Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020, A Year of One Half.

January 1-31
2020 Started well for us, except for a week of shared bronchitis. We had been featured in the 2019 Australian Womens Weekly Christmas Special [link], and had real optimism for the year ahead. Our bookings for summer were coming in, and we even had two days work at the start of the month. Of course, the bushfires in Australia were a concern, with fears for the safety of friends whose houses were potentially under threat, and there were reports of people getting ill in China, but China's a long way away.

February 1-29
February was quite a social month. We had a Loire ConneXion gathering, a party or two, and we were walking at least twice a week with various groups. The Saffron Fair happened [link], and we had a very convivial lunch with a large group of friends. There was half a day's work for Susan with a walking tour, and we even had our hair cut. There was news that French people had been evacuated from China and there were ill people in France who had been in skiing in the Alps, but the Alps are a long way away.

March 1-12
Susan had a half day's work (another walking tour), and there was another six day's work on the books. Célestine was booked into the mechanic's for her pre-season check up, and to have her steering wheel refurbished. On 5th March a ban on gatherings of more than 5000 people in enclosed spaces was announced because of an outbreak of illness (by now it had a name everybody knew) in Mulhouse, but Mulhouse is a long way away.

March 13-58
Lockdown One happened. By the 1st of February we already had 10 days work booked during this period, all of which was cancelled. Everything except essential food shops and local markets were closed, and we had to carry an attestation to say why we were out. We were allowed out to exercise (on our own, and once again with an attestation) within 3 kilometres of home, which reduced to one kilometre a week later. All public parks and country roads were closed, which meant exercise for us was restricted to a walk around the streets of Preuilly [link]. We watched a lot of television. The council elections were on the 15th, and went ahead with masks in place - we weren't allowed to vote because we are no longer Europeans.

I went for a walk

May 11-32
Gatherings of up to 10 people were allowed, and our socially distanced walking commenced. More businesses were allowed to open, but we were restricted to less than 100km from home. Attestations were no longer required unless we absolutely needed to exceed the 100km limit. We had work booked for this period, which was cancelled.

June 2-22
Chateaux and museums were allowed to reopen with social distancing, so Susan visited Chenonceau [link]. Restaurants were allowed to open, with restrictions in some zones on indoor seating, but we didn't go to any restaurants. We had work booked for this period, which was cancelled.

June 22-49
Most restrictions were lifted gradually, but masks were still essential and social distancing rules were applied. We had our big event for the year this month when we took Célestine to visit our friends Susan and Roddy and their family in the Charente Maritime and stayed 3 nights in their gite (socially distanced, of course) [link]. The swimming pool reopened later than normal, a combination of the dreaded illness and the necessary maintenance work delaying the work a week past the date it was allowed to reopen [link]. We swam, socially distanced, of course. We had work booked for this period, which was cancelled, and we received no enquiries.

Célestine birdwatching at the coast


July 22-88
The list of places where masks were required grew during this period. There was a comet and a birthday [link], and we started looking for a new car, because worries about how long our Ford would last were mounting. We continued with our swimming [link], even managing to join Huub in river swimming after the pool closed [link]. Walking happened (socially distanced, natch) [link], and we bought a car [link], although not the electric car we had originally set our hearts on. We've grown to really like the car and started going for a gratuitous Sunday drive. We had work booked for this period, which was cancelled, and we received no enquiries.

October 17-29
People were starting to get ill again and the suspects were revellers, so a curfew was introduced. This meant that there was no-one on the streets between 9pm and 6am. Masks still required just about everywhere. We had work booked for this period, which was cancelled, and we received no enquiries. We submitted our applications for permanent French residency, as we are no longer Europeans.

October 30-58
Lockdown Two started. Basically the same rules as Lockdown One, but schools remained open. Attestations became necessary again, and we watched a lot of TV.




November 28-44
Lockdown Two continued, but now we were allowed 30km from home for up to 3 hours. Still with an attestation, and having watched all the TV ever made, we started again. Susan started work for a month at one of the local dairies.

December 15-37
Lockdown two lifted, but the curfew has returned, this time from 8pm to 6am. We restarted our Sunday drives, but walking hasn't recommenced. Some of the TV shows we have watched have been repeated so often we can recite the lines.

And that was 2020. We stayed healthy, although enough exercise wasn't taken. It's been an interesting year, made an awful lot less stressful by the way the French government responded with aid for the tourist industry. Of course, we have no work booked for next year, and there in no indication of when tourists will be allowed to return.

Not a mention of the "B" word or the "C" word, either.


Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Put a Sock in It

Yesterday Susan mentioned Eoliennes Bollées, how we are fans of the aforementioned and have blogged about them (link). On our last Sunday drive before Christmas (and our first after the second lockdown) we discovered another, completely by chance.

In 1963 the owner of the chateau of Nitray purchased a light plane and built an airstrip through his vineyards. The plane was built at Gap in the south-east of France, but by 1967 the builder was searching for another place to build new aircraft. A proposal was made to build a little hangar at Nitray and use the private airfield for flight testing new aircraft.

By 1975, the aircraft business had become such that the shed near the chateau had become too small. A new hangar was built on the other side of the runway, the runway extended to the main road from Tours, and a taxiway constructed.

We're not sure when the Eolienne Bollée was converted to take a windsock, but it's obvious that's what happened - you can still see the ring that the sock (now disappeared) was mounted on.


The airfield has now been replanted with vines, and the "new" hanger is still there, although owned by a business not connected with aircraft building.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

La Grande Ferme Neuve, Genille

The Grande Ferme Neuve ('Big New Farm'), which was once part of the Marolles estate, was built in the 19th century by Jacques Philippe Dubreuil-Chambardel, doctor, academic and agronomist, who made it his first teaching farm in 1849. The teaching farm failed within a couple of years and the institution was moved to a farm near Chédigny, under the direction of the Registrar. 

 

La Grande Ferme neuve, Genillé, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

His technique for improving the land was to roughly clear the heath and apply fertilizer made from carbonised animal bones along with the seed for crops. Dubreuil-Chambardel did not invent the techique but copied it from a Monsieur de la Selle, who farmed just outside Preuilly sur Claise. The noir animal, as bone charcoal is called in French, was not made as a fertilizer. Its principal use was as a filter for refining sugar, thus it was a waste product from the sugar beet industry. In addition, blood was used to clarify the sugar syrup, and the refineries were left with a product that was a mixture of bone charcoal, blood, vegetable residue, lime (CaO) and beet juice. It was full of nitrogen and other nutrients, and didn't smell too bad. Once treated with the magic black powder the mediocre soil produced yields five times greater.

The cost of clearing the heath, which is a habitat dominated by heather, besom heath and gorse, was recuperated by selling the cut heather and besom heath for use as stable bedding. The remaining roots and plant material were burnt in the field in a technique known as écobuage which is still practiced in a few places. It was hard, slow work clearing the land and Dubreuil-Chambardel imported hardy workers from the Auvergne and oxen which had to be regularly rested in order to maintain their strength. Equipment had to be carefully and regularly maintained too. 

Even in imperfectly cleared and ploughed land, Dubreuil-Chambardel was astonished to observe that his crops of wheat and rye were much better than in long cultivated land that had been spread with stable manure. Not only was the yield of grain better, but the quantity and quality of straw was exceptional, reaching more than two metres high. The soil was a mix of clay with flint, with topsoil only about 17cm deep, underlaid with an impervious claypan. Crops of vetch sown for hay performed equally impressively, but where the land was not fertilized with the bone charcoal the crops reached no more than 5cm and never produced grain. They were only good for grazing sheep. 

This new fertilizer did not come cheap though -- it cost more than twice any of the other input costs, and more than the cost of ploughing and seeds put together. But because the quantity and quality of the grain was so exceptional there was still a profit in it. Initially his traditional neighbours thought he was crazy and told him he would be better feeding his seed grain to poultry. 

His results were so extraordinary that after a couple of years, other progressive farmers began querying Dubreuil-Chambardel's costings for clearing and ploughing, and the quantities of fertilizer he was using. They agreed that good results could be had, but that the costs were far higher and the quantity of fertilizer needed to be greater. Reading the reports from the National Agriculture Society, it seems that Dubreuil-Chambardel was indeed getting the results he claimed, but that there was some misunderstanding about exactly how he was applying the fertilizer (it was more complicated than just distributing it over the land before sowing, and relied on careful timing and cultivation techniques). 

During this period more research was done to understand exactly what was in the fertilizer and how it benefitted plant growth. As the use of bone charcoal increased so the price of the product increased and this affected profits too. Dubreuil-Chambardel was also regarded with some suspicion because he sold most of his straw rather than use it for animal bedding. Instead he used a marl (a type of lime rich clay) mixture, which he then spread on his land. Another thing that caused suspicion was the way the land was not cleared or ploughed to perfection, but just roughly, and seemed to produce better results that way. All around him, Dubreuil-Chambardel's neighbours were producing pitiful crops on what appeared to be much more carefully cultivated land. After about four years of this practice he increased the range of the crops tried to canola, oats and buckwheat.

Despite the agricultural successes, the school rapidly ran into financial difficulties. The first year there were 20 students, but the second year only nine. According to a report of 1850 the students left because they were badly fed. The frequent absences of the farm director didn't help either. The school was forced by the authorities to close in 1851, and the estate was sold.

The Marolles estate was greatly enlarged by subsequent owner Fernand Raoul-Duval who turned it into a vast agricultural enterprise. We stopped off to photograph what you can see from the road today at the Grande Ferme Neuve because they have not just one, but two, Eoliennes Bollées. These rather special wind turbines are a favourite of ours [link] and were installed on many chateaux estates in the Touraine Loire Valley in the 19th century.

Fernand Raoul-Duval, a Parisian engineer, moved to Genillé in 1863. He accumulated around the Chateau of Marolles a vast domain of 1400 ha, including the Grande Ferme Neuve. His farms were equipped with the latest technological innovations (tractors and steam harvesters, mills and fruit presses powered by wind turbines). The newfangled agricultural practices were important and impressive enough that the President of the Republic visited in 1877.

See also my post on the lime kiln at Marsin, which the Raoul-Duval family also owned and operated as part of the Marolles estate [link].

Update: According to John Walter and Régis Girard on Archiving Industry [link] the iron framed farm buildings of the Grande Ferme Neuve were designed by Gustave Eiffel, to pay off a gambling debt.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Cheese Platter

 

SuperU cheese platter.
Photo courtesy of Antoinette Duthie.

On Boxing Day we went for apéro dînatoire with friends. My contribution was some of my homemade foie gras, homemade Christmas pudding, and a cheese platter. The cheese platter came ready made up from the supermarket. The cheeses were Selles sur Cher goats cheese, Roquefort blue sheeps cheese, the hard mountain cows cheese Comté and soft not too stinky Brie de Meaux. Except that I might have swapped the Comté for Beaufort, this is exactly what I would have put on a cheese board if I'd bought them all separately. They were all branded as the supermarket's good value good quality range, which in the past has not let me down. The cheeses were presented on a reuseable natural slate platter and the whole thing cost €13.95. Bargain I say.


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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 December 2020

Australian Christmas Bells

These pretty little wildflowers (Blandfordia) are found in grasslands along the east Australian coast. Susan photographed this specimen at Iluka in 2003.


Saturday, 26 December 2020

Boxing Day in the Snow

This is the closest Susan and I have come to having a proper white Christmas.

While we were living in London we started coming to visit France over Christmas because in the UK Christmas lasts for ever. We owned no car, so we were stuck at home with no options except continual war movies and Morecombe and Wise Christmas Specials from mid afternoon Christmas Eve to the 28th December, as for some reason all of the public transport just ceased.

When I discovered that public transport in Paris runs on Christmas day, that some shops (the essential ones like bakers and butchers) open on Christmas morning, and even some museums and galleries are open on Christmas Day, it seemed obvious where we should be.

 
This photo was taken in Honfleur on the 27th December 2005. We had spent Christmas itself in Lille, then driven to Honfleur on Boxing Day, a day that in France doesn't even have a name, let alone a holiday. A month later we started looking for a home in France.

Friday, 25 December 2020

Merry Christmas 2020


We would like to wish all our friends, family and readers a happy Christmas, full of good company, even if it needs to be virtual, and good food.

Three Wise Men handmade by my great-aunt Beryl for a colleague in the mid-20th century.
Three Wise Men Handmade by Beryl Mann for a colleague, mid-20C, Melbourne, 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. 

Thursday, 24 December 2020

A Step Up

This year the Christmas decorations in Preuilly have taken a real step up. In the past they have been slightly lackluster, this year they are altogether more stylish. This photo was of the decorations as they were being installed. We haven't really been out to look them over, maybe tonight when we don't have a curfew.





Wednesday, 23 December 2020

A New Image

 

It has been nearly two years since l'Image closed, taking not only a fine restaurant, but a much loved institution away from our village. (We wrote about it here).

For months there has been a rumour circulating town that "The Chinese" have bought it. "The Chinese" are a constant subject of rumours in France, and every time a winemaker, spirit maker, or high end couturier changes hands it is "The Chinese" who are rumoured to have bought it.

Not so in this case. The current plan is for it to be re-opened by a son of Preuilly (his family have been here for about 200 years) and his Singaporean partner. Of course, they could not have made their decision at a worse time, 2020 being what it is, but we are eagerly awaiting developments.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

The Lime Kiln at Marsin

Limestone and clay abounds in the Loire Valley, so there were once lime, brick and tile kilns all over. Around Loches there were once 83 kilns (29 for lime and 54 for bricks). Of this industrial abundance, 32 kilns have been preserved as historical artefacts. Lime kiln in French is four à chaux.

Lime kiln, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The impressive north front of the lime kiln, with the extraction bays at the bottom.

The battery of three lime kilns built in 1872  at Marsin, near Chemillé-sur-Indrois, is one of the most impressive. Their capacity is about 80 cubic metres.

 

Inside a Lime kiln, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Inside the base of the kiln.

The five hectare privately owned Marsin complex includes the boilermakers house, which was added in 1875. It is now restored and occupied. The kilns, which probably ceased operation in 1914, are now filled with all sorts of stuff. The complex was owned by the Raoul Duval-Dassier family, mining engineers and farmers, who had earlier established a tile factory in Genillé, and lived at the Chateau de Marolles. Maurice Raoul-Duval, who inherited Marolles, was killed at Verdun in 1916.

Inside a Lime kiln, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Inside the kiln.

From 1881 to 1914 there was only one fulltime employee, who was the boilermaker. Other workers were seconded from the nearby Chateau de Marolles staff as and when needed.

The kilns ran continuously, producing lime for use in agriculture. The raw material was extracted from a limestone cliff about 40 metres to the south. The kilns are built into the cliff too and are about 20 metres wide, with a drop of 18 metres. They are loaded from the top on the southern side into hoppers, and unloaded from the five bays at the front, on the north of 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, 21 December 2020

Lamingtons

 

Homemade lamingtons. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Lamingtons are one of those peculiarly Australian recipes that have not really made an impact outside of their home nation -- unlike pavlova (which turns out to be a New Zealand recipe anyway...). Non Australians have sometimes heard of lamingtons, and occasionally seen them in well read teashops willing to experiment a bit, but few are aware of how embedded in the Australian culture lamingtons are. And even Australians are unaware of their history, and that they were invented by a Frenchman!

Homemade cake for lamingtons. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The cake for lamingtons.
 

These small cakes are called lamingtons after Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland at the turn of the 20th century. The first printed recipe for them appeared in Queensland Country Life in December 1900. Very quickly, by the time the First World War had broken out, they had spread throughout the country and became a staple of agricultural show baking competitions.

Coating a lamington with chocolate. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Coating a lamington with chocolate.
 

For those of you who have never encountered a lamington, they are made from squares of a plain slab cake, dipped in chocolate syrup and coated in dessicated coconut. They seem to have been invented by Armand Galland, the French chef working for Lord Lamington. His wife was Tahitian and he may have got the idea of using the then unusual ingredient coconut from her. They remain fresh and delicious for several days and can be transported easily, hence their popularity in rural areas where isolated women would gather for precious social events and bring a home baked cake. 

Coating a lamington with coconut. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Coating a lamington with coconut.
 

It's possible that the first place lamingtons were ever served was at Harlaxton House in Toowoomba, close to where I grew up. The Governor would decamp to Toowoomba, in the hills, to escape the heat and humidity of Brisbane, the State Capital on the coast. During my youth lamingtons were mainly encountered as a means of charity fundraising, known as lamington drives, where a local baker would supply the cake and volunteers would then coat squares of cake with chocolate and coconut to sell to the public.

Lamingtons drying on a rack. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Lamingtons drying on a rack.

 

Ingredients

Cake

125 g butter at room temperature

1 cup castor sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups flour

1 sachet (2 tsp) of baking powder

1/2 cup milk

Icing

3 1/2 cups icing sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tbsp butter at room temperature

1/2 cup boiling water

2 cups dessicated coconut

Method

  1.  Turn on the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20 x 30 cm tray that has sides 3 cm high (a type of baking tray that in Australia is called a lamington tray).
  2. In a stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
  4. Add the baking powder to the flour and sift half of it into the mixture, stirring well.
  5. Add half the milk and stir well.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the flour and then the rest of the milk.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tray, make sure it is level, then bake for half an hour.
  8. Once cooked, cool in the tray for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.
  9. Once cool transfer to a cutting board and divide into 15 squares.
  10. Wrap the cake and cutting board in cling film and put into the freezer overnight.
  11. The next day make the icing by sifting the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, add the butter and hot water, stir until smooth.
  12. Put the coconut in a shallow bowl.
  13. One by one, using two forks, dip the frozen squares of cake in the chocolate icing, making sure every surface is covered, then roll in the coconut.
  14. Put the lamingtons on a rack to set, which will take a couple of hours.
  15. Serve for afternoon tea.

 

Lamington cross section. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Cross section of a lamington.

Platter of homemade lamingtons. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Platter of lamingtons.


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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, 20 December 2020

A Solution in Search of a Problem?

We discovered this product in Australia on our last visit. You use it to remove sulfites from wine.

Sulfites are a natural result of the winemaking process, and are one of the by-products you get when yeast turns sugar into alcohol. Sometimes they are added to stop the fermentation process, but this is being done decreasingly often. I'm not sure how adding a man made bleach to a natural product is supposed to make it healthier.

There was no blog post yesterday - we were busy on Friday and just didn't get around to it, sorry.

Friday, 18 December 2020

The Church at Saint Cyran du Jambot

The medieval church at Saint Cyran du Jambot nearly disappeared after the Revolution, but the owner of the nearby chateau purchased it in the middle of the 19th century and reconstructed the choir, apse and the vast lateral chapels.

The church at Saint Cyran du Jambot, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Each of the side chapels is nearly as big as the church itself.

The church itself was too small and in 1891 the owner of the chateau offered to rebuild the nave and put up a new belltower. On the occasion of its reconsecration the relics of Saint Cyran were returned from where they had been stored in the church at Méobecq.

Saint Cyran, to whom the church is dedicated, as well as the village named after, is a very local saint, known only in the Berry, around Chateauroux and Saint-Maur, towards the Touraine in Saint Michel en Brenne and Saint Cyran du Jambot, and south to Le Blanc and Méobecq. He was the son of one of the Archbishops of Tours and Count of Bourges, dying in 657. In 642 he established a monastry at Méobecq and another at Saint Michel en Brenne.

The church at Saint Cyran du Jambot, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Side door.

Effectively the church was completely rebuilt over the course of the second half of the 19th century. Over the course of this time various renowned stained glass workshops in Tours were commissioned to provide windows. First Julien-Léopold Lobin in 1850, then Julien Fournier in 1892. In the 20th century Julien's son Lux added his touch in 1937 and finally his successor Yvan Guyet (known as Van-Guy) at the end of the century.

It is kept locked even in non-pandemic times, but a key can be obtained from the town hall if you want to see inside.

The church at Saint Cyran du Jambot, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Detail of the belltower.

 


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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, 17 December 2020

No Socialising

I am sure that for all of us it's been a year we would like to forget. These are some of the local things I hope not to see again.

There's going to be no-one sitting around and playing boules.

The guinguette has been roped off.
And no-one is playing table-tennis.



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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, 16 December 2020

The Church at Saint Hippolyte


Church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The porch on the south side.

The church in the village of Saint Hippolyte was built in the 11th century (nave, choir and apse), then modified in the 15th century (facade) and again in the 16th century (south lateral door). The southern entrance is protected by a porch supported by oak posts and beams.

Church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The solid and distinctive church of Saint Hippolyte.

On the south side, the belltower is 12th century but the stone spire, with its four corner dormers, was added in the 15th century. There is also a round arched window with colonnettes at the level of the bell. Supporting the belltower are some solid buttresses.

Church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The belltower.

Church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Carpentry on the porch.

Church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The north side and western end of the church.

Church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Idle school kid with a compass waiting for the bus; witch marks; or sundials [link]? My money is on witch marks [link].

Lateral door, church, Saint Hippolyte, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
16th century lateral door.

 


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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, 15 December 2020

An Equestrian School


Equestrian School, Saint Cyran du Jambot, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Access formally forbidden.

The agricultural high school in Saint Cyran du Jambot is unique in France. It offers courses from high school certificate to Masters degree entirely centered around the equestrian trades. It is presumably a dream come true for kids who find their vocation early and see their future as being surrounded by horses.

Equestrian School, Saint Cyran du Jambot, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The students may have gone home due to Covid19, but work around the school continues.

The private school is located in the old Berry province, modern Indre, in a chateau, and there are about equal numbers of horses and students living there (in a normal year). Students come from all over France to train as riding instructors, horse breeders, equestrian centre managers, grooms and farriers.

Equestrian School, Saint Cyran du Jambot, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The front entrance.

 

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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, 14 December 2020

Chocolate Cherry Yule Log


Homemade chocolate cherry yule log. Baked and Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Yule logs are one of the great treats of a French Christmas, but very few people make their own because everyone lives within reach of a pâtisserie where they can buy a completely gorgeous and professional buche de Noël.  Nevertheless, I like to make one myself from time to time, and last Christmas we were invited to friends for an outing to a chateau and dessert and drinks afterwards. I offered to contribute the dessert and this is what I made. In the event, the outing never took place as we all suffered a gastric upset, but by that time the cake was made! It sat in the fridge for days because we couldn't face eating it, but I couldn't bear to throw it out after all my work. Finally, we felt better, ate it and it had dried out a bit but was still delicious.

The rolled cake before icing.
Homemade chocolate cherry yule log. Baked and Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Ingredients
Cake
6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Syrup
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp kirsch liqueur

Filling
1 tsp plain gelatine crystals
1 tbsp cold water
1/3 cup milk
1/2 vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup thick cream
1 cup fresh or frozen cherries, stoned, and macerated in 1 tbsp kirsch liqueur

Icing
1 cup thick cream
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp kirsch liqueur

Method
  1. Make the cake (steps 1 - 13).
  2. Heat the oven to 180C.
  3. Line a 23cm x 33cm x 3cm deep baking tray with baking paper.
  4. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer along with half the sugar. Put 5 of the whites in a small bowl to use later and put the sixth white aside as you will not use it in this recipe.
  5. Using the whisk beater, beat the eggs and sugar at top speed for 3 minutes. Don't skimp on the beating. The mixture should be thick, aerated and pale. Transfer it to another bowl.
  6. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk.
  7. Whip the egg whites with the salt until at soft peak stage (about one minute), then continue beating whilst adding the remaining sugar in a slow steady stream, beating for another minute. Don't skimp on the beating.
  8. Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture with a silicone mixing spoon.
  9. Then fold the rest of the egg whites in, carefully and thoroughly.
  10. Sift the cocoa over the mixture and fold in, until there are no streaks.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tray and smooth it out.
  12. Bake the cake for 10 minutes then turn it around and bake for another 10 minutes. It should be dry and springy.
  13. Leaving in the tray, put it aside on a rack to cool completely.
  14. Make the syrup (steps 14 - 16).
  15. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and dissolve the sugar, boiling for one minute.
  16. Remove from the heat and stir in the kirsch liqueur, put aside to cool.
  17. Make the filling (steps 17 - 27).
  18. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a glass and set aside to soften.
  19. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.
  20. Add the vanilla to the milk in a small saucepan and heat it to a simmer.
  21. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium sized bowl.
  22. Take the vanilla pod out of the milk and whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture.
  23. Tip the custard mixture back into the saucepan and cook gently, stirring all the while, until it thickens, which will take just a minute or two.
  24. Strain the custard into a bowl.
  25. Zap the moistened gelatine in the microwave for about 30 seconds so that it liquifies, then mix it into the custard and set it aside to cool.
  26. Whip the cream until it holds its shape firmly.
  27. Add a quarter of the cream to the custard and mix it in, then fold in the rest.
  28. Fill and roll the cake (steps 28 - 35).
  29. Cover the cake with a sheet of baking paper and a flat baking tray.
  30. Invert the cake so it tips out onto the fresh paper and tray, lift off the tray it was cooked in and peel off the baking paper.
  31. Trim the edges of the cake with a big sharp knife, so it forms a neat rectangle.
  32. Spoon syrup all over the cake. Be reasonably generous but do not utterly saturate the cake. You will have quite a lot of syrup (nearly a cup) left, which you can use for something else.
  33. Spread the filling over the cake and sprinkle the cherries over evenly.
  34. Carefully roll the cake across its width, so you end up with a 33 cm roll, with the far edge of the cake underneath, using the baking paper to help. Once rolled and you have a roll of cake enclosed in paper you can use a ruler to press on the paper along the line of the cake, then pull on the paper to tighten up the cake roll.
  35. Chill the cake overnight.
  36. Ice the cake (steps 36 - 40).
  37. Whip the cream.
  38. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa over the cream then fold it in.
  39. Loosen the cream with the kirsch.
  40. Spread it on the cake in rough dabs, being careful achieve full coverage but not to lift the surface of the cake. The chocolate cream should look like tree bark.
  41. Serve the cake (steps 41 - 42).
  42. Using a sharp knife, slice the cake into 8 thick wheels and serve.
Homemade chocolate cherry yule log. Baked and Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The cherries were homegrown, from our orchard, and frozen. The eggs and cream from our local dairy farm who delivers.


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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, 13 December 2020

Fringe Lily

Common Fringe Lily Thysanotus tuberosus. New South Wales. Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

This striking plant is a Common Fringe Lily Thysanotus tuberosus, found growing in the grass in dry sclerophyll woodland and coastal heath in south-east Australia. The three petals are fringed with 'hairs'.


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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, 12 December 2020

The Ile d'Oleron Bridge

Ile d'Oleron bridge, Charente-Maritime, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

At the time of its construction in 1966 the nearly three kilometre long bridge from the mainland to the Ile d'Oléron was the longest in France (it's now the third longest). Oléron sits just off the Atlantic coast of France, west of Rochefort. It is the second largest island of Metropolitan France (Corsica is the largest). Oléron is 30km long and 8km wide. The island is an extremely popular tourist destination for French people.

Ile d'Oleron bridge, Charente-Maritime, 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. 

Friday, 11 December 2020

Chateau des Termelles

The Chateau des Termelles at Abilly is currently owned by a British couple called Ron and Maureen Bates. They run it as holiday accommodation and an events venue [link]. Previously the chateau had been Abilly's aged care home (a new one has been built behind the chateau now).  

Chateau des Termelles, Abilly, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

These days the chateau overlooks a park of 6 hectares. Outbuildings to the east include an orangerie with the impressive rusting metal frame of a large conservatory or greenhouse built by the Eiffel company at the back. I've seen this from the road but so far not stopped to take a photo.

The chateau was built in 1865 for Joseph Pinet, an agricultural machinery parts manufacturer. The foundry he established in the town in 1820 is still going strong and employs 27 people, making parts for tractors and trailers for 150 clients. The workers skills in metallurgy are no longer supported by the State Education system, so on the job training is really important now. The management is very conscious of the impact a foundry has on a small village, both in a positive sense as an important employer, but also the potential negatives such as pollution. The factory now recycles all its waste and reuses the sand used to make moulds. They have also installed chimney filters and caps to capture particles, and replaced the old furnaces with induction furnaces using clean energy.

Many foundries closed in the 1980s, victims of Chinese competition. The foundry at Abilly survived by diversifying into home decor, making candelabras for the North African market. They also successfully promoted their park benches and rubbish bins to municipalities. They make parts for locks and hydraulic pumps, but rarely the complete product in these sectors. And as the manager points out, there is a more or less insatiable demand for automobile parts.



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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, 10 December 2020

Le Cordonnerie du Chateau, Loches

The Cordonnerie du Chateau in Loches is one of those old fashioned shops that I am always very glad to find still exist. A 'cordonnerie' is a cobbler's workshop, and this one sells huntin' shootin' 'n' fishin' gear, but also repairs shoes and bags.

Rue Balzac, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Rue Balzac in Loches. The cordonnerie has a dark wood facade.

Inside the shop is dark and cluttered. You weave your way through racks of hunting jackets and vests to get to midway down the length of the shop where there is an enclosed booth. The cobbler is a nice man who assured me he could reglue my nearly new hiking boots which were separating at the sole, and he could put a new more robust clip on my bumbag strap to replace the one that had snapped. How much would that be? €15, come back in a week. I was very happy.

The cobbler, Claude Lefevre, has been there for 31 years. He's one of the few real shoe repair places still left. The one in Preuilly closed decades ago, the one in Descartes a few years ago. The shop is at 13 rue Balzac, Loches.

The etymology of the word 'cordonnier' is connected to 'cordwainer', the word for someone who makes new shoes, but nowadays cordonniers, like cobblers, are restricted to repairing shoes and leather goods. The words cordonnier and cordwainer also referred to those who worked in Cordovan leather [link]. 


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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, 9 December 2020

Chateau de Prezault

Nothing remains of the original 17th century Chateau de Prézault at Parçay sur Vienne except a couple of towers and some buildings which are now the stables. The estate was seized and sold to the highest bidder during the Revolution. By 1829 it was in the hands of the Vautibault family, who still own it today. The current building was constructed in 1860-65 of brick and dressed stone, with a slate roof.

Chateau de Prézault, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
 

In the basement are the kitchens, then two storeys and an attic space, connected by a wooden spiral staircase. The small structure on the roadside is a gatehouse.


Chateau de Prézault, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

  When we passed in October the chateau was clearly undergoing some major renovations.


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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, 8 December 2020

Chateau du Haut-Brizay

The Lordship of Brizay was allied to that of nearby Ile Bouchard and was in existance by at least 1050.  In 1440 Jean de Brizay was authorised by the King to fortify his holdings here, but there is no trace now of this medieval castle and we have no idea what it might have looked like.

Chateau du Haut-Brizay, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The southern facade of the existing chateau (the side visible in these photos) dates from the 17th century, but was somewhat remodelled in the 19th century, along with extensive remodelling of the northern facade. Pavillions and a belltower were added in 1895, running water was installed and the park redeveloped. 

The chateau forms an L-shape oriented east-west, with a small conical roofed tower sitting at the junction of the two wings on the southern facade. The main wing has seven bays and a slate roof. The tower is a vestige of an older building.

Chateau du Haut-Brizay, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Mining engineer turned agricultural reformer Alfred Goussard de Mayolles turned the estate into an experimental farm in 1865, where he conducted trials of fertilizers. He did not own the property but had a verbal agreement with the widow of the previous owner to develop the property agriculturally, as it had been left fallow for twenty years. His first job was to restore the outbuildings so that he could stock the land with sufficient beasts. He also took the opportunity to create a laboratory in one of the buildings, and started experimenting with the use of chemicals in fruit production. The farm was taken over by the Prussians in 1870 when they invaded and they inadvertently introduced tuberculosis into his herd, resulting in the loss of many animals. After the Prussians had been defeated he began working with horsedrawn mechanical harvesters, rakes and threshers, publishing a number of articles about them, pointing out that less skilled human labour was required. To interest others in these new machines he organised international competitions for harvesters and threshers, held at Chinon in 1873 and Mettray in 1874. Experimental work continued and he started using steam powered machines. Because of the continuing tuberculosis problem he gave up on dairy cattle and concentrated on pigs, goats and sheep. The farm became renowned locally for the quality of its seed wheat, attributed largely to his innovative farming methods.

He purchased extra nearby land, reputed to be infertile, in order to continue his experiments, and began by growing stock feed and bedding. He wanted to introduce the Parthenaise breed of dairy cattle and selectively breed them to develop a beef herd. Initially he concentrated on veal, but the aim was to increase the size of the animals and provide a herd to restock his property. Next, he interested himself in  certain strains of Siberian oats and wheat, resulting in crops which grew remarkably well. Upon the death of the Chateau du Haut-Brizay's owner, Goussard de Mayolles moved on, to manage a business exporting frozen British beef.

His wife, Jeanne Le Clerc, was born and raised in Tours, the daughter of a botanist and medical doctor who taught at the School of Medicine in Tours and became Head Doctor at Tours General Hospital. Her husband worked primarily as a mining engineer prospecting for minerals in Colorado and New Mexico and Jeanne accompanied him on his travels. Later she wrote a book about her experiences called Une Française chez les sauvages. She wasn't overly impressed by many of the things she saw but she provides an interesting contemporary account of Navajo Native American culture. The 'savages' she refers to are not the Native Americans though, they are the white colonialists of the south-west of the United States. Amongst her adventures, she was wounded by a bison, and engaged in a skirmish with Native Americans that involved her firing a gun.

Jeanne's father had been raised by Doctor Pierre Bretonneau (who along with colleagues Doctors Trousseau and Velpeau is a household name in these parts). Her father, who was mostly absent as far as Jeanne was concerned, had himself travelled widely in the south-west of the United States. Eventually he caught Yellow Fever and died in Texas. Bretonneau refers to him in several letters to friends as 'my Texan'. Le Clerc wrote a book about the Texan Revolution of 1835-36, which was translated into English and well regarded.


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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.