24 December 2005

Saint-Aignan at Christmastime

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The restaurant called Chez Constant is on the main square in Saint-Aignan. It is all decked out for the holidays. Notice the wine-bottle chalkboard on which the daily specials are written. In the summer, Chez Constant has a wooden terrace out on the square so you can dine outdoors.

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On the other side of the square is this old house. Somebody thoughtfully parked a Christmas red Citroën 2CV (a Deux Chevaux) right in front of it. Maybe it was parked there by Le Père Noël himself! The house has just been restored as a private dwelling.

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Near the old house is this second-hand furnture store. If it weren't so cold outside these days, you'd be tempted to take a seat and watch the people go by. Temperatures are in the high 20s to mid-30s this Christmas season. We haven't had any snow yet this year.

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Around the corner in a narrow street are this little grocery store and a café-tabac. The café, called Le Lapin Blanc (The White Rabbit) is one of the busiest in Saint-Aignan, but in this cold weather there aren't any tables outside, so you can't see the customers.

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Here's a close-up of the grocery store. It sells high-end and imported products (hence the name) that are hard to find elsewhere in Saint-Aignan. It is a licensed Hédiard outlet.

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When you're standing in the narrow street in front of Marco Polo's grocery store and the White Rabbit café-tabac, look up. This is what you see. It's Saint-Aignan's impressive (and slightly forbidding) collegiate church and the surrounding rooftops. The wires you see are strings of Christmas lights.

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A short walk away is the town's main pedestrian shopping street. The Côté Sud store (where I bought foie gras and a special wine to drink with it on Christmas day) sells gifts of all kinds, food products from southwest France, and wines. The wines are kept in a 15th-century cave (cellar) that is in the store's basement. Next door is a bric-a-brac and furniture shop called L'Atelier de Patine, which is run by a young woman named Véronique. We have bought several pieces of furniture from her. The shop with the yellow awning sells shoes.

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This is a typical old house in Saint-Aignan (pop. 4,000). The town was founded in about the year 1000 A.D., when the first church and the medieval château were built. The old fortified château is in ruins now, but there is a Renaissance château that was built 500 years ago and is still privately owned. The family lives in it.

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All French towns have a horse butcher shop (une boucherie chevaline). The horse's head is not a Christmas decoration; it is there year-round. The writing on the window says Chèvre (goat) -- they must be running an end-of-year special on goat meat.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What makes a church "collegiate"? Merry Christmas!
Chris Panero

Ken Broadhurst said...

Hi Chris,

And Merry Christmas. Here's a site that talks about collegiate churches and what the term means:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04114a.htm

I haven't had time to read it all and I'm not sure I understand it. My understanding about Saint-Aignan was that it was a meeting place for church officials from three regions -- Sologne, Berry, and Touraine -- because it is centrally located.

Ken

Anonymous said...

Ken,
My students always get a charge out of the horsemeat discussion so I can't wait to show them the red horse head at the 'boucherie'.

Hope your Christmas was very merry......
Peggy

Anonymous said...

Re-bonjour !

Ouah, Ken, the web site related to "le catholicisme" is very interesting but quite complicated :-) The "définition" provided by the "Grand Robert" is simpler, though not very detailed :

- " Église collégiale : église qui, sans être cathédrale, possède un chapitre de chanoines. - N. f. (1663). Une collégiale."

Thus, though it is not a cathedral, the church which has been given the "title" of "collégiale" is allowed to have a "chapitre de chanoines"/a chapter of canons, "un chanoine" being a member of the chapter... Oh, là, là, c'est glauque pour des pratiquants pas très pratiquants comme moi, lol !

On the other hand, I love your "présentation" of Saint-Aignan ! I'm looking forward to discovering "pour de vrai" ! Bises. Marie