25 March 2008

Last snowy pictures for 2008

I suppose April snowstorms are not unheard of here in the Loire Valley. We had them — and sometimes they were major storms — in other places I've lived: North Carolina, Washington DC, Urbana IL. S'il vous plaît, Météo France, spare us that misery.

Flowers and ice

Our mindset is different, and it's all based on what happened in 2007. A year ago, the month of April turned virtually hot and was perfectly dry. The temperature might not have hit 80, but the afternoon sun felt tropical. And the afternoons seemed extraordinarily long, because the onset of l'heure d'été — Daylight Saving Time — meant the sun didn't set until about 8:00 p.m.

So you see, that's what we are expecting to happen again this April. Never mind that last April was, by any standard, completely exceptional. The human mind ignores that bit of information. Or mine does, anyway. I'm itching to get out and start digging in the dirt. Or maybe I've put the cart before the horse: I'll be itching all over from insect bites once I am able to get out and start digging and planting and weeding.

Plum blossoms and crusty snow in the garden

No question of digging right now. When it's not cold, it's wet, and vice versa. Or it's both, like yesterday. The garden plots that I was so proud to have gotten all tilled up last fall are gradually being invaded by grasses and weeds. Tilling them again will be like starting from scratch again. There's nothing I can do about it. The dirt is too heavy and wet to be worked for the time being.

Yesterday I needed to go to the grocery store. I thought I'd go to Ed, the discount grocer, because I needed milk, lardons, and fruit juice — products that Ed carries, that I like, and that are less expensive there than at other supermarkets.

Vineyard scene

When I drove up to Ed, it was closed. Easter Monday is a holiday here. There's no mail or bread delivery, for example. But I thought the markets would be open for the morning, the way they are on Sundays and most holidays. But no.

SuperU, our biggest supermarket, is just up the street from Ed, so I drove up there. It's always open. Drat. Not on Easter Monday, it wasn't. Okay, now what?

The other two supermarkets are on the other side of the river, over in Noyers-sur-Cher. I drove on over there, enjoying the sight-seeing, actually, even though with melting snow and a dim sun in a gray sky, everything looked kind of dingy. Run down. Wintry. European.

Old Monsieur Denis, who is otherwise retired from the
wine business, still takes care of pruning one plot of new vines.
He does things the old way, gathering up the clippings and
tying them into bundles using willow withies (osier).
Callie thought the yellow willow whips needed moving...

I headed for "downtown" Noyers and Champion first. If that market wasn't open, I would drive over to Intermarché, in the zone d'activités commerciales on the edge of town. I was encouraged to see that Champion's parking lot was full of cars and the place was bustling.

As I wandered the aisles looking for the things I needed, and just generally browsing and checking the prices on staple items in this store where I don't often shop, I noticed that the checkout lines were snaking up and down the aisles closest to the registers. I resigned myself to a long wait. Tant pis.

And I continued to explore, examining the coffee section (no bargains there), looking at the wine shelves (Bordeaux and Beaujolais wines for less than two euros a bottle, the same for Sauvignon Blanc from the Languedoc region and a white wine from Gascogne) and the meat counter (again, no bargains there, and we didn't need anything).

A winter scene — wind blew a big empty pot over and it broke

By the time I found everything and was good to go, all the lines at the registers had magically disappeared. No waiting. The only line left in the store was the six or eight people waiting to buy a baguette at the bakery counter in the front of the store, which operates separately from the supermarket. The bread at Champion is good. And on a Monday, especially an Easter Monday, most of the boulangeries around the area are closed.

We planned to have soup for lunch. It was a soup we made a few weeks ago and we were going to eat leftovers that I had put in the freezer. So I had the luxury of exploring greater Saint-Aignan "metropolitan area" by car and then nosing around in the one supermarket I found open — I didn't need to cook lunch. I probably put seven miles on the car. For me these days, that passes for a day out on the town.


  1. 'Putting the cart before the horse' - it's 'putting the plough before the oxen' in France isn't it? :-)


  2. Ken
    I guess that, in your part of the country, you don't swap to winter tires when the cold season comes.
    It must not be "fun" to drive when there are ice pellets falling ( if they don't melt when they hit the ground). During the first week of March we experienced these ice pellets and since it is very cold- they stayed on the ground and and it is tough on the back and arms when one has to shovel an entry way.

  3. In Mexico (and Maryland), a catholic country like France, everything is closed on Good Friday, unlike France where it is on "Lundi de Pâques." Same thing in France for Whit Monday, I don't know why?
    And yes, Susan, you're right about the horse and the oxen.

  4. CHM, Easter Monday was a holiday in North Carolina when I was growing up. Then in 1987 the N.C. government ended its observance. I was surprised back in 1971 when I moved to Illinois to find out it wasn't a holiday there. I considered it normal, as in France.

    TB, the ground was too warm here for snow or ice to last more than a few hours. By the time I took the car out, the roads were just wet.

  5. Oh the joys of finding a place that's open on a jour ferie!

    But the photos are fabulous -- and I'm glad Champion was you champion!

  6. Claudia in Toronto25 March, 2008 22:18

    Thank you for your permission to print your posts on La Loire's villages. It will be such an interesting addition to the book I bought in 1997. Never thought I would ever meet people living in that region. It's Joachim Du Bellay in "Le Beau Voyage" who called my attention on "le Loyre gaulois".

    Winter is nice at your place. It's soft looking. Un peu de poudre blanche... Here, our snow was nearly all gone for Easter. It's falling again today. So difficult for drivers.

  7. Ken,
    I hope this is your first and last snow for this winter. We have had no snow in Eastern NC this year and I will be working in my gardens tomorrow for the first time this year.

    I enjoyed reading about your Easter Monday excursion!


  8. do you think monsieur denis knows how to weave garden walls of osier? living hedges? cheese or bread or egg baskets? other osier projects we never heard of? can he douse with willow wands?
    i'm so curious about what these inheritors of 5000 years in the countryside know.


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