17 August 2011



On 14th July we went to a birthday party.

It was a meeting of Renault 4’s and other old vehicles in the little town of Scorbé-Clairvaux, which is a few kilometres west of Chatellerault.

We arrived fairly early and there was not much happening so we had a wander round the brocante that was also taking place.  There seems to be a brocante at most events, whatever they are.


Lulu enjoyed all the attention from lots of people who had obviously never seen a standard poodle before and she made several new friends.

birthday10  birthday5

The Renaults were all out on a ride – a parade through the countryside – and pretty soon they all started to arrive and line up to be admired.  I was especially impressed with the one with the birthday cake on top !!



There were lots of other old cars in the parade, all twinkling in the beautiful sunshine. 

I thought the flame job on this one was superb.


This seemed to be the “sublime to the ridiculous”.


I thought this would make a very nice camper or ice-cream van.


For those who would like something a little faster in pink !!


And this one’s for Tim and Keith !!

It was one of those essentially French events.  Glorious sunshine, good humour, good fun, beautiful old cars, nobody taking it too seriously, any excuse for a jumble sale and no admission fee.  A great day out.

15 August 2011


To celebrate the Renault 4’s 50th birthday, there is a really nice collection of them in the “auto, moto, vélo” museum in Chatellerault, along with posters from its hey day, advertising films, and even a video of a pop song where the 1960’s female singer, beehive hairdo and all, is draped all over one.

renault 4L3 

I know the 2CV has a huge following, its iconic shape being almost a symbol for France, along with the Eiffel tower.  I can appreciate its charm but somehow it just doesn’t do it for me.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have never owned one but I did once have a Renault 4.

renault 4L1

 renault 4L4

I actually had my first driving lessons in one.  You may justifiably question the sanity of someone who tries to learn to drive in a car with only three gears, a gear stick sticking out of the dashboard and a tendency to lean alarmingly on the slightest bend, but that’s what I did.

Until the occasion when I was overtaken by a milk float going up a slight hill in Leeds.  Then I decided that if I was going to get anywhere (literally) I needed proper driving lessons in a proper car.

renault 4L6

The posters in the museum showed how the Renault 4 was everything a car should be, appealing to everyone; it was a shopping trolley, a workhorse and a cool set of wheels all in one design.  Pretty clever. 

Mind you, from the experience of owning one, I would think it might have trouble keeping up with those skateboards in the poster !!

renault 4L5

I had never seen or heard of them until I saw mine in the car showroom window.  It was a basic model, in blue, second hand and very reasonable.  I had to arrange a bank loan to afford it, which in itself was a huge step in the 1970’s – having to be interviewed by the bank manager to borrow £300.

renault 4L7 

As it turned out, it was the most awful car I have ever had.  It wouldn’t start at all in winter and I had to use the starting handle or bump start it down the hill outside my flat.  The heater was almost non-existent and those windows were not the best design for keeping the draughts out.  It was really slow and almost died on the slightest uphill slope yet leaned as if you were on race track on every bend.  I had to choose my passengers carefully – there was no room for anyone who suffered from motion sickness or was afraid of getting frostbite.

renault 4L8

But I loved it.  It was fun, quirky and none of my friends had one so it was unique.  They were all burbling around the countryside in their done-up VW Beetles, or posing in their MGB’s and I would lurch round the bends in something like a cross between a small van and a blue brick.  It was also all I could afford and my very first car, like a first love, always remembered with fondness, forgetting the annoying bits.

renault 4L2

In my mind it will always be on a pedestal.  You can keep your 2CV’s.  I will be getting another Renault 4 as soon as I can.  Just to see if it is really as bad as I remember it.

14 August 2011


My mischievous attempts to throw you clever people off the scent worked.  A girl has to have some fun, after all !!

Those who guessed it was a door bell were right.  It seems to be an empty doorbell casing where the push button is missing.  I spotted it on my doorknocker photo shoot tour of Chinon.


I thought it was a shame that someone had ruined what probably was quite a handsome door by mounting a regulation letter box in the middle.

It seems there is sometimes no respect for the old buildings and they are spoiled for practical purposes, doing things the cheapest way possible, with no regard for aesthetics.

13 August 2011



Any idea what this is?

I’m not giving any clues ………. bon weekend !!!

10 August 2011


motor museum2

We had a lovely couple of hours in the “Musée auto, moto, vélo” in Chatellerault last month.

motor museum1

It is in some kind of old an old arms factory premises* down by the river. You can’t miss it – just look for the two magnificent chimneys outside.

(*Thanks to Susan for this info.)

motor museum19

motor museum3

Inside there is everything from the original penny farthing, through the first motorised cars and cycles to more familiar two, three or four-wheeled vehicles most of us will have seen on our roads.

motor museum4 motor museum6 motor museum5

motor museum17

motor museum8

There is something for everyone with an interest in cars or bikes, all beautifully displayed, with old garage workshops, videos and posters. All for a modest entrance fee.

motor museum7 motor museum10 motor museum11 motor museum12 motor museum13 motor museum14 motor museum16

motor museum9

Quite a bit of space was dedicated, as you would expect, to the 2CV. However, I was more interested in the displays of something having a big birthday this year.

The Renault 4 is 50 years old.

motor museum18

The bottom one was just like mine !! Or at least the one I had in the 1970’s. I didn’t check if its starting handle was just as well used !!

9 August 2011



We love the early evening routine of sitting in the square with an apéro, watching the last of the shops close and people making their way home with last minute baguettes or little packages of meat from the butcher.


Mariel, the proprietor of the PreHisto bar, has a superb skill of stopping exactly at the top of the glass when she pours a rosé wine.


There is an equally specialist skill in taking the first sip without spilling as demonstrated by our friend Gail.

Happy days.

With all the unbelievable things happening in our cities these last few days, I can’t wait to get back to the peace of rural France. 

6 August 2011




A lovely old door and its equally lovely knocker, seen in Chinon on a doorknocker photo shoot.

5 August 2011


Whilst we love having our little holiday home, there are things about the old way of spending our holidays that we miss.

We have slipped into a comfortable routine: drive straight there, ignoring the whole of northern France in order to get there as fast as possible, get settled in, do some shopping and sit on our little terrace absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of village life in rural France.

Nothing wrong with that.  But Angus’ post here reminded me of an incident that happened many years ago and I suddenly realised I do sometimes miss the excitement and adventure of our old holidays. 

They used to go like this: on Friday night, pile all our luggage on the motorcycles, using Nick’s championship skills to bungee tent, waterproofs and as many bags as possible onto any bit that he could, ride to the south coast, get on the first available ferry, dive into a cheap hotel for the night, get up the next morning and think “now where shall we go this year?”.


Such overnight stays often provided unexpected entertainment.  Such as the time we were awakened at 3am, having just got into our first floor room at 1am, by a huge commotion.  A car screeched to a halt beneath our window, a “lady” got out and immediately started shouting.  I think it was something like “YOU B*****D WHERE THE F**K ARE YOU”.  In French of course.

She was a clever woman.  All windows of all the rooms opened as people wished to express their annoyance at being disturbed (the French) or just have a nosey (the English).  Only one remained closed.

The argument continued for what seemed like hours.  It was interesting at first but it did go on a bit.  We concluded that the French do like a good, loud argument.  The “lady” got back in her car, slammed the door and screeched off, another female slipped out of the room, shoes and jacket in her hand, got into a taxi and left.  The next morning, as people packed their things into cars and headed off to start their holidays, a man was seen on the balcony outside his room, cooing and pleading softly into his mobile phone.  I don’t know which lady was on the other end but she was obviously not impressed as he was cut off mid-sentence and he held the phone at arm’s length, looking at it completely aghast.

We miss that kind of thing.  But not that much !!

4 August 2011


A month or so ago I went to lunch with a friend in a French style restaurant near to home in Derbyshire.  We both chose the same thing from the menu – a nice slice of summer vegetable tart which had in it green beans, peas and broccoli.  It also had some caramelised onion on the bottom, which gave a lovely slightly sweet taste and made a nice change from the usual very savoury flavour of fried onions.

So I decided to have a go at something similar myself.  I made a large quiche at home in the UK and it was so nice that I then made some mini tartlets to serve as a starter for lunch one day when we were chez nous in Le Grand-Pressigny.

summer quiche 9a

I used some haricots verts, broccoli, peas and a few broad beans from our Derbyshire garden.  Although the tart in the restaurant probably didn’t have any cheese in it, I decided to add a couple of spoons of the nice ready-grated parmesan cheese that comes in re-sealable bags that they sell in the Spa shop in the village.

My friend Nicole suggested using a muffin tin rather than the mini loose-bottomed tart tins that you can get specially for the purpose.  She also suggested using puff pastry instead of shortcrust as she found it turns out more easily and holds its shape better.

summer quiche 9 

I used an old Bon Maman jar, purchased that week from a vide grenier, as a template for cutting out circles of pastry the right size for the muffin pan.

summer quiche 11jpg  summer quiche 12jpg

They looked wonderful, in a rustic kind of way, and tasted good too.  They made a lovely starter, with a few salad leaves and a cherry tomato on the plate.

If you would like to see the recipe, you can find it here.

1 August 2011


So there I was with my new carte grise in my hand on Monday morning and all I needed to be able to ride my motorcycle in the lovely warm and sunny weather was a number plate with my new French registration number on it and some insurance.


A happy person with her new plaque d’immatriculation

Nick remembered a car spares shop (similar in style to the UK Halfords) next to the big Auchan supermarket in Chatellerault.  As it was Monday of our first week’s holiday, we needed to do some shopping so off we went.  The process of getting my number plate (plaque d’immatriculation) was the easiest and quickest in everything we had done so far – ten minutes after entering the shop we left with the plaque.


Chatellerault has lots of nice cafés and restaurants.

So we decided to have a spot of lunch in the town centre and also fit in a visit to the motor museum which is down by the river in the early afternoon, with the aim of calling in at the insurance office in Descartes on the way home to tie up the last loose end so that we could be on the road on Tuesday.

It was a beautiful hot and sunny day.  We had a lovely walk by the river and the motor museum was superb – much more about that later.

We arrived at the insurance office in Descartes about 4pm.  We had decided to use the same company as we already use for our French house insurance.  When we bought that, the process was incredibly long and tedious – you can read about it here.  So we thought already being clients would save time.


Down by the river at Chatellerault.

However, another unforeseen hurdle cropped up.  The original insurance agent we dealt with, M.Touteafait, had retired and in his place was a young man call Eric.  Eric insisted on seeing some “letter of introduction” from my existing motorcycle insurers, stating how long it was since I had had an accident or conviction, before he would consider me for a policy.

Harrumph……!!  Not wanting to waste the beautiful weather, we dashed home and got on to our insurance company toute suite.  This proved to be difficult as they only have a UK 0800 telephone number and we couldn’t access that from our mobiles.  By 5pm we were having an argument with a young insurance call centre agent called Darren, who was hundreds of miles away and not happy about giving me any such letter.  Eventually we managed to persuade him we were not intending to use it for devious or illegal purposes and he agreed to email it to us.


One of the bridges over the Vienne at Chatellerault.

On Tuesday it was warm and sunny.  We decided to leave it until lunchtime to give the young Darren time to send the email.  As we have no internet access in our little house, we have to use the public computer in the Tourist Office.  At 3pm we were there, hoping to simply get this letter printed off so we could hop it back to Descartes, show it to Eric and get this insurance thing sorted. 

Nothing is ever easy.  We failed to access our email account at all – maybe something to do with using a public computer.  After numerous fruitless attempts we gave up and dashed up to Alex and Nicole’s where we could “borrow” their broadband with my little laptop.  We logged on successfully but by 5pm, nothing had arrived.

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and as soon as it was sensible we were on the phone again to our insurance company.  Nothing had arrived on Tuesday because it was Darren’s day off. 

We spoke to a young lady called Julie who promised to sort the job out.  We gave her a different email address – one that we knew we could access at the Tourist Office because we had done so before.  We were in and out of the Tourist Office all day.  By 4pm nothing had arrived.  As a long shot we went back to Alex and Nicole’s to beg use of their broadband yet again and sure enough, Julie had sent it at lunchtime, but to the wrong email address.

Still, at least we now had the letter and Nicole kindly printed off two copies for us.  Unfortunately it was now 5pm and too late to go to Descartes to buy the damned insurance and tomorrow was 14th July, a bank holiday.


The other bridge over the Vienne at Chatellerault.

The 14th July was a lovely warm and sunny day and we had a great time – more about that later.

On Friday we were expecting visitors for lunch and had lots of preparation to do.  We had ordered some moules from the supermarket in Descartes and had been told to pick them up at 9am.  So I took my letter from the insurance company with me so I could call at the office and save another trip.  It was another lovely warm and sunny day.

Now I have a theory that when you turn 50, you start to gradually become invisible.  I have had many moments of personal invisibility since my 50th birthday and today was going to be one of them.

I entered the insurance office to find Eric not there but a female colleague in charge.  She looked at me as if I was an alien from planet Zog when I explained I had spoken to Eric on Monday, and here was the letter, etc., etc.  She asked me to sit down and just as she was obviously trying to take it all in an older man entered the office and stood behind me.  He interrupted our conversation, which I thought was probably ok if he just had a quick query or wanted to hand something in, but when she started to deal with him at length, including using the computer, I realised I had become invisible again.

I was sitting only feet from this woman, staring her in the face with beady eyes and she was ignoring me.  It had been a long, hot and sunny week which would have been perfect for riding my motorcycle, we had guests coming for lunch, my moules were calling to me from the car and I was rapidly running out of patience.  I then had what can only be described as a bit of a strop.

I reared up in my chair and with my face only inches from hers, said “excusez-moi”, very loudly, as the insurance lady was mid-sentence.  She looked horrified, as if I had indeed suddenly landed on my feet in front of her without coming through the door.  I ascertained that the office would be open tomorrow, which was Saturday and said “je revien demain”, scraped my chair back, stormed out and slammed the door behind me in a very satisfying fashion.

I drove home to Le Grand-Pressigny the pretty way, just to remind myself what a beautiful part of France we live in, how lovely the weather is, how perfect the roads are for motorcycling….oh what the heck…tant pis.  I wouldn’t be riding my bike today anyway as Ken and Walt were coming for lunch and we would be having a lovely time with them

First thing on Saturday morning we called in to see Eric.  The process of buying an insurance policy took about an hour.  It required much tapping of the computer as he said “ tac, tac, tac” and entered the same information over and over again.  He then scanned all my documents and the all-important letter.  At 10am I stepped out of the office with my insurance certifiicate – my carte verte - in my hand – just as it started to rain.

It continued to rain on and off for the next week.


How I registered my UK motorcycle in France

This is how we would do it again, now that we know what we should have done in the first place !!

The process is probably similar for cars.  I am also told it varies from one part of France to another ~ I can’t vouch for this.  This is not intended as a definitive guide but it may be helpful to other people who haven’t a clue where to start.

Documents you need

Your UK registration document

Driving licence

Certificate of conformity

A Quitus Fiscal

Application form for a French registration document (carte grise)

Personal identification, eg passport

Evidence of residence in France, eg EDF bill

A cheque and stamped, addressed envelope for your French address

A letter from your insurance company stating your claims history

Bill of sale for the motorcycle

Order of doing things

Get your Certificate of Conformity from your dealer.  This document states whether or not your motorcycle conforms to the European standards and it may be free or there may be a charge.  Mine cost £150 and took two weeks to arrive.

Take your Certificate of Conformity, UK registration document and your EDF bill to the Hôtel de Finance for your area and get a Quitus Fiscal.  This is a customs document.  Your motorcycle should be more than 6 months old and have 6,000 kilometres on the clock to avoid paying import duty, I believe.

You can download an application form for the new carte grise, a demande de certificat d’immatriculation d’un vehicule from the internet here.

Take your quitus fiscal, application form and all the other documents, to the office issuing carte grises in your area.  Mine was at the Préfecture in Tours.  Get there as early as you can and join the queue.  There was a ticket machine inside to issue tickets for places in the queue, once the office was open.  Our office was open 8.30- 12.30 only and friends who went through the same process after us said there was a long queue outside by 8.00am.

Take your carte grise to the number plate shop to buy your new plaque d’immatriculation.  There is one a few doors down from the Préfecture in Tours but I got mine from a car spares shop and it cost 16 euros. 

Arrange insurance ~ for this you will need your new carte grise, driving licence and the letter from your existing UK insurance company giving your claims history.  The French system of giving discounts on premiums is similar to the no claims bonus system in the UK.


I suggest you compile all the documents in a file and take the whole lot with you at each stage.  I ended up applying by post so I sent photocopies of my passport, driving licence, etc.  I therefore suggest you make photocopies of absolutely everything, just in case.

Retain the part of the UK registration document that you have to fill in and send off to say you have exported the vehicle, before you hand it over as it will be kept with your application form.

I was never asked for my bill of sale so I don’t know at which stage you might have to produce it.  There is also the possibility that you will be asked to make modifications to the vehicle and present it for inspection at some point but I don’t know how this works as I didn’t have to do it.