La Renaudière is the name of the hamlet we live in. It's located halfway between the town of Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher and the village called Mareuil-sur-Cher. Mareuil derives from an old Celtic word that meant "clearing" — a clearing in the woods. There are a lot of towns and villages in France named Mareuil, and there are a lot of places named La Renaudière.
As for Saint-Aignan, it is named for a bishop of the city of Orléans named Aignan. He was bishop at the time when the Huns, led by Attila, were pillaging and plundering in France. According to legend, Aignan performed a miracle and saved the city, because the Huns were so impressed that they ended their siege. Aignan d'Orléans died in the year 453 — more than 1500 years ago.
La Renaudière owes its name, I think, to a family named Renaud that most likely established a farm and lived on this land in centuries past. Nobody seems to know much about the Renaud family. When I say that La Renaudière is halfway from Mareuil and Saint-Aignan, I mean that the center of the town and the center of the village are each just two miles (three kilometers) distant from our house.
At la Renaudière, there are nine houses and there's one vacant lot. A hamlet is a settlement where there is no church and often no shops, which is our case, while a village always has a church and often has a few shops. Our hamlet is at the top of the bluff that marks the southern edge of the Cher River valley. The river itself is one kilometer (just over half a mile) from our house.
The paved road ends just behind our house — it becomes a gravel track that runs a mile out into the vineyard before connecting up with another paved road. The gravel road doesn't get much traffic. It's used mostly by the people who work the vines and drive their little vans and their tractors out there. I sometimes drive through the vineyard but not often because the road is fairly rough.
On the south side of the hamlet there's a fairly deep wooded valley or ravine through which flows a stream called La Rouère de l'Aulne that feeds into the Cher River. On the east side is a wooded hillside, and on the north and west sides there are vineyards. The vineyards are called the Renaudière vineyards, like the hamlet, and most of the parcels of vines close to the hamlet belong to and are worked by the owners of a nearby winery called Le Domaine de la Renaudie.
A total of 11 people live at la Renaudière right now. Nine of us live here more or less full-time, in five of the houses. One house is occupied only in summer, by some people whose primary residence is 25 miles north of Saint-Aignan, in Blois They spend summers here. Three of the houses at La Renaudière are empty for the time being. One is a rental property, and the tenants have just moved out.
Since we've lived at la Renaudière (we bought our house in 2003), three of our neighbors have died. All three were in their 90s. One neighbor is now 89 years old, and another is 81. Five are in their 60s, as I am. At 51, Walt is by far the youngest person in the hamlet, bringing the median age down to 70.
Living at La Renaudière means that we depend on having a car to do our shopping and other errands. You can walk to the village or the town, and we have done it, but it's quite a hike. The lane that comes into the hamlet from the main road down by the river is pretty steep. There are no sidewalks.
The roads are maintained by the local authorities. We have mail delivery and garbage pickup but not "curbside" recycling. One of the nicest services we have is bread delivery. Four days a week, a woman who works for the bread baker in Mareuil drives up in her little van with a selection of fresh bread and pastries. She toots here horn and we go out and buy from her whatever bread or other baked goods we want.
I'm not sure when the hamlet got running water. It was probably in the late 1960s, because several houses, including ours, were built here then. We were hooked up to sewer mains in 2006. Before that, we had a sealed tank for sewerage and it had to be pumped out four or five times a year. We've had high-speed Internet access since October 2003, and we have a satellite dish for television and radio. We have central heat as well as a wood-burning stove, but no air-conditioning.
Saint-Aignan is a town (pop. 3,500) and Mareuil is a village (pop. 1,000). Saint-Aignan is also the main town of a district that's called a canton. In the Canton de Saint-Aignan there are 15 municipalities. Besides Saint-Aignan, only one of them has a population exceeding 2,000, and several have fewer than 300 residents. The total population of the canton is approximately 17,000, and its area is 125 sq. mi. (326 sq. km).
There are many things that make La Renaudière and the Saint-Aignan area a nice place to live. There's little traffic. There are several supermarkets close by, and there are weekly markets in several nearby towns and villages. There are a dozen or more restaurants and as many little shops, not to mention cafés, hair salons, banks, and insurance agencies.
And we have the Renaudière vineyard as our back yard. We don't have to maintain it, there's no traffic to speak of on the gravel road. We can take long walks with the dog out there every day, without worrying about leashes or pooper-scoopers. We share the vineyard with deer, rabbits and hares, a lot of birds, some foxes, and a badger or two.