22 October 2016

The streets of Châtillon-sur-Indre

You almost have to add the « sur-Indre » to the name Châtillon. It means that the town is located on the Indre river. There's another Châtillon even closer to Saint-Aignan called Châtillon-sur-Cher — not to mention Châtillon-sur-Loire, Châtillon-sur-Seine, Châtillon-sur-Saône, Châtillon-sur-Oise, Châtillon-sur-Meuse, and so on. French Wikipedia lists more than 35 towns that have the word Châtillon in their name.

Yesterday our plumbing and heating contractor was here doing work. I asked him if he had lived in Saint-Aignan for a long time. « Toute ma vie... » was his answer. I told him about our recent visit to Châtillon-sur-Indre, and how surprised we were that the place felt so abandoned. He told me that there are a lot of personnes âgées down there and in that whole département, which is very rural. It seems the hospital and a retirement home in Châtillon specialize in caring for Alzheimer's patients.

That was interesting, because the 87-year-old man I mentioned earlier, who rode up on a bicycle and talked to us about how all the young people had moved away and so many businesses had closed down, might need that kind of care. After talking to him, we and our friends continued our walk around the town. About 30 minutes after our first encounter, we ran into the same man, who obviously didn't remember us at all. He told us the whole story a second time, in almost exactly the same words. I know it was the same man because I recognized the shoes he was wearing — they looked like bedroom slippers.

In French, to say that the streets were deserted, you can say: «  Il n'avait pas un chat. » We couldn't really say that about Châtillon-sur-Indre. We saw about as many cats as people as we walked around.


  1. The population density in Indre et Loire outside of Tours is very low (I can't remember the exact figures, but it's lower than some of rural Australia). The retirement home in Preuilly is home to about a third of the town's population and is the single biggest employer.

  2. We've noticed the desertion of villages and towns throughout France. It's a frequent theme on the TV news. People leave, the school closes, then the post office, the doctor leaves, the butcher, the baker. A "zone commerciale" opens on the outskirts of the bigger towns, with a hypermarket or two or even three, and the shops in the town center close. (Rather like the Walmart phenomenon in the US, but with more competition: Carrefour, Leclerc, Auchan)
    We were in the Tarn-et-Garonne and Aveyron this past summer. Najac, which was the regional capital until it was replaced by Villefrance-de-Rouergue in the 13th century, has 200 inhabitants and that's counting the whole commune with the farms. The village, itself, is dead in winter. It's thriving in summer, but even in summer, there are empty storefronts. Villefranche, which is a major city, has whole streets of empty shops and this is in summer. We've walked through Villefranche in winter and it's depressing. They still have a big post office, a centre des impôts, even a movie theater. They've got the major hospital for the area and schools, but the shopping is all on the outskirts. They are converting a building into a senior residence -- I don't know if it will be medical, or not. It has the advantage of being in town, where the residents can get out and walk around; it's not stuck out in the country with no transportation or anything to do or see.

  3. The key to village life is what work is available. My young neighbour drives to work 1hr 45mins each way, but she says it is a full time job!

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  5. Cats make nice pets when we are older. Today's photos fit nicely with a theme of gray which I can relate to. Poor guy on the bike, but I think he's still enjoying himself nevertheless.

  6. Cats make nice pets if you live where there might be mice .. Cats make nice pets when you are not allowed to have a dog ..
    I have always had both. Cats are easy and more quiet I must admit. I have not had to yell at the cat once for barking and waking up my neighbors :)
    This photo reminds me of a photo a friend took in Greece ... not one pretty little cat but about a dozen of them !
    There are no mice in that village !

  7. There are times when I feel like a personne âgée.

    The photo with the torn drapes is scary and forlorn. I wonder what happens to these towns when the last residents move out? Does nature reclaim them, or does France have a historic housing program to get new people in?

  8. Speaking of new housing programs, I wonder if the dismantlement of the immigrant camp at Calais will populate such deserted towns. I saw a news report on the news last night of an unused retirement home that had been transformed for the immigrant influx. Of course, the big problem is what will these immigrants do while they are waiting for their paperwork? How many will really want to stay in France? Of those, how many will really want to be in the middle of nowhere?


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