12 June 2009

North and south in France

I ventured into Northern France yesterday. That means I went north of the Loire River, which is a frequently cited boundary between the two halves of the country. Blois is on the northern side of the Loire too, but Saint-Aignan is 25 miles south. We are, by some accounts, in southern France here. Our climate is milder, people from up north tell us.

It was a long day, but the weather cooperated. I left the house at 7:45 yesterday morning and didn't get back home until 8:45 p.m. I only got lost twice — well, not really lost, but I made wrong turns and had to backtrack.

In the middle of the day, I visited some people (with CHM) who have a beautiful garden full of flowers on a hillside, in the area south of Paris. We spent an hour or more in the garden taking photos of flowers and insects.

The Loire is a big lazy river. At Gien, east of Orléans, the water
level is low and grass has taken over a large part of the riverbed.

Then we had a light lunch and spent a lot of time talking about memories of World War II and Paris back then. Of course, I wasn't even born so I didn't have any memories to share. But it was an interesting conversation, and the food was delicious (this is France after all). We left at 3:00 or so to drive back.

The church and château at Gien

Rather than driving directly back to Saint-Aignan, we took a long afternoon detour over to the area around the town of Gien, east of Orléans on the Loire. I'd been to Gien many years ago, and I wanted to see it again. It's a town famous for the faïence, or china, made there. I was surprised at how big and bustling it seemed. When I was there before, I lived in Paris, so I guess Gien seemed like a sleepy little town to me then. Now, seen from a Saint-Aignan perspective, it seems like a megalopolis.

Close-up of the old stone bridge across the Loire River at Gien

We stopped and saw two châteaux, one north of Gien and one south, before giving in to the clock and making an early evening beeline for home. Walt had food waitng for us. At 8:30, when we drove back into Saint-Aignan, there was absolutely no traffic. It seemed strange, because darkness hadn't yet fallen but nobody was out. I guess everybody was having dinner. Saint-Aignan can seem like a very quiet place at lunch- or dinnertime.


  1. Do you know, this isn't too far from me and I've never been.

    I feel a visit coming on,



  2. We camped at Gien a few years ago and had a lovely time there. We always said we would go back and you have reminded me that we should. Lovely photo of the bridge.

  3. The trip pictures have begun, thank you!!


  4. Gien was on my wish list of places to see when we visited you. So glad you're posting photos so I can visit vicariously. You didn't, by any chance, take photos of faïence? I do adore that stuff.


  5. We had the greatest French Sunday lunch in Gien. It was very traditional, with about 7 or 8 courses. Mostly I remember the cheese! I recommend it highly. I can't recall the name but I think there's only one place in town open on Sunday.

    We were surprised to learn that Gien was almost completely destroyed by allied bombing during WWII. Everything you see has been built since, including the church. I think part of the chateau may be original, but little else. It's a lovely town, very near the famous canal bridge at Briare.

  6. Libbie, the same is true of Blois -- it was nearly completely destroyed in WWII by bombing, and then rebuilt in the old style. Same for Saint-Malo in Brittany.

    Susie, no we just drove through. There's far too much to do, so nothing really gets done well. Tomorrow, though, we're going to Noirlac, an old abby, and the château de Meillant. Plus another château, Culan, plus another church, Neuvy-St-Sépulcre...


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