Monday 31 July 2023

In Season at the Market in Preuilly

 We are at the height of summer fruit in the market in Preuilly.


Sandie has three varieties of organic figs from her orchard Fruits O'Kalm on the edge of town.

Figs at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Surprisingly, the green ones are the most 'figgy'. The apples behind are from a very early cropping tree that is an unknown but very good variety.

Figs at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Blood peaches. Expect to see these on the menu at l'Image, the newly reopened restaurant on the market place in Preuilly. I happen to know that Chef Chris bought 3kg of them.

Blood peaches at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


This year there is a bumper plum crop. These yellow plums are an unknown variety. I served them roasted, with a dollop of mascarpone.

Yellow plums at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.



Damsons at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Sylvain has more organic tomatoes than he knows what to do with from his market garden Les jardins vergers de la Petite Rabaudiere just outside of Preuilly. He has resorted to sending a tonne of them to a processor in Le Blanc.

Tomatoes at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Organic heritage tomatoes at the farm shop at La Petite Rabaudiere.

Tomatoes at a farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

All the produce shown is organic and grown on a farm just outside Preuilly. You can purchase the veggies from the farm shop on Monday from 16:00 to 19:00 or at the market in Preuilly on Thursday mornings. The fruit can be purchased at the market in Preuilly on Saturday mornings.

Link to the Facebook page of Les Jardins Vergers de la Petite Rabaudiere:

Saturday 29 July 2023

Andorran Orchids and Scenery

We spent a couple of days in Andorra on our recent trip south. The independent principality is landlocked and very mountainous. Our apartment was at 1750 metres above sea level and the peaks all over 2000 metres. It is a well known tax haven and ski destination, so in the summer nice apartments are remarkably affordable. 

A lovely drift of Heath Spotted Orchids Dactylorhiza maculata, at about 2000 metres.

Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata, Andorra. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

We did a bit of sightseeing and took a cable car up to one of the ski stations. There was a little stream running down from the peak, and a lovely selection of alpine wild flowers nearby, so for very little effort I was delighted. 

Typical Andorran scenery.

Andorra. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Friday 28 July 2023

Picnics part 2

A follow-up...

We're not very good at photographing meals. This is a good thing, because it means we concentrate on our food, not what it looks like or bragging about it. The only problem is we have carried that over into picnic spots, which mean some of the more private places we have picnicked at we have no record of, and we have to rely on Streetview for images.

After leaving Andorra we had breakfast in Spain on the highway near Adrall.

Later the same day we had lunch in France near Lez.

A couple of days later we lunched at Eaux-Bonnes

Thursday 27 July 2023

Half a Day in Bologna

After our visit to the parmesan dairy we had just half a day to explore Bologna.

The first decision to be made was parking. I finally decided on Parcheggio Staveco, a privately owned car park on the inner ring road, thus avoiding the ZTL (low emission zone). We found the car park ok, but there was a line of cars at the entry barrier. Eventually we worked out that the car park was actually full, and new people were only being let in when someone left. We spent about 10 minutes in a queue, and then we were parked!

I had planned a circular walking route using various websites to take in the major sights. We didn't have much time (about three hours including lunch) so it was outside views only. Here are our visual highlights:

We liked the look of Bologna, even though it was stinking hot. The crowds hadn't yet arrived (if they ever really do) and it's pleasantly old and - in the centre, anyway - appears neat and prosperous. We will have to return - off season, and better researched.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Parmesan Part 3

After our tour of the Dairy it was time for us to get to grips with the taste of Parmesan Reggiani. We had experienced the smell of fresh parmesan curds - very lactic - and thousands of maturing parmesan cheeses (which it has to be said was amazing and surprisingly not redolent of a laundry basket at all) but so far no tastes.

In a large tent in front of the farm shop were a series of trestle tables and benches. On the tables was ranged 3 ages of organic Parmigiano Reggiano, Caciotta (a very soft rinded cheese), Ricotta, bread, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, honey, lambrusco, and still and sparkling mineral water. A huge amount of 24, 40 & 80 month parmesan was hacked off, and we were told to help ourselves. Excellent!!

Everything was proper local produce, fresh (apart from the mature cheese) and extremely tasty. In some places you would pay a lot of money for that much nourishment, but it was part of our 20€ per person tour.

After the tour we visited the farm shop and bought 1kg of 40 month old, and 1kg of 80 month old cheese. The total cost for all that dairy goodness? 53€50. For two kilograms of artisan made, organic, mature Parmesan.

If you're near Modena I thoroughly recommend that you visit Caseificio Bio Reggiani. It was an amazing experience, and we have a fridge full (ok, half full) of memories. We have visited quite a few food producers, but this was the best food tour experience I have had. They also have an online shop just in case you're feeling parmesan deprived.

Caseificio Bio Reggiani
Via Baracca 6/A
Castelfranco Emilia MO

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Parmesan Part 2

Following on from Sunday's post:

Once the cheese is formed, the mold is removed and the cheese is bathed in a very heavy brine. Not only does this salt the cheese, but it helps the rind form. Parmesan is all cheese - there is no wax or cloth involved.

The cheese then goes into the maturing room. At this stage you can see the embossing in the rind, with an open oval section. This cheese is less than 12 months old.


After 12 months the cheese is tested to ensure it is of high enough quality to be sold as Parmesan Reggiano. The testing is not done by tasting, it's done by sound. The cheese is tapped with a little wooden hammer by an  expert from the licencing board. Our guide demonstrated on a plastic "cheese" that has the same resonance as a cheese that conforms to standard.

At that stage the oval in the centre of the cheese is stamped and returned to storage. Cheese that doesn't pass the test is sold as just "parmesan" (without the "reggiano") or sent out to be sold as grated cheese.

As you can see - theres an awful lot of cheese in Italy! (once again, I hope the video works. If not, its here.)

Monday 24 July 2023

Smelling the Melon's Bottom...

 ...and other top tips for discerning the ripeness of that iconic local fruit, the Charentais melon.

Charentais melon, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Charentais melon, cut in half.

Some people press the stem or the flower end to see if they give a bit. Some people get up close and personal to smell them. They should be fragrantly melon scented, not boozy smelling (a sign of over-ripeness and fermenting). Others tap them to see if they make the right hollow sound, and a few heft them in their hand to check they are heavy for their size. A widely held belief is that the best melons have exactly 10 ribs and some people won't buy melons with fewer or more than this. 

Melons marked in order of ripeness, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Melons marked by the producer in the order we should eat them.

Be careful though, touching the melons is often frowned upon by the market traders, and it can be a sure way of indicating that you are a tourist if you pick up a melon without asking first. It's OK to pick up a melon in the supermarket though.

Melons at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Melons at Preuilly market, sold by the local producer.

Personally, I ask the melon seller to choose me one. They will normally ask when I want to eat it and choose one that is good for aujourd'hui, demain or apres-demain as appropriate. A top tip from the melon growers themselves is to look for signs of cracking around the edge of the more or less smooth circular bit the stalk is attached to. This is a sign the melon is well and truly ripe and about to detach itself from the plant. I much prefer to buy melons direct from the producer, either at a market or on the farm, and rarely buy a supermarket melon. Producers will have their best melons on display for locals to buy and will indicate honestly any that are not such good quality.

Duo of melon and tomato with air dried ham, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Duo of melon and tomato with air dried ham, made by our chef friend Fréd as a starter.

Smelling the melon's stem end to check for ripeness is known as 'sentir son cul' (smelling its bum) and is what most French people would do.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Parmesan Part 1

Our 2023 holiday was over three weeks long. One of the first places we visited (and one of the first I had put on my list of places to visit) was Caseificio BIO Reggiani, an organic parmesan dairy near Modena.

The dairy was started in 1984 by a couple with five cows, which she milked by hand. Today's it's an enormous enterprise with over 500 cows, still run by the same couple (although technically they have retired) but with the help of many staff. They started going organic in 2005, and they now operate as a closed circle, producing all their own stock feed and dealing with their own waste, with a methane plant providing electricity.

We booked for a 9:00am tour in English. Booking for 8am or 9am means you get to see the cheese being made, and maybe even the cows being milked. We missed the milking, but saw every stage of the cheese production.

Cheese production starts with the cows, who live in airy sheds with big fans, from which the cows can access the fields at will on fine days.

The cows are milked twice a day, and the morning milk (full fat content)
is added to the milk from the previous evening and rennet is added.

Once the curds form, they are strained through cheesecloth.

And placed in plastic molds and weighted...

After a day they are transferred to metal molds with embossed interiors to create their official Parmesan markings.

More to come in part 2.

Saturday 22 July 2023

The Bridges of Sete

Because of its geography, the city of Sète, which sits between the Mediterranean Sea and the saltwater lagoon or bassin of the Etang de Thau in Hérault, Occitanie, has to juggle two different types of traffic -- vehicular and marine. To ensure easy transfer from one canal to another, several bridges lift up to let boats pass at set times during the day.

Ponts Sadi-Carnot (road), left, and Foch (railway), right, in their raised positions.

Ponts Sadi-Carnot and Foch, Sete, Herault, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

If you live in Sète you have to learn to live with the eleven bridges, five of which lift up or pivot to allow boats through. When a bridge is raised road and rail traffic is halted for a few minutes. Boat captains can also request that a bridge is lifted at a certain time, which they can now only do by booking online or going to the port office in person. Until last year you could book a bridge raising by telephone, but that service no longer operates.

Pont Sadi-Carnot.

Pont Sadi-Carnot , Sete, Herault, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The Pont Sadi-Carnot, which we had to wait to cross, is new. The old bridge had to be dismantled and replaced in 2019 with a new bridge which came from Italy. The bridge carries a lot of heavy transport vehicles and in total more than 20 000 vehicles per day. It is at a point where all maritime traffic is obliged to transit too.

Pont Foch.

Pont Foch , Sete, Herault, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Friday 21 July 2023

Visiting Van Gogh

When we were in Arles we did the tourist thing, one of which is tracking down the location of Van Gogh paintings.

Thursday 20 July 2023

Things You Have to See

In France you would be disappointed if you didn't see a 2CV. In Germany, you'd be hoping to see a VW beetle.

We ticked off one of our Italian expectations not far from our villa in Tuscany. Who doesn't like the original FIAT 500?

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Back to Work

Susan was back at work the day after we returned from our holiday, but we had our first tour using Claudette yesterday.

We met Tom and Rose a number of years ago, and this year they have returned to give their family the treat of touring in a 1950s style. Here they all are at Domaine de la Tortiniere.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Swimming in the Med

On the 28th of June I mentioned a sunrise swim in the Mediterranean.

We were staying in Sanremo on the Ligurian coast on our way from Florence to Arles. We could have done the whole trip in one day (7 hours of highway driving), but that would have meant driving past stuff we thought we probably wanted to see.

The idea of a swim came to us after dinner, late the evening before. I checked for public beaches in the area (private beaches... what are they about??) and discovered a horseshoe cove a five minute walk from our accommodation. 


Volo Beach is on the outskirts of Sanremo, and is overlooked by a German World War Two miniature submarine base. The water is clear (and very salty and buoyant) and full of little fish that nibble your feet as soon as you stop swimming.

Not drowning, waving

It probably isn't the most picturesque of beaches, but at 06:30 it was private, quiet, and pretty enough to feel special.

Monday 17 July 2023

At L'Image in Preuilly sur Claise

Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

While we were on holiday L'Image, on the market place in Preuilly sur Claise, finally reopened. It has been taken over by our friends Matthieu, Sihan, Manuela and Chris. They've given the place a good sprucing, but not transformed it into something no one who knew and loved the old L'Image would not recognise. One really noticeable difference is the light levels in the bar, which are no longer restricted by heavy curtains.

Chris was given some wild celery from just down the road, and is making celery salt. I might have to give this a go myself!

Celery salt and Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

For the moment, the place is a bar that opens in the morning at ten o'clock for the day, until eleven o'clock at night, and does small plates of tempting tasty food from five o'clock in the evening onwards, Tuesdays to Saturdays. Later, as resources and renovations allow, the restaurant will reopen.

Matthieu behind the bar.

Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

On Bastille Day we popped in after swimming for a bite to eat and a drink. We shared a market platter and I had a non-alcoholic martini, Simon had a non-alcoholic beer. We also shared two desserts (a raspberry bundt cake and  roasted apricots with cream) and had a coffee each. The welcome is friendly, relaxed and completely bilingual French and English. Everything was absolutely delicious! I especially recommend the non-alcoholic martini, the curried chicken rillettes, the cucumber salad and the apricot cream. The raspberry cake deserves an honorable mention too. 

Sihan's sensational raspberry bundt cake.

Raspberry bundt cake, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Broadly speaking, the food is French traditional, with international overtones giving it a creative edge. The main focus is ingredient led not any particular cuisine style though. As far as possible all the ingredients are locally sourced and carefully prepared to make the most of their qualities. 

Market platter (Fr. Assiette du marché).

Market platter, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

It is really nice to have somewhere relaxed, flexible and informal to pop into whenever we want to, and virtually on our doorstep. 

Roast apricots with cream (Fr. Abricots roti, creme fraiche, amaretti).

Roasted apricots and cream, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


The menu for 14 July.

Menu, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Chris chopping shallots.

Chopping shallots, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Chocolate coffee tart with strawberry coulis (Fr. Tarte chocolat café fraise).
Chocolate Coffee tart, Restaurant L'Image 37, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

You can find the Restaurant L'Image 37 on social media -- Facebook:; and Instagram:

Sunday 16 July 2023

Picnics (part 1)

On our recent holiday we were away three weeks, so I decided that for lunch we would picnic where possible in the hope of saving money (to spend on gelati). This meant trying to plan our route so that we could picnic at a table that was in the shade, something that town planners in Europe aren't spectacularly good at. Luckily my navigation app of choice (organic maps) can be made to show picnic tables in an area, and streetview can show if they are shaded.

We managed nine picnic lunches, two picnic breakfasts, and one picnic dinner. In addition we ate a number of meals at our various accomodations that would have counted as picnics if we had been outdoors. A typical picnic was bread, green salad, cheese, tomatoes, preserved meat, fresh fruit, 

These are some of our favorite picnic places from June/July 2023

On the first day we picnicked at the Chapelle des Moines de Berzé-la-Ville.

The next day we launched on the top of the world at Claviere

Ten days later we had a very nice picnic dinner on the banks of the river in Arles.

More recommended picnic spots to follow.

Saturday 15 July 2023


Aigues-Mortes, or in Occitan, Aigas Mòrtas, is a small town in the Petite Camargue, in the southernmost part of Gard, in the region of Occitanie, on the Mediterranean coast, about 30 kilometres from Nimes and Montpellier. The climate is hot-summer Mediterranean and the town sits in the delta of the Rhone, with the river Vidourle flowing through it, as well as several canals and other water courses. As a result it is somewhere you will see a variety of canal boats and barges. It is surrounded by nature reserves, sites of special scientific interest, shallow man made lakes known as étangs, and coastal saltmarsh. The birdlife in the area is considered particularly important, with 240 species having been recorded, 50 of which use the surrounding habitat to breed.

Ramparts of Aigues-Mortes, Gard, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The town is famous for its ramparts and arenas where traditional Camarguaise bull fights are held. It is also a significant producer of salt in traditional salt pans. Salt has been produced here since Neolithic times, and the inhabitants were exempt from the the hated salt tax that was introduced in the Middle Ages. Winters are mild and summers hot, with lots of sun and frequent gusty strong winds. Climate change seems set to make the area hotter and drier, and the community is hit by severe flooding and storms at least once a decade.

Aigues-Mortes was where Louis IX (Saint Louis) embarked in 1248 on his first Crusade (the Seventh) and in 1270 on his second (the Eighth) and last. The name Aigues-Mortes means 'stagnant' or 'dead water', and the town is surrounded by water nobody can drink. Louis IX had the port and ramparts constructed so he had a strategic Mediterranean base, and was no longer dependent on the Italian maritime republics for transport to the Crusades. At the time there was already an 8th century tower there which Charlemagne had built as a watchtower to protect fishermen and salt pan workers. In Charlemagne's time though the inhabitants lived in huts hidden amongst the reeds.

Ramparts of Aigues-Mortes, Gard, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


From the 15th century Aigues-Mortes began to silt up and lose access to the sea. It was losing strategic value, and only the importance of the salt industry caused the authorities to work on solutions. Nothing was very successful until in the 19th century the river port was connected to the Rhone - Sete canal, and excessive clearing of the surrounding land, which had been causing erosion and alluvial deposits, was discouraged.

In the 16th century, during the Wars of Religion, Aigues-Mortes was one of the eight official safe havens for Calvinists. Early in the 17th century Jean d'Harambure, one of Henri IV's closest Protestant companions, who was also given lands in and around Preuilly, was the governor. Once the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685 the most of the inhabitants of Aigues-Mortes either converted to Catholicism or went into exile. But 15 year old Marie Durand was imprisoned in one of the towers and held for 38 years, during which time she carved the word 'résister', still visible on the edge of a well.

In 1893 Aigues-Mortes was the site of the worst pogrom in French history. The targets were Italian immigrant salt industry workers. No one was ever charged or convicted with any crime associated with the event and it caused a diplomatic incident.

The black bulls and white horses of the Camargue are raised in the marshes surrounding the town so they are practically wild. The Camargue bull is the smallest of the Spanish fighting breeds. It is mainly used for bull running and fighting events. The Camargue horse is an indispensible companion to the Gardians, as the herders are known. It seems that the prehistoric Solutré horse which lived in the Rhone valley 10 000 years ago is the breed's ancestor. They are not very big, and are enormously resilient and adapted to their environment. They are born dark brown, and go progressively whiter after a few years. 

The medieval old centre of Aigues-Mortes is well preserved and attracts thousands of tourists (like us -- we had breakfast there one day). The ramparts are in a remarkable state of preservation, despite not having undergone the same level of restoration as Carcassone in the 19th century, for example.

Friday 14 July 2023

The Chapelle des Moines de Berzé-la-Ville

The first place we visited on our recent holiday was the painted Chapelle des Moines de Berzé-la-Ville.

It's the chapel of a priory farm owned by the abbey of Cluny and built around 1100. The chapel was built on a rock for the abbot Hugues de Semur, who received important guests there, including Pope Pascal II during Christmas 1106. Hugues died in 1109, before the building work and decoration was completed.

Saints of the first centuries: the mainly unknown (these days) Abdon, Sennen, Dorotheus, Gorgon, Sebastian, Sergius, Bacchus, Dionysus and Quintius

The martyrdom of Saint Blaise and Saint Vincent

Most of the buildings were rebuilt in the 17th century, and at some point the murals were covered. That was possibly after the French Revolution when the upper chapel was converted into a barn, and it wasn't until 1887 that the murals were re-discovered by chance by Philibert Jolivet, the parish priest.

Christ in Majesty, surrounded by the disciples and the Saints Benedict

The chapel was listed as a Historic Monument in 1893. After the Second World War, the buildings were put up for sale, and Dame Joan Evans, a British archaeologist and patron of the arts, bought the chapel and donated it to the Académie de Mâcon. In 2016 it was entrusted to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux to open to the public.

If you're in the area the chapel is well worth a visit. It's a bargain at 4€ per person.