31 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (21)

It was hot again yesterday — 31ºC, very high 80s in ºF. We spent the day straightening up the house and then preparing foods for our early evening apéritifs. Our guests were our next-door neighbors, who we knew but only enough to say bonjour to them when we saw them outside. The woman (M-P) who officially owns the house, which she inherited from her father, lives and works in the small city of Nevers, 2½ hours east of Saint-Aignan. She seems to be spending more and more time here these days. The other guest was her mother. M-P's parents divorced many years ago.


Above is some of the food we had. Bottom left are some canapés made with the terrine de jambonneau I described in yesterday's post. We sliced a pickle into rounds and stuck one on each little piece bread that we had spread the pâté on. Behind those are two packages of savory "cookies" that Walt bought at the supermarket. One is flavored with Parmesan cheese, the other with Basque country Ossau-Iraty cheese that's made with ewes' milk. We also had some champignons à la grecque that I made. They're flavored with tomato, shallot, garlic, white wine, oregano, and lime juice.

Finally, bottom right above, is what is called a galette de pommes de terre, a cake of puff pastry made with mashed potatoes added to the dough. It's a local specialty, and we sliced it into little bite-sized squares and ate it as finger food. We also had canapés made with tomates confites (a kind of flavored tomato paste that Walt bought at the supermarket) and topped with a little square of feta cheese. Those were really good. Today, we're going to have a buffet of the leftovers as our lunch — we made much too much food for last night, even though E and M-P were here with us for two hours.

The conversation flowed freely, and we enjoyed it. Since E and M-P first came to live in this hamlet in the mid-1980s, we learned a lot about its history. It didn't hurt that we had a nice bottle of local sparkling wine to wash down all that food. It's called fine bulles de Touraine (tiny bubbles from Touraine) and is made with Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes. We almost always have a few bottles of it in the cellar (about six euros a bottle — a steal). E kept saying how good it was. She and her daughter said they planned to go buy some soon.

30 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (20)

Yesterday at noontime a delivery van drove up to our front gate and the driver tooted his horn. He had brought us a mystery package. We were expecting a package toward the end of next week, so we thought maybe it had come early. But we were in for a surprise when we opened the mystery package. Here's what was inside.


These gourmet treats turned out to be a gift from our friends Jill and Peter in California, who spent five nights with us at the beginning of the month. They are charcuterie specialties (pork products) from southwestern France — the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. They are, clockwise from the top, a tin of terrine de jambonneau (ham hock pâté); a saucisson sec (a salt-cured and air-dried sausage); un quart de jambon sec (a piece of salt-cured ham); and a jar of pâte de campagne. We will enjoy all of them over the next few weeks. And since this evening we are having some neighbors over for an apéritif (a glass of wine and some finger foods), you can be sure that some of these delicacies will be enjoyed by all.

There was no gift card, and there was no indication on the shipping label concerning who had sent the package. There was a telephone number for a company called jemangefrancais.com, however, so I called it. I told the man I got on the phone that I had received a package from his company, and I wondered if he could tell me who had sent it. I gave him my name and the tracking number on the box. After a short search, he said the only information he could give me was that the purchaser was a person named Jill — he pronounced it [djeel]. That was enough information for me, and I sent Jill an e-mail to thank her and let her know the package had arrived.

29 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (19)

Here's another photo of the Renaissance-era Château de Saint-Aignan. The town is 40 kilometers south of the old royal city of Blois, and 60 kilometers east of the bigger city of Tours. Many of the Loire Valley châteaux, including Amboise, Chenonceau, Chambord, Blois, Cheverny, and Chaumont-sur-Loire, are an easy drive from Saint-Aignan.

The Château de Saint-Aignan

28 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (18)

I don't really remember if I could see the man in this photo when I took the picture.
Maybe I only noticed him when I looked at it on the computer. Can you see him?



I zoomed in and took another photo that day. The big building in the background was an old convent. I say "was" because it's just a shell now. It caught on fire a decade ago. The wooden roof beams burned, and the roof tiles fell down into the building.

And I took a third picture. I have enlarged and cropped it in Photoshop. I guess the guy was repairing something.

27 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (17)

The weather here has cooled down to normal now. That means that mornings are fairly chilly, and afternoons are warm. I spent some time yesterday and the day before looking through high and low temperature records we kept between 2005 and about 2018. I was looking for the number of days when we had a high temperature of 30ºC (86ºF) or higher, Here's the result. Remember, the summer of 2022 is far from over. Predictions are for another 5 or 6 days of 30º days starting next week.
               
       Year..........30ºC+ days
 
2022..............22
2021..............15
2018..............11
2017..............13
2015................4
2014................2
2010................6
2007................2
2006..............20
2005..............15
 
I wish we had more complete records, but if we do I haven't found them yet.
________________________________________________________________________________

This is one of the wall paintings in the church at Saint-Aignan. The paintings date back to the 12th and 15th centuries.

26 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (16)

I've posted a lot of photos of the Château de Saint-Aignan taken from the north — my blog banner photo was taken from that direction. That's the back side of the building. Here's what the front side, which faces south, looks like. These are photos that my sister, Joanna, took when she was here in 2007. I just found them again yesterday.



This is a Renaissance-era château, built in the 16th century by the Beauvilliers family.
It is now owned by their descendants, the La Roche-Aymon family.

25 July 2022

Saint-Aignan is summer (15)

Here are three more pictures of the privately owned Château de Saint-Aignan.
I hope one day to be able to see the interior, but for now it's not open to visitors
and never has been in the nearly 20 years I've lived here.

       

The weather was hot again yesterday afternoon, but nothing like last week. I wrote the other day about  information I saw on Wikipédia saying that the Saint-Aignan used to get 7.5 days per year with a high temperature exceeding 30ºC, based on statistics kept between 1971 and the year 2000. I checked Accuweather for daily high temperatures here. This year already we've had 22 such days — 3 in May, 7 in June, and 12 in July. Accuweather is predicting we'll have 6 more days above 30ºC during the first week of August. It's nice and breezy this morning. That's something to take advantage of while it lasts.

24 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (14)

Here's a view showing the different buildings that make up the Château de Saint-Aignan. The white stone tower on the right in these photos is a ruin that dates back to the year 1000. On the left is the Renaissance-era château, which was built starting in the 1500s. As always, these photos can be enlarged by clicking or tapping on them on your device.

     

23 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (13)

I found these interesting weather statistics for the Saint-Aignan area on French Wikipédia yesterday.
They are based on data collected from 1971 to the year 2000:

The number of days per year with a high temperature above 30ºC (86ºF): 7.5
The number of days per year with a low temperature below –5ºC (23ºF): 2.8

      Two views looking upriver from Saint-Aignan...

...and one view looking downriver

     

Just over seven days per year with a high temperature above 86ºF doesn't sound like very many to me.
Now I'm looking for statistics for 2022, and for the period from 2001 to 2021.

Walt and I used to keep daily records of high and low temperatures and rainfall totals at our house,
but we stopped doing that a few years ago because we thought we had a pretty good idea
of what kind of weather to expect. Nature always surprises us, though.

I just looked back at our records for 2005, a year that in my memory had a very pleasant summer. There I see 12 days with a high over 86ºF. Eight were in June, and just four were in July. In records for 2006, I found more: four in June and 17 in July — 21 in all. That was a long hot spell, then, in July 2006. In 2007, the summer of which was particularly rotten, I find only two days with highs over 86ºF, July 15 and August 5. The record-breaking year would have been 2003, of course, but we had just arrived that year and didn't start keeping records until 2005, I believe.

22 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (12)

The town or commune of Saint-Aignan has only 2 kilometers of riverfront on the Cher river. These are some photos of the river that I took when we first moved here 19 years ago. Nothing much has changed over the years. No new bridges have been built, despite the increased traffic in the area that the fame and fortune of the zoo at Beauval has brought. They say the zoo draws two million visitors a year nowadays.

     
There's an island in the Cher at Saint-Aignan, so there are two bridges to cross the two branches of the river.
Above right is a view upriver taken from the island.

At the eastern end of the island there's a "submersible dam" (a weir) that helps regulate the flow of river water.

      When I took these photos, the south branch of the river had been temporarily dammed because work was being done
under the bridge. On the right is a kind of skiff that local people use to row across the Cher.

21 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (11)



I checked the rain gauge in our back yard this morning. It measured 37 mm of rainfall since the heat wave broke Tuesday night. That's about 1.5 inches. We needed it. Hot weather is supposed to return over the next few days, however. I took these pictures yesterday morning as light rain fell. We had several very hard downpours in the afternoon. I see faces in these clouds.


20 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (10)

Yesterday, I had my deuxième rappel or quatrième dose of the Covid19 vacccine. Un rappel is a booster shot. I got the injection at the pharmacy I've been going to in Saint-Aignan for the past 19 years. This time I got the Pfizer vaccine that carries the Comitaty brand name and is produced in Germany. My arm is pretty sore this morning and my shoulders are stiff and achy. I don't know if I'll need a fifth dose later this year or next.

I'm sure you've heard that all-time record temperatures were recorded across much of the United Kingdom yesterday. Temperatures as many U.K. locations hit 40ºC, which is 104ºF, and it was also that temperature in Paris yesterday afternoon. The highest temperature ever recorded in France was 46ºC (almost 115ºF) a few years ago, in the South of France. Here in Saint-Aignan, the day started off hot but afternoon temperatures didn't get much above 35ºC. Still, that's 95ºF, which is scorching hot for our location. I just heard on the news that the high temperature yesterday afternoon in Rouen was 41ºC. I lived and worked there for a year, and I've spent a lot of time there over the years. Rouen has always been famously damp and chilly, and has been called le pot de chambre de la Normandie. Le monde change de peau...

The Cher river at Saint-Aignan seen from the château

The wind shifted yesterday afternoon and brought higher levels of humidity, meaning the afternoon and evening felt pretty muggy. Around 2 a.m. a series of thunderstorms began passing though, with sharp lightning near us and loud crashes of thunder. Luckily, we don't seem to have had any or much hail in the hard downpours of rain, because I don't see any signs of damage. It's just starting to get light outside, so I'll go have a look around in a few minutes.

If we continue having hot weather through August and September, I'm going to be thinking a lot about having some kind of air-conditioning installed in our house here. But it's a real dilemma, because one reason the climate is getting hotter and hotter is that more and more houses are air-conditioned to one extent or another. A quarter of France's houses and apartments now have some sort of air-conditioning (climatisation is the French term), while only about one-half of one percent of the U.K.'s house have AC. It's a cercle vicieux, I think. The more the world gets air-conditioned, the more it will need air-conditioning. We can't win that battle.

19 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (9)



Above, the château de Saint-Aignan in France's Loire Valley region.
Below, the château reflected in the waters of the Cher river.

As I said in a comment to my friend Bob F. yesterday afternoon, the temperature on our east-facing front deck was 37.3C yesterday afternoon. The normal human body temperature is 37C (98.6F), so it was about 99F on the deck, which is protected from afternoon sun. It was 33.4C (about 92F) up in our sleeping loft. Nevertheless, we have survived — Walt, me, Bertie, and Tasha. We slept downstairs last night, and I for one slept easily. The worst is over for now, according to forecasts. Rain tomorrow! With any luck.

18 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (8)



Above, the church in Saint-Aignan on a June day a few years ago.
Below, as it looked reflected in the calm waters of the Cher river that same day.



MétéoFrance says says our high temperature in Saint-Aignan today will be 39C (102F), and Accuweather agrees.
MétéoCiel says 41C (107F). Qui dit mieux ? If it's 39, that would be 13 degrees Celsius above the average for the date.
That's something like 23 or even 25 above average in Fahrenheit degrees.

The good news is that the temperature tomorrow is supposed to be below 100F. And the really good news is that the high
on Wednesday will only be about 29C — about 85F. We'll need to get our winter clothes out again.

17 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (7)

You might have noticed that I've returned to "one photo a day" blogging. It's my way of taking a summer vacation, I guess. These photos of Saint-Aignan date back to the first days of our lives here — 2003, when we arrived and moved in, and 2006, when we had one of our busiest years, with many visitors as well as a five-week trip to the U.S. in autumn. How things change, right?

By the way, I'll be getting my fourth dose of the Covid19 vaccine on Tuesday morning. Just when we thought the maladie was about to become a thing of the past, we're being warned that the current strain is spreading rapidly. It's important to be fully vaccinated, including the second booster shot, not so much to avoid catching Covid, but to make sure you don't end up in the hospital with severe symptoms.

16 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (6)

If you have stayed at the Grand Hôtel Saint-Aignan, as I know some of you have, you might be surprised to see
what it looks like now. It underwent major renovations in 2020. I've never stayed there myself but I have seen
some of the rooms. The hotel dates back to the 1880s.

From what I've read on TripAdvisor, air-conditioning was not put in as part of the recent renovations, so beware.
Speaking of hot weather, it's cooler this morning than it has been for a few days,
but very high temperatures are predicted for next week.

15 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (5)

Looking north toward Blois from the terrasse of the château in Saint-Aignan

No significant weather changes here, though it is not supposed to be quite as hot today. Hotter weather will return on Sunday, according to predictions. Beyond that, who knows? We really need some rain.

14 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (4)

The weather this morning is about the same as yesterday. Mornings feel very cool, almost chilly. Afternoons are hot but not as hot as the predictions have said. Nights are warm but it's a dry heat, so sleeping is okay. A big fan up in the loft keeps the air moving so we're comfortable.

Oh, and by the way it's Bastille Day — le 14 juillet. People are saying that many of the traditional fireworks events have been cancelled because of the danger of starting "vegetation fires", as I've heard them called. It's very dry here. One of the three weather forecasting services we track says we can expect a high of 34 today, another says 35, and a third says 36 in degrees Celsius. So between 93 and 97 in degrees fahrenheit.

13 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (3)



It's actually slightly cooler outside this morning than it was yesterday morning. I hope that's good news.
Still, it's much warmer in the house, at about 25ºC (77ºF). I've got windows and doors wide open
all around to cool the house down before the sun comes up. The predicted high today
is 35ºC on two sites we track, and 36ºC on the other.
Worst case, then, is a high of 97ºF.

12 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (2)


This morning's thermometer reading is 19.5ºC — about 67ºF.
Our high yesterday was between 29º and 30ºF — about 86ºF.
We had a refreshing breeze from the northeast all day,
but there's no air movement at all this morning.
Today's predicted high: 33ºC — about 91.5ºF,
which is 6ºC (11ºF) above average.

11 July 2022

Saint-Aignan in summer (1)

This morning's thermometer reading: 17.1ºC — about 63ºF.
Today's predicted high: 31ºC — about 88ºF, which is 5ºC (9ºF) above average.

10 July 2022

Le Cher à Saint-Aignan

The rivière (a tributary of a fleuve, in this case La Loire) called Le Cher looks pretty inviting in these photos. It may look even more inviting by the time this coming week is over. Predictions are for a heat wave lasting until next Saturday. Bastille Day (le 14 juillet) on Thursday, they say, is going to be hotter than a firecracker.




A few days ago, we were hearing predictions that temperatures across all of France would be above 100ºF for several days. That would be 40º or even 45ºC (113ºF). The American weather model was being especially alarmist. As of this morning, one weather forecasting site (MétéoCiel) is still predicting a high of 39ºC (102ºF) by next weekend. Another forecasting site (Accuweather) says to expect highs between 95º and 98ºF late in the week here in Saint-Aignan. MétéoFrance, the national weather service here, agrees. That will be brutal for people in densely populated cities, escpecially Paris. Recent studies report that only about 25% of French houses and apartments have any kind of air conditioning installed.

09 July 2022

C'est la saison... (2)

The melon was perfectly ripe, and the ham was delicious. We ended up eating half of the melon with ham as an appetizer and a couple of hourse later we ate the other half as dessert with port wine and a sprinkling of sugar (melon au porto).


The veal chop that Walt cooked on the barbecue grill was tender and tasty. He seasoned it with thyme and salt and pepper. The pâtes, called coquillettes, were tossed with radish-leaf and parsley pesto, and a good amount of finely grated
Parmesan cheese, plus a drizzle of EVOO, as they call it — extra-virgin olive oil.

08 July 2022

C'est la saison... (1)

...du melon au jambon. Il s'agit d'un jambon cru dit « serrano » (montagnard), en provenance d'Espagne, et d'un melon français de type « charentais ». Ils feront une belle entrée pour notre repas de midi, suivi d'une côte de veau grillée au barbecue avec en accompagnement des pâtes au pesto.

07 July 2022

Couscous for guests and for us

Tomatoes. Carrots. Turnips. Zucchini. Eggplant. Bell peppers. Haricots verts. Chickpeas. Onion. Okra. Lamb. Chicken. Grilled sausages. That's couscous, flavored with North African spices, a kind of curry powder. And served with couscous "grain" cooked with raisins. I made couscous and we had two meals of it (Thurs. and Sat.) while Jill and Peter were here.

Then Walt and I had couscous again on Tuesday. When Walt went to the butcher's shop to buy some more
merguez (lamb + beef) sausages, there weren't any to be had. So he bought veal sausages spiced
with Basque country piment d'Espelette as well as a Spanish chorizo. Unconventional, but delicious.

06 July 2022

Walking with Bertie

Three times last week, Bertie the black cat came along for my afternoon walks around the vineyard with Tasha.
For two of those walks, our friend Jill was walking with us as well. I can only remember one other time,
years ago, when Bertie went out walking with us.



I hadn't taken my camera with me on the days when four of us went out walking. Jill took these with her iPhone.