Thursday, 26 May 2022

A Wine Making Troglodyte Cave

Troglodyte cave, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This space was used for bottling wine, and behind it, storing it. Now it is used as a party space by the owner's son.

My friend Christian owns a string of buildings in Les Villages de Vaux, on the outskirts of Sainte Maure de Touraine. All of them are troglodytic, and the most interesting of them was once a wine making cave.

Soupirail (vent/grape chute), Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The soupirail functioned as a chute to drop grapes through from the vineyard above down to the press underground, and as a vent for fresh air and light into the cave. It has a grill at the top so animals don't fall down it.

The cave exists because there was a natural cavity which might have provided a bit of shelter to animals, and was then expanded by man into a useable underground space. The limestone extracted in the process was used to build houses. 

Winemakers accommodation, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Above is the winemakers temporary accommodation for while they were working, underneath the balcony, space for a horse, with a feed trough at one end.

The cave as it exists today is in three parts. The first is some storage and an open shelter with a slate roof. In the middle is a roomy underground space where grapes were pressed for wine, plums were dried for prunes and the wine could be left to ferment in barrels. There is a cylindrical chute or vent cut out of the rock that goes from the ceiling of the cave up to the surface called a puits or a soupirail. Grapes were grown on the limestone ridge above the cave and when harvested dropped down through the chute into a receptacle ready to be crushed. The third section of the cave, on the right, has living quarters for the vine workers upstairs, a room for bottling and labelling downstairs, with a cellar for storing bottled wine behind. Under the living quarters balcony, in front of the work space, is a shelter with a feed trough for a horse.

Shelter in front of a troglodyte cave, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The slate roofed shelter in front of the troglodyte caves.

Troglodyte cave, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The main troglodyte cave.


Wednesday, 25 May 2022

A Full Day of Geology, Topography, Botany, Lichenology, Speleology, Local History and an Orthodox Service in the Valley of the Vienne

My friend Marie-Claude organised an outing that combined geology, topography, botany, lichenology, speleology, and local history on 30 April. It was a joint outing between the Association de botanique et de mycologie de Sainte Maure de Touraine (Botamyco37) and the Société d’Étude et de Protection de la Nature de la Loire (SEPANT). We covered a lot of ground, and got covered in mud. On my way home I went to an Orthodox church service at the invitation of the friend I had given a lift to, still covered in mud. 

The reason for all the mud was the highlight of the day, a visit to la Cave gouttière in the Vallée de Courtineau, which is one of the rare natural caves in Indre et Loire and virtually unknown, even locally. It is privately owned, by the optician in Sainte Maure de Touraine.

Also of interest was the information that the Loire River is not the most important river in the Loire watershed. Without the addition of the Vienne River, which flows into the Loire from the south at Candes Saint Martin, the Loire would not reach the sea. The Vienne is shorter but carries a greater volume of water.

Naturalists in the Valley of the Courtineau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Mud caked naturalists debriefing after having been down the cave.

Musky Stork's-bill Erodium moschatum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Musky Stork's-bill Erodium moschatum (Fr. Bec-de-grue musqué) is the largest species of Erodium in the Touraine Val de Loire.

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A highly pigmented example of Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea (Fr. Orchis pourpre).

Large old oven, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A large old oven, now being used as someone's garden shed in Nouâtre.

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A pretty pink Lady Orchid, photographed on the same limestone ridge as the bright purple one above.

Geologist explaining the Vienne valley landscape, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A geologist explaining how the terraces of the Vienne Valley are formed, and why there is a band of white limestone rocks along the upper and lower sides of the ploughed field, but not in the middle.

Entering the Cave de la Gouttiere, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Heading into the tunnel which gives access to the cave.

Inside a cave, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Inside the manmade tunnel leading to the cave.

Entrance to a cave, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The entrance to the tunnel.

Mud from inside cave, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Mud from the cave all over my boots and trousers -- and this is after I've had a go at washing it off in the Courtineau river. I thought my boots were ruined, but it looks like I might have saved them after all.

Gallican Orthodox church at the Monastry of Saint Michael, Bois Aubry, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Gallican Orthodox Monastry of Saint Michael at Bois-Aubry.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Claudette's Seats, part II

On Friday we drove to le Blanc (via Chateauroux, but that's a story for another day) to pick up Claudette's seats from the upholsterer. They are excellent. Super smooth, comfortable and soft with no coil springs in the bum. What a pleasure!




If you're in the area and your seats (car or otherwise) need attention contact Jamy Portillon in le Blanc.



Monday, 23 May 2022

It was Fun While it Lasted

It's veen very dry here. Advice about how to conserve water has already been given, and people are starting to talk. So although it didn't last very long, last night's interlude was very welcome. Doubly welcome was the fact that there was no hail in it (that all dropped on Poitiers), because Claudette is currently parked outside




Huub will be disappointed!



Saturday, 21 May 2022

A First Photo

This is the very first digital photo I ever took. It was July 2000 and I had borrowed a digital camera from someone I worked with. Who knew that eventually we would be taking photos of great detail (and, it has to be said, too much size) on our phones?


It's a class 310 emu at Rainham ("Essex") station on the outskirts of London. They were a slam door train (you know the kind - arrive at station, drop window, reach outside to turn the door handle) more suited to life in 1950. Which was only 15 years before their introduction.

Friday, 20 May 2022

A View from a Hill

Yesterday evening we visited our friend Huub in his new house. It was the first time we had been up there in the evening, and it was really pleasant sitting in the shade on the terrace, having a quiet drink, and seeing Preuilly sur Claise from an angle only the lucky get to see.



Thursday, 19 May 2022

Tulips from Amsterdam

Well - maybe not tulips, and definitely not Max Bygraves*.

Yesterday we took Claudette's seats to the upholsterer in le Blanc. We went early both so that he could get a start on them, and so that we could do the trip in the relative cool of the morning. Because it was early and a very nice day we took the opportunity to visit the centre of town, sit in a café and watch the world go by, something we very rarely do.

While we were on the terrace of the café a very large Dutch truck arrived, effected a very neat 180 degree course around the roundabout (using back wheel steering on the trailer) and parked in front of the florist's.

After we took a turn about the weekly market the truck was still there. As we had to walk past it to get to the pedestrian crossing we took a glance in. WOW! Talk about a professional looking unit. We were so impressed Susan asked if we could take a photo, to which the reply was "yes, but we will hide".




Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Claudette's Seats

We bought Claudette in March 2013. Since then we have done a fair bit of mechanical work, but her interior has remained original. That is about to change. A couple of years ago the fabric on the back of the drivers seat tore. The tear was worsened by the back pocket button on the driver's trousers until we bought the world's cheapest seat cover from NorAuto to tide us over until we could get the work done.

Then, just as we were about to make the move to re-upholster the seats before the 2020 season, covid struck, and seat covers were suddenly either not available or very expensive. Prices have returned to pre-plagues levels so we have bought a set.


Originally we intended to recover the seats ourselves, but they are properly upholstered seats with horsehair and coil springs and webbing straps, and in need of expert attention. So as you are reading this we are taking the seats to le Blanc to be re-upholstered by a professional who happens to also own a Traction Avant. Claudette looks quite empty.



Removing the seats from a Traction Avant is quite easy, as long as you don't factor in 30C heat, sweat in the eyes, and working in direct sunlight in a black car.


Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Orchids in the Claise Valley

Here is a selection of orchids that are flowering now in the Claise Valley. These photos were all taken at Chaumussay or Boussay on Saturday 7 May.

Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia (Fr. Céphalanthère à feuilles étroites), earlier flowering than the very similar White Helleborine C. damasonium.

Hybrid Man x Monkey Orchid Orchis x bergonii, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The rather uncommon Hybrid Man x Monkey Orchid Orchis x bergonii.

Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora (Fr. Homme-pendu), growing in the ditch very close to the hybrid.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes (Fr. Ophrys araignée), flowering later than usual this year.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera (Fr. Ophrys mouche), looking, as ever, like Churchill in his velour onesie.

Military Orchid Orchis militaris, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Military Orchid Orchis militaris (Fr. Orchis guerrier), one of our rarest orchids, although it is a bit more abundant in other areas of France.

Hybrid Lady x Military Orchid Orchis purpurea x militaris, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
I think this is probably a hybrid Lady x Military Orchid Orchis purpurea x militaris.

Monkey Orchids Orchis simia, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A horde of Monkey Orchids Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe).

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha (Fr. platanthère à fleurs verdâtres).

Monkey x Lady Orchid hybrid Orchis x angusticruris, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Monkey x Lady Orchid hybrid Orchis x angusticruris.

Hypochromatic Monkey Orchid Orchis simia, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Hypochromatic (lacking pigment) Monkey Orchid Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe).

Monday, 16 May 2022

La Fuye de la Bouchardiere

I have driven past this structure perced on the ridge leading into Loches many times. Because of its position I have always assumed it was a windmill, because it's in exactly the position a windmill should be in.

A week ago we happened to be in Loches, and while Susan was visiting the chateau with our guests I drove up there to have a look at the information board, only to discover that it was a late medieval dovecot. Susan claims she knew this all along.

We will be driving past the dovecot again this morning, so I will be able to inform our visitors (correctly) what it is.



Saturday, 14 May 2022

Working at Chambord

Usually our posts on Saturday are about somewhere further afield, and although Chambord is in the Loire Valley and one of the chateaux people think they want to see, we very rarely go there. It's an outlier, and adds at least an hour onto the time our visitors spend in the car. Chambord has its points - the exterior is great and it makes an excellent photo op, but now the exterior grandeur is mostly hidden as all six towers are being restored.

We were at Chambord last Thursday with clients. It was nice to visit somewhere that we don't get to that often, but it does make for a long and tiring day behind the wheel - in this case, 280km in Claudette.



Friday, 13 May 2022

Working Again

We were working again yesterday, this time meeting our clients in Amboise and visiting Chambord and Chenonceau. We don't often take clients to Chambord, because it is a fair distance away from the other chateaux people want to visit, and actually we don't really rate it. Especially at the moment, when all six towers are covered in scaffolding.

We met our clients at Manoir les Minimes, newly granted 5 star status. I think they should probably have had that just because of the view from the front door. Of course, it doesn't always have an elegant 66 year old car improving the view, but still...


Thursday, 12 May 2022

A New Broom

Broom is a common enough plant in most parts of the world, and is considered an invasive species in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

It is particularly of note historically in this part of France because Geoffey V Count of Anjou adopted it as his emblem, then passed the name of the plant on to his descendents. The old French/Latin name for broom is planta genista, so when his eldest son became Henry II of England it was the start of the the Plantagenet line of English kings.

This year seems to be a particularly good year for broom. I don't remember seeing it quite as bright or widespread as we saw it last Thursday.



Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Chanceaux pres Loches

We have writted about Chanceaux pres Loches a number of times, but not recently.

When Susan is showing people the wonders of Loches I often stop to shop at NOZ, and then drive 5km out of town to Chanceaux so that I can park the car in the shade (in this case Claudette) and admire the view, catch up on some reading, and listen to a podcast.

Last week it was particularly pleasant, so I took some photos.


The trees around the chateau have grown, so a photo of the reflection was the best I could do.

I am not sure why I haven't noticed this excellent driveway before now

Claudette in the plane tree avenue. That's my office



Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Preuilly Joins the (Somethingth) Century

I'm not sure if this is progress or not, but Preuilly now has an automatic pizza dispensing machine. It's in the shop that used to be the funeral director's office. I am sure there is no connection.



Monday, 9 May 2022

Spring Vegetables in the Touraine

We are very lucky to have a wonderful organic market garden on the outskirts of town, where I pick up our weekly veg every Monday evening. Here is a selection from recent visits to their farm shop and to the market in La Roche Posay, where I buy the best asparagus, freshly picked the morning of the market.

Organic spring vegetables at a farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Turnips, cabbage, celery and cauliflower.

Organic spring vegetables at a farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Celery, broccoli and cauliflower.

Organic spring vegetables in a farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Cave grown button mushrooms and spinach.

Organic spring carrots, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Organic spring carrots.

Organic lettuce, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Organic lettuce.

Organic radishes, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Organic radishes.

Organic pumpkins, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Organic pumpkins, stored from when they were harvested in autumn.

Green asparagus, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The best freshly harvested green asparagus, grown in Saint Pierre de Maillé and sold in the market at La Roche Posay.

White asparagus, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
White asparagus from the same producer.

The organic market garden is at La Petite Rabaudière, on the outskirts of Preuilly sur Claise. Their farm shop is open Monday evenings from 4 pm to 7 pm, and they come to the market in Preuilly on Thursdays.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Eighth of May

The Eighth of May is Peace in Europe day - known in the UK and Australia as VE DAY (Victory in Europe). That difference in itself is interesting, and a subject worthy of some thought.

This will be the first time in 3 years that the commemoration service will be "normal". We will be there, because especially this year, it is important. It will be interesting to hear what the President of the Republic has to say in his address to the nation, which is read at ceremonies across France.

Eighth of May 2008 was the first such ceremony Susan and I went to, with her parents who were here at the time.


Saturday, 7 May 2022

Planning for July

This week we have been really quite busy, what with an almost full week of work, walking clubs, social activities, and car stuff.

In between times I have been planning for July, looking at walks we might want to do whilst in the Pyrenees. One of those walks starts at a restaurant we ate at last year and walking up the Gaves des Oulettes de Gaube. That means walking around the lake, past the waterfall, and almost to the base of the Glacier. Google maps is wrong, it's probably 2 1/2 hours each way. It's not as steep (or as far) as you might guess, being 6.1km at a steady 10%. I think we will wait for a sunny (but not too sunny day) as the latter part of the walk is unshaded.

I am getting excited about being in the mountains again - but although I love mountains, I wouldn't want to live there.



Friday, 6 May 2022

Cow

I don't know why, but I really like this photo of a cow Susan took yesterday on our walk. It's a fine looking beast, and so shiny.


According to my watch we walked exactly 10km. It was a lovely day: warm but not hot, with the occasional bit of cloud cover and a breeze. If it stayed like that for the rest of the year I would be happy.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

It's Wisteria Time

This year many people have had a poor display of Wisteria due to some ill-timed frost. Apparently this Japanese Wisteria in Chedigny didn't get the email, because it is magnificent - as is Claudette.


Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Back to Work

This year has been an odd one. Of course, it hasn't been odd on the scale of the previous two years, but it has been odd. Work has been coming in, and we have done some tours at unusual times (for instance two days work in Janurary, the first time since we started in 2009), but April wasn't as busy as we would have expected.

May is looking busy, and sees us returning to places we haven't been for over two years. This is Claudette at the chateau hotel la Tortiniere. It feels like a lifetime since we were last there, and we were pleased by the reception - they were as happy to see us as we were to see them. We took this photo yesterday afternoon before we visited the chateau of Azay le Rideau.



Monday, 2 May 2022

Rupture de Stock

Empty shelves in the supermarket again. This time, not due to the pandemic induced transport logistical problems but, if the social media gossip was to be believed, the war in Ukraine.

The empty shelves are where the sunflower oil should be and Ukraine is the biggest producer of sunflower oil. Something is clearly amiss with the supply of sunflower oil, so presumably it is indeed the war. Increasingly the gaps on the supermarket shelves are where the biscuits and crisps should be. The shortages started soon after the war got underway. France also produces sunflower oil, but only 500 000 tonnes per annum, and French consumption is 800 000 tonnes per annum. 80% of world supplies come from Ukraine and Russia, with 50% coming from Ukraine alone. 

Lack of sunflower oil in supermarket, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
At my local supermarket on 12 April.

The lack of sunflower oil has caused a knock on effect to other neutral oils, such as canola, which is also starting to dwindle because people are turning to them as an alternative. According to supermarket managers speaking to the press, customers are also buying more oil than they need, in case they can't get it in the future. And apparently Ramadan caused an upsurge in demand.

The latest development is that French food manufacturers have been given permission to use canola or palm oil as a substitute for sunflower oil in their products, without having to change the labelling on the packaging. They have six months to change the ingredients list on their packaging and two months to change the wording on the packaging if they have switch from an organic sunflower oil to a non-organic alternative, or if their packaging claims to be palm oil free but they are now using it.

Citroen Traction Avant in front of sunflower crop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This is the year to visit in July to see sunflowers!

Sunflower oil is the oil of choice for many industrially produced foods such as pastry, sauces, crisps, mayonnaise, margarine and biscuits. Two thirds of sunflower oil in France is imported from Ukraine. The real problem now is the cessation of maritime transport moving the exported oil. From being one of the cheapest culinary oils, the talk now is of the price of sunflower oil doubling due to its inceasing rarity. Manufacturers who choose to substitute other oils or alternative ingredients for the sunflower oil in their product in order not to increase their prices or continue to manufacture at all are nonetheless stuck with another problem -- getting the ingredient lists on their packaging up to date.

I notice the price of olive oil has gone up a euro or two a litre -- opportunism, coincidence, or market forces?

Right now it is sunflower sowing season in France. Farmers I've seen interviewed are saying they will be increasing the hectares they sow to sunflowers, and the prediction is that an extra 100 000 hectares will be under sunflowers in France this year, despite the fact that the price of seed has doubled to €800 a tonne. It is expected that the number of hectares sown to canola in the autumn for next years harvest  will also increase.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Ferns in a Vineyard

Old vineyards that haven't had a century or so of having arsenic, copper and sulphur poured onto them multiple times a year can have some surprises. One abandoned vineyard at Séligny that I have visited a couple of times now has some nice ferns species, for example.

Male Fern Dryopteris filix-mas, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Male Fern Dryopteris filix-mas (Fr. Fougere male), abundant in the Touraine Val de Loire.

Intermediate Polypod Polypodium interjectum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Intermediate Polypod Polypodium interjectum (Fr. Polypode intermédiaire), widespread in Western Europe.

Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigra, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum (Fr. Doradille noire) is rare in the Touraine Val de Loire, but widespread, being native to Europe, Africa and Australia, and introduced to America. It likes hot dry habitat with lots of flint.


Thursday, 28 April 2022

Emergency Nest Boxes

Swift nest boxes on the scaffolding while the Chapelle de Saint Hubert undergoes restoration, Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
You can see the swift nest boxes casting long shadows high up on the scaffold sheeting.

The beautiful Chapelle de Saint Hubert in the grounds of  the Chateau Royal d'Amboise is undergoing a major restoration. Unfortunately neither the architect nor the chateau management took into account that the swifts will be arriving back any day now from their African wintering territories. They will head straight for their old nest places, and find them blocked. This happens a lot, and heritage architects really need educating on this subject. Luckily, our friends at SOS Martinets [link], the Amboise based swift conservation association, noticed and reminded the chateau that they must make provision for the swifts, which are a protected and declining species. They have provided wooden nest boxes which sit precariously on the exterior of the scaffolding. The next generation of young swifts will be long gone before the scaffolding comes down and the nest boxes have to be moved. You can see them up high on the side of the scaffolding in two columns at the top of the sheeting facing the camera as I took the photo. Let's hope the swifts take to them and their breeding cycle is not disrupted.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Spring at the Kaolin Pits

 I visited one of my favourite nature sites the other day, mainly to make contact with the next door neighbour. I wanted to ask them if we could park right outside their gate if I organised an outing in the early summer. They turned out to be very friendly and agreeable, so not only have I got a generous parking area, but they will come on the outing as well. They are clearly quite interested in the site, particularly the bird life. So that's good.

I made a quick site visit and here is a selection of photos: 

Hypochromatic Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A hypochromatic (under pigmented) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio (Fr. Orchis buffon).

Orchid habitat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Orchid habitat.

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A typical Green-winged Orchid.

Unusual mutation in Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
An unusual mutation of Green-winged Orchid.

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Green-winged Orchid.

Swarm of honey bees, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A swarm of honey bees Apis mellifera (Fr. un essaim d'abeilles) going over my head, the second I'd seen that day.

Violet Fritillary Clossiana dia, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Violet Fritillary butterfly Clossiana dia (Fr. Petite violette).

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Green-winged Orchid.

Green-winged Orchids Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Green-winged Orchids in their habitat.

Green-winged Orchids Anacamptis morio, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Green-winged Orchids on the edge of the former kaolin pit.

Former kaolin pit now filled with water, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The former kaolin pit at the heart of the site, now full of water.