30 June 2023

Bellegarde, dans le Loiret

Le château de Bellegarde is 25 miles northeast of Orléans on the route I used to take when I was still driving to Paris. I don't drive to Paris any more, because I don't trust myself to drive in Paris traffic. It's easier to take the train, and less expensive when you consider the cost of fuel for the car and the cost of parking in the city. Bellegarde, the town, is about two hours northeast of Saint-Aignan and about two hours south the center of Paris (depending on traffic).

The brick-and-stone château de Bellegarde was built starting in the 14th century, and I've read that it stands on even earlier foundations. It was modified and enlarged over the centuries, until about the time of the French Revolution.

It was always nice to get out of the car and take a walk around Bellegarde on those driving days. I haven't found any information about who owns the château, but on one site I just read that it's open to the public sur rendez-vous. Call ahead. I've never been inside. I've just walked around the château outside, to take pictures and stretch my legs.

I've posted a lot of photos of Bellegarde over the years.

29 June 2023

Le château de Menars on the Loire

The château de Menars stands on the right bank of the Loire just 5 miles from the city of Blois and 4 miles from Saint-Dyé, on the other side of the river near Chambord. It was built in the 1600s and 1700s. It was acquired by the famous Mme de Pompadour, a favorite of king Louis XV, in 1760. Mme Pompadour died just four years later.

The château de Menars is privately owned these days and not open to the public. The Wikipédia article about it says it was acquired by a Taiwanese businesswoman in June 2022.

There are 62 rooms in the château de Menars, which is surrounded by a 100-acre park landscaped à la française. Here's what the property looks like in an aerial view (thanks to the French geoportail web site).

28 June 2023

Le château du Moulin

Depuis janvier 2020, le château du Moulin est définitivement fermé à la visite et mis en vente par ses actuels propriétaires.

That's what I just read on French Wikipédia.

Le Moulin was built over the last 20 years of the 15th century by king Charles VIII for his childhood friend Philippe du Moulin. Philippe had saved the king's life in a battle in Italy in 1495 and was knighted by the king. The Cadogan Loire guidebook explains that Le Moulin was built at the time of the transition from Gothic to Renaissance styles.
I've been to the château du Moulin several times over the years, starting in the year 2000. We were staying in a gîte in Vouvray that year. Le Moulin was still lived in by the woman who owned it. We arrived at about 6:30 p.m. on an October evening. The people at the front gate were getting ready to close up for the night, but they did one more guided tour, just for us. Inside the château, at one point we saw the owner discreetly disappear into her private quarters, closing the door behind her. We had surprised her. Here's a link to some of my earlier posts about le Moulin, with many photos.

27 June 2023

Virginia Creeper

This climbing vine is called vigne vierge in French — "virgin vine." I assume it's Virginia Creeper, a plant imported from North America and sometimes considered invasive. It might be some other species in the same family as Virginia Creeper. It was growing on a wall in Saint-Dyé, on the Loire near Chambord, in June 2004. You see it growing all around the Loire Valley. The color can be spectacular, especially in autumn.

26 June 2023

The Loire at Saint-Dyé, near Chambord

This is a panoramic view of a bend in the Loire river at Saint-Dyé, just three miles north of  the Château de Chambord and eight miles upriver from Blois. The panorama is a composite image that I created in Photoshop by stitching together three or four separate photos that I had taken. Click on it with your mouse or touch it on your tablet screen to enlarge it. The summer of 2004 was one of the best we've had so far in Saint-Aignan, weather-wise. It was the year of our first vegetable garden here, and the garden was a big success.

I finally got an e-mail from the French tax office in Blois telling me that I'm doing the right thing by waiting for the activation code for my "professional space from them, which is being sent by snail mail (as we used to call it). They also said that the deadline for filing has been pushed back to July 31. Every owner of real estate in France, whether resident or non-resident, is required to file the new déclaration d'occupation. While residents can file on-line using their French tax ID number on impots.gouv.fr, non-residents have to contact their local tax office to set it up. That is according to an article in France Insider, an on-line newsletter covering French property ownership issues.

25 June 2023

Chambord en quatre photos

I took these photos in June 2004 using a Kodak DC4800 Zoom digital camera. Kodak was making some really good cameras back then. I'm glad I don't have to pay the property taxes on the château de Chambord. Or do the house-cleaning, with its 426 rooms, 77 staircases, and 282 fireplaces.

I feel like I've got the new French déclaration d'occupation under control now. I've been working on it for more than two weeks. Walt and I have both written e-mails on the French tax administration explaining our situation. Those should be proof that we are acting in good faith to comply with the new requirements. I'll write more about it as new developments unfold.

24 June 2023

Outdoor plants in June


Here are just a few photos of outdoor plants in our yard and garden in June 2012. I'm still too busy to blog but I'm not yet ready to give details about what's distracting me. It has to do with a new tax filing requirement that the French government has begun requiring. Every person or entity that owns a house or apartment has to file a déclaration d'occupation listing the adult occupants of that house or apartment. The declaration has to be done on line; No declarations on paper are accepted. You are supposed to go onto the French tax administration web site and set up an account. I can't get it to work in my case. I wonder if any of you who are reading this who own property in France know about this new requirement and have dealt with it.

22 June 2023

Bonjour la pluie !

Beautiful rain! I'm not sure when it started, but it was raining when I got up at 5 a.m. Forecasts are that it will rain all day, but be clear, warm, and sunny tomorrow. The temperature outside is about 70ºF.

Saint-Aignan is located approximately under the S of the word Tours on the map.

P.S. There was a huge explosion in the Latin Quarter yesterday afternoon. A building on the rue Saint-Jacques, adjacent to the Val de Grâce hospital, was partially destroyed. The building housed a design and fashion school called the Paris American Academy. Thirty-seven people were injured, four of them critically, and two people are reported missing. It is thought that a gas leak caused the explosion. Students from the U.S. and other countries were enrolled at the Paris American Academy, which gave classes in French and in English.

21 June 2023

Stormy weather

It's not unusual for us to have some heavy summertime weather here in the Saint-Aignan area. These are some pictures from June 2007 that I found in my archives this morning.

This is vineyard behind our house, just outside Saint-Aignan. Our house is the boxy one on the left in the first photo above and in the fourth photo below.

Yesterday the worst storms were in the southwest, including Basque Country and the foothills of the Pyrenees where there were violent hailstorms. In the village called Espelette, where spicy red peppers are the local specialty crop, there was heavy damage. That's what I fear the most: hail. So do the grape-growers of the Loire Valley.

20 June 2023

Une supercellule frappe près de Bourges

We are considering ourselves very lucky this morning. Yesterday afternoon, a super-cell thunder and hail storm swept across the landscape just north of Bourges. The town of Mehun-sur-Yèvre, where there is a porcelain factory and outlet that I visited with friends in April, suffered widespread wind and hail damage. The roof of a supermarket in Mehun collapsed into the building.

The village just to the east of Mehun, Preuilly (pop. 380), fared even worse, with 80% of the buildings in the village suffering damage. A woman I heard interviewed on the morning news said they had torrential rain and hailstones 7 centimeters deep covered the ground. Preuilly is just 40 miles southeast of Saint-Aignan. The vineyards in the Reuilly and Quincy grape-growing areas were badly damaged by falling hailstones.

Over this past weekend, a village just north of the city of Rouen in Normandy, was hit by a tornado. I remember that when I lived in Rouen in 1972-73, it rained a lot, but it was mostly drizzle. Nobody there had ever imagined there could be a tornado in Normandy. People are starting to realize how much the climate here has already changed. And the worst is still to come, in all probability.

19 June 2023

Wine villages near Bourges

Within an hour's drive of Bourges there are several villages where grapes are grown and well-known wines are made. The most famous, I think, is the hilltop village of Sancerre, and here are some photos I took there in June 2015. By car, Sancerre, famous for white and red wines, is about 45 minutes northeast of Bourges. Just 15 minutes southeast of Sancerre is Pouilly-sur-Loire, famous for white wines including Pouilly Fumé. Pouilly and Sancerre are both on the Loire river.

Closer to Bourges are three other wine villages: Quincy (white wines), Reuilly (red and white wines) to the west, and Menetou-Salon (red and rosé wines) to the north. The main white wine grape in the region is Sauvignon Blanc and the main red wine grape is Pinot Noir. These three villages are within 30 minutes of Bourges by car. An hour south of Bourges is the wine village of Châteaumeillant, where Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris grapes are grown and made into red and rosé wines.

Here's a link to a web site about all these wines and villages in French or English — your choice.

18 June 2023

Châteaux close to Bourges — Ainay and Culan

Above left, the Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil is a 45-minute drive south of Bourges.

Fifteen minutes farther south is the Château de Culan, above right.

On the right is a tapestry at the Château de Culan that I photographed. Here's a YouTube video about the château, which was for sale in 2022.

Below are two other shots of the Château de Culan that I took in June 2009.

17 June 2023

Meillant, un château dans le Berry

The Château de Meillant is just half an hour's drive south of the city of Bourges. I've blogged about it before. I just want to remind you that there's a lot to see in Bourges and around Bourges. CHM and I saw this château in June of 2009, when I took these pictures.

We had an earthquake yesterday just before 7:00 p.m. It was quite a shock — not so much in terms of magnitude, but psychologically. I never really thought I'd feel an earthquake in this part of France, even though I know there have been some in past centuries. Walt and I were sitting on the sofa up in the loft watching television. We both felt the shaking (it was more like jiggling). I wondered if I had fallen asleep and had dreamed I was in California. There was no damage around here, but there was damage down south, near Bordeaux and La Rochelle.

Earlier in the day, I drove up to Blois to do some shopping for foods we don't find easily out here in the countryside. I came home with a pound of fresh kale leaves, nearly 5 lbs. of frozen shrimp, a bunch of green asparagus spears, a pound of beautiful green beans, and more. I drove up to Blois by myself. It takes about 45 minutes, even though it's less than 30 miles north of Saint-Aignan. Some streets in Blois were closed off to car traffic but I didn't get lost. My driving and directional instincts served me well.

16 June 2023

Chârost and its church

About half an hour's drive (15 miles) west of Bourges is the village of Chârost (pop. 922) and this church. It's the église Saint-Michel and it was built in the 12th century. The French Wikipédia artical about it says: Le style est élégant et caractéristique de l’art roman berrichon, représentant tout le luxe de construction de cette époque. The village also has a château built partly with the same red sandstone, which is abundant in the region around the city of Bourges.


15 June 2023

Le palais Jacques Cœur à Bourges

After the cathedral, the other major landmark in Bourges is the Palais Jacques Cœur, an hôtel particulier (a mansion) that was built in the 15th century. Jacques Cœur was the king's treasurer back when Bourges was a ville royale. He was a wealthy merchant and adventurer who was king Charles VII's money man. His Gothic-style hôtel is his legacy and is open to the public. Here are some of the photos our friend Cheryl took there in 2003.

The palais Jacques Cœur was built and decorated in the flamboyant Gothic style.

Above, la cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Bourges

A statue of Jacques Cœur on the left, and a bas-relief of one of his ships on the right