24 June 2018

Trois portes, cinq photos

Here's how the Cadogan Loire guidebook describes Mennetou-sur-Cher. It is “...a meagre slice of a medieval town, its crooked houses and cobbled streets encircled by run-down ramparts now sadly sandwiched between a railway line and a main road.” On the left is the south gate to the town, described below. The plaque over the gateway, seen in both these photos, might help you tie together the two photos I took earlier in June. See also this old photo. The plaque commemorates the time Joan of Arc came to Mennetou in 1429.

“In the Middle Ages, the Cher river ran just past the Gateway known as La Porte d'en Bas...” That would be roughly along the presend-day route of what is now a main east-west road that carries a lot of car traffic and quite a few big trucks.When you walk under the arches, there's a definite feeling of peace and quiet on the other side.

The Michelin Guide Vert explains about the Mennetou's walls: « Bâtis au début du 13e siècle, ils ont conservé trois tours sur les cinq qu'ils comptaient ; les trois portes ont subsisté. » In other words, the walls were built in the 1200s and three of the five original gates leading into the town still stand.

The one on the above and on the right, the eastern gate, is named La Porte Bonne-Nouvelle — "the good news gate" — and it leads you to the town's church, which is all that remains of an ancient Benedictine priory at Mennetou. The Gothic-style church is called St-Urbain.

The town's north gate, the third one that survives, opens almost directly onto railroad tracks. The train line runs from Tours to Vierzon and on to Bourges and Lyon, with a stop at Saint-Aignan. It carries both passenger and freight trains. The freight trains run mostly at night, and they must make Mennetou-sur-Cher pretty noisy for people trying to get a good night's sleep. See this ten-year-old photo of the gate from the other side.

23 June 2018

Just photos and trivia

Three weeks ago today, Sue had just arrived. We decided on the Saturday morning to drive over into the Sologne region, 90 minutes east of Saint-Aignan, and go to see the villages of Henrichemont, a planned 17th century town, and La Borne, home to 70 potters and their shops.

On the way back to Saint-Aignan in the afternoon, we stopped for a short walk around the medieval walled village of Mennetou-sur-Cher, which is a lot closer to home for us. I've blogged about it several times over the years. Here, here, and here, for example, in posts from 10 years ago.

Today I'm just posting a few photos of interesting things I saw in the village earlier this month. It was a pretty afternoon, and Sue and I were both taking photos. The ones here are mine, since I certainly didn't forget my camera that day the way I did when we went to Blois recently. Photos aren't always about architecture, churches, or wide panoramas.

On the home front, I'm scheduled to get my stitches out on Monday. The dermatologist who removed a skin cancer from my chest told me to call a local nurse to have the stitches taken out about two weeks after the procedure was done. I was surprised, when I called a nurse in our village, to learn that she will come to our house on Monday morning to take care of me. That's service.

Speaking of service, I took the 18-year-old Peugeot in for an oil change a couple of days ago. It had been two years since the last oil change, but when I looked at my records I realized we've put only 3,600 kilometers on the car in two years' time. That's just a little over 2,000 miles. Also, the air-conditioning in the car had stopped working nearly two years ago. I told the mechanic that if it could be fixed easily and cheaply, do it. But I figured the compressor had given out and assumed we would just do without AC in the car for another summer. It's not as if we live in a really hot climate. This is not a swamp or a desert, after all. Surprise of surprises, the mechanic fixed the AC and only charged me 65 euros. I'm happy.

22 June 2018


These are the last of friend Sue's photos of Blois that I plan to post. In future posts, I might show another photo or two taken by Sue on other days and in other places, because some of hers came out so much better than mine did. I want to thank her again for letting me post her photos. Here's one of the pulpit in the Eglise St-Nicolas in Blois.

I like the soft focus of this image showing a wall painting inside St-Nicolas. As I've said, I want to go back to Blois soon, on a sunny day, and take more photos of the interior of the church, including more of the stained-glass windows. That gives me a sightseeing project to look forward to.

Describing the St-Nicolas church, the author of the Cadogan Loire guide writes that the building "has retained its medieval grandeur, even if it looks a bit grim in parts... Impressive Romanesque and early Gothic features give the church fine credentials... The building you now see was begun in 1138, construction going from east to west." The photo here shows the west façade. The spires that cap the old church towers were added only in the 19th century. The great cathedral at Chartres, to the north, had a strong influence on the original builders of St-Nicolas.

Facing the west front of the church are the half-timbered buildings in the photo on the left. There are many old buildings of this style style standing in Blois and other Loire Valley towns and villages, including at least two in Saint-Aignan and two in Montrichard.

Finally, here's one more of Sue's panoramic shots of the town of Blois as seen from the "left bank" — the south side — of the Loire River. From left to right, you can see the newer part of the Château de Blois; l'Eglise St-Nicolas; the old center of town with the cathedral above it; the Pont Jacques-Gabriel that links the north and south sections of the town; and some more modern buildings that stand on the east side of Blois. Enlarge the photo by clicking or tapping on it and scrolling it horizontally to see more detail.

21 June 2018

Back to Blois, and soon

Looking at my friend Sue's photos, I realize I need to go back to Blois, and very soon. When we were there last week, I tried to park the Peugeot near the Eglise Saint-Nicolas so we could go inside and have a look around.

I couldn't find a parking space. Time was short. Sue was leaving to return to California the next day. This was her chance to see the interior of this grand church building. I'd never been inside before, but I could wait. And wait I did, with the car, which was parked illegally, but not impeding the flow of traffic. Sue went into the church for a few minutes to take some pictures.

I admit I did quickly duck into the church and look around for about two minutes. I thought that glance would put Sue's photos into some kind of architectural or cultural context. It did that. But now I want to see — and take photos of — more of the windows in the church. CHM tells me that a lot of them were done by maître-verrier Max Ingrand after the Second World War.

I will need a clear, sunny day. That makes the interior of the church light enough so that the camera can capture good images. And it makes the stained-glass luminous. I want to take photos of more of the church's windows. These and others replaced 19th century windows that were blown out when a bomb landed near the church in 1940. (I wonder what windows were there before the 19th century...)

That's what I love about living here. Walt and I moved to Saint-Aignan 15 years ago. Sometimes I get the impression I've seen everything there is to see here in the Loire Valley, and often more than once. And then I suddenly realize that I've hardly started exploring at all. That realization keeps me wide-eyed.

20 June 2018

L'Église Saint-Nicolas à Blois

Continuing my series using the photos that my friend Sue from California took in Blois on June 12, here's a first post about the other big church in town: l'église Saint-Nicolas. You can see it on the left in the photo below.

To the left of the church is the least-ancient wing of the Château de Blois, which was built in three stages. We didn't visit the château on this trip. On the far right in the photo is Blois' cathedral. As usual, you can enlarge the photos to see more detail.

The Église Saint-Nicolas is much older than the existing cathedral, and is built in an older style. Construction began in the early 1100s and was completed a century later. Located right on the banks of the Loire river as it is, it's a miracle that Saint-Nicolas survived the bombardments of World War II.

Here are a couple of photos that Sue took inside the church. I just ran in for a glance because I couldn't find a legal parking space. I parked in front of somebody's garage door and had to wait with the car while Sue had a good look around inside. Actually, my short look around was the first time I'd ever been inside Saint-Nicolas at all. I'll post some more interior views tomorrow, including Sue's photos of some of the church's surprising modern and colorful stained-glass windows.

The Cadogan guide explains that the church is located in "what used to be the old commercial riverside part of Blois, the Quartier Saint-Nicolas. It was badly bombed in the war, but luckily the church survived relatively unharmed." The next time I go to Blois, I'll have a more prolonged look around inside the church and in the neighborhood.