Saturday 22 June 2024

Lunch in Mindin

Last Monday we drove to Carnac. As it's a longish sort of drive (certainly longer than the 3½ hours Google maps suggested) I planned a picnic lunch, with shelter if necessary. The spot I chose was in Mindin, across the water from St Nazaire. There were a couple of reasons for this, none of which I shared with Susan.

Approaching the Pont de Saint-Nazaire

This was the first reason. I love big bridges, and this qualifies. Unfortunately the weather was not great, but it was still a bit of an experience.

Where the Loire meets the sea.

I figure that line of rocks pointing to the far shore marks the end of the Loire river and the start of the sea. The Loire is important to us, so this is quite symbolic.

The Bridge again.

In the background is The Ville De Bordeaux, an airbus Roll On / Roll Off ship. It is now en route to the port of Mobile, USA and is expected to arrive there on July 1. Those three white towers on the ship are eSAIL, which uses wind energy to generate thrust, which means substantial fuel consumption and CO2 emissions savings. The system also generates lift, reducing the load on the ship’s main engines. 

Last year the ship was fitted with a 500m² 'Seawing' - an automated foil kite developed by AirSeas (an Airbus subsidiary) to provide wind assistance to propulsion. You can read more about it here. I'm not sure if both systems run at the same time.

Utopia of the Seas 

According to Wikipedia, "Utopia of the Seas is a cruise ship under construction for Royal Caribbean International. She will be the sixth ship in the Oasis Class and is scheduled to enter service on 19 July 2024 out of Port Canaveral." With any luck that means the last time France will see this monstrosity is in less than a month's time.

The Serpent d'Océan

The third reason I chose Mindin is the Serpent d'Océan, a 130 metre long sculpture made of aluminum. It represents the skeleton of an immense imaginary sea serpent, whose vertebrae undulate to end in an open mouth.

As somewhere to stop for an hour Mindin is full of interest. There is also a picnic shelter (only one), but the public toilets weren't open. Luckily there's a café restaurant opposite, that does good after lunch coffee.

Friday 21 June 2024

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was the longest day of the year. As we were near an arrangement of prehistoric standing stones it felt wrong not to do something to mark the occasion.

So at six o'clock yesterday morning we left our cabin and walked the 200 metres to a vantage point I had previously chosen, and waited. At 06:14 I took a photo of what should have been the sun rising over the standing stones of Carnac.

As you can see, it was cloudy in the east. The west was clear, though.

Thursday 20 June 2024

Wednesday 19 June 2024

A View From Brittany

We're away for a couple of days. This is what we've been looking at. Details will follow in due course.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Once Upon A Time in Loches -- Resistance Attacks 1944

 Poster for an exhibition on the liberation of loches, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

" Fighting intensified in the Touraine during 1944. Allied bombing was more frequent and Loches was welcoming a new wave of refugees. The tension, and the hatred of the German enemy, grew and the new landing of the Allies in Normandy gave hope to the population of Loches that the end of the war might be close. The maquisards (armed combattants) and Resistants saw it as an opportunity to redouble their action. 

On the night of 10-11 July 1944 a group of men led by Captain Lecoz arrived at the home of Dr Abribat in Saint Flovier to requisition one of his vehicles. Dr Abribat was a confirmed supporter of the Vichy Regime and a conviction Pétainist. He had even met Maréchal Pétain several times, making him a traitor to the Nation in the eyes of the Resistance. So when he refused their request and raised his voice a burst of machine gun fire from one of of the maquisards resulted in Abribat receiving two bullets in the head. His brutal death on this night in July, the first summary execution by the Maquis Lecoz, was perceived by the Germans as a provocation.

 During the summer of 1944 the Resistance attacks against the occupying Germans multiplied. On 14 July the young Resistants hoisted a Cross of Lorraine flag on the Donjon de Loches. Around Loches roads were blocked, railway tracks sabotaged and bridges dynamited. The Maquis Lecoz increased their provocative actions with snatching supposed collaborators and forcing the sons of Pétainists to join maquis groups. Lecoz's men frightened the local inhabitants and the Germans felt they had to respond."


This poster is part of an exhibition in the Chancellerie on 'Loches in 1944'

Monday 17 June 2024

Turning Back the Clock on the N10

Yesterday we did something that's becoming increasingly rare for us. We actually went to a car gathering with Claudette. It's not that we don't enjoy these events any more, it's just that Claudette is living in our garage near Tours whilst Célestine is poorly in our garage at home. This means that serious logistics is involved if we wish to take Claudette out for fun.

However - last week we happened to have Claudette at home, but needing to be returned to Tours. It just so happened that Nostal'10, who are restoring the old Bellevue (which we wrote about here), hold a monthly meet and it coincided (a planned coincidence) with our trip to Tours with Claudette. 

As usual, we ran into a number of friends and acquaintances, saw some cars we hadn't seen before, and had a convivial time.

The weather wasn't great...

A new banner.

We haven't seen this H-van before

Claudette with her close contemporaries 

Saturday 15 June 2024

We've had Visitors

I returned home from a little drive yesterday, and parked Claudette in the garden. Then I realised something was moving.

These are this years brood, only about 4 or 5 inches long. We've never seen hedgehogs in daylight, and we've never seen more than one at a time.

A little time after I took those videos I went out to check on them. I could find only one, and he was in our (grass) driveway, so I took more photos. It was obviously unafraid, because it kept shuffling towards me, making focusing rather difficult.

Later in the day again, we had another look and found the mother. All this means we'll have to check the garden before we do anything. Including moving the car, hanging washing on the line, and - of course - mowing the lawn.

Friday 14 June 2024

Outing to La Cabane, Bossay sur Claise

The group learning about a spider.
Group learning about spiders, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Around thirty people enjoyed discovering La Cabane on Saturday  25May. This privately-owned site has at its heart a former kaolin (china clay) quarry, which has been left to regenerate naturally for the past 40 years. Today, it is an extraordinary habitat where thousands of Tongue orchids thrive.


Knapweed Fritillary Melitaea phoebe (Fr. Mélitée des centaurées) on Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi (Fr. Lychnide fleur de coucou).

Knapweed Fritillary Melitaea phoebe, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.


This outing was the fruit of a partnership between the Association de Patrimoine Vivant de la Claise Tourangelle (PVCT), the Association de Préhistoire et d'Archéologie de Bossay (APAB) and the Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte Maure de Touraine (Botamyco37). The aim was to present the Cabane as a brand-new Zone Naturelle d'Interet Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique (ZNIEFF), and to explain the importance of recognizing these sites, which are still remarkably rich in biodiversity.


 Golden-eye lichen Teloschistes chrysophthalmus (Fr. Téloschiste ocellé), a lichen that is recovering from having been nearly wiped out. It nearly always grows on plants in the rose family.

Golden-eye lichen Teloschistes chrysophthalmus, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.


Each association contributed its own expertise, from ecology to industrial heritage. In addition to "star" species such as orchids, participants were able to see little-known species, enthusiastically presented by specialists. Everyone left with a new appreciation of the fascination that groups such as spiders and lichens can exert. Unfortunately, some of the details of the history of kaolin mining have already been lost, as all those who worked on the site have now passed away. 

Willowherb Hawk Moth Proserpinus proserpina (Fr. Sphinx de l'Epilobe). Although these are one of the few insect species that are protected, entomologists now think that it came about as a result of a misunderstanding of their behaviour, and although they are by no means common, they are probably localised rather than rare and endangered.

Willowherb Hawk Moth Proserpinus proserpina, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The range of species we observed was remarkable, adding to an already interesting and diverse species list. The protected Willowherb Hawk moth Proserpinus proserpina was observed for the first time on the site, and we saw everything from fish to flies, beetles to birds, woodlice to slugs.


 The group learning about orchids.

Group learning about orchids, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.


The day ended with an aperitif in the field, complete with cider and homemade cakes. My chocolate chip cookies were a big hit, and the recipe was distributed.


 The former kaolin quarry, now full of water.

Former kaolin quarry, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.


APAB - Christian Caillet and Solange Bigot, for booking and setting up the village hall.
PVCT - François Lefebvre and Bruno Delalle for organizing the flyers (and much more besides...).
Botamyco37 - Marie-Claude Derrien, Patrick Derrien and Marc Fleury for sharing their enthusiasm and expertise for lichens, spiders and orchids respectively.

Jean Pelle for sharing data from the last two decades on the site.

Didier Tranchant and Jean-Marie Millet for their help in researching the history of kaolin extraction.

Monique Bergeot, the owner of the site.

Jerome Desteve, the neighbour at la Touche au Lard, who kindly mowed us an area to park on.

The members of the three associations who participated and are now the defenders of this special site.


 Tongue Orchids Serapias lingua (Fr. Sérapias langue).

Tongue Orchid Serapias lingua, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Further reading: The outing report on the Botamyco37 website, in French, with photos, species list and my article on the history of the kaolin extraction.

My blog post on the history of the kaolin extraction:


 Two male Gorilla Jumping Spiders Evarcha arcuata (Fr. araignées sauteuses) fight over territory and a female.

Male Evarcha arcuata spiders fighting, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.
The habitat at la Cabane.
Habitat, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.
The site was very wet when we visited.
Habitat, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.
Female Field Cricket Gryllus campestris (Fr. Grillon campetre).
Female Field Cricket Gryllus campestris, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Thursday 13 June 2024


We've lived in Preuilly sur Claise for 15 years, and although we're not the most recent arrivals in town, and although no-one has ever been anything less than welcoming towards us, we are aware that compared to many inhabitants we are quite new to the area. 

This doesn't mean we haven't noticed changes.

One of the most recent changes has been to an ex-tailors' shop at the top of our street. We have written about it before at least once, and posted photos. It has had a couple of changes of colour since then, and on a recent walk past I noticed it had been decorated. It's very stylish and adds a nice touch to the streetscape.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Look Out For Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moths in the Touraine Loire Valley

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moths Hemaris fuciformis (Fr. Sphinx gazé) is a large moth with clear wings bordered by, you guessed it, a broad brown band present in all but the most northerly parts of the Palearctic biogeographic realm ie you can see this species in Eurasia and North Africa.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moth Hemaris fuciformis, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

They are day flying and live in flower rich grasslands, fallow land, woodland clearings, along forest edges and rides, and sunny gardens, where they feed on the nectar of blue and violet flowers, like their cousins the Hummingbird Hawk Moth. They especially like bugles, sages, scabious and buddleia. The caterpillars eat honeysuckles.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moth Hemaris fuciformis, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Once Upon A Time in Loches -- the Loches Maquis 1944

Poster for an exhibition on the liberation of loches, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

" During 1944 the Loches and Sud Touraine maquis set themselves up and prepared for resistance actions against the Germans. The following maquis (armed combattants) were the most active around Loches:

*The Maquis d'Eperon, directed by Commandant Constantini, nicknamed Eperon, in reference to the Governor of the Chateau de Loches in the 16th century. He brought together more than six hundred men, mostly those dodging the draft into the STD (German compulsory labour scheme) and former officers of the 32nd Infantry Regiment. The Maquis d'Eperon was under the command of ORA (Army Resistance Organisation) and its bases were mainly in the Forests of Preuilly and la Celle Guenand.

Memorial to a maquis group, Indre et loire, france. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

*The Maquis Césario, also under the command of ORA. Led by sub-Lieutenant Brétegnier, alias Césario, who gathered more than 270 men in the Forests of Manthelan and then Verneuil.


WWII parachute drop site, Indre et loire, france. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel,

*The Groupe Franc-Tireurs et Partisans Francais (FTPF) was first put together in 1943 around the Loches Athletics Club Resistance hub before it was dismantled in July 1943. In 1944 it reformed under the leadership of Engineer Captain Imbert. Composed of about 150 men, it was close to the Communist Party. They operated successively from Perusson, Saint Hippolyte and then the Tivoli camp in Loches.

Remains of a camp kitchen at a maquis site in the forest, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

*The Maquis Lecoz is a specific case. It was a group of 155 men led by Captain Lecoz (real name Georges Dubosc). This fake captain and fake doctor founded his own maquis after having been rejected by Eperon. Known mainly for pillaging and summary executions, this 'black maquis' hung out initially in the Forest of Loches."


Note: The 32nd Infantry Regiment was traditionally made up of men from the Touraine, so they were locals, who knew the geography and the people.

This poster is part of an exhibition in the Chancellerie on 'Loches in 1944'

Monday 10 June 2024

Urban Bird Watching


Hang on...

almost there...


We were at the guinguette at Monday lunchtime, and this white wagtail (Motacilla alba) was most put out by the fact we were dining near its nest.

Saturday 8 June 2024

More of My Canberra Story

I've written before about the first house my family lived in when we arrived in Canberra. It was a house tied to my father's employment, and we were there for about three years.

After those three years we had risen to the top of the Government housing list and we were offered a new house in one of the (then) outer suburbs of Belconnen. Mum and Dad didn't want us to change schools yet again, so they agitated for a house that would allow us to stay at the same school.

The house we were eventually offered was an ex air force house which had been relocated from the country town of Tocumwal in the late 1940s as a rapid response to a serious housing shortage. About 200 houses had been relocated, many of them to O'Connor.

The Tocumwal Houses in O'Connor 

During World War 2 the American and Australian governments had jointly funded a major aircraft base for the US Army Air Corps at Tocumwal on the New South Wales-Victorian border. Barracks accommodating nearly 4000 personnel were built, designed externally to look like civilian houses to give the appearance from the air of an ordinary township and so avoid detection. 

The huts were made of weatherboard up to window sill height, and had fibro (fibreboard) sheeting between timber windows, and no ceilings or internal linings. The roofs were corrugated iron. After the war they were dismantled and transported by road to Canberra.

When they arrived in Canberra they were refitted as houses with a bathroom and separate indoor toilet, and the walls and ceilings were lined with fibreboard. Our house was a three bedroom house and originally had a cast iron wood burning range in the kitchen, and no other heating apart from a small wood stove in the lounge room. It was on a large block of land (¼ acre was common back then) and had an excellent climbing tree (a silver birch) in the front garden.

I have highlighted 1 Tate Street, our home for about 6 years

They were never the most desirable of houses, and there were objections that the relocated buildings were ‘sub-standard houses’ which would lower the value of houses in the surrounding suburbs. As time went on people put faux brick cladding on the houses, built in the verandahs and generally altered the appearance to make them more acceptable.

Then, in 1985 - nine years after we moved house yet again - the house we had lived in was burnt out, demolished, and replaced with a very large brick house. I doubt if anyone mourned its loss.

The newspaper article about the house burning down

Which makes it ironic that the area - and specifically the houses - were added to the Australian Capital Territory Heritage Register in 1998 and the ACT Heritage Register under the Heritage Act of 2004.