Friday, 30 April 2021

Chateau de Mousseaux

 

Chateau de Mousseaux, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Chateau de Mousseaux is really a big old walled manor house and farm complex, near Les Ormes. As with most things around Les Ormes, it was once owned by the d'Argenson family.

Chateau de Mousseaux, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Chateau de Mousseaux, Vienne, 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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel. 
 
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UPDATE -- RESPONSE TO COMMENTS:
Jean -- yes, you can see for miles up and down the valley.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

The Church Above Saint Remy sur Creuse

 

Church, Saint Remy sur Creuse, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

I love this view. It is the church above the village of Saint Rémy sur Creuse. I've never driven to it, always walked from Buxueil on the River Creuse, along the river to the village of Saint Rémy, then up the steep sides of the valley to the church. This photo was taken from way across the other side of the valley, coming into Descartes.


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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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel. 
 
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UPDATE -- RESPONSES TO COMMENTS:
Pré de la Forge -- were you in a 2CV? Sounds like that's what the road was made for!
chm -- yes, the church has some interesting features.
Jean -- it's one of our favourite walks.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Gourmet and Specialist Markets in the Touraine Loire Valley

Artisan ceramics at an art fair, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Beautiful ceramics by my friend Mark Judson at L'Art et Lard

Street markets are common everywhere in France. Everywhere has its weekly market where locals pick up their regular supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy. But lots of places also have special annual gourmet markets. I’ve written already about the truffle market at Marigny-Marmande, and two other favourites of mine are the saffron market in my own village and the combined art and food market, called L’Art et Lard, held in a nearby village.

Making apple juice at a food fair, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Pressing apple juice at L'Art et Lard.

My own village, population 1000, was one of the medieval centres of saffron growing in medieval times and the annual saffron market is a 20th century revival of a medieval tradition. It is held in February, when things are quiet, and although small, it is usually successful because of the unusual products on offer. Markets were and are an important way of getting cash moving around the local economy and even today serve a social function, getting the community together both as customers, but also as volunteers to set up and take down market infrastructure. My village got into trouble from the authorities in Paris in the 19th century for not holding enough fairs and markets ie the local authorities were seen as not looking after the community properly.


Poster for a food and art festival, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Publicity poster for L'Art et Lard.

In the next village along, Le Petit Pressigny, population 330, their annual gourmet market is combined with an art fair. Residents volunteer to host an artist, who display their work for sale in barns and troglodyte caves. Down in the town square tents are set up and food producers can take a booth and sell their wares. It is held in the autumn, hoping to catch the last of the nice weather and is usually a huge success. Members of the public pick up a map to show them which houses are hosting artists and what best the trail around the village is. A buffet is set up for lunch, or people book a table at the Michelin starred restaurant in the village, and many people stay the whole day.

Artisan beer at a food festival. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel .
Artisan beer, made in his garage, by Tommy Barnes, who has written a book about his adventures as a brewer and English immigrant in a small village in France. Braslou Bière is one of the many artisanal breweries springing up in the Loire Valley in the last few years.

Many villages also hold small one day Christmas markets too, to showcase special local produce and artisanal gift ideas. These are much more competitive of course, as they all have to be crammed into a much shorter space of time.

Cold pressed canola oil at a food festival, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
I was interested to see this canola oil press in operation on the producer's stall at l'Art et Lard in Le Petit Pressigny in October. What interested me as much as anything was how small scale it was.

Temporary restaurant at a food festival, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The saffron fair is held in our village gymnasium. Every year a local chef and his team create a saffron themed lunch.

Restaurateurs handing out samples at a food festival, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Local restaurateurs handing out free saffron flavoured amuses bouches.

Organic apples for sale at a food market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
My lovely friend Sandy, who with her partner Tony, grows and sells organic apples.

A metalworker at an arts fair, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Pierre Gaillard of Girouettes Gaillard fashions a cockerel for a weather vane out of zinc.

 
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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.
 
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UPDATE -- REPONSES TO COMMENTS:
Jean -- it never occurred to me that the equivalent event in the UK would have an entry fee. Makes it much less inclusive and community oriented I would have thought. 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Chateau de Bouferre

The Chateau de Bouférré, near Le Grand Pressigny, was badly damaged by fire in May 2016. About 50 firefighters attended, but the building was left a shell. After several hours of wrestling with the blaze they were unable to save the roof, or the interior. They did their best to make sure the facade was at minimum risk by clearing out anything they thought could smoulder and rekindle the fire at the end. 

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

The site itself has been named and inhabited for at least a thousand years, with the name being spelt about a dozen different ways, from Bouc-ferré to Buphferret.  The current building is late 18th century to early 19th and the property is run as a B&B (chambres d'hotes), with 46 hectares of woodland including hundred year old trees in the park near the house. Their blurb says that deer are regularly seen in the park 'pointing their antlers at the dwelling'.

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

Situated two kilometers from Le Grand-Pressigny, in the valley of the Claise, just off the road to Descartes, it is a country house with a pointy bell tower, a slate roof and a white facade overlooking the Claise Valley (or it would do if there weren't trees in the way). This house, so advantageously situated, is the main house of one of the oldest aristocratic seats of the region. The chateau itself is relatively recent and its outbuildings, including its vast square dovecote are modern.

La Poterie, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
La Poterie.

Before these recent buildings there was an ancient manoir, now completely gone. Up the hill from them and once part of the estate is La Poterie, now a farm, and below them, near the confluence of the Brignon and the Claise, there was once a fortified mill.


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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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel. 
 
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UPDATE -- RESPONSE TO COMENTS: 
Jean -- a fire like that ust be a terrible shock.
Gaynor -- you don't notice the chateau because of all the trees.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Classic Australian Pavlova

Pavlova (pronounced pav-LOH-vuh) is not French, it's one of the glories of Australian cuisine (yes, I know the latest research shows it originated in New Zealand...)

Homemade Pavlova. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A very traditional looking pavlova, made for a friend's 70th birthday celebrations, back in the days when we could socialise.

A pavlova is a large disk of meringue, crispy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. It is absolutely nothing like the dry, chalky meringue shells that one can buy in the supermarket. Dolloped on top is whipped cream, and the whole is decorated with fruit. Strawberries are very traditional, but raspberries, banana, mango and kiwi fruit, and various combinations of these, are probably just as popular. The one fruit which is more or less essential on top of a pav is passionfruit.

Meringue base for a pavlova. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The cooked meringue base, ready for whipped cream.


A pavlova is one of the few dishes that combines pieces of fruit (as opposed to purée) and cream in a way that enhances the fruit rather than masks it. Perhaps the influence of the sweet crunchy/spongey meringue is the secret.

Pavlova ready for fruit decoration. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Cream spread on top, ready for fruit decoration.


It is important that a pavlova is cooked in such a way that the meringue barely colours. The merest hint of off-whiteness is acceptable but anything more is shameful failure.

Ingredients:

For the meringue

3 egg whites, more than 1 day old, less than a week old, at room temperature
175 g sugar (white, caster or vanilla)

For the topping

275 ml cream, whipped
Fruit to decorate

Method:

  1.     Preheat oven to 100°C.
  2.     Line a baking sheet with silicone paper.
  3.     Rinse out the bowl the egg whites are to be whipped in with boiling water. Add a couple of drops of lemon juice and wipe the bowl completely dry with kitchen paper towel. This ensures no residual fat or moisture in the bowl to spoil the loft of the egg whites; it warms the bowl, which aids the aeration of the egg whites; it adds a touch of acid, which will strengthen the protein of the egg white, enabling it to hold air longer.
  4.     Beat the egg whites slowly for about 30 seconds until frothy. If you are worried about the stability of your egg whites, you can add cream of tartar at a rate of ¼ tsp per egg white at this stage. Cream of tartar is an acid in powder form. A little acid will help the egg white, as noted above, and because it is in a powder form, you are not adding moisture. Meringue is so sensitive to moisture that it can even fail on particularly humid days.
  5.     Now beat the egg whites rapidly for two minutes until they are stiff and pull up into peaks that don't collapse when you remove the whisk.
  6.     Add the sugar gradually, in a slow stream, whisking all the time. Whisk until the egg whites have had about 10 minutes of whisking in total and the sugar is completely dissolved. Don't whisk longer than 15 minutes -- you will risk damaging your mixer/beater motor and risk overbeating the egg whites, which could begin to separate into liquid and lumpy bits. If the sugar hasn't dissolved your finished meringue will weep sticky liquid.
  7.     Spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and shape gently into a roughly 20 cm circle. Push a little from the centre out to the sides so they are slightly raised and the centre slightly sunken. Don't fuss too much with it, as the more you prod and push the more air you squeeze out of it, no matter how light your touch.
  8.     Put it on the top shelf in the oven and turn the thermostat down to 70°C.
  9.     Cook for 1 hour, then turn the oven off. If the meringue starts to colour prop the oven door open a crack for half an hour. At the end of cooking time the meringue should have a crisp crust, not a leathery or sticky surface.
  10. Leave the meringue in the cooling oven for a minimum of 4 hours, and preferably overnight.
  11.     To finish, transfer the pavlova base to a flat plate. Spread the whipped cream thickly on top and decorate with the fruit.
  12.     Cut into wedges and serve. This size pavlova will serve 6.

 

Yum
 
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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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel 
 
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UPDATE -- RESPONSES TO COMMENTS:
chm -- trust me they are super delicious.
 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Water Snowflake

Water Snowflake Nymphoides indica, New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Water Snowflake Nymphoides indica is a floating aquatic plant native to tropical areas including Australia. It grows in standing water, with floating leaves and stems up to 3 metres long.

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Today is ANZAC Day, when Australia honors and remembers its war dead. It is also the remembrance day in France for all those sent to the concentration camps and forced labour camps in the Second World War. Souvenez-vous.

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UPDATE -- RESPONSE TO COMMENTS:

chm -- the fringe makes them very distinctive and delicate looking.

chm, Colin and Elizabeth -- thanks for sharing your memories.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Abbesses Metro Station

Abbesses is a Paris Métro station in Montmartre (18th arrondissement or district), on Line 12 (green). It is between Pigalle and Larmarck-Caulaincourt, with just this single entrance/exit. The platforms are the deepest of any Paris Métro station, 36 metres underground and 2.35 million passengers use the station every year.

Abbesses Metro station entrance, Paris, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Today, the entrance has one of the last two surviving original glass covered Art Nouveau style édicules designed by Henri Guimard, but when the station opened in 1913, it had a completely different entrance cover. This one was moved here from Hotel de Ville in 1974.


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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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel. 
 
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UPDATE -- RESPONSE TO COMMENTS:
chm -- I haven't checked but I'm sure they must be listed.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Shopping in Loches

Loches, Chatellerault and Le Blanc are all small or medium sized towns about half an hour a way from Preuilly sur Claise. Of those three, Loches is where we shop most often. The shops in the centre of the old town are mostly independent and interesting. Their survival is boosted because people come to the excellent twice weekly market, and take the opportunity to shop beyond the market in the boutiques that have a bricks and mortar presence in the centre of town. Here is a somewhat random selection of shops in central Loches that I photographed back in January.

Dairy shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Creamery, selling all sorts of dairy products.

Household linen shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Household linen shop.

Hat shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A long established family owned hat shop, which also sells handbags and gloves. Good quality, and prices reflect that.

People queuing outside a bakery, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
People queuing outside my favourite bakery. The queue isn't just down to Covid19. There isn't much room for customers inside.

Second-hand clothing shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Second-hand clothing shop. Popular, I hear, with the teenaged daughters of friends, who like the savings and the ethics.

Jewellery shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Artisan jeweller, producing nice, unique, silver items.

Kitchenware shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The excellent Picottie's kitchenware shop.

Wine boutique, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Wine boutique.

Music shop, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Music shop.


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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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel 
 
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UPDATE: RESPONSES TO COMMENTS
chm -- 'Dressing' is franglais for 'walk in wardrobe'. The shop sells second-hand clothing.
Colin and Elizabeth -- Loches has a lot of very nice independent boutiques.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Video Post -- a Visit to the Grounds of the Chateau of Amboise

Here is our latest video, a visit to the grounds of the Chateau of Amboise.


 

Visit the Chateau Royal of Amboise with us in a 1953 Citroen. It is one of the most famous of the Loire Valley chateau, and steeped in history. We show you just a few highlights of what the chateau has to offer, focusing on the lovely grounds.

Because of the Covid-19 situation, the chateau was closed to visitors, which is why we had access to the grounds in our car, and why the chateau looks deserted.

This visit was organised by Mark from https://photographfrance.com/​, who also provided some additional video. Mark offers photography tours and masterclass workshops. You could even take a photography tour with Mark using our car and driver.

The website for the chateau of Amboise is at https://www.chateau-amboise.com/en/​. We are working with the chateau to develop an exclusive visit using our cars, finishing with aperatif on the terrace.



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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. You may also like to check out our YouTube channel. 
 
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UPDATE: RESPONSES TO COMMENTS
Thanks so much, Jean and chm. Glad you enjoyed it. 

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

World War II French Resistance in the Touraine Loire Valley -- Victor's Story

Recently an American contact of mine mentioned staying at the Chateau de Pray, near Amboise, and it prompted me to mention that I had been contacted by the son of someone who had worked there and had been in the Resistance. He wanted me, and indeed the world, to know his father’s remarkable story, so I am delighted to pass it on. It is, like all these stories, very moving and full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Victor Maitrejean in 1950, Indre et Loire, France.
Victor Maîtrejean in 1950.


Early in 2010 I was contacted by Pascal Maîtrejean, who told me about his father, Victor. This was in response to a public appeal for information about a Resistance memorial that I had made some months earlier. 

Resistance memorial in the forest, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A close up of the memorial in the forest near Verneuil. Carved into the bottom part
are the names of all the dead.

Victor Maîtrejean was born in 1921 in Algeria (then a French colony). At 14 years old he lost an arm in an accident on an airfield when he was turning a propeller by hand to start an aeroplane engine. In 1940 he and his mother moved to central France, where he took up an apprentice gardener post at the Chateau de Pray between Amboise and Mosnes. 

Victor Maitrejean's ID card, France.
Victor Maîtrejean's identity card.

The Germans took over the château, and when they left, an SS officer offered Victor a gift of the vehicle that had been used as the officers' transport. Victor, who was young and impressionable, was delighted and moved towards the car. His boss, the head gardener, who had been through the First World War, warned him not to touch it. Sure enough, the door had been booby trapped with a grenade, and had Victor opened the door...  

Resistance memorial in the forest, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The memorial to the maquis Césario, deep in the forest
they used to hide in. The only sound here now is birds calling.

Following this event, he joined the maquis (the Resistance), and didn't return to the place until the end of the War. After the War, anyone who wanted to be recognised as a combattant and receive a military pension needed to make a statement of where they fought and what they did during the War. I have translated his account of some of the action he saw. (FFI stands for Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur.)

Resistance memorial, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The memorial to those men forced to dig their own grave and buried alive.

"On 24 June 1944*, being in the maquis FFI of Loches, commanded by Césario Bretegnier, we took up arms and left at 3 o'clock in a bus to patrol and ambush. At 9:30 after having made around 30 kilometres, we came to an area called le Liege. We hid up and rested until 11:10, when we saw a German truck coming over the brow of a hill. As soon as they passed we attacked. The truck caught fire and we killed 13 German soldiers - a number that must have brought us bad luck, because we didn't know that behind this scout truck there was a company of Germans. The battle raged from 11:10 to 18:05 - 34 against 150 to 200. We killed 21 German soldiers and set two trucks on fire at the beginning, but it was too much and later, field upon field, vine after vine we retreated and lost 7 men killed and 5 others we know were captured and forced to dig their own grave then interred alive. By this time some of us were down to a single cartridge or grenade and we had lost our bus. On the Loches road there is a memorial as you leave le Liege, for those who were buried alive, and another at Verneuil-sur-Indre to my companions who were killed or died after deportation. As a result of my participation in this battle I have been awarded the Order of the Army." *His son thinks this may be a mistake and it should read aôut (August). Victor died in 2009, which was when Pascal found the ID card and some associated paperwork. Vale, Victor. I think we would all like to think that we would have been as brave.

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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.  
 
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UPDATE: RESPONSES TO COMMENTS
Jean and chm -- I think Victor was one of those quietly amazing people. His son couldn't have been prouder of him. Quite right too. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

This Was Once a BP Service Station

Le Prosper restaurant, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Where Le Prosper restaurant is now in Loches was once a BP Energic service station, back in the 1950s and 60s. The statue of the writer Alfred de Vigny acted as a roundabout at the time. 

Aerial view of Place de la Marne, Loches, Indre et Loire, France, 1950s or 60s. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Aerial view of Place de la Marne from the 1950s. Note the Traction parked in front of the house next to the service station.

In the early 20th century it was a branch office of the Chemins de Fer d'Orléans (Orleans Railway), offering private car hire (for town and country), trucks, delivery, and both bus and train transport to businesses and the public, from Loches to Chatillon, Buzançais and Chateauroux.


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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. 
 
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UPDATE: RESPONSES TO COMMENTS
Carolyn -- wrong boot (trunk).
Jean -- the current operators of Le Prosper have been there maybe 3-4 years. Not that long anyway. She is Russian, he is French. I think it was them who called it Le Prosper. I can't remember what it was before and never went there. I've eaten there and it was good (try to get a table in the back room, hard up against the Tour Saint Antoine).
 

Monday, 19 April 2021

Brie de Meaux

Non-French readers may be unaware that there are two types of Brie cheese in France. You rarely see Brie de Melun because the production is so small, but Brie de Meaux is readily available. As the name suggests this cheese comes from the area around Meaux, to the east of Paris.

Brie de Meaux. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

It is a raw cow's milk cheese, with a squidgy interior and a velvety white blooming crust. Each cheese weighs on average 2.8 kilograms and is 36-37 centimetres in diametre. Inside the cheese is pale straw yellow, unctuous and cushiony. It will get runny with age, which we quite like, but strictly speaking it is considered at its best just before that point.

It is believed to have originated in the Benedictine Abbey of Notre-Dame de Jouarre, in Seine et Marne, and was described as a cheese 'loved by rich and poor' in the 18th century. Talleyrand declared it the King of Cheeses. Since the 1950s production has tended to move from around Meaux to further east towards Meuse. Seventy percent of production now comes from south of Meuse.

Brie de Meaux. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Like many things in France, it is seasonal, at its best from April to September, after a 8-10 week maturing, when it will be a bit nutty and a bit lactic. The longer it is matured the stronger it gets. It is quite an easy going cheese as far as wine pairings go, and can be served with Burgundies, Côtes de Rhone, champagne or cider (which is what it is often paired with by those who live in the area it is made in).

It takes 25 litres of milk to make a single cheese. The milk is fermented in a trough for 16 hours then put under pressure to form curd which is then cut into small cubes. After that it is gently scooped into a mould, layer by layer. The temperature is raised, then lowered over a number of hours and the cheese is set in its mould onto rushes to drain. The next day it is tipped out of the mould and salted, then left for a couple of days. Then it has a week at cellar temperature (12C). By now it will have started to develop the white crust and it will be put in a colder room (7C) to finish maturing, during which time it will be turned by hand. Brie de Meaux is usually sold at two months old.

Brie de Meaux. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Just over 6000 tonnes a year are produced and production is decreasing year on year. There are 7 maker-maturers, 3 maturers, and 8 factories, taking milk from 443 dairy farms.


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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. 
 
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UPDATE: RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
Tim -- Perry would be perfect with brie.
chm -- ours too.
Potty -- supposedly it's past its best if it's runny, but we like it like that too.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Canberra Fires

Bushfire damage, 2003, ACT, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
An entirely burnt and ash covered landscape, with the river running through the middle of the scene.

In March 2003 I arrived in Canberra to visit my sister, two months after the worst ever bushfires had swept through 70% of the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra is set in the northern corner of the ACT and surrounded by mountains and National Parks, with some surprisingly isolated wilderness within an hour or so of the Capital.

Bushfire damage, 2003, ACT, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Weird looking but typical regrowth on burnt Eucalyptus sp trees.

The fires, started by lightning strikes, burned for a week, killing four people, injuring 435 and destroying nearly 500 homes and over 20 government offices and commercial premises, including the internationally important Mount Stromlo Observatory [link]. There was a raging drought, and the weather was hot and windy. I can remember watching the news footage at our home in London, utterly horrified. It was the first time we had ever experienced this sense of watching helpless from afar. I can also remember bursting into tears at work on hearing the news that the Wildlife Research Centre at Tidbinbilla had been destroyed, killing many rare native animals being kept in captivity in the Centre (just typing this required some severe gulping and lip chewing to keep the tears at bay...).

Bushfire damage, 2003, ACT, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The fire was so intense it burnt the humus in the soil and the roots of trees, which sometimes smouldered unnoticed for weeks.

The first recorded instance of a fire tornado in Australia was documented during these fires. It generated winds of 250 kilometres an hour and rose in the air at 150 kilometres an hour.

Bushfire damage, 2003, ACT, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This shed and cattleyards obviously copped it, although not all the nearby trees have been severely burnt.

UPDATE/RESPONSE to COMMENTS: Since I can't reliably respond to comments in the comments section...

chm: And since last year, many more Australians will know how it looks and feels.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Swan Island in the Seine

 This view is looking down the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

View down the Seine and Ile des Cygnes from the Eiffel Tower, Paris. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The curved building is the Australian Embassy. The area on this part of the Left Bank is known as Grenelle, in the 15th arrondissement (district). The bridge at this end of the Ile des Cygnes is the Pont de Bir-Hakeim [link] and the bridge at the far end is the Pont de Grenelle-Cadets de Saumur. At this end of the island is a dramatic equestrian statue of not Joan of Arc [link] and at the far end is the Statue de la Liberté Paris [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. 

Friday, 16 April 2021

Do You Know What a Door Nail Is?

We've made a new video, a couple of minutes long, about door nails. Check it out, they are more interesting than you might think.


 
To learn more go to our previous post on door nails [link].
 
We've decided to make little videos as a means of feeling like we are working. A friend very kindly lent us two cameras, a microphone and a light. We already had a tripod, and bought a lapel mike and some video editing software. 
 
The process involves writing a script (to prevent me umming and ahring my way through my lines), then filming, often in multiple takes, then recording the voice overs. Simon then puts it all together, with much cursing and swearing, so that it looks and sounds presentable. We want it to be friendly, but not wobble cam. Unfortunately it does mean we lose a certain amount of spontaneity. 

One of the decisions we really struggled with was what I should wear. In the end we decided on bright bold colours and these loose jackets which hide the Zoom microphone underneath, on a belt round my waist, and the lapel mike on my scarf. 

Simon calculates that it is about an hours work for every 10 seconds of finished video.
 
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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, 15 April 2021

Hotel de France, Loches

The Hotel de France is situated right in the middle of the old centre of Loches. It's a great location, close to appealing shops, good restaurants and attractive old stone buildings all around. Sadly it has been embroiled in a long running legal battle over a dispute between the owner of the building and the owners of the hotel business. Parts of the building are unuseable and I don't know how long the hotel business is going to survive.

Hotel de France, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

There has been a hotel on this site for centuries. They provided meals for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, when he was imprisoned in the old castle of Loches from 1504 to 1508. It was a post house, where fresh horses were available for riders, and later for coaches, allowing messengers to deliver letters at the fastest possible speed.

Hotel de France, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Louis XI established the network of relais de poste, as they are called in French, and in 1506, in the reign of his nephew Louis XII, the system was opened up to the public as well. Post houses were about 20 kilometres apart, but could be further or closer, depending on the terrain. At the system's height, in the early 19th century, there were 16 000 horses available to crisscross France, housed in stables with adjoining auberges (inns) serving meals and providing rooms for employees of the postal service and other travellers. The network was terminated in 1873, made obsolete by the railways.

Hotel de France, Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The current hotel building is 19th century, but it is not clear to me who built it or when, despite the name and date on the pediment. Alfred Adolphe Naudet was the proprietor in 1892, as indicated on the pediment, and presumably he undertook major work on the building, but he may have been modernising an already existing building. He advertised the hotel as modern, with heating and electricity. In his day it was the Grand Hotel de France. He and his wife Adèle Amélie Audigé bought the hotel from the Brunaud family in 1873. Pierre Auguste Brunaud came from Argenton sur Creuse, where his family ran a café, and his wife, Marie Julie Fouque Lacroix came from Issoudun. In 1840 they paid 30 000 francs to Charles Duchemin and Madeleine Gallicher for the hotel. They clearly did rather well, as they bought the house, with outbuildings, across the street from the hotel, as well as a barn and two parcels of vines over the years.

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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, 14 April 2021

Baguettes, the Staff of Life

The long thin French stick, or baguette, as it is called in France, is the archetypal loaf of bread, bought on a daily basis by almost every household in the country.

 

Breakdown of baguette costs. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
How the cost of your baguette is broken down.

It is made from wheat flour, bakers yeast, salt and water. Nothing else is permitted for a baguette de tradition, and it must be made from scratch every day at the bakery where it is to be sold. Many visitors comment that bread tastes quite different in France to their home country, and this is a big part of the reason -- no additives, which includes bread improvers, nutritional supplements, sugar, or flavouring elements, all of which are commonplace or even legal requirements in other countries.

 

Baguettes in a boulangerie, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Baguettes de tradition aux graines for sale in my local organic bakery.


A classic baguette costs around 90c and a baguette de tradition €1.05 or €1.10. A baguette is a very strictly defined weight of dough, and the price used to be regulated.

Baguettes for sale in a boulangerie. Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Baguettes aux graines (left) and a baguette aux sesames (right).

Ten percent of the cost of your baguette is the wheat flour itself, working out at just under 9c per unit. This fluctuates a bit as the local and global wheat harvests yield more or less in any given year, but the trend is upwards, as world demand for wheat goes up. French grown wheat is always preferred by professional French bakers, so it is always a crisis when the harvest is low here. For those of you interested in the agricultural details, French wheat is so called ‘spring wheat’, sown in the autumn, overwintering as grass and harvested in the late spring, early summer. Wheat varieties that grow like this are referred to as ‘soft’, meaning they are low in protein. Imported wheat tends to come from sunnier climates such as the Ukraine and Australia, so it is harder and does not produce entirely satisfactory bread as far as the French are concerned. 

Bread for sale at a village market, Indre et Loire. France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A basket full of baguettes for sale at my village market.

Baguettes require a steam injection oven, and are a post First World War product, not the centuries old tradition they appear to be now. They are very difficult for the home baker to reproduce. And in France hardly anyone would bother. They prefer to support their professional boulangère, even (perhaps especially) during a pandemic.

Work at the boulangerie normally starts around 4:30 am, and the shop will open for sales of freshly baked bread at 6:30 am. At the boulangerie the shaped dough is laid out on linen cloths to prove for an hour and a half to two hours. They are then baked on the base of the oven, using indirect heat from below. No traditional French bakery produces gluten free products because there is wheat flour everywhere and contamination is inevitable.

Baguette, or its bigger cousin, pain, is eaten with every meal in France. At home it is sliced at the table as diners want it. Each individual puts their bread directly on the table or tablecloth, there is no side plate. The bread is not buttered, but used to sop up juices on the plate. It is an important part of the cheese course too, with cheese normally eaten on a piece of unbuttered bread.

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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.