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 molded in the form of a truncated pyramid. The other comes from the nearby town called Selles-sur-Cher. The cheese has the same name. It's also a goat cheese but it is molded 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 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.


  1. I do hope you didn't try the tripe and/or andouillette on your sister! ;)
    Great photos ! Tripe looks terrible when not cooked ;)

  2. Hi Ken !

    Can't overlook the wine ... (grin) ...

    Valencay wines have been AOC since November 2003. The whites are excellent with the Valencay cheeses !

    A good place to taste and purchase is at



  3. I enjoyed all your photos today. You are lucky to have direct access to so many good cheeses and wines.

    DH says that human stomachs also look like honeycombs inside- same for our small intestines. Pretty amazing.


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