30 September 2007

Another must: the Eiffel Tower

We left the Mont Saint-Michel at about 7:00 p.m. and drove the fastest route to Paris. That would be the autoroute that goes from Avranches past St-Lô to Caen, and then on to Rouen and Paris. I figured it would take us at least three hours. What with stopping to pay tolls at several booths along the way, and a couple of rest stops to get a cup of coffee and make a phone call home (not to mention my getting lost in Avranches at the beginning), it ended up taking us exactly four hours.

The Eiffel Tower twinkling at 11 p.m on a Thursday night
in a picture taken through the windshield of the car

One Paris monument that Joanna really wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower. She wanted to see it lit up and sparkling on the hour after dark, and she wanted to go to the top during daylight hours. I wanted us to do both also. I had been 10 years since my last trip to the top.

As we approached Paris on the autoroute from Normandy, I was watching the clock on the dashboard of the car and wondering whether we might arrive in time to see the 11:00 p.m. Eiffel Tower light show. At one point I decided it was best just to drive around the boulevard périphérique (the Paris ring road) and go directly to our hotel, which was on the other side of the city. That meant putting off the Eiffel Tower light show until Friday night.

Lining up to buy a ticket for the
observation deck at the Eiffel Tower

Luckily for us, as it turned out, the south- and westbound lanes of the périphérique were closed for maintenance work that night. I had no choice but to go north toward the Porte Maillot, an exit I know and which leads to the Arc de Triomphe. We drove around the arch and down one of the broad avenues to get to the Place du Trocadéro, from where you have a clear view of the tower.

Looking into the tower structure from Level 2...

We pulled up at Trocadéro at 11:00 on the dot and the tower started twinkling. It was perfect. While the light show continued, I drove around the Palais de Chaillot and down to the bridge that crosses the Seine at the foot of the tower for a close-up view. Then we drove around to the Place de l'Ecole Militaire and along the boulevard that passes in front of the military school at the top of the Champ de Mars for one more look. At about that time, the light show stopped, but that was fine — we had seen it.

...and looking down

It was midnight when we finally got to the hotel and got checked in. I found a parking space. The next morning, we got up at 7:00 and headed out on foot up to the Place d'Italie to catch the métro. It was direct from there to the Bir-Hakeim station just down the street from the Eiffel Tower. We were going to the top, come hell or high water.

On Level 2, the line snakes through these fences
when it's really crowded. We were smart to go early.

The Sunday before, we had gone to the foot of the tower, but the ticket lines were just too long. We needed to hit the road and get back to Saint-Aignan that evening, and we were all exhausted. I asked a guard what time the tower opened on weekday mornings, and he said 9:00 a.m. So our goal was to get there by 9:00, and we did. We were extremely goal-oriented that morning. We even found a street toilet along the way and were able to be sure we would be comfortable standing in line for an hour or more if that's what it took.

Another look up from Level 2

When we got to the tower, we queued up with the other tourists. The line wasn't as long as we had feared it would be. It was a beautiful morning. At 9:05, the line still wasn't budging. I left J & J to hold my place and went to check the sign above the ticket windows to see what time it opened and how much it cost to go up. The sign said 9:30, not 9:00, and the price of admission was 11.50 euros.

A look at the ticket lines below from Level 2

Nine-thirty came and we were soon in the elevator on our way to the top. It hadn't taken long at all. Even on the second level, where all the visitors coming up from the ground on different elevators in the four feet of the tower have to line up again and get on a different set of elevators to continue to the top, the wait wasn't more than ten minutes.

29 September 2007

I keep ending up...

... at the Mont Saint-Michel. Don't get me wrong — I'm not complaining. It's just that for a place that is so far from Saint-Aignan, it's getting a lot of attention from this Saint-Aignanais. I've been to the Mont at least half dozen times since 2004.

The Mont Saint-Michel seen across a cornfield on the edge of the bay.

I guess I'm struck by that number of recent visits because the first time I ever went to the MSM was in 1973 (when I was a very young boy). And the second time was 19 years later, in 1992, with Walt. The long time between visits wasn't because I didn't spend much time in France then — I lived in Paris for five years between 1974 and '82. I guess I was busy working.

It all started when I found out that a good friend of CHM's and mine had a house up in the village of Carteret, near Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula. And guess what's just off the road that leads to Carteret. Yes. Le MSM. I drove up there to get CHM and a friend of his to bring them to Saint-Aignan in 2004, and we stopped to take a look at the Mont.

The town of Avranches seen across the mudflats from the Mont

Then, a few months later my mother and her sister came to visit. We decided to drive up to Normandy to see the town of Carteret, which gave its name to the North Carolina county I was born in. And we stopped at the Mont. We also stopped at several of the D-Day beaches.

There's a little church on the Mont dedicated to Joan of Arc.
Saint Michael's was one of the voices that young Joan heard, in
the early 1400s, telling her to go chase the English out of France.

In May 2005, Walt and I decided to go to Normandy to eat oysters and mussels. We put the dog in the car and took off. We went to Carteret, and on the way we saw the Mont.

The Mont really is a sight to see, but all those times, for one reason or another, we didn't actually walk up its narrow streets and climb all the stairs required if you want to walk around the ramparts. In 2006, that changed. Our friend Sue from California was staying with us, and we wanted her to see the MSM. We drove out there — it takes about four hours on a good day — in mid-June. We spent the night in a hotel in Domfront, an old hilltop town where we've stayed before, and then drove the last few miles out to the Mont the next morning.

View of the church buildings on the Mont taken from the causeway

By the time we got there, the tour buses had already arrived and the narrow streets were elbow-to-elbow with tourists (including us). We walked (or climbed) up to the top and paid the price of admission to see the old abbey church and cloister at the peak of the Mont. Then Sue went shopping in all the boutiques lining the main street while Walt and I sat down at a table on the outdoor terrace of the Vieille Auberge and ate mussels and frites with some good Muscadet white wine.

This is where we keep returning for meals on the Mont.
It's not gourmet fare, but it's good and the prices are reasonable.

That experience convinced Walt and me that we wanted to go to the MSM in the winter to experience the atmosphere without crowds of tourists. January and most of February 2007 came and went without our budging from Saint-Aignan, and then I said to Walt that I wanted the trip to the Mont as my birthday present in early March.

We went and it was great. It rained, just as it is supposed to. It poured, actually.The high tide came in and the Mont was completely surrounded by water, with the exception of the high part causeway that links it to the mainland and that was built in the late 1800s. The Mont itself has been there since time immemorial, of course, and churches and monsteries have been in existence on its peak for more than a thousand years.

Speaking of that causeway, the French government has a plan to supprimer it. Tear it down. Rip it out. They want to make the Mont into real island at high tide again. The causeway will be replaced by a bridge that tourists can walk across, and that little shuttle buses can cross to carry who can't or don't want to hoof it. Water will flow under it, and not be blocked by it.

The dam being built across the mouth of the
Couesnon river at the Mont Saint-Michel

Sand has been building up around the Mont for more than a century, so only the very highest tides can surround it entirely nowadays. In order to wash away some of that build-up of sand, the authorities are putting up a dam across the river that flows into the bay at the foot of the Mont. When the highest tides come in and push water up into the river, they will close the dam. More water will build up from the river's natural flow. At the right time, they will open the floodgates and all that water will flood out and start pushing the sand back out to sea. After some unspecified length of time, they hope, the Mont will become a real island again.

An old gate along the streets of the Mont

With Joanna and Janice, I drove back to the Mont again on 20 September. We stopped in our village just outside Saint-Aignan to buy some wine from Bruno and the Domaine de la Renaudie. J & J wanted to take back a couple of bottles each as gifts. They each got a bottle of rosé (Perle de Rosée, one of our favorites) and a bottle of 2006 Sauvignon Blanc AOC, the winery's specialty. Bruno was busy dumping a load of white wine grapes into the pressoir and we watched for a few minutes, and then he took the time to sell us the bottles we wanted. His wife Patricia was out supervising harvest operations in the vineyard.

Then we stopped in a big Centre E. Leclerc, a hypermarket (as they call it in French) or superstore if you prefer, re J & J loaded up on cookies, chocolate, tea towels, and other items to take back as gifts for their co-workers and friends. By the time we really started the trip toward the Mont, it was noon.

Signs on the main street of the Mont

We stopped for a roadside picnic — I had made sandwiches early that morning — between Le Mans and Laval at an autoroute rest stop, and arrived at the MSM about 4:30 p.m. We just had time to take a walk around the lower ramparts and admire the views. The tide was low. We didn't go up into the abbey. We did a little souvenir shopping, and then we went — where else? — to the Vieille Auberge for a dinner crêpe, a glass of wine, and a cup of coffee. Joanna said that the crêpe (or galette, really) she had, filled with ham, egg, and cheese, was just about the best thing she had eaten in France.

As you probably know, the Catholic calendar used in France dedicates each day of the year to a saint. Today happens to be Saint Michael's feast day. Just a coincidence.

You can read my other topics about the Mont here, here, here, here, here, and here.

28 September 2007

A word for the week

Now for a brief interruption in the travelogue. When I got back from Paris, I gradually developed a severe chest cold. In French, one term used to describe this affliction is a familiar, slangy term, la crève. The only translation my French-English dictionary gives for la crève in this sense is the very boring "a bad cold." A lousy cold.

The definition in the Grand Robert dictionary

Crève (pronounced krehv) derives from the verb crever (kruh-VAY), which means to pop, puncture, or burst something, like a balloon, a ball, or a tire. In slang, it means to die, and the adjective crevé (also kruh-VAY) is often used to mean exhausted.

You can see the meaning: you are so tired you think you might die, or you are so sick you think you might. Well, moi, j'ai la crève depuis lundi. I've been sicker than a dog since Monday. Yesterday I thought I was getting better, but today I'm definitely feeling worse. Je suis complètement crevé.

I'll continue my travelogue tomorrow with a report on the Mont Saint-Michel and a report on my day in Paris with Joanna and Janice. Health permitting.

Bonne santé, tout le monde.

27 September 2007

The grand tour

Wednesday of last week was the day of the grand tour of the Loire Valley châteaux that are within 25 miles of Saint-Aignan. That includes Chenonceau, Amboise, Chaumont-sur-Loire, and Chambord. I'm leaving out Blois and Cheverny, because we didn't have time to stop at either of those, and Valençay, which we saw a couple of days earlier.

There are many more châteaux nearby that are worth a visit, but it would take several days to see all of them. Le Gué-Péan, Chémery, Montrésor, Le Moulin, La Bourdaisière, Villesavin, Beauregard, Troussay, Selles-sur-Cher, and Fougères-sur-Bièvre are just a few of the others. Not to mention Saint-Aignan.

Chenonceau, 19 September 2007

But when it is your visitors' first tour of the Loire Valley, you have to hit the high spots. It's not too hard to get "chateaued out," if you know what I mean. It's like churches. After the fifth or sixth one, you find yourself yawning and muttering "okay, another church."

To really get to know the Loire Valley area, or any other, you have to spend a few weeks, and vary your pleasures by seeing a château or a church now and then but also taking days off to enjoy long walks along the rivers or through the vineyards. Stopping in a winery for a tasting and having a few nice meals made from ingredients you buy in the street markets is also a good idea. And restaurants.

A main shopping street in Amboise —
it wasn't too crowded at lunchtime.

Anyway, time is usually short and a certain amount of rushing around is necessary. Otherwise, visitors go away with the idea that they didn't really get to see all that they had wanted to see. Driving from château to château over the course of a long day is also a good opportunity to chat, relive old memories, and laugh it up with guests you don't get to see as often as you would like.

Speaking of my driving, I only managed to make Janice scream once while we were in the car. Joanna didn't scream at all, or at least not that I can recall. Remember, I had never met Janice before this visit, even though she has been a friend of my sister's for 20 years. She probably thought I was a madman as we raced around on our area's narrow curvy roads, and sped through villages that were often a tangle of traffic.

Joanna took this picture of the château in Amboise.

Janice's scream didn't come until the very last day of the trip, in Paris. We were driving around the bouldevard périphérique from our hotel near the Porte d'Italie toward the Porte de Bagnolet and the A3 autoroute that takes you out to Charles de Gaulle airport. A big truck was in the right lane and its driver was weaving back and forth over the line dividing his lane from the empty one between him and us. I needed to move over to make my exit.

I watched the truck weave for a few seconds until I thought I detected a pattern in his movement. No, he wasn't actually planning to change lanes. So that empty lane was mine for the taking. I stepped on the gas to try to get ahead of the truck and I started moving to the right. Problem was that he picked that moment to weave left. That's when Janice screamed. "Kenny, watch out for that truck!" she yelled, her life passing in front of her eyes.

But we made it. I've gotten better screams than that out of Walt. Once in Spain... oh well, we survived and so did the car, so there's not point going into the details. I also remember a woman I didn't know, a friend of a friend who came to visit, letting out a tiny scream one day when I decided suddenly to pull off the highway for a good view of the château at Chaumont-sur-Loire from across the river. I hadn't realized that the gravel shoulder of the road was so pitted and rutted. The car went sliding but the anti-lock breaks kicked in and saved us. Since we were wearing seat belts, our heads didn't even hit the roof of the car. And we got a great view of the château, way up on a bluff above the Loire.

The weather was nice, but it was a little too chilly to eat outside in Amboise that day.

Last Wednesday, there wasn't too much excitement of that kind. We walked the river path at Chenonceau in the morning. Then we went over to Amboise and had lunch. The restaurant I wanted to try, one that I've been wondering about for years, was of course closed on Wednesdays. So we went to a pizzeria down the street, directly under the high walls of the château d'Amboise. It's called La Florentine. The food was good. I had a pizza, Joanna had spaghetti with meat sauce, and Janice had onion soup and a big salad with lots of cheese in it.


After lunch and a walk through some of the busier streets of Amboise, we drove on over to Chaumont. I parked around back, in the "secret" parking area I discovered a couple of years ago. When you park there rather than down in the village, you don't have to suffer through a long, steep hike up the hill to get to the château. You're already on top of the bluff, so you just stroll over to the château on flat ground through a wooded park.

Joanna also took this picture of me at the wheel
of the Peugeot. That's the cathedral and the bridge
at Blois that you see through the windshield.

From Chaumont, Blois is a short ride. We stopped on the south bank of the Loire and admired the panoramic view of the city, with its château, an old convent, three big churches, and the old stone arches of the bridge across the river. We didn't cross the bridge so we didn't go into the main part of town. No time.


We pressed on toward Chambord, with me pointing out the château de Ménars on its bluff across the river. Mme de Pompadour lived there in the 18th century and had the place refurbished by the finest architects of the day. It isn't open to the public.

At Chambord, there were plenty of people but it wasn't what you'd call mobbed. It never is, in my experience, not the way Chenonceau can be. I guess the grounds are just a lot more spacious and the château de Chambord just about dwarfs all the other châteaux around here. We took pictures and looked around in the château's gift shop as well as some of the other souvenir stores on the grounds before we headed back to Saint-Aignan.

The many ornate chimneys at Chambord

When we got home at about 6:30, Joanna, Janice, Walt, and Callie went for a walk out in the vineyard while I copied my pictures onto my hard disk and started organizing and processing them. They seemed to have a nice walk, and Joanna took some pictures of — what else? — grapes. It was a good but long, busy day for us all.

26 September 2007

The Montpoupon stop

I've published pictures of the château de Montpoupon before. It's on the road that runs north from Loches to Montrichard and Blois, as the milestone in my picture indicates. That puts it about a dozen miles (20 km) west of Saint-Aignan and about the same distance south of Chenonceaux.

Le château de Montpoupon

Montpoupon is always a picturesque stop along the road. Once, when we first got here in 2003, we did the guided tour. The most interesting part of the tour was the old kitchen on the ground floor of the château. The guide had us guessing what various pieces of ancient equipment were designed to do. The château was lived in until recently, and the kitchen was functioning as late as 1978. I just read on the web site that you can now tour the château without a guide. That's new. Somebody told me that Montpoupon was recently sold to some Americans, but I haven't confirmed that.

The massive towers are a couple of hundred years
older than the main building at Montpoupon.

The Michelin guide says the old towers at Montpoupon date back to a fortress that was built in the 1200s on the site. The corps de logis — the residential part of the building — was constructed in the 1400s. Like most of the Loire Valley châteaux, it has been modified and modernized and then restored to earlier styles several times over the past 600 years. It survived the French Revolution basically intact.

This little gatehouse dates back to the early 1500s,
the time when Chambord and Chenonceau were built.

Montpoupon was important strategically early on because it was situated half way between Loches, held by the counts of Anjou, and Montrichard, held by the counts of Blois. Later, it suffered through the 100 Years War before being rebuilt in the 1460s by new owners.

An overall view of Montpoupon

Most of the Loire châteaux are surrounded by a village or town. Montpoupon is an exception; it sits out in the middle of the country, kind of isolated except that it's on a main road. The châteaux's main attraction is a museum devoted to hunting.

There's also a restaurant called L'Auberge du Château located on the property at Montpoupon. Information about all this, in French, can be found on this site.

This old farmhouse is part of the Montpoupon property.
Our friend Gisèle told me she lived there for a while as
a young girl. Her father was a chauffeur and her mother
a bookkeeper for the owners of the château.

Finally, here's a picture of Janice and Joanna at Montpoupon. It was taken at sunset, at the end of a very busy in Valençay and Loches.

18 September 2007

25 September 2007

Loches, last Tuesday

In early June, 1429, Joan of Arc came to the town of Loches to urge Charles VII to travel to the cathedral at Reims, in Champagne, to be crowned king. She was just 17 years old; Charles was 26. His legitimacy as heir to the throne of France had been called into question by the warring Burgundians and English.

The 15th-century royal residence at Loches

This was the time of the 100 Years War in France. Joan had visited Charles a few months earlier in nearby Chinon to tell him she had seen the truth in a divinely inspired vision: he was destined to be king. After winning a battle at Patay, near Blois, against the English, he did go to Reims for his coronation, which took place on July 17, 1429.

Charles VII

Joan herself didn't do so well. She was captured by the Burgundian enemy and sold to the English, who in 1431 burned her at the stake as a heretic in the Norman city of Rouen. Charles had Joan rehabilitated in the 1450s. The pope overturned the heresy verdict and Joan was declare a heroine and a martyr.

Agnès Sorel

During this same period, Loches was home to the woman who was to be called the most beautiful woman in France, Agnès Sorel. Agnès was born in the 1420s and was destined by her origins and education to become a demoiselle de compagnie to the queen in the French court. Charles VII, who was not handsome, not intelligent, and not rich, according to historians, took her as his mistress in the 1440s. She was blonde and fair-complexioned.

Loches today from the château grounds

She was not the first mistress Charles and earlier kings had kept at the court, but she was the first one to come out of the shadows and perform the functions of a kind of first lady. She outshone the queen by her beauty, her extravagance, and her art de vivre. Charles gave her a cut diamond, the earliest one known to exist. Agnès invented or popularized the décolleté, baring her shoulders and even her breasts, scandalizing her contemporaries. She wore furs and favored elaborate hairstyles and coifs.

The Eglise Saint-Ours in Loches is where
Agnès Sorel's tomb is kept now.

Agnès was not a frivolous woman, however. She schemed to find the money necessary to support her lifestyle, and she imposed her friends at the court. She convinced the king's advisers to trust her judgment and plans. Charles gave her the title to territories all over France, including Loches. She had three children by the king, who declared them legitimate.

Loches from the top of the donjon or keep

In 1450, Agnès went to Rouen to join Charles, who was engaged in military actions against the English in Normandy. No one knows why she made the trip. Maybe she just missed him. Charles put her up in a manor house at Mesnil-sous-Jumièges, on the Seine river near Rouen. She was immediately taken ill and died in just a few hours' time, at the ripe old age of 28.

One of the gates to the town of Loches, witha modern apartment building in the background

An autopsy performed in 2005 on Agnès Sorel's remains showed that her digestive tract was infested with parasites and that she had ingested a good quantity of mercury. Whether she was taking the mercury medicinally to fight the parasites — worms, in other words — or whether she had been intentionally poisoned, nobody knows. Whatever the case, she died from an overdose of mercury salts.

The rooftops of the old town of Loches

Isn't it interesting that both these young women, Joan and Agnès, ended up dying in Normandy, in or near Rouen? I suppose that's where the action was, what with the French fighting the English to push them back across the Channel one more time.

A tower at Loches' royal residence

Joanna, Janice, and I spent the afternoon in Loches last Tuesday. We paid the price of admission and walked through the royal residence in the old medieval city there, including the room where Joan of Arc besought Charles to go to Reims for his coronation and then chase the English out of France.

« Charles VII roy des François »
in his younger days

We walked through the church where Agnès Sorel's tomb has been placed since it was confirmed by DNA testing that the remains are authentically hers. Before, Agnès's tomb was kept in the royal residence.

A modern treatment for an old house at Loches

We also climbed around in the old fortified keep — le donjon — that dominates the town of Loches. It was built in the 11th century by the counts of Anjou as an outpost to protect their territories from the warlike counts of Blois. A little later, Henri Plantagenêt of Anjou, who became king Henry II of England, reinforced the site, but his rebellious son Richard the LionHeart took it from his troops in 1189.

A view from an old window in the royal residence at Loches

Richard ended up in prison, and the French king Philippe Auguste took Loches over for a while. Richard subsequently reconquered it for the English. In 1205, after a year-long siege, Philippe Auguste of France won it back. It remained French from that time on. New, more imposing fortifications were built in the 1200s and 1300s, and Charles VII ended up holding court in Loches all through the 1400s.

The donjon at Loches

Views from the top of the fortifications are panoramic. But the fact is that Loches was used as a prison for centuries after its glory days as the site of king Charles VII's court. Prisoners were notoriously mistreated. Instruments of torture and little cells where prisoners were held for years in solitary confinement are now on view. The walls bear extensive graffiti left behind by those imprisoned in the dark, dank towers and cellars.

Loches (pronounced sort of like "lush" or "brush" in U.S. English) has about 8,000 inhabitants and is just 30 minutes southwest of Saint-Aignan and about the same distance southeast of the city of Tours.

Joanna and her older brother at Loches

24 September 2007

A Napoleon theme

The first part of my sister's trip ended up having a Napoleon theme. We didn't plan it that way, but on Sunday, after her friend Janice finally arrived, we found ourselves at Invalides. We admired Napoleon's tomb there in the Eglise du Dôme.

The château at Valençay. The scaffolding
means that restoration work is under way.

Janice really wanted to go to Fontainebleau, because she has a friend who used to live there. Napoleon spent a lot of time there too. My favorite route from Paris to Saint-Aignan passes within just a few miles of Fontainebleau, so it was an easy stop. Here's my Fontainebleau blog topic from that day, and one from a couple of weeks earlier.

Joanna took this picture of market stalls in Valençay.
You can see that the market wasn't crowded at all.

Last Tuesday, I planned a visit to a local market without thinking of Napoleon at all. We drove over to Valençay, which has an outdoor market on Tuesday mornings. And the château de Valençay, one of the big attractions within 30 minutes of Saint-Aignan, was bought by Napoleon in the early 19th century and given to his powerful foreign minister, Talleyrand.

A pork butcher's shop on the main street in Valençay

Our main focus was the street market, but it was a little bit of a disappointment. In September, a lot of the market vendors take their own vacations after working through the big tourist months of July and August. A good number of stores and restaurants around Saint-Aignan also close up shop in September, including one of our best bakeries (Robert) and one of our best restaurants (Le Crêpiot). So September is not the ideal time to visit the Saint-Aignan area.

Pork kidneys on sale at the Valençay market

At Valençay, there were a lot of empty slots along the main market street. Only about a third of the regular vendors were there, I'd estimate. We looked at clothing, tea towels, aprons, and other possible gifts for people back in North Carolina. Then we, or at least I, went into the food hall to see what products were on sale. I needed some tomatoes and I ended up buying some cheese.

Beef tripe (stomach) in its raw form

Two well-known goat's-milk cheeses are made in the Valençay area. One is called a Valençay and is made in the form of a truncated pyramid. The other comes from the nearby town called Selles-sur-Cher. The cheese has the same name as the town of Selles-sur-Cher. It's also a goat cheese but it is made in the form of a disk. Both these goat cheeses are coated in a mixture of wood ash and salt that is edible. They are sold at different stages of maturation: fresh (frais), half-dry (demi-sec), and fully dry (sec). The flavor gets more pronounced as the cheese ages and the texture changes from creamy to crumbly.

Tripe cooked and ready to be reheated at home. Also veal for
scaloppini, andouillette (chitling) sausages, and pig's feet.

A lot of people think they don't like goat cheese but they should try the fresh ones. They'll be surprised how mild they taste. Most people graduate up to the dry forms before too long and learn to appreciate the pungency of good aged goat cheese. It's good with beer, white wine, or red wine.

Valençay-style goat cheeses

I like to take market pictures and I've posted some here. I'm looking for local color, and I guess some of these pictures also have shock value. But this is France and food in France, where "variety meats" — offal or organs including kidneys, livers, brains, tripe, and chitterlings — are a delicacy.

Goat cheeses — fromages de chèvre — in a shop window

As for us American visitors, we left the market at about noon and drove back home for lunch. We had hamburgers and French fries! After lunch, we drove over to Loches to spend the afternoon in the medieval town there.