Sunday, 31 January 2021

Driving on the Left

When I am in France, this photo looks odd, but as soon as I arrive in Australia driving on the left hand side of the road is instictive. I have never looked at a photo of French roads while in Australia, but driving on the right ihn France is also instinctive.  I've never had a problem driving in the UK in a French car, either.


Whether I could drive on the right in a UK car I don't know. I've never tried.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Eiffel Tower to La Defense

This is about as classic a view of Paris as there is to be had. It was taken in September 2002 from the Eiffel Tower, looking north-west across the Seine and directly down the Trocadero Gardens. Beyond them are the monumental curved buildings that house, on the right, the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine (the architecture and heritage museum, which I highly recommend as a visit) and on the left, the Museum de l'Homme (the museum of mankind, which I have never visited and probably should).

View from the Eiffel Tower looking north-west, Paris, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
View from the Eiffel Tower to La Défense.
 

The Place du Trocadero, between the two museums, is an excellent viewing platform for the Eiffel Tower, day or night. If you cross the road there is what appears in my photo to be a park full of people. It is in fact Passy Cemetery, somewhere I have also never visited (I think). The painter Edouard Manet and the composer Claude Debussy are buried there. The street going off from Place Trocadero at 2 o'clock is the Champs Elysée. Correction from chm: "The street going off at 2 o'clock is avenue Kléber. You cannot see the Champs-Élysées on this photo."

Beyond all the white typically Parisian buildings is the Bois de Boulogne and the skyscrapers of La Défense. The residential area between the Bois de Boulogne and La Défense is Neuilly, the poshest most upscale neighbourhood in Paris.  The Seine does a big loop and turns back on itself so that it appears in both the foreground and as the just visible natural boundary between Neuilly and La Défense.



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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 January 2021

Chateau de Falaise

The Chateau of Falaise, near Les Ormes, sent several of its sons to Acadie in Canada, and maintains friendly ties with Acadiens in Quebec and Louisiana. The Gannes family have been connected with the chateau since 1364. The first two priests in Acadie and several army officers were scions of this house, present at the founding of Louisbourg [link] in Nova Scotia in 1713.

Chateau de Falaise, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The tower at the entrance.

The chateau was also on the front line in the last battle before France surrendered in World War II, on 22-23 June 1940.

A pre-WWII Citroen Traction Avant at the site of the last battle before France's surrender, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A rare pre-War Citroen Traction Avant in the chateau farm's machinery dump.


Today the chapel and adjoining buildings are a local history museum dedicated to their Acadien links, the World War II battle, occupation and Resistance, the Argenson family (influential local aristocrats associated with a number of properties in the area), Neolithic, Celtic and Roman history, agricultural tools and Poitevin and Tourangeau bonnets. The latest display is about the Acadien soldiers who came to France in 1916 to fight in World War I.

View of the Chateau of Falaise and Creuse Valley, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
View over the Creuse Valley with the Chateau of Falaise in the middle distance. Taken from the fortified chateau farm of Mousseaux.
 

The museum is open in the afternoons, from June to the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Open Days) in September.

Chateau de Falaise, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The approach to the chateau.

Memorial to members of the Gannes family, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Memorial plaque to two soldiers from the Gannes family who distinguished themselves in Canada.


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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 January 2021

A New Service in Preuilly

Back in December I mentioned that l'Image would be reopening. What we didn't mention is that Sihan and Mathieu cooked a special birthday dinner as my birthday present to Susan which was extremely tasty, spicy in all the right places, and a great combination of textures. It's been a long time since we had an eastern Asian meal that hit all those buttons. If pressed we would say that our favorites were the Taiwanese Braised Pork (Lu Rou Fan) and the Sichuan Pork Dumplings, but all of it was excellent.
 

Sichuan Pork Dumplings


Taiwanese Braised Pork

Now they have opened a takeaway food service. You can order online and collect from their house in Preuilly. The prices are extremely reasonable, and our experience is that you'll be getting authentic tastes and spice levels, not watered down to suit a gentler Touraine palate.

(This isn't a paid advert or anything like that, it's a way of encouraging you to support a new local business.)

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Roman Castellum at Larcay

The castellum at Larcay is a Late Roman Empire military fortification on a terrace in the slope up from the Cher River at Larcay.

Roman castellum, Larcay, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Part of the curtain wall and a tower, along the eastern side.

Probably constructed towards the end of the 3rd century, like other similar constructions in Gaul, it seems to have been built on the site of an existing mausoleum, which was demolished at the time of constructing the fort. There are a number of unanswered questions about the site: why was it never finished; who occupied it and why was it built. It is very close to the heavily fortified Tours, which makes the need for a fortified enclosure here seem surprising. The extant remains comprise a part of the curtain wall and some towers.

In Antiquity Larcay was close to the major route between Bourges and Tours via the Cher Valley, and also several lesser routes, such as Truyes to Saint Martin le Beau, Truyes to Amboise and Tours to Loches via Saint Avertin. The Cher itself would have been navigable and seen people and goods transported back and forth.

Cellar under the Roman castellum, Larcay, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Cellar under the wall of the castellum.

The instability in the Roman Empire in the 3rd century led to a reduction of economic activity and distruption of administrative functions. Tours was also facing incursions by Germanic Barbarians who by 250AD controlled northern Gaul. It seems likely that the fort at Larcay was constructed in response to these issues in the hopes of controlling both river and overland traffic close to Caesarodunum (as Roman Tours was called).

The castellum is a trapezoid of 80 x 66 metres, with the longest side along the river and a gateway to the south, on the opposite side, away from the river. The site is one of the best preserved of its type in France.

Roman castellum, Larcay, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A section of wall and two towers.

The walls do not seem to have any below ground foundations, but have been raised on a tamped clay platform. Elements from the mausoleum previously on the site, such as fluted columns and carved stones, have been reused. In the 19th century cellars were dug under the walls for houses built up against the exterior walls. In the process stones were moved about and reused again.

The curtain wall is 4.2 metres thick to the south, but as little as 2.2 metres in other places, and standing 6 metres high. The structure follows a set pattern -- two small limestone rubble courses alternating with terracotta tiles (rather than bricks) enclosing a coarse block core of a mixture of limestone and flint as well as pieces of terracotta embedded in lime mortar. Very little of the original exterior surface render has survived. The towers are solid and constructed in the same way as the walls.

View across the Cher Valley, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The view across the Cher Valley from the castellum. The chateau in the distance is Moncontour at Vouvray.

The fort was abandoned at the end of the Roman era, but repurposed by Merovingian occupants, who reused some of the material from the old mausoleum for their own burials. Archaeological digs have found pottery shards and evidence of a palisade from the 15th century. In the 1970s the enclosure was divided up into gardens which have meant that the soil has been greatly disturbed, making the interpretation of archaeological digs difficult.
 

Today the castellum is part of a hamlet called La Tour, on the edge of Larcay, hidden away, no longer on the route to anywhere. All along the southern side the castellum walls have been incorporated into a row of houses.


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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 January 2021

Chateau de Veretz

Véretz is a satellite village of Tours on the Cher River. There has been a chateau in the village, perched above the river overlooking the bridge since medieval times, but it has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. Its greatest claim to fame is that it was here that the Edict of Nantes was signed, in a previous incarnation of the chateau. This treaty was instigated by King Henri IV (Henry of Navarre, who was raised a Protestant) in order to protect and empower Protestants in the Catholic Kingdom of France. The aim was to end the Wars of Religion and return France to political stability. Over the years the chateau saw many celebrity guests, such as Madame de Sévigne (who arrived by boat and was charmed), Francois de la Rochefoucauld and Voltaire.

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

Nowadays the chateau is a family home, offering holiday accommodation and a reception venue.

The site is a plateau overlooking the river and has been occupied since Gallo-Roman times. The Romans cultivated the plateau and built a town around it. The remains of a Roman aqueduct can be seen at the entrance to the garden. During the Hundred Years War the medieval chateau was occupied by both powerful French and English warlords successively because of its strategic value for controlling the river crossing. This medieval chateau was demolished in 1361. The Lord of Véretz died at Agincourt in 1415.

Private chapel, Chateau de Veretz, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Chapel.
 

By 1424 Véretz was occupied briefly again, but there was a succession of Lords who either died in combat or without heirs and the chateau was once again abandoned to the elements, becoming a ruin. It was inherited by powerful courtier Jean de la Barre in 1500 and he undertook to completely restore it.

In 1595 the Forget family purchased the chateau. Pierre Forget was one of Henri IV's trusted Catholic advisors and that is how the Edict came to be signed at his residence in 1589. By the late 17th century the chateau was in the hands of the powerful Mazarin/Mancini families. In the 18th century it was associated with the silk industry, with a magnanerie dedicated to raising silk worms.

The property was seized during the Revolution and the owners fled. The chateau was demolished and the land sold very cheaply to local families. Finally, in 1836 what was left of the chateau was bought by the Comte de Richemont and he rebuilt the chateau to what we see today. There are a few more additions by the Drake del Castillo family who subsequently owned it (they also owned the Chateau of Candé).


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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 January 2021

Simple and Lightened Chestnut Cream Dessert

Coupe Mont Blanc is a traditional winter dessert in France, using sweetened chestnut purée piped into a mound and topped with whipped cream, to resemble Mont Blanc topped with snow. These days though it is often presented in a simpler way, with the chestnut purée mixed or layered with the whipped cream and served in a small bowl. This is an extremely simple dessert, but very sweet and rich, so you only need a small quantity. 

Homemade chestnut cream. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Chestnut cream.

I prefer a version that is a bit lighter and retains a sharp lactic note to counteract the sugar, so I have modified the ingredient list, substituting cream cheese for the cream, and adding air with meringue.

Ingredients for chestnut cream. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ingredients for chestnut cream -- sweetened chestnut purée, broken candied chestnuts, eggs and cream cheese.

 

Ingredients:
1 jar or can of sweetened chestnut purée
1 box of cream cheese
2 egg whites
3 tbsp sugar
A handful of marrons glacés (candied chestnut) bits

Method:

  1. Tip the cream cheese into a bowl and beat until smooth.
  2. Stir in the sweetened chestnut purée and then the chestnut bits.
  3. Whip the egg whites until stiff, adding the sugar at the end.
  4. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cream cheese / chestnut mixture.
  5. Spoon into glasses and sprinkle with a few more chestnut bits.

Mixing chestnut puree and cream cheese. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Mixing the chestnut purée and the cream cheese.

Marrons glacés are considered a tremendous seasonal treat, with their distinctive mealy texture and caramelly sweetness. You can purchase them at great expense in fancy boxes like chocolates at Christmas time, or you can buy broken ones at slightly less expense, also packaged in fancy boxes. The best is if you can buy broken bits at half price from the post-Christmas excess confectionery shelves in the supermarket. 

Homemade chestnut cream. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Chestnut cream with bits of candied chestnut.


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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 January 2021

Australian Glasswing Butterfly

The Australian Glasswing Butterfly Acraea andromacha is one of a group of tropical butterflies which have elongated forewings and rounded hindwings. They are often sparsely scaled which means they are transparent. This species is found in the eastern half of Australia, and the islands of New Guinea and New Caledonia, in lightly forested areas. The caterpillars eat the leaves of passionfruit vines (Australia has several native species).

 

Australian Glasswing Butterfly Acraea andromacha. New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Australian Glasswing Butterfly.

The fluttery flight style enhances the effect of insubstantiveness that the transparency gives. They are fairly easy to photograph though as they spend a lot of time just resting on bushes at about 2 metres above the ground.


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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 January 2021

Santiago

When we returned to Santiago we had a couple of days to shop for presents for people back in Australia, see some sights we had missed first time round, and for Hugo to catch up with various members of his family. The only sight I really remember visiting was Santa Lucia Park, which was highly rated in South America on $15 a Day. It is really quite pretty, with a view over inner Santiago and plenty of fountains (from memory) but we appear not to have taken any photos of it.

Santa Lucia Park is the hill in the centre of this photo



We also visited an artesania - the artisan markets where it appears we bought many gifts. Who for and what will have to go unrecorded (as they were back then).

There are a couple of other things that went unmentioned in my diary. One day we passed near to the National Stadium a place of unmitigated horror for many people during the Junta, and in the evening we watched Sam Neill dubbed into Spanish on TV (my diary says Brian Brown in Kain and Abel, but there was no way of researching it back then).

On the 23 January 1991 we took the bus to Santiago airport, to fly back to Buenos Aires for a couple of days: "Check in then through to transit lounge. DISASTER!! - very worried airline rep asks if I am 'Mr Simon'. He tells us that they have checked through 3 bags but can find only 2. We are then taken out to to the plane and climb up the luggage loader into the belly of the plane where we rummage through the baggage compartment until we find the bag. I have always wondered where it all went".

We were 30 minutes late leaving Santiago "all because of us" but I am interested that despite Operation Desert Storm having started earlier in the week there was no heightened security at the airport.


Friday, 22 January 2021

Ancient Lordly Lodgings

If you walk up from the carpark on the river in Azay sur Cher towards the church you will first cross a small tumbling stream on its way down to meet the big river. Then you will encounter a looming medieval tower, which entirely obscures the view of the church. 

Church, Azay sur Cher, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The back of the property, and the apse of the church next door.
 

The tower is the old seigneurial lodgings, a vestige of a 12th century defensive castle, and is often referred to as the Chateau d'Azay sur Cher. The old square castle keep is three storeys high, plus attic, with 17th century chimneys. It is flanked by a turret which is octagonal at the base, becoming cylindrical at the top. The keep would have originally had crenellations and machiolations, but in recent times has been topped by a four planed roof. A few metres away there is a semi-circular building, presumably an old chapel.

Chateau d'Azay sur Cher, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Chateau d'Azay sur Cher.

Guillaume Maingot, Lord of Surgeres and Azay, who participated in the Battle of Bouvines in 1214, when Philippe Auguste defeated John Lackland, is the first known owner, and it remained in his family until the 15th century. 

Knight on horseback, metal, by HL Bergey. Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

In the garden is a life size sculpture in found metal of a knight on horseback. The sculptor lives just across the river. HL Bergey [link] originally trained as a ceramicist and worked at Sevres. He is self-taught as a sculptor and now runs workshops as well as accepting commissions.


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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 January 2021

Chateau de Beauvais

 Chateau de  Beauvais, a neo-Gothic country house near Azay sur Cher, offers guest accommodation [link], surrounded by an extensive park and easy access to the bike path along the Cher. It is a great location, between Tours, Amboise and Chenonceau. General de Gaulle has stayed here, and it was the place where conspirators met to plot the overthrow of Napoleon at Marengo. There was a previous chateau dating from 1490 on the site, but the mainly 17th century building was profoundly modified in 1853 to what you see today. The park was redesigned in the English style by the landscape architect Edouard André in 1869.

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

Just before the Battle of Marengo, a group of high ranking French officials, plotted to remove Napoleon Bonaparte from power and take over the government themselves, headed by a triumvirate of Talleyrand, Fouché and Clément de Ris. They were banking on Marengo being a defeat for Napoleon, and when it turned out quite differently they had to abandon their plans. Napoleon was informed of the conspiracy and summoned his Chief of Police, Joseph Fouché, who was secretly involved in the plot, to explain and provide the names of conspirators. Napoleon wished to avoid a situation which would destablise the country, so he told Fouché to sort it out discreetly. Fouché's first move was to send his agents to the Chateau of Beauvais on 23 September 1800. The owner, Senator Dominique Clément de Ris was holding a great many compromising papers which would implicate Fouché himself, including posters proclaiming a change of regime, and Fouché's agents seized and destroyed them. Then in an excess of zeal they grabbed Clément de Ris, hauled him out of a window and rode off with him to a farm near Ferrieres sur Beaulieu. They subsequently held him there in an underground cellar for nineteen days. This caused Fouché no end of trouble, as his idea had been simply to burgle the house and take the incriminating papers.

Sign for Chateau de Beauvais, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The sign at the entrance.

On discovering that Fouché had kidnapped a high ranking member of the government, Napoleon was not pleased. This was exactly the kind of scandal and disruption he had wished to avoid. So Fouché was forced to engineer a miraculous but mysterious release of the Senator. Clément de Ris was taken into the forest of Loches at night by Fouché's agents. They stopped at the Pyramid of Chartreuse and four other riders came up to them and conversed with them. Then the party of 'kidnappers' moved on, followed by the newcomers at a distance. After a while some shots rang out and the kidnappers vanished into the night. Clément de Ris was joined by his 'rescuers' and his blindfold taken off. The whole thing was a set up of course, with all players being agents of Fouché. By this time Fouché needed to find a 'culprit' to blame for the kidnapping and he named a couple of Chouans (royalist diehards) with whom he had a personal feud, and who he had arrested. He only just got away with it, as although the judge they went before thought they were a pair of mouthy troublemakers, he did not believe they were guilty of the crime they were accused of. But Fouché was powerful enough to make the charges stick, and the two unfortunate young men stayed locked up.

In the end ten people stood trial for the kidnapping, but Clément de Riz refused to participate in the trial, for fear of incriminating himself, and it had to be annulled. The affair dragged on, with a special inquiry and another trial. Finally, three of the accused were sentenced to death, the others acquitted. Further attempts were made to get the condemned men off, including approaching Josephine, but finally they were executed by firing squad on the morning of 3 November 1801 at Angers. 

Entrance to Chateau de Beauvais, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The entrance to Chateau de Beauvais.

Balzac used the 'Affaire Clément de Ris' as the basis for his novel 'Une ténébreuse affaire' ('A Murky Business'). Balzac heard much of the story from his father, who had been Dominique Clément de Ris' protegee, and knew him well.

In 1815, the son of Dominique Clément de Ris was accused of having hidden boxes of gold and silver in the park, which was searched from top to bottom. In June 1940, when the French government of Paul Reynaud withdrew to Bordeaux, Charles de Gaulle, then Under Secretary of State for National Defense, stayed a few days in Beauvais.



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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 January 2021

The Chilean Lakes

 I have fallen behind with my tales of Chile 30 years ago, so I will be posting twice a week for a while.

Once we arrived in Valdivia we checked into our hotel, had what felt like hour long showers, then walked into town for brunch "coffee & pizza at Munchen Coffee House - 1600pesos". The weather was  fresh, even in the middle of summer.

The afternoon was a bus tour with the group we were travelling with, looking at some of the damage done by the 1960 earthquake. Valdivia was once a walled town aiming to keep out both the Amerindians and the English, and some of the towers still exist. We also visited the Botanical Gardens and the Local Museum (no details of what we saw, I'm afraid). The bus took us back to the hotel, and we walked into town for dinner "Dine at "Dinos" - chicken soup & fish & chips. Chiken soup is clear with 1/4 chicken in it, The fish is a slab of salmon. Complete with 2 beers 3180pesos - about $12AUD".

One of Valdivia's towers (and a hairy bloke)

We were excited that even 31 years after the event,
the corrugated iron repairs to buildings were holding up.



"Up & brekky, into town to post letters, walk around fish market & vege market, take photos". We then returned to the hotel and went on the bus to the ferry terminal for a cruise down river. Lunch was on the boat "eel soup, shellfish with chicken and sausage" - with no price shown so I assume it was included. We first visited the fort which guards the entrance to the harbour, then across to another headland to see the ruins of the govenor's house. Having had a big lunch we settled for a pie and coffee for dinner. My diary notes "still got crook guts".


"Wake early (7.20) pack and brekky. Catch bus to Puerto Varras via Orsorno, Futillar, Llanquihue (prom Yankiwi) to "Grand Hotel Puerto Varras". The hotel was once an art deco beauty, but that must have been the year it was built. Our room was huge, with an enormous bathroom, but the hot water was a trickle - on one occasion we set the bath to run then went to the bar - when we returned to the room the bathroom was full of steam and the bath was  half full. I am glad to see there has been work done since, even if it has probably lost some of its "character".

The next couple of days involved mountains, volcanos, looking at lakes, and playing the poker machines (yup - the hotel was also a casino). My diary is pretty uninspiring reading, mainly a list of food, and complaining about my stomach. You can tell it was bad: Hugo and I were sitting in the restaurant trying to eat our way out of  feeling sick with a four course meal and a different bottle of wine with each course, and I have not only mentioned the meal, but I didn't mention that the "background music" that night was a simultaneous translation into Spanish of the CNN commentary on the first night of the bombing of  Iraq in "Desert Storm".



We left for Santiago after 4 days of touring the lakes. The Andes are truly spectacular (even if there really isn't room here to show them properly) and we took about a hundred photos (36 shot rolls, so expensive). The train trip back to Santiago was 1040km, which took a shade over 20 hours, all on very uneven tracks. When I mentioned that to one of Hugo's uncles he looked surprised and said that was quick, because often the train derails....

(Forgot to mention - Puerto Varras was where I discovered industrial strength Pisco Sours. Happy days....)

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Eradicating Tuberculosis in France

By the late 19th century bovine tuberculosis was the scourge of the dairy industry in France, the most important disease of cattle in the country, and a threat to public health. Tuberculosis is a group of closely related zoonotic diseases, caused by Mycobacteria spp, and can affect and transmit between a wide variety of mammals, including humans. After the First World War, with the decline of horses as the primary power source on farms, many rural vets kept their practices going by regularly monitoring cattle herds for tuberculosis. By the 1920s the talk was of eradicating the disease in cattle and it was imperative to provide the market with disease free milk and meat. Pasturisation of milk, which had been practiced since the late 19th century, helped a lot with preventing contaminated milk being consumed, but did not eradicate the root problem.

Barn with an old 'TB free' declaration above the door. Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This barn on the Cher has a plaque from the 1950s or 60s declaring it TB free.

 

Cows do not necessarily show disease symptoms when they catch TB. Often the first indication that they have the disease is a loss of productivity ie they start producing less milk per day. Infected animals can pass the disease to other herd members, humans and wild animals. If infection amongst the cattle herd is controlled (by culling) any infection that has been passed to wild deer or badgers, for example, will die out over time. France is lucky not to have the disease entrenched in the wild populations of badger as they do in Britain, or wild boar as they do in Spain. However, significant numbers of Red Deer and Wild Boar in France are known to carry TB, and population density can be an issue.

After much hard work and a concerted campaign from the late 1950s onwards, France was finally declared bovine tuberculosis free in 2001, one of the few countries globally to have succeeded (Australia is another). There are still about a hundred outbreaks a year, but these are contained in their clusters and eradicated. There are several persistent hot spots for the disease, with ever increasing numbers of outbreaks that need to be dealt with, especially within the free ranging fighting bulls of the Camargue. To retain disease free status France must keep outbreaks at below 0.1% of the national herd annually.

Sign stating the premises are TB free. Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The sign says that the Indre et Loire County Veterinary Service has declared this stable tuberculosis free.

 

The co-ordinated national fight against bovine TB in France began in 1954, following an unsuccessful campaign begun in 1933 which left farmers to self-regulate. At the beginning of the campaign about a quarter to a third of French herds were infected. A co-ordinated campaign of this nature was unknown at the time and its eventual success led to other similar approaches to other diseases. The disease is controlled, even today when there is an outbreak, by culling infected cows. In about 50% of cases this results in whole herds being eliminated. To earn the TB free certification farms must not only stay disease free but demonstrate that they are respecting the sanitary regulations for controlling the spread of the disease too. Today the systematic testing of animals has been abandoned in favour of annual inspections to check that farms are adhering to the rules on food hygiene, risk factor management, and sanitary conditions.



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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 January 2021

Blanquette de Veau

Homemade blanquette de veau with boiled potatoes. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Blanquette de veau with boiled potato.

 

Blanquette de Veau, a white veal stew, is a classic of French cuisine. Veal, which is the meat of calves, is commonly available here, and although not the cheapest meat, is very popular. The calves are either the 'unwanted' male calves from dairy herds, which are hand reared in cohorts in airy straw filled barns, or Limousin beef calves produced specifically for veal and raised with their mothers on pasture. The notorious veal crates used for producing pale tender veal by locking calves in kennels and keeping them immobile and in the dark were banned in 2006. My opinion is that if you wish to eat dairy products, you must accept eating veal.
 

Pack of veal for blanquette. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A typical pack of veal meat for blanquette. The labelling tells you the calf was raised to a high welfare standard and was a dairy breed.

Ingredients

30 g butter

1 tbsp oil

1.3 kg veal pieces

1 tbsp flour

2 carrots, cleaned and cut into thick rounds or chunks

1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters

1 leek, cleaned and cut into thick rounds

1 bouquet garni

2 egg yolks

100 ml cream

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan and lightly brown the veal in two batches (optional).
  2. Return all the meat to the pan and sprinkle over the flour.
  3. Stir to make sure the flour is well blended into the fat.
  4. Add just enough water to not quite cover the meat (don't be too generous), bring to the boil while stirring several times.
  5. Add the carrots, leek, onion and bouquet garni, stir to combine with the meat.
  6. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer very gently for an hour and a half.
  7. In a small saucepan beat the egg yolks, cream and lemon juice together.
  8. Season the egg yolk and cream mixture.
  9. Add a ladle full of hot veal stock to the egg yolk and cream mixture, mix well.
  10. Cook the egg yolk and cream mixture gently, stirring constantly until it thickens (beware -- this is like custard, and will curdle if you go too hard and too fast).
  11. Add the 'custard' to the meat saucepan and stir well.
  12. Use a slotted spoon to plate up the meat and vegetables, then spoon over a generous quantity of sauce.
  13. Serves 6, with plain boiled potatoes.

Browning veal pieces. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Browning the veal pieces.

 

A blanquette is literally a white stew, only made with white meats such as chicken, pork, and most often veal. Traditionally the meat would not have been browned, but put raw in the pot along with the vegetables and water, to slowly cook. 

Browned veal. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Browned veal.
 

I made my own bouquet garni, from celery leaves, a bay leaf and two sprigs of thyme wrapped in two pieces of leek leaf and tied. Don't be too heavy handed with the thyme, or it will overwhelm the delicate flavour of the veal.

Vegetables for blanquette de veau. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The prepared vegetables. The yellow carrots are an old French variety called Jaune du Doubs.

 

Mushrooms make a nice addition, although they are not traditional. About 100 g of white or chestnut button mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on their size, added after the blanquette has been cooking for about an hour.

Cooking Blanquette de veau. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ready to cook.

Blanquette de veau. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ready to serve.

Egg yolk and cream mixture for blanquette. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Egg yolk and cream mixture.


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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, 17 January 2021

A Golden Cocoon

 

Coastal Golden Orb-Weaver Trichonephila plumipes egg sac, New South Wales, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

This bundle of golden threads is the egg sac of a Coastal Golden Orb-Weaver Trichonephila plumipes. I photographed it in coastal heath at Iluka in New South Wales. To see my photos of adult Coastal Golden Orb-Weaver spiders, go to my post about North Head -- the Inverts [link]. (The species has had a name change.)


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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, 16 January 2021

Chile at the Beach

30 Years ago I was in South America with my mate Hugo.

Because Hugo had plenty of family in Chile we had no end of options of people to visit. One set of his cousins had rented a holiday cottage at Quisco, on the coast 100km from Santiago.

"Wake at 5am, catch the looney bus to the central bus station. Catch Pullman Bus to Quisco to coast house rented by Hugo's cousins. Countryside looks dry and poor. Got to coast to find it cold and foggy."

What amazed me was the amount of eucalyptus trees. The countryside looked very much like the inland areas of NSW (not the deserts). The weather is very much influenced by the Humbolt current, which carries cold water up the east coast of South America from the Antarctic, so even when it's sunny the water is extremely cold, which is good for fish and shellfish, but not to this Australian's tastes.

"Have lunch of shellfish soup (V.good), followed by rice and veges. Take a walk to the beach. Funny to see everyone all rugged up and playing tennis. Walk to the shops, buy beer and steak for a BBQ. Forgot to mention there is no running water."

 "OH NO! Not Again! Struck down during the night Spend 1/2 hour on the loo then have to take a trip outside to the well so that I can fill the cistern and flush the loo. Take Flagyl and go to bed, sleep until 3.30pm. More Flagyl, and find the BBC World service on the radio"  And that was that day done. Did a little walking and then back to bed.

The next day we caught the bus back to Santiago, where we unpacked our overnight bags from the coast, and repacked for a 12 hour train trip south to Valdivia. We decided to treat ourselves, so booked a meal in the restaurant car. "At 10pm have a coke in the bar then go to restaurant. I have steak, Hugo has chicken, and we share a 1/2 bottle of white wine. Costs 4,200pesos ($16.80AUD) Back to seats (via loo as gyp still present). Find 2 empty seats so I can stretch out a bit."

The Andes from the train.

Valdivia is 850km from Santiago, and the train trip took us 14 hours of rocking (mainly) and rolling (slowly). The train lines had only recently been reopened after the return of a democratically elected government after being shut by the Junta, and the carriages were very much "as found". Faded glory would best describe it. "After "sleeping" on the train arrive Valdivia at 10.20. Met at Station and transfer to Hotel Melillanca. BLISS. Hot running water (the first for 9 days). Hope the hotel can afford the excess water bill".

Next week, our 9 days in the South.



Friday, 15 January 2021

Chateau de Nitray

The 16th century Chateau of Nitray, near Athée sur Cher was built on the site of an older castle, most likely dating from the 13th century. This new chateau was commissioned in 1506 by Aimery Lopin, a very high ranking judicial officer attached to the court of King François I's mother, Louise of Savoy. Architecturally, Nitray is very typical of high status houses being built at this time.

 

Former stables, Chateau de Nitray, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The former stables, now winery.

The complex consists of the main house, 16th century, oriented east-west, and a number of outbuildings, gardens and courtyards. The eastern facade looks out over gardens, the western side on to the main courtyard. On the southern side of the courtyard is an older pavillion, from the 15th century, as are the other buildings forming the western boundary of the courtyard. The main entrance to this courtyard is flanked by two towers, the southern one having been turned into a chapel. To the north-west a dovecote with a well preserved interior completes the ensemble. 

Dovecote, Chateau de Nitray, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The dovecote.
 

On the ground floor of the outbuildings there was stabling for seven horses now transformed into a winery. The estate has made wine for at least 250 years and today produces AOC Touraine wines. Upstairs there is a reception room which will seat 200 guests [link].

Chateau de Nitray, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The main chateau block and the hunting pavillion.
 

The chateau was purchased in 1955 by the Brebart d'Halluin family, after the previous purchaser defaulted on paying the balance after auction. From 1967 to 1977 Etienne d'Halluin had an arrangement with his friend, pilot and aviation mechanic, poet, violinist and ceramicist René Fournier, and light planes were constructed on the estate. From 1989 the d'Halluin's son in law Count Hubert de l'Espinay took over the running of the estate and has concentrated on improving the wine and bottling and marketing it directly rather than supplying it in bulk to a co-operative.

Simon wrote earlier about the aviation history of the chateau [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. 

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Chateau de la Chesnaye

There has been a building on the site of La Chesnaye, near Athée sur Cher, since the 10th century, but initially it seems to have been a humble hunting lodge, not a full blown chateau. Joan of Arc is said to have passed through the property with her soldiers in 1429. It is about 20 kilometres from Tours, in an area of forests and vineyards.

Chateau de la Chesnaye, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Looks like they've just had a delivery of firewood.

In 1463 it was owned by Jean du Puy, Squire of Chateauneuf. In 1506 it came into the hands of the Bohier family, who also owned Candé and Chenonceau (Henri Bohier, who owned Chesnaye, was the half-brother of Thomas Bohier, who built Chenonceau). From the 17th to 19th centuries it was passed through a succession of hands and multiple families, and was renovated or partially rebuilt at least twice in that time.

Then in the 20th century it was bought by the Lamothe family, who ultimately gave it to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, for a high-end aged care home, which is what it remains today, with 70 residents (including a 16 bed dementia unit) average age 88. It costs from €1731.30 per month to be a resident.

The chateau is huge, with significant Renaissance era elements, the legacy of the Bohiers, but some more medieval elements remain too, with several round towers, and an underground passage from the chapel. The slate roof has many Renaissance dormer windows. As well as the chateau there is a dovecote and a chapel and many other large outbuildings such as the kennels and stables, none of which I was able to photograph from the road as there are too many trees obscuring them. You just get a glimpse, even at this time of year with the trees bare.

Prior to World War I the chateau enjoyed considerable prosperity, with thirty domestic servants, and a dozen gardeners and foresters working there, with regular hunts to keep the owners and their friends entertained. There is still a thriving population of deer living in the estate's woods.

When the Sisters of Charity first saw the building, in 1956, there was building rubble everywhere and the library, drawing, billiards, and dining rooms were packed full to the ceiling with boxes and bundles of stuff. Initially they lived in Tours and commuted every day to Chesnaye to work on clearing it out and making it habitable. Then they brought in furniture from their other establishments in readiness for welcoming the most aged amongst their community. At first there were just a few, but at the maximum occupancy there were 110, and a new extension was added in 1980.

In the beginning the Sisters were very active, but as they slowly aged it became necessary to employ lay people from the village for daily chores. So, little by little, the home was transformed into a normal aged care home and today it is part of the State care system.

The chateau estate is also home to the Cave Cooperative Cellier du Beaujardin, a co-operative of local winemakers. They are open for tastings and direct purchases Tuesday to Friday 9 am to 6.30 pm (with a break for lunch) and Saturday mornings (if you want to be sure of the best experience email them to let them know you are coming and make an appointment if necessary). If you email them your order they will have it ready to collect in half an hour. They encourage visitors to arrive by bicycle, as they are just off the Coeur de France cycle trail. They do a jolly good sparkling, and rosé.


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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.