18 March 2006

Back to the subject: France

Wow, the week went by fast. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Our friends Chris and Tony left last Sunday afternoon after a four-day visit. Collette fell ill on Sunday evening and was gone by Tuesday afternoon. Then another friend from California, Susan, arrived on Wednesday. Now it's Saturday already.

I was describing our sightseeing with Tony and Chris before I was so rudely interrupted by the realities of life and death. On Thursday, we had toured around looking at the river, which was out of its banks as a result of the runoff when the 5 or more inches of snow we had the previous Saturday melted.

On Friday afternoon (March 10) we decided to drive over to Montrichard, 10 miles down the river from Saint-Aignan. My plan was just to drive through on the way to Chenonceaux, but when we got there we discovered it was market day. We found a place to park and walked through the farmers' market. I bought some vegetables (cabbage, brussels sprouts) and some rillettes d'oie — potted goose meat is the best translation that I can come up with for that term.

Chris and Tony weren't sure they knew what rillettes were. They are in fact a meat preparation — a potted meat that you eat the way you eat pâté. That is, you spread the rillettes on bread and eat them accompanied by little sour pickles (cornichons). Rillettes are a speciality of the Loire Valley. They can be made from pork, goose, or duck.

In the market, which was extensive, a well-dressed older gentleman came up and started talking to us as we shopped the food stalls. He was just being friendly and was curious where we were from. He made some small talk and little jokes about how he couldn't bring himself to eat the turnips and rutabagas we were examining because that was all his family had to eat during World War II, when he was growing up. It's a story I've heard a thousand times in the 35 years I have spent living and vacationing in France. Then the man's wife joined us and told us that she had lived in America for a few years, in "Peetsboorgue". That's in Pennsylvania, I believe. She said her son still lived in Pittsburgh and was married to an American woman. I told them I lived just outside Saint-Aignan, and they said they lived in Saint-Aignan too. I don't know if I'll ever run into them again.

We then drove over to Chenonceaux to see if we could do the river walk along the south bank of the Cher, along the edge of the forest and up to the château de Chenonceau itself. Well, we couldn't, because of flooding. The river was high, and the trail along the bank was completely under water. Thwarted, we drove back home and had some lunch (can't remember what).

After lunch, we decided to go for a walk in Saint-Aignan. We parked in the lot down by the river and walked up a big set of steps to the grounds of the château.

The Saint-
Aignan château is perched on top of a big bluff over-
looking the river valley. The picture on the left shows part of the view from up there. That's the only bridge at Saint-Aignan. It's an old one. On this Friday afternoon there was quite a bit of traffic on it. You can see that the river is high and quite a bit of land is under water. At least I can see that.

The château itself is private. The owners live in it, and it is never open to visitors. But the big courtyard in front of the building is open to the public, so you can get an up-close look at the château exteriors and good views of the river and town.

Here's a picture of the main part of the château. It was built during the Renais-
sance, about 500 years ago.
It replaced an older, Medieval château that was fortified and that had been built around the year 1000. Quite a few of these "smaller" châteaux in the region are still in private hands and are still occupied by their owners.

Below is a view of the ruins of the older fortified château that adjoins the more "modern" buildings on the site.

Standing on the château grounds — in the main courtyard — you overlook the rooftops of old Saint-
Aignan. The town isn't very big (population 4,000 or so) and the old section is just a small part of the built-up area these days, but as you see it is quite dense and picturesque.

The château is about a mile-and-a-half from La Renaudière, where our house is located. A big part of the land between our hamlet (or neighborhood) and the château to the east is given over to an extensive park that belongs to the château owners and is closed to the public.

Most of the rooftops are red tile, but some are black slate. And some
of the outbuildings have sheet-metal roofs that are pretty rusty.

Be sure to click on the pictures to see larger views and more details. More on Saint-Aignan will follow...


  1. Nice photos. I didn't notice the ruined fortifications on the chateau and I was standing right next to you. Oy.

    I think we had the rillettes and cornichons, bread, and butter for lunch.

  2. You're right about lunch, Chris. Of course we ate those rillettes we had just bought. And probably a salad. I hope you liked the rillettes. I'm going to post a couple of panoramic shots of the château de Saint-Aignan as part of my next entry.



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