30 June 2021

Chambord again, and Vouvray too

I'll give you a few more of my 2003 photos of Chambord this morning because I haven't yet had time to process the photos I took yesterday. We drove from Saint-Aignan up to Chambord under threatening skies, but as Evelyn said in her comment on yesterday's post we actually had very little rain. At Chambord, we parked and walked onto the château grounds to take some photos. The sun came out from behind the clouds as we walked around the huge building and took pictures. Evelyn and I shared and compared memories of previous visits to Chambord, of what we saw, and who we were with. Esta had never been to Chambord before and was impressed with its size and grandeur.

It was about an hour-long stop and we had a little trouble finding the car in the big parking lot when the time came to move on. We weren't more than 25 steps from the car after I spotted it, though, when a hard, cold rain started falling. We hurried to get in and as we hit the road the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. We drove on to Blois, but we didn't stop to take photos there. We just admired the town's cathedral, the château, and the impressive St-Nicolas church from across the river. It was getting close to noon, and I had made a 12:30 reservation for lunch at a little restaurant in Vouvray, 50 kilometers (30 miles) downriver on the right bank of the Loire. We also wanted to visit a favorite winery there to taste and then buy some wine.

By the time we got to Vouvray, it was one o'clock but it didn't matter — there were a dozen or so people having lunch in the restaurant's outdoor seating area and we were welcomed in despite our tardiness. We decided it was a little breezy and chilly to eat outside — not to mention the risk of a sudden rain shower — so we asked for a table inside. There were maybe a dozen tables in the dining room, and a bar. We were the only customers eating in there, so it felt safe (Covid!) and was pleasant. The food was really good, and the price for three of us, with a glass or two each of wine each, was just over 50 euros. The first-course salads were fresh and tasty, and the main course — a sauté de bœuf in a flavorful gravy with sauteed potatoes and some garlicky green beans — was delicious. It was such a large serving that not one of the three of us could actually "clean our plate." Just thinking about it this morning makes me hungry again.

After lunch, we drove past the house in Vouvray that Walt and I rented for vacations back in the years 2000 and 2001. It's no longer rented out to vacationers but somebody obviously lives there. The reason we ended up coming to live in the Loire Valley in 2003 was because we had so enjoyed those vacations in the region. Then we went on to the winery we had discovered back in October 2000 to buy a few bottles of Vouvray's famous Chenin Blanc wine. We were surprised (Evelyn had been there before, back in 2006) to see that the tasting room has been completely remodeled. It used to be very rustic and old-fashioned, and now it is very sleek and modern.

I bought a mixed carton (six bottles for 40 euros) of different Vouvray still wines and vintages. I asked the young woman who presided over our tasting and had looked up my account in her computer if she could see in the database when my last visit had been. Yes, she said. It was in 2013. I was stunned. I can't believe it was so long ago. The last eight years, with all my trips to North Carolina when my mother's health was failing and then she passed away, plus our four or five road trips in France, and then the last two years of confinements and travel restrictions, have really been a blur.

29 June 2021

First stop: Chambord

Our old friend Evelyn and new friend Esta arrived here yesterday at about 6:30. We had a light supper (pâtés, goat cheeses, salads, local wines) and then I drove them over to their B&B at about 8:00. The B&B is run by woman who was born here and lived for 18 years in Los Angeles. She and her American husband came to live in the Saint-Aignan area five years ago. Despite light rain predicted for this morning, we're going to head out for a driving tour of the main châteaux on this end of the Loire Valley, including Chambord (photos below)...

I took these photos in 2003, just a few months after we had moved into our house here in Saint-Aignan.
The Château de Chambord was built about 500 years ago.

28 June 2021

Summer skies

Our visitors arrive today. Thanks to all the travel restrictions and lockdowns, they'll be our first visitors in two years, and they're driving down here from the Mont Saint-Michel. That's a four-hour drive, so we don't expect them until late afternoon. For days now, the weather services have been predicting heavy rains for today through Wednesday. This seems like it's going to be a very different summer in Saint-Aignan, after two or three summers that were unusually dry and fairly hot. Here's yesterday's sky as seen  from a bedroom window, looking west out over the vineyard.

The weather forecasts have reduced the amount of rain that they predict will fall on us over the next three days, but I don't expect it's going to be very sunny. We'll do the "grand tour" anyway, I think: Chambord, Blois, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Amboise, Vouvray, Chenonceau, and Montpoupon. The question is, will we try to do it tomorrow, or on Wednesday? The good news is that the forecast for the area visitors E. and E. be driving through today (Fougères, Laval, Le Mans, Tours, and on to Saint-Aignan) looks good — basically dry, at least before noon. Here's the forecast for the morning that I just saw on TéléMatin.

And here's the forecast for this afternoon. That big blob of rain coming in off the Atlantic Ocean is predicted to slowly cross the whole country from west to east today and tomorrow.

27 June 2021

More flower photos

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I posted other photos of some of these flowers yesterday.
No. 1 is a wild millepertuis (St. John's wort).
No. 2 is a sweet pea (pois de senteur), I think.
No. 3 is a ronce (blackberry), which is a member of the rose family.
And no. 4 is a perennial geranium ('rozanne') that Walt planted in our back yard.

26 June 2021

Fleurs sauvages

From that same day last week, some photos of wild flowers I saw around the edges of the vineyard.
All the images can be enlarged by clicking or tapping.

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We had a day without rain in Saint-Aignan yesterday, but I know it rained north of us in Normandy.
Evelyn and her friends went to Giverny to see Monet's garden there.
The rains are supposed to come back later today and
stay with us for three or four days.

25 June 2021

What's growing, and what's not

I went out to inspect the vegetable garden yesterday. The muddy ground is covered with thriving weeds. Other vegetable gardens in the area are in the same sad state. One specific thing I noticed is that my 10 or 12 kale plants have no leaves left on them. I don't know if they've been attacked by slugs, snails, or cabbage buttfly caterpillars. Oh well. This has happened to kale and collard greens I've planted in the past. Wet weather at this time of year is brutal.

The basil Walt grew from seeds is doing fine, but that's probably because it's still in the greenhouse.

We have a dozen or so Swiss chard plants out in the garden. Snails, slugs etc. don't seem to be tempted by them.

The zucchini plants are flowering and already setting fruit.

These fava beans are growing on a plant in a big pot. We'll be saving the beans to plant in the garden plot in autumn.

Here's one variety of artichoke we have growing. Aphids and ants live on it.

And here's another. We grow them not as food but as ornamentals.

24 June 2021

Grape buds and flowers

This is where the grapes were in their development a week ago. I need to get out and take some more photos to see if they look different now. In pictures #4, #6, and #8 you can see the tiny white flowers emerging from the buds. The weather has been downright chilly, especially early in the morning. I was surprised the boiler didn't come on this morning — that's how cold it was when I got up about an hour ago.


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Evelyn and her friend Esta should be arriving at CDG airport in 6 or 8 hours. I'm going to be really curious to know what the anti-Covid19 measures are like at a big airport right now. And I'm going to be curious to see whether we will actually be allowed to eat inside in restaurants. Unless the weather improves quickly, sitting outdoors on café and restaurant terraces might not be an option. We've been having a lot of rain, though it didn't rain much yesterday except before noon and it's not raining this morning. Weeds are rapidly taking over the vegetable garden, but the ground is too soft and muddy to be worked.

23 June 2021

Encore des roses...

I took these photos exactly one week ago today. That was the last day of our recent spell of hot, sunny weather.
The next day, the weather turned stormy. Hard rains and strong winds blew a lot of the petals off these roses,
most of which grow in a neighbor's yard. Each image can be enlarged by clicking on them a time or two
if you're viewing the blog on a Mac or PC, or by touching and "unpinching" them on a tablet.

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What do you think of my new formatting trick?

22 June 2021

De roses roses

In our new yard there were two rose bushes producing these pink roses (ce sont des roses roses...) when we came to live here 18 years ago. They were planted at the base of the concrete posts that hold up the clothesline on the north side of the house. I thought they were in the way, so I dug them up and replated them in places where they got more direct sun. One came back up from its roots next to one of the concrete posts, and I've left it alone. All three are doing well. Until our recent rains and winds (we've had a lousy week or two, weatherwise) they were beautiful. My photos don't really do them justice.