03 August 2021

Fleurs de juin

We really don't seem to be having a summer this year. Today, for example, Accuweather and MétéoFrance are predicting a high temperature of 18ºC for Saint-Aignan. That's 64ºF. And MétéoCiel says the high will be 61ºF (16ºC). With scattered showers. On August 3! Everybody here is complaining about the weather. Enjoy these photos of flowers.

02 August 2021

Moules... et frites...

Yesterday's lunch: mussels (moules), French fries (frites), and green beans (haricots verts). Walt had bought a kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of mussels from the fishmonger at the Saturday morning open-air market in Saint-Aignan. I dumped them into a container of fresh, cold water, and then threw out the ones that floated. They were dead and unfit for consumption. Then I put the ones that didn't float in the sink and cleaned them one by one by pulling their "beards" off and scraping off any barnacles I found on the shells. I also threw out any that had broken shells.

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We seasoned the mussels with fresh chives and black pepper and then cooked them in about a third of a bottle of dry white wine and three tablespoons of cream (crème fraîche). The cream is optional. There was no need to add salt; the moules are salty enough. They cooked in a pot with a tight-fitting lid for maybe 10 minutes. As soon as the shells open, they're done. Then I put them in a dish in a warm oven to wait while I boiled the creamy cooking liquid down to concentrate it a little. And while Walt cooked some French fries. We had already cooked the green beans. Both the frites and the beans, as well as the moules, were delicious with the creamy sauce. Don't forget the bread.

01 August 2021

The Renaissance château at Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher

The Renaissance-style château at Saint-Aignan was built in the middle of the 16th century (1540-1550 or so) by the Beauvilliers family, who had come into possession of the town's the château at the end of the 15th century. The Beauvilliers were from Chartres, and they were to become close allies of king Louis XIV in the 17th century. While the north face of the château looks more like a village perché than a château — it was built on top of medieval fortifications — the south-facing Renaissance château is more unified and ornate. The owner of the château still lives there, and it is not open to the public.


The car in the photo above will give you a sense of scale.


If you want to read more about the history of Saint-Aignan and its château, here are links to three French web sites: Châteaux de France, Monumentum, and Histoire-27. You can also have a look at this recent post of mine about the site.

31 July 2021

Saint-Aignan pictures

Since yesterday's post was about our restaurant lunch in Saint-Aignan all those years ago,
I thought I might as well post some other photos I took in town that same day.
The château, the church, a café, a view from the main street, and an old storefront.

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I realized yesterday that I could stitch together my three photos of the interior
of the Crêpiot restaurant to make a kind of panoramic view.

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Have I mentioned how chilly it's been for the last few weeks? We've had to put blankets back on the bed and to start wearing jackets when we go out for walks with the dog, especially in the morning. Yesterday the weather forecaster on Télématin said that right now it feels more like September than July. Get ready, she said, because next week is going to feel more like October than like August. So much for any thoughts about buying an air-conditioner...

30 July 2021

Lunch at Le Crêpiot


I mentioned a day or two ago that on that June day in 2008, Walt, CHM, and I had lunch at the Saint-Aignan restaurant called Le Crêpiot. It's located just down the main street in town, not far from the tourist office and the post office. I think it must have been a crêperie at some point in time, but for the past 20 or so years it has been operated as a more of a café, serving a wider range of dishes. It has always been fun to have a meal there, and the food has always been good. The people who ran it when we first came to live here have retired and the place is under new management. It's been quite a while since I've been there for lunch or dinner, for a variety of reasons — the pandemic and confinements, for example.

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So what did we have for lunch on that June day? In a comment, CHM said that he didn't remember. Well, I don't have to remember because I wrote about it on my blog in 2008:

Back then, the daily special at lunchtime cost you about 12 euros. The day we were there the main course was a grilled slice of ham served with white beans. As a starter, the choices were a salad with grilled goat cheese, a salad with strips of chicken breast, or a half an avocado stuffed with tuna salad. The desserts were a slice of tarte aux pommes (apple tart), a "floating island" (île flottante) or two scoops of ice cream (several flavors were available). Instead of dessert, or in addition, you could choose to have the cheese plate, with pieces of two different cheeses.

We decided to have the €16 menu instead, because we wanted steaks. As an entrée, CHM had a salad with Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine goat cheese. There were four big pieces of cheese on the plate with salad greens and chopped walnuts. Walt had a herring salad — two or three fairly large pieces of fish served with sliced boiled potatoes, onions, and salad greens in vinaigrette. I had the half-avocado stuffed with tuna salad.

Our main dishes were steaks called bavette d'aloyau, which is a sort of flank or skirt steak. It's lean meat with no fat or gristle. We all ordered the steak cooked rare (saignant). Walt and I got frites — French fries — with ours. CHM decided to substitute sautéed mushrooms for a supplement of one euro. I thought the steak was perfectly cooked and tender (French beef is from grass-fed cattle and therefore very different from American beef in taste and texture). It was served with a pat of garlic/parsley butter that melted on top of and flavored the meat. CHM had such a big portion of mushrooms that he couldn't eat them all, but Walt and I both finished our frites.

Our desserts were a crêpe with warm chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream for CHM, a piece of apple tart for Walt, and a floating island for me. Do you know what an île flottante is? It's blobs of soft meringue sitting in a light crème anglaise — an egg custard — with toasted sliced almonds on top.

I completely forgot to take pictures of the food. I was too busy anticipating and then eating. Oh, and now I almost forgot this detail: the Crêpiot always featured a locally made wine as its vin du mois. That month it wass a Cabernet Franc and Côt (aka Malbec) blend made and bottled by a couple over in the village of Couffy, about three miles east of Saint-Aignan. It was tasty.

29 July 2021

La Chapelle Saint-Lazare à Noyers-sur-Cher : détails et souvenirs


I took a friend from Paris (her name is Claude) to see the chapelle Saint-Lazare nearly 15 years ago. We were were taking pictures and she asked me if we could go inside the building. I told her it had always been locked when I'd been there before. And sure enough, the side door was bolted. On the off chance, I walked around the building to try the front door. I was surprised to find it unlocked.

I pushed it open and got my first glimpse of the interior. It was like night-and-day compared to the exterior — the building looked like a complete ruin on the inside. Claude had followed me around to the front of the building and we stood just inside the doorway, taking in a desolate, gloomy scene. We didn't dare go farther in — it looked too dangerous.

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Then some movement above us caught my eye and I heard the the swishing sound of beating wings. A big white bird flew across the ceiling and ducked into a hole in the wall just above our heads. What was it? It was too dark in the chapel to see much or take a good photo.

My first thought was that the bird might just be a pigeon, but I realized that it was too big and very white. It had to be an owl. Just at that moment it emerged from its hiding place above the front door and flew across the ceiling again, landing on a stone ledge at the other end of the room and looking out at us. It looked like a ghost, and it seemed discourteous of us to have invaded the creature's space. We backed out and closed the door.

We stepped outside and walked around the north side of the chapel. I looked up at the stone carvings around the building's roof-line and the first one I saw was, appropriately, a representation of an owl. You can see a photo of it above. Later I looked through some bird books I had and saw that the ghostly bird must have been a barn owl, which is sometimes called une dame blanche in French. In the years since that day, the inside of the chapel has been cleaned up and repaired, and the building is now used as an art gallery for temporary exhibits.

28 July 2021

Views from, and of, Noyers-sur-Cher

It was June 18, 2008. CHM and I were spending the aftenoon driving around taking photos. The weather was beautiful. After having lunch in a restaurant in Saint-Aignan, we drove across the bridge over the Cher to the town of Noyers. We went up to higher ground on the north side of the river valley to take in the views. Here's what we saw: the château de Saint-Aignan off in the distance.


We also noticed that there was an old windmill in Noyers. We took photos of it from the heights, and then we went to find it and take some photos closer up. It wasn't easy to find, bas as you can see in the second photo below, we succeeded in getting pretty close. I also took pictures of a pretty wheat field and of the church in Noyers.

    

    

Here's another view of Saint-Aignan taken from the highlands. It's a wider view that includes, on the left, the church.
We were about two miles from the château.

27 July 2021

La Chapelle Saint-Lazare à Noyers-sur-Cher

The chapel called Saint-Lazare is in Noyers-sur-Cher, just across the river from Saint-Aignan. It's less than two miles from our house as the owl flies (more about that later). Lazare or Lazarus was the patron saint of lepers, and there was a leper house or colony in Noyers back in the 12th century, when the chapel in my photos was built. I think that means it was a chapel where lepers could go to pray to be cured of the disease. The old hospice it was attached to is long gone, but the chapel has survived. It's located on the main east-west road in our area and not far from the banks of the Cher river.

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26 July 2021

Villentrois : sa forteresse médiévale

Just 6 or 7 miles southeast of Saint-Aignan stand the ruins of the medieval château-fort and village called Villentrois (pop. 600). The fortress was built by Fulk III (Foulques Nerra in French), a powerful count of Anjou (b. 970–d. 1040) who spent his life fortifying his territory. Villetrois was the easternmost fortification he built, but he built many others, including at nearby Saint-Aignan (on the far right in my blog banner photo above), Montrichard, and Loches. I'd like to know the origin of the name Villetrois, but so far I have found that information. The old town itself is made up not of three but two bourgs (neighborhoods, in this case. One grew up around the old church, and the other at the base of the château-fort.


This is a view from the road as I drove through Villentrois. We usually go through the town on our way to Valençay, which is just 3 or 4 miles farther east.



I took these photos of an old pump and a millstone down at the base of the fortress when I stopped there one day.



25 July 2021

Ce n'est pas un château...

...mais c'est chez nous depuis plus de 18 ans. The time had come to get a new sofa. The old one, which we bought in 2010, was looking slightly dingy (miteux, vétuste, fatigué). The dogs have never spent time on it, but the cat certainly has. So a few weeks ago, we took the covers off the seat and back cushions and washed them. That was a bad idea. The zippers on the back of both of the seat cushions broke. So we knew we were in trouble. Here's what the old sofa looked like in November 2010.



If you've ever visited (BettyAnn, CHM, Evelyn, Judy...), then you've seen the old beige sofa already. After much on-line shopping, we found the new blue sofa you see below. It's longer, with three true seats, and it's higher off the floor. It was delivered on Thursday, before we had taken the old sofa out, so we had the delivery guys put the new one in the garage downstairs. I think they were happy not to have to carry it up the stairs to the living room. Here's what the living room looks like now.


The old sofa was heavy, and getting it down the stairs wasn't easy. Thursday was a hot and fairly humid day. We both broke a sweat, for sure. Getting the new sofa up the stairs wasn't quite as hard. While there was no sofa in the room, we moved the other furniture out as well and did some spring cleaning (several months late). Walt ran the aspirateur over both sides of the rug and then mopped the floor while I went to the supermarket. Then we put (or are putting) it all back together. I think I like the new look.