swimming in the River Anglin, Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Huub.

 

Huub, who is an emeritus professor of biomechanics, is wearing a prototype wetsuit he designed for his eponymous company which makes specialist triathletic gear. He tells me that business is quite good in these Covid19 ridden times, as more people are trying out wild swimming, which they see as safer than going to a swimming pool.
 

The caddisfly Chimarra marginata. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The caddisfly Chimarra marginata (Fr. un trichoptère).

These tiny caddisflies were everywhere, running all over the stones and us. The group has been extensively surveyed in France as part of the campaign to maintain fresh water in good condition ecologically. The range of species of caddisflies in a river can tell you a lot about the levels of pollution. There are around 400 species in France (and just yesterday a new species was confirmed). A good site for information on and identifying all aquatic insects in France is OPIE-BENTHOS [link].

Shaggy Soldier Galinsoga quadriradiata. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Shaggy Soldier Galinsoga quadriradiata (Fr. Galinsoga cilié).

Shaggy Soldier is a naturalised plant which seems to have come originally from Mexico.

Swimming in the River Anglin. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Huub swimming.

Swimming in the River Anglin. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Huub swimming.

Weir across the River Anglin. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A weir across the River Anglin.

Gypsywort Lycopus europaeus. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Gypsywort Lycopus europaeus (Fr. Lycope d'Europe).

The English name Gypsywort comes from the practice of using the plant as a stain. It will dye textiles, but also darken skin and had a reputation for being used by 'rogues' disguising themselves as gypsies (why you would do so I have no idea, except maybe to divert blame towards the Romany community if you had committed a crime).

Spider webs over a mill race. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dozens of orb spider webs over a mill race.

Scullcap Scutellaria galericulata. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Skullcap Scutellaria galericulata (Fr. Scutellaire casquée).

The closely related American skullcap species was used by indigenous people as a sedative, but even though the European species contains the same active ingredient there is no tradition of it being used medicinally.

Scullcap Scutellaria galericulata. Vienne. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Skullcap.

 

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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.