17 October 2008

Autumn and a trip to Blois

I don't think I'd ever noticed before this year how clear it is from the color of fall leaves where different grape varieties are planted in the vineyard. I was aware of the different colors in past autumns, but I guess I wasn't paying much attention to the patterns.

This is a parcel of vines just behind our house. The red grapes — probably Gamay or Cab. Franc — are the ones with the red-orange leaves.

The grapevines with yellow leaves are, I'm pretty sure, the variety called Pineau d'Aunis, from which nice, peppery rosé wines are made. I think a lot of the white grape varieties have leaves that turn bright yellow in autumn.

The weather has turned chilly again. We had rain off and on yesterday, after getting about a half-inch (12 mm) in the rain gauge overnight.

We drove up to Blois yesterday to run some errands. We had four good successes, one strikeout, and two postponements. I'll emphasize the successes.

We went to the Préfecture de Police to see about 10-year residency cards, but the lines were just too long and we didn't want to wait. There's no hurry; our current cards are good until September 2009. We'll go back another time, or just call them and ask them to send the applications and other information to us by mail.

Here are a few pictures of our house,
taken from over in the neighbors' yard
Notice our red maple trees.

While at the Préfecture, we got our driver's licenses sorted out. There was no problem, really, but we wanted to get a code that will let us check the status of our licenses on a French government web site. To do that, you have to go to the Préfecture, or send a letter, to get the password.

Now we can check to see if we have lost any points on our licenses. Walt's permis de conduire, being three years old now, is no longer considered provisional and the Préfecture confirmed that he now has the full complement of 12 points. He only had 6 for the first three years. And mine also has 12 points on it. I wasn't sure it did, since I got flashed by a speed camera for speeding (going 50 in a 40 zone) about 3½ years ago. If any points were deducted for that infraction, they have been restored now.

The house is called Les Bouleaux, a name it was given
by its owners before the streets in the village were numbered.

We also went to the Electricité de France office to get our electric bills straightened out. No, it wasn't about money. It had to do with the names that appear on our bill. When the account was opened in April 2003, Walt and I were still in the U.S. The woman we bought the house from had the tranfer of owners set up, and she told EDF to put the name of our corporation on all the paperwork.

Why does it matter? It's because every time you do anything administrative here — residency cards and health insurance renewals — you are asked to provide proof of your residence, which is called a justificatif de domicile. The electric bill is what they prefer to see. And ours didn't display our names prominently. There were there, in small print at the bottom of the bill, but both, yes both, of our names were spelled incorrectly.

Our window-box petunias are still in full bloom —
but the weather is getting colder and colder now.

The man at the EDF office in Blois (that's the closest one) looked at our papers and fixed us up in a jiffy. The next bill will have our names at the top, and he even gave us some certificates showing that we have had electric service at our current address since April 2003. We won't have any more trouble on that count.

After that success, we drove up into North Blois and located a store that sells Asian food products. It opened earlier this year, and we hadn't found it yet. It's in a strip mall, right next door to the American Car Wash. That's the name, in English.

The Asian grocery store is called Paris Store, and it's part of a chain headquartered in Paris. We've been to a Paris Store in the 13th arrondissement in Paris to buy noodles, sauces, rice, and other products we have a hard time finding in Saint-Aignan. Now — and I guess I never thought I'd say this — we won't have to go to Paris so often. The Paris Store in Blois is clean, spacious, and very well stocked with pretty much everything we need. And it's only an hour from here.

So it was a good day. Actually, the best part was that we discovered a new Blois neighborhood when we went there for lunch at a restaurant. It was noontime and all the schools were getting out for lunchtime. There were literally hundreds of young people, lycéens, on the streets and sidewalks and at the sidewalk cafés up and down the street. I told Walt that I suddenly felt like I was in the France I remember from student days in Aix-en-Provence, Rouen, Grenoble, Paris, and Metz all those years ago, not only because of all the students but because of the French urban look of the streets of Blois.

We had no idea such a neighborhood, with several obviously big lycées, existed. There are also quite a few interesting-looking restaurants around there. We also drove around other parts of the town after lunch and spotted several other restaurants we'd like to try on future trips. We were back at home in Saint-Aignan by mid-afternoon.


  1. Thanks for the name of the grape variety that makes the peppery rosés. We had one in September and really liked it, but Martine, the waitress, seemed non-plussed when we commented on the pepperiness.

  2. Pineau d'Aunis is a grape grown here around Saint-Aignan and especially up around Vendôme, north of Blois. A Mareuil wine producer is the person who described it to me as peppery (poivré, épicé), and he was right. Our local winery makes a rosé called Perles de Rosée (Pearls of Dew) with Pineau d'Aunis grapes that is one of our favorites.

  3. Oh, how I love autumn! Your Maple tree is so lovely! Do you know what variety of maple it is?

    So, would Blois possibly be a place you two would consider moving to if, after a number of years at "Les Bouleaux" you decided that the upkeep of the big yard was too much?

    I remember going to Blois on my one-and-only Loire Valley trip. It was a bus trip through the Alliance, I believe, and Jane and Aimee and I went (Chambord, Blois, and another whose name escapes me-- we had a several-course meal in Blois for lunch). Isn't the Blois chateau the one with the little chapel by Leonardo da Vinci?

    Glad to know that all of your paperwork issues have so far gone so well!


  4. And just yesterday I was wishing to be back in Paris. I know that the long drive is a pain. I wish I could say that "I will not have to go to Paris so often." I even spent some of my lunch yesterday looking for apartments to buy - a whistful search I persue about once every three months or so with the hope I will find just what I want and the money will suddenly appear in my bank account.

  5. Dan, yes, the drive to Paris is long and expensive. On the autoroute the toll is 40 euros round-trip and the fuel costs more like 50 euros. That adds up to $125 — plus lunch! What's the point of going to Paris if you can't have a good lunch (adding another $75 to $100 to the cost of the trip). I too would love to live in Paris, or have a pied-à-terre there, but the price is too high.

    Judy, I don't know what those maples are. They were here when we got here. I don't know about living in Blois. Maybe. Or Tours. Or Orléans (closer to Paris). And the little Leonardo chapel is in Amboise — if that's the one you are thinking about. Blois is famous for the exterior staircase in the courtyard. And the Galerie des Loges on the north side of the building.

  6. You're wise to celebrate the victories, not matter how small. And any day that includes a good lunch is a victory, no? We have a reunion of sorts at Barb's new place on Saturday and will be sure to drink a glass in honor or absent friends.


  7. Hi Ken!

    A couple of years ago, on a winetasting trip in the Sonoma area, we asked about the correlation between fall color and wine color and were told the vines there with yellow leaves were red wine varieties (zin, I think) and the vines with red leaves were white wine varieties. I've often wondered if they were just pulling our legs!

    Your photos are convincing me that I MUST come back to the Loire Valley in the fall. It's gorgeous!

  8. Hi Chris, well, who knows? I'm only reporting on what I've observed. Maybe things are different in California. Sometimes, I think California is the world turned upside down. Green in the winter, brown landscapes in the summer. No rain for months on end. In many places, summers colder than the winters. Temperatures that go from 50 to 100 in summer in the space of just 50 or 60 miles. So red grape plants with yellow leaves and vice versa... well, that would fit!

    See you next fall, maybe.

    Susie, I wish I could be there at Barb's with you all. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow and, who knows, I may even lift a glass myself, just for the occasion.

  9. Or the rest of the world is California turned upside down... :-)

    You may be right, though. I've been out gardening all morning and it seemed like a perfect spring day, except for that October light.

  10. Oh, Ken, duuuuuuuuuh on my part! Of course, Amboise is the other chateau we visited, and it's the one with the chapel. And, I remember standing in the courtyard of Blois with the guide talking about the staircase. I think that I remember the guide also kind of turning his or her nose up about Blois, because it had been re-decorated in more recent centuries :)



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