Friday 31 May 2024

A Fish Named Colin

The first time I realised that my restaurant french was really lacking was in 2003. By that time I had done some CD based lessons in the language, and like all these things it had concentrated first on language for tourists: transport, food, and emergencies. Thus I struck out to France for 8 days, 14 year old daughter in tow, confident in my ability to negotiate the perils of international travel in "foreign".

All was going remarkably well, until one damp Sunday evening in Honfleur. Being a harbour town it was obvious that we needed fish and chips. Being a tourist town on a wet Sunday evening in November it soon became obvious that finding fish and chips was not going to be the easy task we first thought. Eventually, however, we found an open restaurant in our price range that had food we (ok - she) recognised and approved of.

The fish on the menu was Colin, something I didn't recognise. "What sort of fish is Colin?" I asked, only to receive a bemused look. "It's... Colin" said the waitress (all done in English, I hasten to add). None the wiser, I ordered it, and since then Colin has been our inexpensive fish of choice.

But what sort of fish is Colin?


Colin is one of the French names for hake (Merluccius merluccius), the others being merlu and saumon blanc. However the name Colin may also be used for lieu noir (coley/saithe) or lieu jaune (pollack). They are all fish from the wider cod family and it's not easy to tell what species you're being sold, especially once it has been cooked. In a fishmonger's (and probably a supermarket) the common name might have the Latin name as well, but in restaurants it could be whatever sea caught fish with firm white flesh was cheapest in the market that day.

Sometimes Colin

That means that (unwittingly) my question "what sort of fish is Colin" was valid. It just didn't sound clever.

Thursday 30 May 2024

Looking Good

The Château de La Vallière is a chateau hotel near Reugny, north of Tours. On Tuesday we picked up some visitors to the Loire Valley for one of our tours. We think Claudette looks pretty good driving through the gates.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Monday May 29, 2006

On this day 18 years ago we first saw our house.

Writing about it soon after, we mentioned that one of the things that appealed to us was the fact it didn't appear to need too much work we couldn't do ourselves.

Our first photo of the house

So much for facts! (or is that "so much for appearances"?). After 18 years we now have a house we can comfortably live in, in a state where we don't have to apologise for the grime, grot, dust, and ramshackled-ness of it all - but phew. Of course, there is still more to be done: we haven't quite recovered our "spare room" after filling it up with stuff from other rooms, the entry hall (which we never use) is so full of overflow that you enter at you own risk, and I'm struggling with getting curtains up in a very restricted space.

But we're getting there. 

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Once Upon a Time in Loches -- a 'Free' Town 1940 - 1942


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

"The town of Loches was not immediately in the 'free' zone. In fact, following an administrative error Loches found itself in the Occupied Zone from 21 June to 11 July 1940. The Germans set themselves up in Rue Picois and in the barracks on Place de Verdun for a month. From 11 July, after the error was rectified, it was the Vichy Army which were installed at both Loches and Perusson.

The daily life of the residents of Loches and the surrounding countryside in the 'Free' Zone had a routine dictated by requisitions and rationning. The ration cards and tickets were distributed by the Town Hall. They covered not only food, like bread, flour or eggs, but also supplies such as petrol, wood or even coal. Because of this, the black market and resourcefulness became the solution for many inhabitants, despite the difficulties and the illegality that it entailed.

Memorial to the Demarcation line, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The Vichy Regime controlled the town at different levels. A new sub-prefet and municipal council were appointed directly by the Government, who placed conviction Pétainists in charge of the town. Numerous streets were renamed, like the Manthelan road, which became Avenue Maréchal du Pétain. The local press was controlled and censored. The Ecole normale, which trained teachers, was closed. To ensure security in the area the 32nd Infantry Regiment, who were under the control of the Vichy Government, were installed in Loches, so it became a garrison town." 


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 27 May 2024

The Massed Steve Show

Regular readers will know the back story to the pseudo-Steves, who are the Siberian Irises in our garden. These photos were taken on Saturday. Last year they were poor and we blame the dry heat, but this year they are close to their best. There are apparently benefits to a wet spring.

Previous year's pseudo-Steve performances:

Saturday 25 May 2024

Isn't That Strange

It's almost summer - and as soon as I have that thought I think about early morning breakfasts on the road to somewhere new.

That photo was taken in Aigues-Mortes in late June last year. It's my perfect vision of breakfast in a tourist town before the tourists arrive.

Friday 24 May 2024

The History of China Clay and la Cabane

On Saturday I am leading an outing with ecologist Francois Lefebvre to one of our favourite nature sites, la Cabane, on behalf of the Association de Patrimoine Vivant de la Claise Tourangelle (PVCT), the Association de Prehistoire et d'Archaeology de Bossay (APAB) and the Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte Maure de Touraine (Botamyco37). As we wanted to focus on both the industrial and the natural history of the site I have prepared a document on the history of the china clay (Fr. kaolin) extraction on the site. Those participating in the outing will get it in French on the day, blog readers will get it here in English.


Kaolin, or ‘china clay’ as it is commonly called in English, is a rock from which the clay mineral kaolinite is derived. This has been used for many years as the principal ingredient in porcelain tableware. Today its uses range from paper to paints, fiberglass to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as in sanitary porcelain.

Kaolin is a hydrated aluminum silicate crystalline mineral formed over many millions of years by the hydrothermal decomposition of granite, feldspars, mica and quartz sands. The clay can be modified using high temperatures to create products with different characteristics eg whiter, harder, better electrical conductivity.


Clay storage hangars at Imerys Ceramics, Tournon Saint Martin.

Clay storage hangars at Imerys, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The discovery of kaolin in Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche (Haute Vienne) in the late 1760s was pivotal for the local economy. This high-quality white clay became essential for the porcelain industry, particularly benefitting the famous Limoges porcelain manufacturers. By the 19th century, Indre's kaolin mines, notably in the town of Argenton-sur-Creuse, were thriving. These deposits contributed significantly to the region's economic development, enabling the production of fine porcelain that gained international acclaim. 

However, by the late 20th century, the industry faced decline due to the depletion of easily accessible deposits and competition from kaolin sources worldwide. Despite this downturn, the historical impact of kaolin extraction remains evident. Today the activity continues with Imerys Ceramics, based in Tournon Saint Martin, and one of the largest kaolin producers in the world.


Imerys Ceramics, Tournon Saint Martin.

Imerys Ceramics, Tournon Saint Martin, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

At la Cabane, an initial request to quarry was made by Denain-Anzin Mineraux in 1972 but there had been a quarry on the site since 1964 and Denain-Anzin Mineraux had been active in the area since 1959.  The company sold their mining business in Indre, Indre et Loire and Vienne and the equipment associated with it to WBB de France for 35 000 francs in 1978. WBB continued to exploit la Cabane until 1983, when the quarry was abandoned. The equipment at the time of the sale included three trucks, a loader and two diggers, as well as clay drying and processing equipment and two storage hangars at Tournan Saint Martin station. WBB de France was a French branch of a British company based in Devon called Watts, Blake, Bearn and Company Limited. Denain-Anzin Mineraux were bought out by Imerys in 2005 and WBB no longer exists.

The land was owned by a third party and Denain-Anzin only had the mineral extraction rights on 7 hectares at la Cabane and la Touche au lard. The industrial clay was from one to three metres thick, under two to five metres of topsoil, sand and gravel. It was extracted from an open cut mine by hydraulic digger. In the three years prior to September 1971, just over ten thousand tonnes of clay had been extracted, destined for ceramics factories. The site was divided into zones, each of which was dug successively. The top soil was removed, the clay extracted, then the exhausted zone was back filled with the topsoil from the next zone. Denzain-Anzin Mineraux was obliged by the terms of their mining licence to restore the land to a state where it could be cultivated, and all infrastructure was supposed to be removed. The remains of the quarry itself had to be left with clean stable sides, and if there was a risk it would be used as a rubbish dump, Denzain-Anzin Mineraux were obliged to fence it off before they left. 


What the quarry looks like now.

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

WBB de France exported 75% of the half a million tonnes annually of clay they excavated globally to their subsidiary in Germany. They operated four quarries near Tournon Saint Martin and in 1977 sold 13 000 tonnes from this production, 30% of it exported. After investment in equipment production was expected to rise to 30 000 tonnes. Their local manager was Monsieur P. Andrei, and everyone I spoke to referenced him as the person I should go to for information, but sadly I understand that he has now died. His boss was an English engineer called Geoffrey Dawes. I had hoped to get an idea of the day to day working of the enterprise, but although I spoke to a relative and others who knew Monsieur Andrei, no one was able to give me any details. Imerys Ceramics did not respond to my email. My understanding is that the clay was loaded on to trucks and transported to the railway station at Tournon Saint Martin, where it was stored for subsequent transportation by rail to Germany. What I have been unable to work out is at what point the clay was dried, but it must have been either on site at la Cabane or at the storage facility in Tournon Saint Martin.

When the business changed hands in 1978 the Prefecture, the sub-prefecture at Loches, the mayor of Bossay sur Claise, the State Service for Industry and Mines, the Directors of the Departmental Equipment, Agriculture, and Antiquities services and the Architect for Batiment de France (historic architecture and monuments) were consulted and had to give their permission. The Departmental Mines Engineer and the Gendarmes were notified.


The gap between the trees is the dam wall dividing the quarry from the drainage ditch.

la Cabane ZNIEFF, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

When WBB decided to close the mine in 1981 they notified the Departmental Mines Engineer, advised that previous exploitations had been left levelled, grassed over and ready for cultivation. All of the above authorities were once again advised. Denain-Anzin Mineraux also had to provide a statement that they were no longer involved and provided a photo of how the site had been left. They agreed to the following actions for the existing quarry:

1. the base of the quarry was leveled.
2. the edges were banked at 30° and covered with topsoil so they would revegetate.
3. a dam wall was created between the quarry and the drainage ditch.
4. the storage area was cleaned, leveled and put to grass.
5. the concrete pad was left, to provide a storage space for agricultural material.

So nowadays we may get the impression that la Cabane is a wild untouched site, but in fact it has been greatly impacted by man's actions in the 20th century. But it has now had several decades of 'rewilding' and natural regeneration, and has become a site rich in biodiversity, worthy of being declared a Zone Naturelle d'Interet Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique (ZNIEFF) in 2022.


Many thanks to Jean-Marie Millet, who took it upon himself to act as my 'archive rat', and found several very instructive documents. Thanks also to Simon, who did much of the internet searching and ran what we had through ChatGPT to provide an initial draft. That saved me a lot of time. I then edited it, passed it to Francois for his comments and we whittled it down to under two pages for the handout.  

Thursday 23 May 2024

The Pont de Bonneuil-Matours

The Pont de Bonneuil-Matours has done sterling service for over a century but has been closed for the past 4 years.

The original bridge was built in 1846 as a toll bridge. It was initially a wooden structure with a single cart lane and limited to a weight capacity of 5,500 kg. The need for an upgrade arose in the early 20th century due to wear and tear and increased motorized traffic.

The bridge in 2008

In 1931-1932 Etablissements Arnodin Leinekugel Le Coq renovated the bridge, preserving the original foundations but replacing the deck and upper structure to meet modern needs. It's the oldest operational suspension bridge in France with contiguous cable bundles (don't ask me, I'm stumped), a design now seen in larger suspended bridges like Tancarville and Aquitaine. It's the second bridge in France to adopt this technique, following the example of the now replaced Vicq sur Gartempe bridge of 1931.

In 2019 the bridge was closed for a two year refurbishing as part of the "Grand Travaux du Schéma Routier". The real world intervened in events, but it was reopened on the 7th December 2023.

Soon after the reopening we saw the bridge for the first time since the work was done. It wasn't finished (they were doing something with hydraulics) but at least our shortest and quickest route to Poitiers has reopened.

The Bridge in December 2023

We don't often go to Poitiers these days. When we first bought this house we thought we'd be whizzing down to Poitiers at a drop of a hat. But it appears that psychogeography affects even people who are new to a place and don't have inbred opinions. We're in the Touraine, so we go to Tours. The route to to Poitiers is the same distance and leads to the same shops and services but we don't go there. The diversion caused by the bridge being out of commission has hardly affected us.


Wednesday 22 May 2024

Post-War Rural Reminiscences

On Sunday I spent time with my friends Jean and Ninon. They are in their 90s, she was born here, he arrived soon after the War. The discussion at one point was the length of the grass out the back of their place, which led to the merits and disadvantages of various grazing animals and then a description of how grazing animals were managed in their village in the years just after the War. 
Farmers were often women, and they lived in or near the village. They had small herds of perhaps 8 or 9 cows. Twice a day the cows were taken to the river to drink as there were no 'abreuvoirs'* on farm at that time. The cows walked through the village to get to the river, and knew their own way. Too bad if you were growing anything within reach in your front garden -- it was likely to get munched. Pasture was not fenced. The cows were taken out in the morning, along the road to their allocated pasture, and guarded by someone (often a child) then brought back in the evening. Jean says that one of his regrets is never taking a photo of one particular elderly farmer, who always took an enormous black umbrella, about the size and shape of one of those one man pop up tents from his description, when she accompanied the cows. The umbrella was mostly for the sun, but sometimes for rain. Once out at the pasture these women embroidered or similar.
Shepherdess by lucien Porcheron, 19C, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The description was *exactly* like a painting by Lucien Porcheron, who was from another nearby village but a couple of generations earlier than Jean and Ninon. The woman in the painting is knitting, and wearing a heavy woollen cloak and sabots (clogs). I've seen such a cloak, owned by someone I know and still occasionally worn on very cold market days. Every village would have had a sabotier in this period (late 19th century or early 20th century). This painting hangs in the the mairie (town hall) in le Grand Pressigny, where Porcheron lived for most of his life. 

Ninon said that none of the local epiceries (grocery stores) sold bottled milk at that time. Everyone bought milk direct from a farm.

*abreuvoir translates as 'trough', and it can be a large trough, but more usually an abreuvoir is a rectangular shallow pond with a ramp for entering and leaving so the stock can walk in and drink, or you can drive a cart in and wash it.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Once Upon a Time in Loches - the First Years of the War 1939-1940


Exhibition poster Loches in 1944, Indre et Loire, France.

"War was declared on 3 September 1939, setting in motion the general mobilisation of all eligible men from 20 to 48 years old, as well the requisition of vehicles and horses. The Government was decentralised from Paris to the regions. The Touraine was not at the heart of the combat and became a zone for supply, and for the transit of refugees fleeing the bombing and the advancing Germans in the north of France.

In Loches the town prepared itself simultaneously to go to war and to suffer aerial attacks. Shelters in the troglodyte caves were allocated by neighbourhood and 500 gas masks were bought. Place de Verdun saw a series of barracks erected to house the Ministry of Agriculture. As the months passed the tension and anxiety reduced as they faced the 'phoney war'.

After the defeat of June 1940 France was divided into several zones, separated by a Demarcation Line. To the north of this Line was the zone occupied by the Germans and in the south was the 'Free Zone'. In the county of Indre et Loire, cut in two, Loches was one of the most northerly towns in the 'Free Zone'. As well, the area around Loches was a favoured transit route for refugees."


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

Monday 20 May 2024

Looking for Archibald Douglas

Underneath this carpet (I think) is buried one of the most notable Scottish warriors of the 14th and 15th century.

Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas (1372-1424), played a significant role in the Hundred Years' War, notably supporting France against England. Granted the title Duke of Touraine by Charles VII of France, Douglas fought in several key battles, including the Battle of Baugé in 1421. His military prowess earned him great respect, but he was killed at the Battle of Verneuil in 1424. He was buried in the choir at St Gatien cathedral in Tours.

We've never seen his burial marker, even though we've looked a couple of times. That's why we assume it's under the carpet.

Saturday 18 May 2024

Mountain Singers

Back in September we mentioned that back in July we had seen a mens' mountain choir in Cauterets.

This is what they sound like. I hope it's worked.

Obviously it didn't. I'm working on fixing that.

Done. Phew. What a palaver.

Friday 17 May 2024

Three Surgeons

When we were at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Tours the other day we noticed tree surgeons at work on the huge Cedar of Lebanon (planted 1804) that fills the entry courtyard.

You need a lot of strength to be a tree surgeon. Not only do you have to be able to climb a tree, you have to be able to do it whilst carrying what appears to be your own bodyweight in climbing accoutrements.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Breakfast in Tours

I mentioned yesterday that on Monday we had a nice breakfast in Tours. That was in a café/pâtisserie/salon de thé /chocolaterie/confiserie called Aux Délices des Beaux Arts which can be found here.

The view is good, the pastries and coffee are nice, and the man behind the counter will insist on taking your photo as soon as a camera appears.

We didn't have any of the following, but they look too good not to show you

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Le Dolmen de la Grotte aux Fées

We had a day off in Tours on Monday. We started off with a slow breakfast in a nice café, and followed that with a stroll around the cathedral and a visit to the Musée des Beaux Arts.

After some shopping and a bite of lunch we went for a little explore, ending up in a field north of Tours.

Le Dolmen de la Grotte aux Fées was built overnight by a team of fairies. Either that or it's three huge stones which were balanced on 8 smaller stones about 7000 years ago by a neolithic community as a communal burial chamber. But by "smaller" we're talking huge, and by "three huge stones" we're talking properly massive. It's estimated the whole ensemble of stones weighs over 88 tonnes. It's over 11 metres long, divided into two chambers, and shards of worked stone were found in the soil inside. One of the stones is a polisoir, a hard stone used for grinding and sharpening stone axes.

It's proper big!

It can be found here

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Look Out For Drone Flies in the Touraine Loire Valley

The drone fly Eristalis tenax (Fr. Eristale gluante) is an inoffensive species of fly disguised as a honey bee. It is the most abundant Eristalis species in Europe and as it feeds on the nectar of many species of plant it has a role in pollination. Like several other species of hover fly, the drone fly may make a long distance migration twice a year.

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

They are nimble flyers and capable of hovering on the spot. If they are attacked one of their defensive mechanisms is to whiz around and around their enemy.

Their larvae are known as rat-tailed maggots and live in shallow stagnant water full of rotting vegetation. The 'rat-tail' is in fact their rear mounted breathing siphon.

Monday 13 May 2024

The Wait is Almost Over

The chapel of Saint-Hubert, patron saint of hunters, was built in 1493 by Charles VIII on the foundations of the old oratory of the chateau of Amboise which was built by his father, Louis XI. The chapel was intended for the private use of the king.

On 2nd May 1519 Leonardo da Vinci died in Amboise. He had expressed a wished to be buried in Amboise, and his tomb was in a now demolished church in the chateau grounds. When the demolition happened, the tomb (or at least, the coffin) was moved to the chapel.

For the last two and a half years the chapel has been under wraps whilst being restored, but that program is now almost finished. We've written about the restoration, before - here about the carvings, and here about the carpentry.

This is what it looks like from the street below the chateau. The chapel's reopening is on the 16th of June, and anticipation is starting to rise.

At the moment the most effective view is from des Tanneures, the large public car park.

Saturday 11 May 2024

A Korean Soup

Those of you who have been reading the blog for some time will know that for a couple of weeks, many years ago, I worked in Korea. The first meal I ordered for myself in Korea was Mandu-guk (만두국), or dumpling soup.

It's become a favourite in our household, especially recently. NOZ, the end of line/overstocks shop, has had frozen mandu (dumplings) on and off for a couple of months, and I've been a fairly regular purchaser. 

Here's my recipe for mandu-guk:

8 -10 Dumplings (mandu or goyza)
Litre of stock (doesn't really matter what sort)
1 onion, finely sliced
1tsp soy
1egg, beaten
1sheet dried seaweed (gim / nori), thinly sliced
Sesame oil

Dry fry the dumplings until slightly browned
Bring the stock to the boil and add soy and onions
Add dumplings, boil for 10 minutes or so
Slowly add beaten egg whilst stirring the soup.
Add seaweed, then serve.
Once in bowls, drizzle a little sesame oil to flavour.

This is a simple cheat's recipe, and probably not authentic. But for a filling almost instant lunch, it's perfect.

Friday 10 May 2024

Look Out For Orchis spp and Their Hybrids in the Touraine Loire Valley

Orchis spp hybridise easily and I see the resulting hybrid orchids often in the Touraine Loire Valley. 

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

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Monkey Orchid Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe).

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea (Fr. Orchis pourpre).

Monkey, Monkey/Lady hybrid and Lady Orchids, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Monkey Orchid (left), hybrid (centre) and Lady Orchid (right).

Hypochromatic Monkey Orchid Orchis singe, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Hypochromatic Monkey Orchid Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe), with a ruby-tailed wasp Chrysidae.

Monkey Orchid Orchis singe, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
 Monkey Orchid Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe).

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

Monkey/Man Orchid hybrid Orchis x bergonii, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Monkey/Man Orchid hybrid Orchis x bergonii.

Hybrid Monkey/Man Orchid with parent species, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Hybrid Monkey/Man Orchid with parent species.

Monkey/Man Orchid hybrid Orchis x bergonii, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Monkey/Man Orchid hybrid Orchis x bergonii.

Man Orchid Orchis anthopophora, Eperon de Murat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Man Orchid Orchis anthopophora (Fr. Homme-pendu).


Thursday 9 May 2024

Filming in Town

Recently the comedy duo Les Bodins filmed sequences of their new film in Preuilly. Apparently it's about the biggest goats cheese in the world and events that go rather wrong. The market square was given a makeover and several of my friends were extras (Fr. figurants). Lieutopie, the community café, was paid €200 as compensation by the film company because one Saturday they were unable to open, and they were quite happy with that. By all accounts it was a fun time and the stars made themselves very accessible. There were lots of selfies with and without the main characters circulating on social media. As I passed on various errands I took the opportunity to photograph whatever the action at the time was. 

The pizza kiosk on the right is part of the film set. It was erected and painted over the course of a couple of days prior to the filming.

Village transformed into film set, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Many of the market stalls were our real regular traders. This is my friend Sandy's organic apple stall, just zhuzhed up a bit with pretty baskets. Sandy normally uses ordinary fruit boxes to lay out and display the apples. She'd be forever refilling baskets like this in real life!

Market stall on film set, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The bunting was provided by the film company.

Village market filmset, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

This stall is completely the work of the film crew.

Village market filmset, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

The tarpaulin wrapped object in the middle of the photo is the 'giant cheese' (naturally, a log shaped goats cheese).

Village market filmset, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Packing up.

Village market filmset, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

I see that my friend Catherine's house was turned into the town hall, and the apartment next door became a real estate agent.

Town hall filmset, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Packing up the last few props.

Packing up filmset in a village, Indre et loire, france. Photo by loire Valley Time travel.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

What is This Plaque About?

The short answer is nobody knows. But I will now proceed to write a long blog post with lots of speculation.

I've known of the existence of the plaque for some time, but only recently got to see it. Along with lots more people who will get to see it now, I paid a visit to Malcolm Motté's new joinery showroom [link]. It is off a courtyard that used to be private, which you enter from a corner of the market square in Preuilly.

Old Plaque on a wall, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Reading a thread on Facebook concerning the plaque it seems that some locals assume it is a funerary memorial. But before I read the thread that didn't occur to me. I thought it was something more joyous, celebrating a birth or a milestone for a much loved child. What is interesting is that the child in question, who clearly must have meant a great deal to whoever erected this unusual plaque, is female.

The plaque, which is carved limestone, isn't very big, and it's positioned rather high up on the wall. There is no indication if it is in its original position or has been brought here from elsewhere (for example, one suggestion is that it has come from a columbarium). But it doesn't seem to be a gravestone or marking a grave, although it is presumably a memorial of some sort.

It is not very difficult to read, but interpreting it is proving challenging for even our most informed local history sleuths. It says "Félicité Nabon Agée de 5 mois le Jour [illegible] Ap(rés/rit) sa Prem(ière) Robe 1809". Which would translate as 'Felicity Nabon Aged 5 months the Day [illegible] After/Took her First Dress 1809'.

According to Fabrice Doucet, who is my go to source for this sort of local history, Félicité Nabon was born on 18 December 1808. She was the daughter of Félicité Abraham and Mathieu Francois Xavier Nabon. Her father was from an old Preuilly family, a branch of which owned the Hotel l'Image on the other side of the market place to the house with the plaque. The young married couple had tied the knot on 15 February 1808 in Angers. The house that now has the plaque was owned at the time by Mathieu Nabon.

Fabrice can't find any record of little Félicité dying in 1809 though. He had done a bit of research because he'd been asked by my friend Christiane, who is a descendant of the Nabon family. She doesn't know the background to the plaque but was curious. However, Claudette, who grew up in our house, has been doing some rummaging in the archives and found a young woman named as Félicie Nabon, the daughter of Mathieu Nabon and Marie Abraham who died at the age of 17 at the Convent de la Grand Maison in Poitiers on 5 December in 1825. Could this be 'our' Félicité we all wonder? As Fabrice pointed out, she would have been very nearly 17 at that date. He added that this boarding school for young women in Poitiers, being close to Preuilly, may well have been popular with the local bourgeoisie. He'd like to see a bit more evidence, but thinks it is an interesting idea. He's not too bothered by the differences in the first names, as errors of transcription were very common at the time.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Out and About in the Claise Valley in mid-April

To check on the progress of the orchids around Chaumussay I invited my friend Carolyn to come out with me one Sunday morning in mid-April. Here is a selection of what we saw, which was not restricted to orchids.


The entry holes to the nest tunnels of a species of sweat bees, maybe Lasioglossum marginatum. You can see a trail of pollen into the hole at the bottom. 

lasioglossum cf marginatum nest holes, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Carolyn entranced by these little bees' activities.

Watching ground nesting bees, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

A male Green Fairy Longhorn moth Adela reaumurella (Fr. Adele verdoyante) hanging around on a Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana (Fr. Viorne lantane) waiting for a female to turn up.

Green Fairy longhorn moth Adela reaumurella, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Female Great Banded Furrow Bee Halictus scabiosae (Fr. Halicte de la scabieuse), a good 'gateway' bee, since it is easy to identify and abundant.

Great Banded Furrow Bee Halictus scabiosae, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

This Apple Blossom Beetle Tropinota hirta (Fr. Cétoine hérissée) appeared to be fighting a rival on a Monkey Orchid Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe).

Apple Blossom Beetle Tropinota hirta on Monkey Orchid Orchis simia, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Great Banded Furrow Bee, showing her distinctive 'furrowed' abdomen tip.

Great Banded Furrow Bee Halictus scabiosae, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Look out for Great Banded Furrow Bees, which are on the wing from April to September, when they are busy making nests in hard compacted soil, often in the middle of paths.

Great Banded Furrow Bee Halictus scabiosae, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Bush Vetch Vicia sepium (Fr. Vesce des haies), growing on the far side of a roadside ditch.

Bush Vetch Vicia sepium, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Common Carder Bumble Bee Bombus pascuorum (Fr. Bourdons des champs) feeding on Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea (Fr. lierre terrestre) along the roadside.

Common Carder Bumble Bee Bombus pascuorum, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Small-leaved Helleborine Epipactis microphylla (Fr. épipactis à petites feuilles), an uncommon and under-recorded small orchid.

Small-leaved Helleborine Epipactis microphylla, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Wild Madder Rubia peregrina (Fr. Garance voyageuse), not to be confused with its relative R. tinctorum, which is a source of red dye.

Wild Madder Rubia peregrina, Indre et loire, France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.