05 November 2011

Life at La Renaudière

La Renaudière is the name of the hamlet we live in. It's located halfway between the town of Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher and the village called Mareuil-sur-Cher. Mareuil derives from an old Celtic word that meant "clearing" — a clearing in the woods. There are a lot of towns and villages in France named Mareuil, and there are a lot of places named La Renaudière.

As for Saint-Aignan, it is named for a bishop of the city of Orléans named Aignan. He was bishop at the time when the Huns, led by Attila, were pillaging and plundering in France. According to legend, Aignan performed a miracle and saved the city, because the Huns were so impressed that they ended their siege. Aignan d'Orléans died in the year 453 — more than 1500 years ago.

La Renaudière seen from the gravel road
that runs out into the vineyard

La Renaudière owes its name, I think, to a family named Renaud that most likely established a farm and lived on this land in centuries past. Nobody seems to know much about the Renaud family. When I say that La Renaudière is halfway from Mareuil and Saint-Aignan, I mean that the center of the town and the center of the village are each just two miles (three kilometers) distant from our house.

At la Renaudière, there are nine houses and there's one vacant lot. A hamlet is a settlement where there is no church and often no shops, which is our case, while a village always has a church and often has a few shops. Our hamlet is at the top of the bluff that marks the southern edge of the Cher River valley. The river itself is one kilometer (just over half a mile) from our house.

The Renaudière vineyard near Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher

The paved road ends just behind our house — it becomes a gravel track that runs a mile out into the vineyard before connecting up with another paved road. The gravel road doesn't get much traffic. It's used mostly by the people who work the vines and drive their little vans and their tractors out there. I sometimes drive through the vineyard but not often because the road is fairly rough.

On the south side of the hamlet there's a fairly deep wooded valley or ravine through which flows a stream called La Rouère de l'Aulne that feeds into the Cher River. On the east side is a wooded hillside, and on the north and west sides there are vineyards. The vineyards are called the Renaudière vineyards, like the hamlet, and most of the parcels of vines close to the hamlet belong to and are worked by the owners of a nearby winery called Le Domaine de la Renaudie.

The Domaine de la Renaudie winery owns
most of the Renaudière vineyard.

A total of 11 people live at la Renaudière right now. Nine of us live here more or less full-time, in five of the houses. One house is occupied only in summer, by some people whose primary residence is 25 miles north of Saint-Aignan, in Blois They spend summers here. Three of the houses at La Renaudière are empty for the time being. One is a rental property, and the tenants have just moved out.

Since we've lived at la Renaudière (we bought our house in 2003), three of our neighbors have died. All three were in their 90s. One neighbor is now 89 years old, and another is 81. Five are in their 60s, as I am. At 51, Walt is by far the youngest person in the hamlet, bringing the median age down to 70.

These vines are right outside our back gate.

Living at La Renaudière means that we depend on having a car to do our shopping and other errands. You can walk to the village or the town, and we have done it, but it's quite a hike. The lane that comes into the hamlet from the main road down by the river is pretty steep. There are no sidewalks.

The roads are maintained by the local authorities. We have mail delivery and garbage pickup but not "curbside" recycling. One of the nicest services we have is bread delivery. Four days a week, a woman who works for the bread baker in Mareuil drives up in her little van with a selection of fresh bread and pastries. She toots here horn and we go out and buy from her whatever bread or other baked goods we want.

Heading out into the vineyard for a walk with the dog

I'm not sure when the hamlet got running water. It was probably in the late 1960s, because several houses, including ours, were built here then. We were hooked up to sewer mains in 2006. Before that, we had a sealed tank for sewerage and it had to be pumped out four or five times a year. We've had high-speed Internet access since October 2003, and we have a satellite dish for television and radio. We have central heat as well as a wood-burning stove, but no air-conditioning.

Saint-Aignan is a town (pop. 3,500) and Mareuil is a village (pop. 1,000). Saint-Aignan is also the main town of a district that's called a canton. In the Canton de Saint-Aignan there are 15 municipalities. Besides Saint-Aignan, only one of them has a population exceeding 2,000, and several have fewer than 300 residents. The total population of the canton is approximately 17,000, and its area is 125 sq. mi. (326 sq. km).

La Renaudière seen from above, thanks to Google Maps

There are many things that make La Renaudière and the Saint-Aignan area a nice place to live. There's little traffic. There are several supermarkets close by, and there are weekly markets in several nearby towns and villages. There are a dozen or more restaurants and as many little shops, not to mention cafés, hair salons, banks, and insurance agencies.

And we have the Renaudière vineyard as our back yard. We don't have to maintain it, there's no traffic to speak of on the gravel road. We can take long walks with the dog out there every day, without worrying about leashes or pooper-scoopers. We share the vineyard with deer, rabbits and hares, a lot of birds, some foxes, and a badger or two.


  1. We just began our "trial" life in a French Hamlet. In 4 month the verdict will be in.
    It's about 20 Minutes to Saint Jean d'Angely, three km to the closest town.
    We all love the quietness and the climate so far.

  2. Thought id say hello while passing your blog by, and i hope you folks have a very nice weekend. We are maybe a little past fall peek colors for taking pictures of our tree's here in central Pennsylvania, but ill try anyway to go out one last time to snap some images. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon Pennsylvania.

  3. I think you live in an ideal spot. You have enough neighbours nearby not to be too isolated and most of your shopping needs within a short drive. Peace and quiet too. Lots of touristy entertainment within easy reach for you and your visitors. Nice surroundings - no litter or graphiti and light traffic most of the time. A pleasant climate with largely good summers and a long growing season for your garden produce. Winters not too harsh. Enough of the trappings of 21st century life to be comfortable and not much of the aggravation that goes with it. Perfect.

  4. Nicely written Ken - as usual :-) and very descriptive. Talking about the steep road leading to your house, if it is as snowy as in Quebec kids will have fun in the winter ( assuming no car or trucks).
    BTW; putting your address in the GPS made it easy to get to your place and hasslefree ( or should I say no stress at all) as far as navigating is concerned

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  6. Just to add something extra to Jean's comment : you are also close enough to Paris and lucky to have a train station near by.

  7. The Google picture almost looks like a gold with white sand traps.

  8. Add to Jean and Nadège: retired from the hectic business world so you can devote your time to the things you love.

    woooo hooooooo!

  9. From the past year plus that I have been following your blog, Ken, your life in your locale seems very calming and perfect for retirement. Jean expressed it well!

    Mary in Oregon

  10. As a kid, we often drove through St-Aignan to visit relatives in the area. I thought I remembered to have seen a road sign pointing to la Renaudière while driving towards Angé. Last summer I drove there again, and followed the road sign. When I got there, I was surprised to end up in a place that seemed "packed" with houses (your pictures always give a feeling of much space). I just went there out of curiosity, as I was yet again on my way to visit some relatives. I think I saw your house, but no sign of life. The whole hamlet seemed pretty (dead :) quiet. Thinking about it, the whole region seems to be made up of abandoned or slowly dying villages. It's been like this for decades.

  11. Jan, not sure where you were, but there's a contradiction between "packed with houses" and "dead" or quiet.

    Some new houses have been built down the hill from our hamlet. That's Les Laurendières, not La Renaudière. Next time, stop at our place and ring the bell. We might be taking naps, or we might be working in the garden...

    I'm not sure I agree at all about the dying or abandoned villages. There are people in nearly all the houses, at least seasonally. There are new houses being built all around, but not big subdivisions as in America. I don't know where you live. If you're in the U.K., especially England, well, that's a different, very crowded, very traffic-dense world from the Loire Valley, according to my British friends.

  12. Hi Ken,

    I am French and live in Germany. I have to admit my Frenglish might sometimes be hard to cope with, and it will certainly get worse with German mixing in...
    What I meant by "dead" was that sometimes you cannot see any sign of life. Sure you've got buildings, but a single person outside. In French you'd say something like "ce village est mort", which does not necessarily imply nobody live there. It just means you could not tell from the lack of action, how many people are actually inside the buildings. I think that was my mistake.

    I remember my mum often made this reflexion ("villages morts") as we were driving through places like Pouillé or Thésée. May be I am exaggerating it, just because I heard it too often as a kid. I'll ask her if she ever saw them more lively. I guess you have to visit these places on the "marché" day in order to really appreciate the situation. During summer time, the difference is striking between a place like St-Aignan that can really be crowded, but surrounding villages aren't. You must know better because you live there. It is just the impression I always get driving through. And I know some villages not too far away where there used to be more action as nowadays. May be I idealized this as a kid. My wife cannot understand how I could enjoy spending my "grandes vacances" in the middle of nowhere, so may be there is something to it.

    Anyway, on the next occasion I'll take the time and ring the bell (we were in a rush, in a car loaded with kids, but I wanted to see the place :). I am actually pretty sure I saw your house. The picture accompanying your post is exactly the view I had from the street. I always imagined your house being in the middle of the garden, a big alley leading from that gate you see on the picture to your front door.

  13. Hello Jan,

    From my point of view, whether a village is mort or just peaceful is all a matter of perspective. And it depends on the hour of the day, and the weather too. At lunchtime, or if the weather is hot, rainy, or otherwise not conducive to being outside, you are right — in these villages, you probably won't see anybody.

    But people are here. City eyes sometimes have a hard time recognizing the signs of their activity: mowed lawns, trimmed hedges, well-tended vegetable gardens, and so on.

    Specifically, Thésée has a very good and busy boulangerie, a couple of restaurants, a pharmacy, and some cafés. They can be very busy. Pouillé is more exclusively residential, but the population has not declined significantly since 1872. The reason you don't see people out on the streets is that everybody now has a car. We in the countryside drive to the supermarket, to the bank, even to the open-air markets. We don't walk much. I'm sure that's different from 50 years ago, sans parler de la vie au 19e siècle.

    "Dead" is in the eye of the beholder. And so is "the middle of nowhere." Maybe the Garden of Eden was there.

  14. Hi
    I often look at your blog,
    We have a small cottage down the other side of the zoo.


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