November 21, 2013

CHÂTEAU DE CANDÉ the final part

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After our tour of the château interior we stepped outside to find that although it was dull, the drizzle had stopped, for a while anyway.

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There were plenty of flowers, fruit and vegetables growing, but we weren’t sure whether they were just for display or for use by the château.  It was nice to see them anyway.

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We were more fascinated by these pictures on display.  There was an area devoted to people, which we breezed past to get to the ones about food, which were much more interesting.

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Each display board presented some aspect of the food of the Loire region, with an explanation of its origins in both French on one side and English on the other.  If the weather had been better I could have spent much longer reading each piece but one in particular caught my eye.

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The plate of Cormery macaroons looked very tempting.  There are several stories as to how come they have a hole in the middle.  All the stories agree that it represents the belly button of a monk that originally made them many centuries ago, but there is no agreement as to how this happened.  You can read about one of the theories here.

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I confess that the belly button imagery does nothing to make them seem more appetising, but I am won over by the ingredients ~ almonds, eggs, sugar and orange peel.  There are of course many different types of macaroon and this is just one of them.  Sooner or later I will just have to find a recipe for Cormery macaroons and try making them.  In which case I will let you know how I get on!

After our all too brief tour of the garden the drizzle returned so we headed back to the car.  As we turned to leave the car park a pair of young deer watched us from the edge of the wood, only a few metres away from the road.  We slowed down so that we could see them properly but by the time I had wrestled my new camera out of its bag on the back seat they had turned away and all I got was a picture of their bottoms.  Something in the timing made me think they were teasing us and that we were not the first to get such a photo!

Bon weekend !!

November 17, 2013

CHÂTEAU DE CANDÉ part three

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Many of the Duchess of Windsor’s gowns are on display at Candé, including her wedding dress.  Some are originals but the wedding dress is, I think, a replica ~ I can’t remember exactly.  In any case, I was slightly disappointed when I saw it.  I had seen many photos of the wedding of course but the dress, although certainly tasteful and demure, was a bit dowdy I thought.

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A lot of her other dresses would not look out of place if worn today.  Some styles never go out of fashion.  I have seen TV footage of coats just like that pink one being worn by our royals very recently.

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The evening dresses were beautiful.

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The hats were stylish.

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I was especially interested to see the jewellery and I was not disappointed there.  Personally I can’t think I would ever wear stuff like this ~ it would look somewhat out of place walking the dog or doing the shopping!  In fact you very rarely see brooches being worn these days, maybe because most people wear anoraks of some kind rather than a formal coat or jacket, including me.

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There was a definite animal theme going on ~ I liked the panther head necklace and flamingo brooch. 

Must go now……there’s a dog to walk and when I come back covered in mud I’ll have a rummage through the ironing basket to see if there’s a clean t-shirt to put on……the servants have been given the day off…..if only.

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Changing the subject, I was contacted by my ex-colleagues who asked me if I would be able to bake some cakes for the usual Children in Need cake stall this year.  They particularly wanted two blackberry and apple crumble cakes, a coffee and walnut cake, a peanut butter cake and a pumpkin spice cake.  I was of course pleased to be asked and made a chocolate ginger cake as well. 

They were trying to beat last year’s total of £800 and were aiming for £1,000.  At the last count, so far they have made £1,100 and there’s still some to come in.  That’s an awful lot of cake !!

Bon Dimanche !!

November 13, 2013

CHÂTEAU DE CANDÉ part two

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Candé has an elegant yet cosy feel to it.  The bedroom was charming, comfortable and very much like a grand hotel but without the Wi-Fi, television, tea tray and leaflets. 

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It reminded me of when I was a teenager in the 1960’s and worked weekends and holidays at the New Bath Hotel at Matlock Bath.  That was fairly grand in its hey day.  Nothing like as grand as Candé of course, but a totally different world from normal life (especially to a fifteen year old who lived in a tiny three bedroomed council house).  The furnishings were sumptuous, the guests well heeled, well spoken and were regularly of the rich and famous type ~ the cast of the film “Women in Love” came to stay while I was there as some of the scenes were filmed on location in Derbyshire.

I worked in various parts of the hotel but mostly as a chambermaid.  The work was hard and the pay mediocre but I loved it.

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The New Bath Hotel is closed and empty now.  It passed from one hotel chain to another, and Its former grandeur gradually disappeared as it became shabby and unloved.  The chambermaids, chefs and waiters arrived for work one July morning last year to find they couldn’t get in and bailiffs were taking away the furniture.  Very sad.

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The most astonishing room in Candé is, I think, the bathroom.  Often châteaux have fairly utilitarian bathrooms, icy cold rooms with very little to make you want to linger there, even fully clothed.

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Here the royal bathroom is nothing short of fabulous, with elaborate tiling, brass fittings, comfortable chairs, mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors.

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In the middle of October the bathroom seemed rather too chilly for me but I suppose it would have been somewhat warmer in June 1937 when Edward and Wallis were celebrating their nuptials.

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A glimpse of the royal throne perhaps?

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The beautiful mosaics on the walls are works of art.  It’s something to bear in mind for the next time we have a bathroom refurbished perhaps.  On the other hand I think I will have…………a few more radiators !!

November 10, 2013

CHÂTEAU DE CANDÉ

Last month I took my new camera to a château that we had been intending to visit for several years, Candé, which is in the village of Monts, near Montbazan, just south of Tours.

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It was a dismal day, cool, grey and with intermittent showers.  Between the showers it drizzled most of the time we were there, which is not the best weather for the first visit of my new camera to a château.

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But in some ways it added to the atmosphere of the place.  In trying to decided how I felt about it and looking at the photos afterwards, I did feel as though we had just missed a good wedding.

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Taking these pictures in autumn, a few weeks and 76 years after the first famous royal wedding, it did feel as though it had only just happened, as if we had turned up slightly too late, as Edward and Mrs Simpson had packed their bags and swept out of the château the month before.

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You can read about the château and its history in Wikipedia here, but without a doubt it is the wedding of Prince Edward to Wallis Simpson that dominates the place and, presumably, sells it to the visitors.

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Realistically, their wedding was the reason that I always wanted to visit.  It is a beautiful château, without a doubt, but there are so many beautiful châteaux in the Loire that they all have to have something different to make you want to go.  I’m sure there have been scores of weddings at Candé in centuries gone by, but this was the first ever to have the photos, taken by Cecil Beaton, in every popular newspaper and magazine soon afterwards.

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I do enjoy glimpses into the lives of people of previous centuries, I know it’s just sheer nosiness but I love to imagine people sitting side by side in front of a cosy fire, enjoying a cup of tea and a scone, or maybe a gin and tonic, chatting.  How likely is it that that the royal couple sat just here?  Probably not very likely, but it hardly matters.

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Photographs were permitted indoors without a flash so I just set my new camera to intelligent auto and let it get on with it.  It was certainly a very photogenic interior and it had a homely feel to it.  Grand but no means intimidating.  I couldn’t imagine anything horrid happening here, unlike some châteaux, where you feel instantly the evil that has taken place the moment you walk through the door.

I will post some more photos next time but one of my favourites is this one:

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Bon Dimanche !!

November 7, 2013

AN ABUNDANCE OF WALNUTS

It was a good walnut harvest in the Loire this year.  The many walnut trees around the village produced a huge crop and we collected a few in our pockets or in a bag every time we took the dog for her twice or thrice daily walk around the château.  (We always have suitable bags in our pockets being dog owners.  Lulu doesn’t often disgrace herself but you never know).

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We brought a large bagful back with us and yesterday I realised the bag was still exactly where I had dumped it when we got home.  So I tipped out the walnuts to have a look at them, make sure they were dry and start shelling a few.

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The question is, what should I do with these?  Would it be worth planting them?  Does anybody want a walnut tree as we don’t have room for one ~ not one that’s big enough to give us walnuts anyway !!

November 2, 2013

L’ART & LARD

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L’Art & Lard is an event that takes place in Le Petit-Pressigny in early October every year.  It’s name translates literally as “the art and bacon”.  So it’s a sort of country show which celebrates local arts and crafts and food.

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Walking round the village you will find the little red flag attached to buildings, doorways and gateposts to indicate that something arty is taking place inside.  There is also a central area where stalls are set up for people selling their artwork, food products and crafts.

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There are paintings, sculptures and things that are hard to categorise placed all over the village in people’s barns, gardens, conservatories and garages, as well as in the public buildings.

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Down by the river someone was taking a great interest in something unusual.

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It turned out to be a display of plastic windmills.

That’s what I like about the Art & Lard.  It’s a nice, colourful, civilised, gentle event, where anything goes and it always makes me smile as I admire the inventiveness of some people.

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The long table was set out for the speeches and prizes.  There was an apple tart competition which I intended to look at but I didn’t find it anywhere.

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The whole even is very bright and cheery with seasonal produce on display and for sale.

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The crafts ranged from hand-made jewellery (very nice, too) to large metal sculptures and local pottery, made by Magalie, the potter from our own village.  We have bought quite a few of her pieces over the years.

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Down by the river there were large sculptures dotted around.

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Food was available to buy and take home or to eat on site, with the sausage and frites stall, the three course meal in the salle des fêtes and, of course, the English Tea Rooms where you could have tea or coffee with a slice of yummy cake, a bun, or even a traditional cream tea.  With enormous effort, I managed to resist.  Largely because I was still full of toasted brioche from breakfast !!

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There are few things we look forward to as much as the Art & Lard every year.  I find it difficult to say why, but we do.  It’s a great event to catch up with friends, stock up on unusual foods and see some local art.

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Bon weekend !!