14 March 2009


Did you know that you actually pronounce the T in Montrichard? I mean, you say [mon-tree-SHAHR]. It's not like Mont Richard, where the T would be silent, as it is in Montréal (in Canada) and Montrouge (a suburb of Paris) — those are pronounced as if they were written Mont Réal and Mont Rouge. Another Touraine name where the T is pronounced is Montrésor. And another nearby place where the T is silent is Montrond. Those tricky French...

It's always interesting when, as an American, you pronounce the name MonTrichard and a French person "corrects" you. It happened to Walt, he told me, a few weeks ago. Ah que c'est beau de savoir quelque chose !.

We drove back down to Montrichard from Amboise (10 miles) Thursday evening, returning to the peaceful Cher Valley after the traffic, congestion, and attitude of Amboise. We parked down by the river, behind the Bellevue Hotel, because we figured it might be hard to find a space on the town's main street, called la rue Nationale. Then we walked the couple of blocks up into town.

Well, la rue Nationale was empty. There was wall-to-wall parking, and free. It was that special twilight hour, right before dark, when all the shops were closing up. We walked past a couple of charcuteries and boucheries where the clerks were emptying out the display cases and putting all the meats and prepared foods into refrigerators or cold rooms for the night. They were busy wiping out the cases, talking amongst themselves, and looking happy that the day was done.

The lights were dim inside the shops, so there were no sharp contrasts. The scene was very peaceful. It was like seeing what was going on backstage after a busy day of putting on warm smiles and dealing with all kinds of customers. Everybody looked relaxed. In Montrichard at that hour, we were the only pedestrians out on the street.

The restaurant where we planned to have dinner, Le Procopio, is in a little pedestrian lane off the main street. We walked down there and found the place closed up tight, with a big iron grate pulled across the entry. We inspected the menus displayed in a glass case next to the front door, but found there no indication of the restaurant's business hours. Why would it be closed on a Thursday night?

Besides, there was a candle burning in a glass inside the restaurant. Surely that meant that it was just too early — it was just 7:00 — and that the restaurant would open for dinner in a few minutes. Who would leave a candle burning unsupervised?

Just in case, we wandered down the main street to take a look at other restaurant possibilities. Another pizzeria we've tried, L'Adagio, was also closed up tight, with an iron grate pulled across the storefront it occupies. It couldn't be closed as well... could it?

A little farther down the street is the main square near the bridge in Montrichard, and there are four restaurants there. One is a bar/ restaurant called Les Tuffeaux, and it was bound to be open. Yes, the lights were on. We'd go have a glass of wine while we waited, since we were early.

At another restaurant on the square we could see the restaurant staff having dinner before the place opened for business. Again, the lights were dimmed, and the scene was peaceful — several men in their restaurant whites sitting around a little table, talking and eating. We spent time looking at the menus, thinking our friends from Scotland might prefer a French restaurant.

At another restaurant, the cook was standing out front on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. The lights were on inside the restaurant, so it was obviously about to open for the evening. However, the fourth restaurant, another pizzeria called Aux Quatre Saisons, was also dark and shuttered. Maybe all the pizzerias in Montrichard are closed on Thursday nights, I thought.

We went into Les Tuffeaux, entering through a door that leads directly into the bar. Two men were inside, employees, and they actually had to move a chair so that we could get in. "Oh, we forgot the lock this door for the evening," one of the men told us, with a smile. "Normally you enter through the main restaurant door."

We told him we just want to have a drink, and he invited to sit down at a table. We ordered deux verres de Sauvignon — two glasses of the local white wine — and took our seats. While we sipped our wine, the two men sat at a nearby table in the bar and ate their dinner. One of them asked us if we were tourists, and we said no, we live in Saint-Aignan. Ah, yes, the tourists will show up later in the spring, they said.

One of the men commented to the other that the dish he was eating — it looked to be a pasta dish, but I thought he said something about choux, or cabbage — was really delicious. Before they could even finish eating, a couple of restaurant customers came in and they had to get busy seating them and taking water, bread, and menus to their table.

It was 7:30 and that was our appointed meeting time. We paid the four euros for our two glasses of wine and exited onto the square. A few steps up, we saw our friends, who were window-shopping along la rue Nationale as they waited. We walked down to Le Procopio, where we had planned to eat, and it was still dark and shuttered. That candle was still burning in the dining room.

The pizzeria called L'Adagio was open. That's where we went. There were three or four tables full of people in the restaurant, and just one woman running the place. Different ones of us ordered salads, pizzas, spaghetti with meat sauce, and a carafe of the local red wine. I enjoyed the food, contrary to impressions I might have given, even though my taste buds are still not 100% — the cold, you know.

Our friends recounted their adventures in house-hunting. They are looking for a property to buy for their retirement, but they had little luck this week. All the houses they saw needed major renovations or were in unpleasing environments. They'll be back in May or June to look some more.

By about 9:45, we were on the road back to Saint-Aignan. We followed another car out of Montrichard, across the bridge, and onto the old road that passes through the villages of St-Julien, Angé, Pouillé, and Mareuil. That one car soon turned off, and we saw exactly one other car as we drove the 10 miles back to our house. It was definitely a quiet evening.


  1. Montrichard sounds quite idyllic. And with a lot of restaurants and food shops to boot. I've been to the Loire several times, but I'm not sure I've been there (but several times in Amboise). Looks like you encountered a couple of examples of the [in]famous French "fermeture exceptional." We've experienced it many times while visiting, including one time at the only restaurant in the village where we were staying, and where we had just made a reservation that very morning!

  2. i have walked around montrichard and st aignan......several yrs ago when we met a real estate person there (montrichard) and checked out a couple of houses just for fun (the realtor was very patient) St A was pretty much of a ghost town then & i don't remember too many shops....we went into a cafe to have lunch ...it was in the area of the chateau or rather the steps up to it....Montrichard was bustling in comparison.....picturesque

  3. oops sorry, don't know why it posted twice...it told me i missed the word test so i did again

  4. Melinda, I deleted the second copy of your comment.

    You are right, Montrichard does seem more bustling than Saint-Aignan, though you should see Saint-Aignan on a Saturday when the market is going.

    They tell me the situation was just the opposite 25 or 30 years ago. Saint-Aignan was much livelier than Montrichard back then. It all has to do with the mayor's policies, I'm told — whether they favor small business or not.

  5. Bob, the business mentality here is pretty different from in the U.S. Small businesses, especially, close their doors when they need to (those are the fermetures exceptionnelles or fermeture annuelles).

    In America, the customer is king (or "always right"). In France, they say: "We had kings, and we got rid of them. Nobody is king any more."

  6. I enjoyed walking around Montrichard with you- I think it's a nice place, but it doesn't have a grand cathedral like Saint Aignan, does it?

    I hope your Scottish friends will have some luck at finding a home there.

  7. Hi Evelyn, you are right -- Montrichard doesn't have such a big church or big château as Saint-Aignan. It does have more shops, though. It's too bad both our charcuteries in Saint-Aignan have closed down.

  8. When my French friend, Danielle, and I were in the Loire last year, I was pronouncing Montrichard with the T and she corrected me. I remembered your old post on this topic and said to her, "But Ken said..." I'm not sure she was convinced but we both laughed about the exceptions in the French language.

    Thanks for the walk through MonTREEchard.


  9. Hello BettyAnn, you were in exactly the same situation we are often in. I can assure anyone 100% that it is MonTREEchard and not Mon'richard. Hope you are feeling well and that things at your place are improving. I'm finally getting over the awful cold I caught in N.C. Ken

  10. BettyAnn:
    As far as Montrichard, Montrésor, Montréal and Montrond are concerned, in my opinion, it all depends on the meaning of the first syllable. In Montrond and Montréal, it is definitively a mount. As I recall there is a Mont Royal in Montréal, meaning the same.
    For Montrichard and Montrésor, it is definitively the possessive "mon." Then, Montrésor would be my treasure.
    As for Montrichard some people say it is a derivation from "mon tricheur". They may be right, but French people think of the first name Richard, and they make it as my Richard and not as my cheat! Hence, the different pronunciation.
    In Switzerland, on Lake Geneva, there is a town called Montreux. The T there is pronounced, as in Montrésor, but I don't know why. Maybe some reader will know.
    You have to rely on the locals for pronunciation, because in most cases it is not obvious.

  11. chm,
    "You have to rely on the locals for pronunciation, because in most cases it is not obvious."
    And that is exactly why I went with Ken's pronunciation, because he is local and my friend is from Paris, which is definitely not local if you live in St Aignan. :-)

    p.s. Ken, Bill is doing much better, thanks for asking.

  12. Bonjour CHM,

    The Dictionnaire de la Prononciation (1980) that I have gives:

    With a pronounced T:

    • Montrachet
    • Montréjeau
    • Montrésor
    • Montret
    • Montreuil
    • Montreux
    • Montrevault
    • Montrichard

    With a silent T:

    • Montréal
    • Montredon
    • Montrevel
    • Montriond
    • Montrond
    • Montrouge

    The 1982 Petit Larousse disagrees and gives Montrachet and Montréjeau with a silent T. But it agrees that Montrichard has a pronounced T in the middle.

    French is so logical and clear!

  13. I remember you had to correct me on pronouncing MonTrichard! No one can know if they haven't been there!


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