Thursday 29 February 2024


This is our 18th annual cowslip photo. It was taken in Lisa and Simon's front garden on the 28th February. It's actually been flowering about 3 weeks, but this is the first time I've remembered to photograph it when it wasn't raining.

I think 18 years now qualifies it as a proper tradition.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Colours Chosen

After much debate and many consultations we have chosen the colours for our newly insulated rooms.

If you're going to go bold, go bold big time!!

Tuesday 27 February 2024

A Wedding in Vouvray

Our friend Laetitia got married on Saturday. She asked if she could be driven in Claudette from the wedding celebration venue Domaine de la Roderie to the annexe of the Town Hall in Vouvray where the official wedding was taking place. After that we all went back to la Roderie for drinks and another, private, exchange of vows and the speeches. Finally there would have been a meal, but we didn't stay for that. Driving a Traction Avant at night in the rain is not an enjoyable experience, so we left at dusk to get Claudette back into her garage before dark.


Tables set for the reception.

Wedding reception set up, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The first photo of the bride was taken by me, as by the time she emerged at la Roderie the photographer had left for the town hall,

Bride, Indre et loire, France . Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Laetitia seated in Claudette.

Bride, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Wedding guests clustering around the entrance to the Auchan supermarket carpark, opposite the annexe to the Vouvray town hall where the wedding would take place. It looked like we were waiting to start a manif (street demonstration).

Wedding guests waiting for the bride, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Claudette arriving at Vouvray town hall annex, driven by Simon and carrying Laetitia, her mum and her best friend.

Citroen Traction Avant at a wedding, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The newlyweds and their parents (and nephew). At the end of the official ceremony the mayor chipped them for having just moved from Vouvray to Montlouis, the rival wine town on the opposite bank of the Loire!

NewLy married coupLe and parents, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire VaLLey Time TraveL.

The Mums have a word.

Wedding, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

We were served mulled cider and hot chocolate under an awning at la Roderie while we waited for the bride and groom to arrive after a photo session in Vouvray.

Serving muLLed cider, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire VaLLey Time TraveL.

The second ceremony, in the barn at la Roderie. Guests were given fleece blankets.

Wedding, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

One got a good view of the 17th century barn roof construction.

17C barn roof construction, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Domaine de la Roderie

Monday 26 February 2024

Digging out Stuff

I spent yesterday working on the end wall of our salon. I'm about one third of the way through the first step, which is digging the crud out from between the stones. It has to be at least 30mm deep, and that's a lot of mud, plaster, and stuff.

You can see where I've been working, the section on the right is almost done. It's going to be tricky working near the ceiling, but I'll find a way. It's all been done with a chisel and hammer. I could use the electric destroyer, but I think it would be too aggressive.

The effect we're hoping to end up with is this. Our previous pierre apparent walls were done with lime and red sand. This time we're going to use white sand.

Saturday 24 February 2024

No Blog Post Today

That's mainly because I've spent the last two days making dust.

There's only so many things you say say about dust before descending into the profane, and all photos of dust look the same.

So instead, a photo of a bunch of rich fat Dutch blokes I took in Amsterdam last year.

Friday 23 February 2024

Oh! How it Rained

It rained most of yesterday morning and afternoon, and the rain was accompanied by gusty winds.

The weather forecast wasn't looking promising by mid morning with the wind warning uprated from 80km/h to 95km/h, and it certainly felt like that on the road from Preuilly to Châtellerault. There was some flooding and a lot of debris on the road, and when we came out if the hardware shop it was absolutely hammering it down.

These photos of the Claise were taken a couple of days ago. If anything, the river is higher now.

Thursday 22 February 2024

Casting for Les Bodin's

Les Bodin's is a comic double act created in 1994 and based at Descartes. Comedians, writers and directors Vincent Dubois and Jean-Christian Fraiscinet have created the characters of Maria Bodin, a cunning and manipulative old widowed farmer in her 80s, and her gormless son Christian.

Casting sign, France.

Every July for the past 19 years they have put on a big outdoor show called 'les Bodin's, Grandeur Nature' on a local farm. It has become a cult and is already sold out for this year.

Casting Les Bodin's, France. Photo LVTT.

The duo perform live as the characters at festivals and charity events around the country, and every so often they make a film or a television show.

Casting Les Bodin's, France. Photo LVTT.

I've never seen them perform, but it is clear they are madly popular in the district (at least with an older crowd -- I don't think the under 40s are so enamoured). My guess is that if you like British comedies like Mrs Brown's Boys, you would like les Bodin's if you were French speaking. I would also observe that the French taste in comedy can be remarkably unsophisticated...

Casting Les Bodin's, France. Photo by LVTT.

Anyway, great excitement in Preuilly when it was announced all over Facebook that les Bodin's would be coming to town and casting 600 extras for their next movie. Hundreds of people duly turned up at the salles des fetes to try out as villagers, cattle herder, goat farmer, receptionists, militant ecologists, police officers, acrobatic dancers, musicians, marching girls, accordionist, tie wearing public servants, little girl and a teenage boy. Our friend Mathieu didn't even have to audition. The production team approached him at work behind the bar of his restaurant, l'Image, and asked if he'd play himself in a bar scene.

So I guess we'll go and see the movie once it's released. There will most probably be a special pre-release showing in the salle des fetes.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Renovation Update 2

Work on our house is progressing.

The plasterers have finished, but now the plaster has to dry. As is normal in old houses they have had to do a fair amount of thinking on their feet, the main problem being the ceilings. Of course, the house being a bit old nothing is either square or level, and in order for us to be able to open the windows a split level ceiling has been installed - a 5 cm higher section above the window opening.

In addition to working on the fireplace in the bedroom, I have done some further work on the stone wall in the salon. This is a dirty and dusty job, which involves removing layers of soot, grime and dust from the stone and cleaning the joints between them. Some of this appears to have been mud (I'm being polite) which either falls off in clumps or turns to brown dust. Most unappealing.

The electrician returned yesterday to do the lights (and light switch) in the salon then it's a couple of weeks of dirt, grime and dust before we start painting.

The wall mounted up lighters are in place

and they turn on (don't worry, they're not as
bright as it would appear in the photo)


Tuesday 20 February 2024

What's the Rush?

Once upon a time there would have been a rush weaver in nearly every village, and the plant they used would have been abundant on the edges of rivers and étangs (dams) where the water was shallow and still. Now the plant, true bulrush Schoenoplectus lacustris, is sufficiently rare that if you have it growing on a site you can have it declared a Zone Naturelle d'Interet Ecologique, Floristique et Faunistique (ZNIEFF). It is easy to cultivate, but rush products went out of fashion and the skills to process the plant were lost. Nowadays it is making a comeback, but as an aquatic plant used in environments that need stabilising.


True Bulrush at the Etang du Louroux, a great purpose built pisciculture dam, hand dug in the Middle Ages, so this is a scene that has barely changed for eight hundred years.

True Bulrush Schoenoplectus lacustris, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

In French bulrush is known as Jonc des chaisiers ('chairmakers' rush') because it was used to weave the seats of chairs. And it was used by coopers to bind barrels before the iron hoops were put on, hence it's alternative French name of Jonc des tonneliers. Up until the 1960s, rush harvesting was a quite lucrative side hustle for farmers with marshy land (particularly in the Marais Poitevin). These days though, 'rush' seats are made from twisted paper fibre or seagrass.

Rush matting on the floor, specially made in the 16th century style for the garderobe of Chateau of Azay le Rideau by an English rush weaver experienced in historical reproductions.

Some years ago curators at the Chateau of Azay le Rideau recreated Philippe Lesbahy's 16th century bedroom and included rush matting.

Taking their cue from a well known portrait of a royal mistress in the bath, hand made rush matting was commissioned from an English artisan who is one of the few remaining professional rushworkers in Western Europe. The painting shows the walls of the room the woman sits in as lined with rush matting. The chateau sadly does not have the original painting on display -- that's in Washington -- but it does have a 19th century version that you can get extremely close to and scrutinise for details.The actual braiding pattern for the matting is based on a fragment found at Hampton Court Palace.

Detail of the rush matting.
The matting is made from true bulrush Schoenoplectus lacustris (not reedmace Typha spp, which is commonly called bulrush), which in Philippe's day would have been harvested from any of the local rivers or wetlands and worked by a local artisan. It is plaited into long strips then sewn together to form a mat. Its lifespan isn't all that great on the floor, and it would have been treated as sacrificial -- strewn with aromatic herbs to keep it fresh smelling, but removed and burnt once too dirty, worn through or the population of fleas it harboured got unbearable. Because it was 'modular', clean unworn strips from the edges of rooms could be salvaged and combined with new strips when the floor covering was replaced.

You can see the rush matting on the walls of the bedroom at the Chateau of Azay le Rideau.

Rush matting was a relatively cheap and easily available alternative to expensive carpets and tapestries. The purpose of all of these soft furnishings was to prevent cold radiating from the stone walls and to deaden sound in large echoing rooms. Housekeeping was easy -- dirt mostly just falls through, but it is a good idea to periodically mist with water to keep the rush in good condition and pleasantly aromatic.


True Bulrush in a ZNIEFF at Chambon.

True Bulrush Schoenoplectus lacustris, Indre et loire, france. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Monday 19 February 2024

Creating A Stink in Normandy

Normandy is on everyone's social media at the moment, in the lead up to the 80 anniversary of the invasion. So I've had several conversations recently about Normandy and what one can do there. One of the things one can do is seek out Pont l'Eveque cheese. Below is a repost from ten years ago about the stinky Norman cheese.


France is famous for its cheese, and quite a few French cheeses are distinctly aromatic. One of the stinkiest comes from the area between Deauville and Lisieux in Lower Normandy. Simon loves to tell people the story of us spending Christmas in the area and taking a block of the local Pont l'Eveque cheese home on Eurostar.

The other day he announced that the fridge smelled, as if there was stinky cheese in there, but he couldn't see the source of the aroma and was mystified. Eventually I remembered that I had bought a Petit Pont l'Eveque some days earlier. It was unopened, and hidden under something else, but after a few days in the fridge had completely stunk it out. We happily unwrapped it and ate it and the fridge problem disappeared. A clear win-win.

There is a very fine line between good stinky and bad stinky with cheese. Once the lactic aromas go over a certain level or develop in a certain way the cheese turns from being a delicious treat to something disgusting that turns the stomach. But the cut-off point between delicious and disgusting is different depending on where you were raised and what foods you have been exposed to.

The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss had quite a lot to say about this particular aspect of our approach to food and how our attitudes are culturally acquired. He points out that these distinctions are entirely learnt, and not instinctive or innate as one might think. He illustrates his point at one stage by relating how, in the days after D-Day, American troops would occasionally encounter fairly whiffy dairies in the Norman countryside. To the unsophisticated Americans, who had never been exposed to anything more challenging than processed cheddar, they assumed the dairies were full of dead bodies, and burnt them to the ground. They were revolted and wanted to eliminate the smell.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Beer Tales

When we first moved to London in 1997 we didn't have much time or money to spend exploring Europe. Our focus was very much towards visiting family in Australia, or taking visitors around England.

Once both of us were working we had a little disposable income, the channel tunnel had lost a little of it's novelty, and companies were doing cut price weekend deals to Brussels and Paris. Our first two European adventures were Friday evening to Sunday evening trips to Brussels, and this was followed by a similar trip to Paris.

The Stadhuis van Brussel, last year

This means we have an attachment to Brussels. Our first trip we stayed just outside the city centre. The weather was very warm and dry, and we found ourselves in the Grand Place in front of the Stadhuis van Brussel (town hall). The square is lined with bars with inviting umbrellas, and as it was a hot day we decided that a beer at 11am wasn't a decision that needed much thinking about. We ordered, and on receiving Susan's order the waiter said "it's a tripel" in a warning tone of voice. Susan took the attitude that she was an Aussie and beer didn't frighten her and said "yeah yeah", only to discover she had half a pint of beer so strong it made her gums go numb. Before lunch.

Jolly japes.

When we visited Brussels with Lisa last year we had to go back to the Grand Place. It's a pilgrimage to the place where we started to realise they do things different over there.

Friday 16 February 2024

Walking From Etableau

On Monday 12 February we joined the Phoenix en Claise walking group on a 5.5 kilometre circuit from Etableau, up to the Chateau de la Vienne, across to Courvault then back to Etableau on the voie verte (greenway). It took us an hour and a half.


 The wicker (Fr. osier) weaver's workshop in Etableau.

Wicker weaver's workshop, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The walking group approaching the 19th century Chateau de la Vienne (privately owned and not open to the public).

Walkers approaching the Chateau de la Vienne, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Snowdrops Galanthus sp are out everywhere in the Claise Valley at the moment. It's hard to know if these are native or naturalised.

Snowdrops Galanthus sp, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The gable end of this barn in Courvault is constructed mainly of flint.

Barn built of flint, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The hamlet of Courvault.

Courvault, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Renovation Update

We've written bits and bobs about the insulation and lining of our salon and bedroom, so it's time to give an overview.

The exterior walls of the rooms are being given 120mm (5 inches) of insulating rockwool, which has heat and acoustic insulating properties. It should keep our bedroom cooler in summer, as well as retaining heat in winter. It's all being hidden behind a plasterboard wall on a metal frame. Of course it will reduce the size of the rooms - quite surprisingly so - but the house should be much more liveable.

The builders arrived on Monday last week and started immediately in the salon. I realised that if we wanted to have a stone wall in the salon I should remove the concrete before work progressed too far. This involved two evenings of bashing my thumb (and occasionally a cold chisel) with a hammer, the tidying away the rubble before the builders arrived next day. It was dirty and dusty work, but the end results should be worth it. It already looks a lot better, but now the stones and the gaps between them need cleaning with a wire brush.

By Friday most of the insulation and much of the plasterboard had been installed so it was time for Stan the electrician to do his first fit. Over the weekend I attacked the fireplace in the bedroom, then worked continued on the remainder of the walls and the ceilings.

By yesterday evening we had reached this stage: the walls and ceiling of the bedroom are 90% insulated and plastered (and the joints done) while the salon only awaits a ceiling. Then the electricity has to be finished, then sanding and painting the walls, sanding and varnishing the floor of the bedroom, scrubbing the tiles in the salon, and doing the pierre apparent - also in the salon.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Walking From Maire

On Monday 5 February we joined the Phoenix en Claise walking group for a 6 kilometre circuit from the small pretty village of Mairé, overlooking the Creuse River. This is always a challenging walk, as it includes the most elevation change of any of our local walks. We had to struggle up a further 145 metres from our start point -- nowhere else has this much climbing! And it was very muddy in places. We had to stop twice to lever  mud off our boots with sticks we found at the side of the track. The walk took one and three-quarter hours, including fording streams, climbing hills, taking photographs and shedding mud build ups.


Mairé town hall and war memorial.

Town hall and war memorial, Vienne, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The main street of Mairé and looking down into the Creuse Valley.

Maire, Vienne, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Palms in a front garden in the village (I assume Windmill Palm Trachycarpus fortunei).

Palms in garden in central France. Photo by loire Valley time Travel.

A view from the heights.

View, central France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel,

Fording a stream...

Fording a stream, Vienne, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

...because the foot bridge looks like this...

Broken footbridge, Vienne, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Abandoned agricultural machine.

Abandoned agricultural machine, Vienne, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.