31 October 2023

Paris in April

Or should I say "April in Paris"? When the weather changes from wintry to almost summery in April, thousands and thousands of people take to the streets of the city to stretch their legs, feel the sun on their faces, and sit at sidewalk cafés to enjoy a drink or a salad. That's what it was like when we went to Paris in April 2006. This series of photos are some that I took on a walk from west to east through the heart of the city.  Maybe I should have titled this post "Crowds in Paris".

Waiting out front to get into the Musée d'Orsay

Waiting for a table at a café in St-Germain-des-Prés

Sitting on the edge of the Seine soaking up some sunshine

Climbing on a gigantic sculpture at Les Halles

Strolling, eating, and drinking on the rue Montorgueil

Just sitting on the pavement in front of the Centre Pompidou

Meanwhile, we didn't get the Citroën back yesterday (Monday), and I don't yet know if it will be ready to drive this afternoon (Tuesday). I got a e-mail yesterday from the people who run the garage saying they ordered the parts they need but didn't receive the ones they ordered. They said they'd receive them this morning and get right to work on the car. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is a holiday, and I don't think the garage will be open. We're supposed to have a lot of rain and wind overnight between Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon. Everything conspires to stress me out. Still, we have the Peugeot so we are not stranded.

30 October 2023

Signs of Paris (3)

I took a lot of photos of street signs when we spent two weeks in Paris in 2006. Some are just interesting: I wonder how much business the detective gets. The sign has been there forever, so he stays in business. And then there's the silk merchant. Some are commemorative: king Henri IV was stabbed and killed on the streets of Paris by a religious fanatic centuries ago. And some are just funny: bathroom humor on signs you can buy and take home.

Today we'll finally take the Citroën in to get its new clutch. I'll be glad to get it back. I'm determined to keep it running in order to avoid having to go out looking for a new car.

29 October 2023

Signs of Paris (2)

Here are a few more pictures of signs in Paris. I took them on April 1, 2006, the day we arrived in Paris from Saint-Aignan and went for a long walk around the city.

On the local front, we're about to wash away. We've had 88 mm — 3.5 inches — of rainfall over the past 10 days. Luckily, I haven't seen any flooding (but I haven't been out much) and our roof isn't leaking. When it comes to rain, it's feast or famine around here. The winter rains started a couple of weeks early this year. Oh, and we set our clocks back early this morning. We should see some daylight earlier this morning than over the past few weeks. The sun will rise at 7:33 a.m. today.

28 October 2023

Signs of Paris (1)

Since Walt and I came to live in France, our longest stay in Paris was in April of 2006. We rented an apartment and met up with friends from California. We ate in restaurants. We walked and walked and walked. We stayed in Paris for two weeks. I took these pictures on the day we arrived.

Click or tap on the images to enlarge them.

27 October 2023

Shops on the rue Cler in Paris

The rue Cler is on the opposite side of Paris from the place des Vosges. It's a rue commerçante (a shopkeepers' street) that is closed to car traffic. In February 2003, I was spending the last night or two of my trip to Rouen, Saint-Aignan, and Paris in a hotel not far from the rue Cler. It makes a colorful, lively place for a walk, even if you're not shopping for food. There are several restaurants along the street too.

A charcutier is a pork butcher and the shop and the products it sells are called, respectively, une charcuterie and de la charcuterie. This one is also a traiteur, or caterer. The dictionary says that un traiteur is une personne dont la profession consiste à servir des (grands) repas ou à préparer des plats à emporter. Here's a link to the Charcuterie Jusselin's web site.

This produce market went by the name les halles, which means "market hall" or just market. Les Halles is a famous area in the middle of Paris where the old central food market was located. It was transfered to the town of Rungis in the south suburbs of Paris more than 50 years ago. Rungis the name people use when they talk about that market. When I spent two weeks in Paris in 1970 the old market halls at Les Halles were being dismantled and hauled away. For years the neighborhood's most prominent feature was a gigantic, deep hole (un trou) that was dug to accommodate an underground shopping center and transit station. Everybody called it le trou des Halles. I lived in the les Halles neighborhood from 1979 to 1982.

If you want bread or other baked goods, here's the place to find them on the rue Cler.I don't remember exactly where this bakery was located, or what its name was. But the breads etc. look pretty good. I also wonder if it's still in business. Actually, I took this photo in September 2007, on another trip to Paris.

26 October 2023

La colonne de Juillet, place de la Bastille

The place de la Bastille is where the famous, or notorious, château-become-prison stood from the year 1382 until the French Revolution of the late 18th century. It was stormed by the people of Paris and then demolished.The stones it was built of were sold off. Some went into the construction of the pont de la Concorde, according to the Michelin Green guidebook for Paris.

The colonne de Juillet, as the column is called, was built between 1830 and 1840 after a smaller revolution in 1830. It stands 52 meters (170 ft.) tall and is topped off by a statue of the Génie de la Liberté. I took the photos here in February 2003.

The Cadogan guidebook for Paris says that that the place de la Bastille, which now occupies the ground on which the prison once did is “the only square in town created not by kings or planners but by the people. Since they cleared the space in 1789, the place has been the symbolic centre of leftist politics, the setting for monster celebrations like the one that followed [François] Mitterrand's election [as Président de la République] in 1981.”

I remember that event vividly, but I and my Parisian friends watched it on television rather than venturing out to the place de la Bastille, where thousands had gathered to demonstrate and celebrate. The atmosphere was volatile, and who knew what might happen. In the end, the celebrations were mostly peaceful.

25 October 2023

Paris, place des Vosges

In December 2002, Walt and I first saw what has been chez nous (our house) for more that 20 years now. In February 2003, our San Francisco house was just going on the market. We didn't know how long it would take to sell it. One of us needed to come back to Saint-Aignan and measure the rooms to see which pieces of furniture we would ship to Saint-Aignan when we moved. I volunteered. I spent a couple of days with friends in Rouen and then drove down to the Loire Valley. I also had business to do with a notaire concerning the purchase. At the end of that short trip, I spent a day or two in Paris. One of the places I went to was the Place des Vosges, which was built for “the good king” Henri IV in the early 1600s.

Here's what the Cadogan guidebook for Paris, published 30 years ago, wrote about it: “In 1605, Henri finally began the building of what would be known as the Place Royale, a centerpiece that the sprawling Marais badly needed. Its architects are unknown; though the square is Italian in concept, the adaptation became something a 17th century Frenchman could love — elegant, hierarchical, and rigorously symmetrical.” Henri IV was assassinated a few years before his Place Royale was completed. In a way, it was the predecessor of the Château de Versailles.

24 October 2023

Paris, December 2002 and December 1969 (2)

The pictures here are some I took in Paris in December 2002, but the text is about my first trip to Paris, more than 50 years ago, when I signed up for a study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence.

Right now I'm just enjoying memories. I don't know how many times I've walked these streets. It all started in December 1969, and here we are in 2023. The first time I saw Paris, it was pretty cool. The man who was the director of the study abroad program I had enrolled in was a Belgian professor of French at Vanderbilt University. He took us to a restaurant in the Latin Quarter, where we were spending the night before flying down to Provence where we would spend 6 months. Monsieur Leblon ordered a roast suckling pig for all of us to share. I don't remember what restaurant it was, but I remember how delicious it was after we got over the shock of seeing a piglet cooked that way, with the apple in its mouth and everything.

There must have been 25 or 30 of us on the program. We flew individually to JFK airport in New York and met up. It was the first time I had ever flown in a plane. Then we flew on a chartered jet to Paris. It was snowing when we took off. We landed at le Bourget and a bus took us into the middle of the city. We shared rooms in a hotel on the rue Monge. We inspected the room and wondered what the tiny, funny-looking little bathtub in the bathroom was. Maybe a urinal, we thought. Or a fixture in which you could wash your feet. (It was what is called a bidet). The fun was just beginning. I went back to Paris in March 1970, alone, for spring break, and spent two weeks in a hotel. I had turned 21 a week or two before that. Most of the other students went traveling in Spain, Switzerland, Greece, or Scandinavia. Not me; I had only Paris on my mind.

23 October 2023

Paris, December 2002

These are some photos I took on a walk up the Seine on the Right Bank towards the Tuilerie Gardens and the Louvre in December 2002. Walt and I had spent four or five days looking at houses with the idea that we might buy one. As it happened, we had just signed the papers for such a purchase and had agreed informally to send a down payment when we got to California. Things were moving fast. We didn't have a clear plan, but it all worked out. We are still living in that house today.

In 2002, I was taking digital photos with a Kodak DC4800 camera. It was my second digital camera. I'm on my 7th or 8th digital camera now. As usual, you can enlarge these photos by clicking (PC) or tapping (tablet) on them.

We spent a day or two in Paris at the end of that 2002 house-hunting trip. All through the late 1980's and the '90s we spent most of our vacations in France. At first, we stayed in hotels. Then we started renting gîtes ruraux out in the country and in rental apartments inn Paris when we were in the city. We had met each other in Paris in 1981-82. We were both suffering from burn-out in Californa because of stressful jobs, and in my case even more stressful commuting (100 miles a day). By March we had sold our SF house and had most of our possessions packed into a container that would bring them to France. We were on our way. We had to wait for visas from the French government before we could come to France and move into our new house.

22 October 2023

The sun shines in

We've been getting some rain. Over the past few days we've measured at least 32 millimeters (1.25 inches) in our rain gauge. We really needed it. And we need still more. However, most recent days have been sunny. The sun is low in the sky, and our living room faces east, so sunlight floods the room and reflects off the tile floor in the morning. It nearly blinds me for a couple of hours while I'm sitting in front of my laptop computer reading, processing photos, or doing research.

It was the same when we were driving around in the Charente département recently. If we were driving toward the east, we were blinded, even with the sun visors down in the car. I couldn't see to read the map (Walt was driving). On top of that, we were having dry weather and my nose and eye allergies were bothering me. Blinded by the light and by tears in my eyes... Today is supposed to be sunny again, but we will probably get more rain tomorrow, according to forecasts. Right now, I prefer rain to sun. We are still experiencing drought conditions. The winter rains usually begin in early November here in the Loire Valley.

21 October 2023

How the Angoulême trip ended

Our short getaway to Angoulême, in the Charente département (southwestern France), was drawing to a close. We got all packed up starting Thursday evening and finishing Friday morning. The weather was still warm and clear, so the drive home would be pleasant, I thought. I thought we might do some more sight-seeing during the drive. I wanted to see Limoges, having never been there. Limoges is just two hours south of Saint-Aignan. With just 300 kilometers to cover — that's 185 miles — we would have time to look around and still get home well before dark.

Well, that wasn't to be. The gîte owners (who live next door) came over at 9 a.m. to do a cursory inspection of the place before we hit the road. They wanted to make sure everything was there that was there when we arrived, of course. They wanted to see if the TV, kitchen stove, and other appliances were in working order. They also wanted to be sure that we hadn't forgotten anything that was ours. That was a good thing because, as you remember, I had forgotten my camera bag at home when we left to drive to Angoulême and hadn't taken any pictures all week.

We said good-bye and talked about the trip and the gîte with our hosts. Walt was going to drive, and I would do my best as the navigator. He started the Citroën, and there was suddenly an audible screeching noise coming from under the hood. I asked the owner what he thought that was. It was a noise I'd never heard before. He said, well, I know a good bit about cars and car engines. That kind of noise could be coming from the alternator belt, or it could be coming from the clutch. He told Walt to push down on the clutch pedal (it's a stick shift car). The noise got louder. Let the pedal out, he said. The screeching was not as loud. It's the clutch, he said.

Merde, I thought. Here we are with a dog and a trunk full of our belongings, including a cooler filled with food we were taking back home with us. What are we going to do if the clutch goes out completely, stranding us somewhere out in the country. Walt put the car in gear, and that worked. We backed out of the driveway. He shifted gears again to go forward, and that worked. Good news. We waved at the owners and headed out. After the first couple of miles, we came to a stop sign. When Walt pushed in the clutch to put the car in first gear, he let up the clutch, and the car stalled out with a loud clunk. We sat there for a minute and talked about what we were going to do. We have insurance that covers towing charges and a rental car to bail us out in case there's a break-down or an accident.

Here's a picture of the 2007 Citroën C4 that I took a few months ago.

We decided that we should try just to get home and forget about doing any sight-seeing along the way. The closer we were to home if the car really broke down, the better off we would be. We decided to take the high-speed autoroute instead a drive on narrow, winding (and scenic) roads. On the autoroute you have to do very little shifting. You just get the car into fourth gear and drive along in the slow lane at 60 or 70 mph. That's what we did. We drove past the city of Poitiers, where we came to a toll booth. That would be a test, because we'd have to stop the car to get a ticket and then hope we could get moving again. Good news: we did, and we continued the trip.

The second tool booth, where we had to pay the toll, was another stop for us. The clutch was working better and better, it seemed. A third toll booth required another stop as we left Tours going east toward Saint-Aignan. But we were close to home at that point and were feeling better about our prospects. Soon we were at the Saint-Aignan toll booth and we had made it. If we broke down, we'd call our insurance company and somebody would come and tow the car, plus, I assume, give us a ride home, where the Peugeot was parked. We'd be able to drive to our mechanic's shop and transfer our trunk-load of stuff into 206 and the trip would be over.

Well, that's not what happened. The Citroën kept going and we made it all the way home. Between the exit from the autoroute and home, we were in a short line of three or four cars waiting to enter a traffic circle when suddenly there was a loud bang behind us. The car behind us had rear-ended the Citroën (at low speed). There was no damage, fortunately. Now it was about 12:30. We unpacked the car and breathed a sigh of relief because we had arrived home and our house was in good shape, undisturbed by anybody or anything during our absence. Tasha was glad to be back in her own yard. It was time for her lunch, and for ours. I told Walt that I would wait until Monday to call the mechanic. I needed to get something to eat and then relax for a while.

I did call the mechanic on Monday, and he gave me an appointment for Tuesday morning to have the car checked out. Yes, it needs a new clutch, he said. The car is, after all, 16 years old. It looks and drives like a new car, but it's not. It has only about 65,000 miles on the odometer. A clutch shouldn't need replacing until close to or even past 125,000 miles.The Peugeot's clutch needed replacing at 112,000 miles, a few years ago. I think I need to go talk to my insurance agent about it. I'm not ready to get a new (or newer) car. I hate the prospect of having to spend days and days looking for one I like. Maybe I should go ahead and buy a new one, but we drive so little that I don't want to spend that kind of money. Car prices are sky high these days.

If we ever go on another road trip, I'll rent a car. The trip will be less stressful.

20 October 2023


On our last full day in the Charente département — of which Angoulême is the biggest city and la Charente is the river that runs through it — we drove north about 25 miles to see the village called Verteuil-sur-Charente. The gîte owner recommended it as a very pretty village with an impressive château. He was right. He said he had spent many years there in his younger days. He also said that a lot of British people live there these days. Even the mayor is an Englishman. The population is about 600.

The Michelin Green guidebook describes Verteuil [vehr-TUH-yuh] as "a village squeezed in between a cliff and a river." It has a very pretty center and felt very méridional When we saw on a hot sunny day, it felt a little like a village in Provence. The château de Verteuil stands on a promontory high above the village and the river. It was owned for a thousand years by the La Rochefoucauld family and was sold recently. I don't know if it is open to the public. It didn't seem to be when we were there last week.

When we arrived at Verteuil, we parked the car near the village church and walked with the dog for about an hour. I didn't take any photos, but Walt did. He'll be posting them over the next days and weeks. Meanwhile, there are a lot of photos of Verteuil sights on this web site. Our trip was winding down when we were there and we returned to the gîte to spend the afternoon on its nice covered patio having lunch and starting to get ready to drive back to Saint-Aignan the next morning.

P.S. Look at this house for sale in Verteuil. Asking price: 170K euros. Three bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms...

19 October 2023


Last week on our trip, we went to see the town of Jarnac, located about 30 minutes by car west of our gîte in Vindelle, outside Angoulême. I wanted to see Jarnac for two reasons: first, the French president François Mitterrand was born there. He was elected Président de la République in May 1981. I lived in Paris at the time. His election was a huge national event and he turned out to be a transformative figure in France. He made the country and the people more prosperous, and people starting traveling outside of France. They became more aware of the rest of the world. Mitterrand died in 1996, after leaving office in 1995. He was entombed in a cemetery at Jarnac.

I also wanted to see Jarnac because a man who frequently commented on this blog a while back, and who still does occasionally, lived there about a decade ago. He told me it was worth the trip to see Jarnac. I had never been there before last week, though Walt and I went to nearby Cognac back in 1989 when we took a road trip across southern France from Grenoble to Bordeaux and then back to Paris. Both Jarnac and Cognac are wine villages, specializing in the fortified apéritif wine called pineau des Charentes and, of course, the brandy called cognac. Both pineau and cognac are made from locally grown white wine grapes.

One of the prominent families in the history of Jarnac was named Chabot. Guy Chabot, baron of Jarnac, was involved in a duel in 1547. He was supposed to be the underdog, but he won the duel by striking a surprise blow and inflicting a deep cut on the leg of his adversary. To general surprise, he was declared the winner. A coup de Jarnac has come to mean an underhanded, even disqualifying blow in a fight. Read about it here.

After a good walk-around in Jarnac with Tasha, we weren't having any luck finding the cemetery where Mitterrand tomb is located. We wanted to see it. As we were walking around and admiring the big church in Jarnac, which is dedicated to saint Pierre (images here), I noticed a little van bearing the logo of the ville de Jarnac parked near a back door of the church.

Then I saw a man loading or unloading something into or out of the van. A municipal employee would surely know where the cemetery was located. I went and asked him. He said we needed to drive west of town along the Charente river and we'd see signs directing us to it. It was too far to walk. We found the cemetery and then the tomb. Walt took a couple of pictures. The dog was not allowed to enter the cemetery, so Walt and I had to go in one at a time, leaving the other to take care of Tasha. It was too hot to leave her alone in the car.

It was close to noon, and we decided not to continue into nearby Cognac as we had planned, but to return to the gîte and make lunch. Walt wanted to watch some tennis on TV, and I wanted to look up some of the places we'd seen over the past couple of days, as well as do some research and make plans for the next two days. Our plans for sight-seeing along the way as we drove back to Saint Aignan had to be canceled, however...

18 October 2023

Internet woes in Angoulême

The gîte in Vindelle, outside Angoulême, was equipped with a cellular router for internet access. I had never heard of such a device, but it was easy enough to connect to it and get to Google Maps and Wikipédia. After eating lunch on the patio the first morning of our stay, I took my laptop out there to do my research, and we got Walt set up with my 10-inch Android tablet to watch the tennis tournament. Everything worked fine for about an hour and then the internet connection was, we thought, dropped. We soon realized we still seemed to have a very slow internet feed. The little cellular router hadn't actually failed but had slowed down. I logged on to the cellular router web site and saw we had received a notification that we had used up 100% of the router's data plan and had been temporarily switched to a very slow connection that didn't support watching TV or uploading photos.

I called the gîte owner and asked him if this happened frequently. He said no, it's never happened before. He said he'd call the phone company and see if he could buy some more data capacity. When I took the dog out a while later, I saw the owner again. He came over and told the me the phone company had said they could add some gigabytes to his plan, but it would take about a week for them to kick in. That didn't do us any good, because we were leaving the gîte on Friday. Tant pis, I said. It's not your fault. He said he had had a couple from Wales as guests just before we arrived, and they brought three teenagers with them. Each had a cell phone or tablet and they seemed to be using them all the time. They had probably exhausted the data allowance on his account.

A while later I went out for an early evening walk with Tasha and there were the gîte owners again. They wanted to tell me they had driven over to the phone company's store in Angoulême to see if they could get some help from employees there. No problem, they said. They added the gigabytes to their gîte account (for a fee). I told him we would pay for extra GBs, but he wouldn't hear of it. He said it would take a couple of hours for the cellular router to start working at high speed again. It took a little longer than two hours, but by the next morning, we were back up and running at full speed. We had no more internet problems from then on.

Sorry I had to be coy with you all last week. Walt and I didn't want to write about the fact that we had left our house in Saint-Aignan empty for five days while we were traveling. You can never be too careful (maybe I should say "too paranoid"). Now you know the true story of our internet woes last week.

17 October 2023

Crowded Angoulême

A week ago today we left the gîte in Vindelle at about 9 a.m. and drove into Angoulême. It was the second day of our road trip. Seeing Angoulême was our top priority. It's a hilltop city with a population of 40 thousand. According to Wikipédia, the population density of the city is nearly two thousand people per square kilometer. That's almost five thousand people per square mile. And that's not counting all the people who live in the suburbs and commute into the city to go to work. The urbanized area has a population of more than 100 thousand.

For comparison, the population density of Saint-Aignan is 400 people per square mile. And we don't even live in Saint-Aignan. We live in a nearby village that has a population density of 94 people per square mile. So we were out of our league in Angoulême. The gîte owner had warned us. He advised us not to try to park on the street in the city, but to find an underground parking garage and take an elevator up to street level. Then walk.

We tried to do that, but we didn't find any such garages. We kept driving around in circles in the car. Traffic was heavy. And then suddenly we found ourselves on a street where there were some curbside parking spaces. We got one, paid for two hours of parking, and set off on foot. The cathedral and city hall were only a 10 minute walk away, and most of that was on a street that is "pedestrianized" — no cars. That was good, because we had the dog with us on a leash.

It's interesting how paid street parking works in Angoulême and other French cities. You park your car and walk to a nearby machine called un horodateur where you enter your vehicle's numéro d'immatriculation (license plate number). If a traffic cop comes by, he or she can find out how long you've been parked by looking up your license number. There is no paper involved.

We didn't stay in the city for long. It was too frenetic and too hot — but it was interesting and impressive too. We walked around for about an hour and Walt took pictures. Go to his blog to see some of them. The best way to see Angoulême would be to stay in a hotel or apartment in the city and walk around to enjoy it. But don't take a dog with you.

A few years ago we spent an hour to two in a town called Niort, which is about two hours north of Angoulême. It was a good experience, even with the dog on a leash. Walt had a leash that was attached to his belt, so he had both hands free and could use the camera. The atmosphere was very calm compared to what we experienced in Angoulême. I just looked it up and found out that the population density of Niort is two thousand people per square mile, not five thousand. I think that explains a lot.

By the way, the population density of Paris is not five thousand but 52 thousand people per square mile.

16 October 2023

Arrivés !

Once we got to the gîte, after spending an hour in the industrial zone labyrinth, we could settle in and relax. We had found our way to Vindelle and the gîte coming in from the east, because on the map (a Michelin road atlas) that looked like the best way to get there. It wasn't.

It turned out to be easier from the west. It was the gîte owner who explained that to me. I wish he had done so before we started the trip. And the instructions about turning right and then left when we saw the church didn't apply to the church in Saint-Yrieix but to the church in Vindelle, which was only a short walk from the gîte. It was a big comedy of errors.

Anyway, there we were. We settled in, got connected to the internet, and started thinking about what we would do the next day. We were pretty tired after the drive, not having done any traveling over the past four years. And being four years older.

15 October 2023

Lost in a labyrinth

Here's the only picture I managed to take in the town of Montmorillon last Monday. I took it before we had the delicious but debilitating lunch that kept us up most the first night at the gîte in Vindelle.

The bright sunlight was obviously too intense for my Android tablet's camera.

The drive from Montmorillon to Angoulême was 140 kilometers (about 90 miles) and took about two hours. We still felt good and the drive was mostly uneventful. The only odd thing about it was all the convoys of big rigs (poids lourds) that were driving away from Angoulême and toward either Limoges or points north, including the Paris region. We didn't count, but there might have been 100 trucks in all. We were glad we weren't stuck behind them. There were few if any big trucks going toward Angoulême.

Above is a map that shows Saint-Aignan at the top and Angoulême at the bottom, as well as the route we drove when we left Montmorillon that afternoon. On it you can see major cities including Nantes, Tours, Bourges, Limoges, and La Rochelle, so that you can orient yourself.

When we arrived at Angoulême, all went smoothly as far as finding our way off the major N10 (la nationale dix) road was concerned, and then on to an Angoulême suburb that has the unusual name of Saint-Yrieix, just south of where our gîte was located. The Gîtes de France reservations staff had sent us paperwork giving us the address of the gîte in Vindelle, the owners' address and phone numbers, and so on. On that paper, there was this information: Pour l'accès à votre locationlocation means rental, as does gîte — En arrivant de St Yrieix, tourner à droite en face de l'église puis prendre la 1ère à gauche. (Yrieix is pronounced, I think, as [ee-ree-ex] or maybe [ee-ree-ay].

When we arrived at the church in Saint-Yrieix we turned off the main road and ended up in some kind of industrial zone in which there were many businesses with suburban subdivisions scattered all around. We kept following signs but running into dead ends where we had to turn back and try again. We stopped at a pharmacy and I went in and asked if somebody could help me find the way to Vindelle, or at least out of the labyrinth we were in. The first employee I spoke to was clueless. She went and found another employee, who came out and started searching for directions to Vindelle on the computer behind the counter.

She wrote out a series of instructions that filled an entire page and listed 6 or 8 roundabouts and which roads off of each of those we should take — the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on. It looked like it would be a two-hour trip! So off we went again, and soon we were lost and encountering more dead ends. Two men were standing and talking at the front gate of house in a subdivision we found ourselves lost in, so we stopped and I asked them for help. They told us about the most direct route we could take, but warned us that they thought that road was closed because of construction work. They were nice but had nothing more to offer us.

Can you tell that we don't have GPS in the Citroën? Finally we found our way on our own. It had only taken about an hour after we got off the main highway on the north side of Angoulême to drive the 5 miles to Vindelle. It was frustrating but comical at the same time. We arrived at the gîte at just past five o'clock, which was the appointed check-in time. The owners were waiting for us and were very informal, friendly, and helpful. Look at Walt's blog for some gîte pictures.

14 October 2023

On est de retour...

Where do I start? I guess with the day of departure...

We got back yesterday from our gîte vacation in the village of Vindelle, just five miles north of the city of Angoulême. That's about three hours south of Saint-Aignan, if you take the high-speed autoroute. We didn't. We drove curvy, narrow back roads and enjoyed the beautiful countryside and the villages. The gîte itself was all we had hoped for, plus more. But the whole trip turned out to be a series of disasters.

On the first day, last Monday, we got the car all packed up in the morning and left Saint-Aignan at about 10 a.m. Walt did the driving. Our route took us south from Saint-Aignan, through Nouans-les-Fontaines, Azay-le-Ferron, Martizay, and Le Blanc. Our plan was to stop for lunch in the town of Montmorillon, about 70 miles south of Saint-Aignan. As we drove through Le Blanc, I said to Walt that I had a sinking feeling that I had forgotten to put my camera bag into the car before we left home. In it I had carefully packed two cameras, half a dozen batteries, several SD cards, and my spare pair of glasses.

The question was, did we have time or did we want to drive back 140 miles extra to return home and get the cameras. As we neared Montmorillon, I decided that it wasn't worth it. Walt said I could use his camera and he'd take pictures with his smart phone. But I've never used his camera before. Figuring it out would take a lot of the fun out of it, and the photos might not be very good. Then it occurred to me that I had packed my Android tablet. Maybe I could take pictures with that. I've done it before but not enough to feel really comfortable with it.

We got to Montmorillon at noon, parked the car, and took a walk around the town with Tasha on the leash. I said to Walt that I'd walk the dog and he could take the photos. I tried to take a picture or two with my tablet, but it was all too awkward and risky to hold the tablet and the dog's leash at the same time. I didn't want to drop the tablet and break it. Besides, the weather was so beautiful and sunny that all I could see on the screen of the tablet was the reflection of my face, and not what I was trying to photograph. I managed to take a single successful photo and then I gave up.

It was Monday and the town was very quiet. We saw a restaurant with a few customers eating at tables outdoors, so we went and asked for a table. No problem. The food was good. Delicious, actually. We both ordered the menu du jour: œufs durs mayonnaise as an appetizer, and then pâtes à la sauce bolognaise, and for dessert a slice of brioche perdue (French toast made with eggy, sweet brioche instead of bread). We relaxed over a glass of wine, observed and talked about the other customers having lunch, and enjoyed the weather.

We both had a sleepless first night at the gîte, suffering with dire digestive distress. No dinner for us that night...

13 October 2023

Seen on the door of the church in Levroux

We are still having some problems with our internet connection.

12 October 2023

Stained glass etc. in the Levroux church

This is a test post to see if the internet is working normally..