30 April 2023

Photographs found

Yesterday I stumbled upon the photos of my recent daytrip into the historical Berry province. The were on an SD card that I had carefully put away for safe-keeping more than 10 days ago. When I thought they were lost, I was mystified, because I'm usually so careful about putting copies of photos on at least two disks or cards before I start processing them. Here are four pictures I took at the church in Brinay, which I posted about here earlier. The first photo will give you some reading material for today. The house below is across the street from the church, but I can't find any information about it.

29 April 2023

La Terrasse en trois images

When we came to live here in 2003, this is what the front terrace looked like — after we had cleaned it up! When we first saw the house in 2002, the terrace was a real mess. At some point, it had been covered with gazon artificiel (known as "astroturf" in the U.S). One of our first jobs in 2003 was to rip that up and haul it all to the dump. It was soaking wet. The black adhesive that had held it down was not a pretty sight.

We had tile laid on the terrace in August of 2003. It looked like this until recently — the photo above is one I took in 2011. More and more tile scracked, came loose, and got stains on them over the past 12 years, so we decided to have the terrace renovated this year.

Now it's going to look like this. The tile is slightly different. The job is finished now, but the tile contractor advised us not to walk on the new tiles or put our grill and furniture back out there until Monday.

28 April 2023

Trop c'est trop ?

Since I don't have any new photos to post right now, this morning I decided to run a search of my photo database to see how many photos are actually in there. For more than 20 years now I've been keeping all my photos organized by year, month, and day. I searched the database using the Windows File Explorer search feature. In other words, I typed *.jpg in the search field and just let it run. That should find every JPG file in there. When it got to three hundred thousand files — yes, you read that right: 300K or 300,000 — I got tired of watching it count upward and stopped it.

There are a lot of duplicates in the database. I often take two or three pictures of the same thing, hoping that at least one of them will be sharp and well-framed. And then when I publish a photo I save the original and make a copy where I can crop the image as I want and adjust the color and contrast. I bet approximately 25% of the photos are duplicates. All that, and this morning I need to find one photo that I can post. Or two or three or four or five. Okay, here's one that I took in the back yard 12 years ago today.

27 April 2023

Photographs lost

Except the ones I've posted over the last week, I've lost the photos that I took on last week's excursion into the historical Berry province. I didn't have that many left to post, but there were two or three more that I took inside the church in Brinay and a few more that I took at Noirlac. What happened? Well, I copied the photos to a USB flash drive and before I had a chance to post them to a backup on an SSD, the flash drive went kaput. Windows can't see it all. I imagine the photos are still on there, but I don't know how to get them to show up so that I can copy them to a different disk. Such is life in the computer age. So here are some photos that I took at Noirlac in 2009, when I went there with CHM.

The line of linden trees above was planted about 220 years ago, I was told.

26 April 2023

The plumber has finished...

...and it only took a year. However, it took him only two days once he actually started the work. We signed his devis (bid) last year. And we waited. And waited. No news. He had been recommended to us by a neighbor for whom he had done some work. On the right is the towel warmer/radiator that he installed in our WC (half bath, loo). We have a similar radiator in our main bathroom. It heats the room and you can hang towels and other textiles on the bars to dry them quickly, at least in winter when the central heat is running.
Another thing the plumber did was disconnect this radiator that was installed in the loft upstairs. It was one of three, and it turned out we didn't really need it. We turned it off about three years ago and never missed it. Removing it gives us more floor and wall space upstairs. It had to be hauled down a narrow staircase, and that nearly ended badly. The plumber got it half way down and then realized he couldn't continue. We had to call one of the tile guys who were working on the front deck to come help him. The plumber said he had underestimated the radiator's weight. Anyway, it's done and now the radiator is installed in the ground-floor entry hall, replacing an old cast-iron radiator that badly needed a coat of paint. We're glad to be rid of it. I wouldn't be surprised it the old one weighed a ton.

Meanwhile, about half the front deck is sporting new tiles, and I think the rest of it will be finished today. The weather is cooperating this week.

25 April 2023

L'abbaye de Noirlac (3)

Here are a few more photos that I took at Noirlac last week. In the first row there are two of features that I think deserve a second look, and between them is a photo a model of the monastic complex on display there. Below those are some exterior views.

Meanwhile, all enfer has broken loose here at our house in Saint-Aignan. Well, that's an exaggeration. It's just that the plumber whose bid we signed off on for several projects — almost a year ago — showed up yesterday morning. The tile contractors were already here and at work. The plumber moved a big, newish radiator from the loft, where we didn't need it, to the entryway two flights of stairs down and hooked it up, replacing an old cast-iron radiator that badly needed painting or removing.

He also took out the little radiator in our downstairs WC (half-bath, or loo) and will replace it today with a tall towel warmer (sèche-serviettes) that will heat the room and give us another place to dry towels and other textiles when the weather is damp and cold. Finally, he is putting in a new water line and an outdoor spigot on the front of the house, which will come in handy when summer arrives.

The problem with his unannounced arrival yesterday was that we hadn't moved any of the furniture, potted plants, and other stuff that needed to be moved to give him access to pipes and other things he needed to work on. So it was a scramble. Besides, Walt had a doctor's appointment at 8:45 a.m. and needed to keep it. At least the tile guys no longer need to come through the house to get to the front deck (terrasse). They use a ladder instead, even though I think it is dangerous.

Walt and I will soon take and post photos of all this stuff. It's just too chaotic right now. Why does everything happen at once, after we've waited literally years for the tile and plumbing work to get under way?

By the way, yesterday, April 24, was the 20th anniversary of the day we became the owners of this house. At the time of the closing, we were still in California. Our French real estate agent and the notaire (contract lawyer) he worked with stood in for us. We had sent the down payment but for several reasons didn't want to fly back to France for the closing. We arrived and moved into the house in early June.

24 April 2023

L'abbaye de Noirlac (2)

One of the best things about visiting Noirlac on a Wednesday at this time of year is that there was almost nobody else there. And we were lucky with the weather; it was bright and clear. We had looked a weather forecasts for nearly a week before we set the date for our excursion.

We admired the light streaming in through the windows. We also admired the floors and how they were polished.

Noirlac is about three hours south of Paris if you take the autoroute. It's about half an hour south of the small city of Bourges, where there is a fantastic cathedral to see. Near Noirlac is the château de Meillant, another jewel in the crown of the old Berry province.

23 April 2023

“Black Lake” — a monastery

« Construite en belle pierre blanche du pays... l'abbaye de Noirlac (12e-14e s.) constitue l'un des ensembles monastiques les mieux conservés et les plus complets de France. » That's from the Michelin guide.

« L'ensemble est d'une grande austérité : la simplicité des lignes s'ajoute à la blancheur de la pierre pour mettre en valeur la beauté de l'architecture et la sérénité du lieu
. » That's the year 2000 edition of the Michelin guide again.

22 April 2023

Keyboard layouts

This week I sent back the laptop I had bought in January for a full refund. I bought it at Amazon France. A few days ago, I wrote a comment on the Amazon web site to say that I really regretted buying that model and I was having nothing but trouble with it. As far as I knew, the period during which it could be returned for a refund (30 days) had passed so I thought I was stuck with it. I think the combination of Windows 11 bugs and hardware glitches just made it unusable.

The next day, I got an e-mail from an Amazon France customer service representative saying that I was eligible for a full refund if I wanted to sent the computer back. I was stunned. I immediately wiped all my passwords and other data off the laptop's boot disk (an SSD) and got the computer packed up and ready to go. I had saved the box it came in. Amazon sent a UPS delivery man who came to our house to pick it up on Thursday, so it's gone.

I'm using my "old" laptop again. I bought it in 2017, if I remember correctly. It's running fine since I pulled off the bezel around the screen and pressed on the cable that connects it to the motherboard so it's not loose any more. It was actually an easy repair, and it's what I should have done in the first place.

Off-topic — This was our lunch yesterday. It's a recipe I found in the Larousse Gastronomique food and cooking encyclopedia. It's called saucisse à la languedocienne. The sauce is garlic, vinegar, garlic, and tomato puree or paste, and chicken or vegetable broth. I posted about it in 2019.

By the way, why did I think the computer I sent back was going to be my best option for replacement of the old one? Well, it's because it had an American QWERTY  keyboard. You might know know that every country has its own particular keyboard layout. The AZERTY keyboard that French computers come with is pretty different. I've written about the French keyboard before.

I don't want to learn the French keyboard again. I learned it once, 40 years ago in Paris, where I had a little portable typewriter, but then I had to re-learn the U.S. keyboard when I returned to the States. I'm an old dog now and there are some new tricks I'm not willing to learn. My 2017-vintage laptop is one I bought in the U.S. when I went to visit family and friends in North Carolina back then. It has an American keyboard.

21 April 2023

La porcelainerie Pillivuyt

The Pillivuyt porcelain factory in the town of Mehun-sur-Yèvre, located between Vierzon and Bourges, has been in business since 1818. It is the oldest and biggest porcelain company in France, I read somewhere. I learned of its existence just before Covid struck, so a trip to see it and the dishes made and sold there got postponed for a few years.

The company has an outlet shop where some of the items are sold by the kilogram. It produces and sells by mail-order both expensive and inexpensive ranges of porcelain kitchen- and tableware.

I found a big white serving bowl that I wanted. It was priced at eight euros a kilo and cost me the princely sum of 18 euros. We didn't linger in the shop but now I know where it is and what it's like, so Walt and I will drive over there one day, after we've decided what kind of dishes we want to buy. The factory is about an hour by car from Saint-Aignan. Here's a link to the Pillivuyt web site.

20 April 2023

L'église Saint-Aignan de Brinay (April 2023)

One of the places we went to see yesterday along the Cher River in the Berry province was this church, the église Saint-Aignan de Brinay, just south of Vierzon. It's a small, plain 12th century building. Its most remarkable feature is a set of well-preserved wall paintings from that period. I wanted to see those, and it was only five miles from the porcelain manufactory that was another destination of the day.

I'm not sure if there was too much light inside the church or if it was too dark. I guess the bright sunny skies we were enjoying just meant there was too much contrast for taking photos. You might have noticed that I haven't been taking many pictures over the last couple of years, and I feel less comfortable using my cameras than I used too. The photo on the left is one I only minimally processed in Photoshop.
Above are two versions of the same photo, one lightly edited and the other more heavily edited. I'm not sure which one you'll (or I) prefer, so I'm posting both.

19 April 2023

The Berry day trip...

April vineyard views. No commentary today because I slept late and now I have to scramble to be ready for today's day trip on time. Got my camera ready, with a big memory card and a fresh battery in it, plus two extra batteries. Wish me luck and a good time.

While I'm out riding around in the Berry province, east of here, Walt will be at home to take care of Tasha and to let the tile contractor in (if he shows up). He didn't show up yesterday.

18 April 2023

Sight-seeing again

Tomorrow I'm going on an excursion with an American friend who lives just a few miles down the road from us and her sister, who is visiting from California. If we can squeeze everthing into the day trip we've planned, we'll be going to a an excursion to Brinay, Mehun-sur-Yèvre, Noirlac, and Meillant. This will be the first such excursion I've on since June 2001. I've been to two of these places before — the old abbey complex at Noirlac and the château at Meillant — but I've never been to the porcelain factory and outlet store at Mehun or the village of Brinay and its church. Maybe I'll come back with some new photos to post. Stay turned. Meanwhile, here are some more April photos (one from 2010 and four from 2015).

It's only slightly unusual to see red cowslip flowers around the vineyard. I saw some yesterday in the neighbors' yard. Cowslips, among other wildflowers, are called coucous in French. The flowers are usually yellow. I just read on Wikipédia that the cowslip flowers and leaves are edible, either raw in salads or cooked.
It's more widely known that dandelion leaves are edible, either raw or cooked, and that wine can be made with dandelion flowers. On this French web site I just read that young dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach and are delicious. The flowers can be made into wine, and the roots can be dried and ground to make a coffee substitute.

Plum, cherry, peach trees grow all arouund the Renaudière vineyard where we live.
This is the seed head of the European wild carrot plant (carotte sauvage or Daucus carrot, called Queen Anne's lace in North America. It grows abundantly in and around the vineyard. The whole plant is edible, at least in its first season — Wikipedia calls it "a somewhat variable biennial" — but the root quickly becomes woody.

I believe these are plum blossoms. I grew and planted a plum tree in our yard a decade or more ago. It hasn't produced any plums in about three years, but one year I got a good crop and made plum jelly with them. It was delicious. I'm hoping for plums this year.

17 April 2023

Bert the black cat in 2010

April 8, 2010, was the day when Bert came to stay. He had never been here before. It's also the day I took the photo above, showing him sitting on Walt's knee. Bert settled and stayed with us until about 10 days ago.

I took this photo out behind the back gate a few days after Bert's arrive. I've always liked it. He looks exotic.

A few days before Bert's arrival we had had a fierce windstorm. In our yard, two plum trees had been uprooted.

You know what they say about cats and curiosity. Maybe Bert had never before seen a tree lying on the ground. He was only four years old. Maybe the plum blossoms smelled good.