31 December 2010


On our wedding anniversary we went to L’Ardoise in Chinon for lunch. Very good it was too; 17 euros for three courses, all quite delicious and served perfectly.

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We have been visiting Chinon regularly for those 16 years and it has changed steadily year by year. Shops and cafes come and go, change hands or disappear.

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My favourite shoe shop was selling comfy slippers instead of its usual selection of summer sandals.

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This smart gallery used to sell interesting underwear of the very expensive and impractical kind.

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Very smart dwellings are often right next to places that have been unloved for a long time.

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There are always plenty of places for sale.

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I remember this building being gutted and restored a few years ago. It has housed various enterprises since and now seems to be selling fancy scarves and ornaments.

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This is one of those doorways that fascinate me. I wonder if what is inside is just as grand as the outside, although it still suffers from unwanted “PUB”.

28 December 2010


Chinon still remains probably our favourite town in France. We never tire of it and although we don't live there, knowing it's almost on our doorstep is good enough. Today is our wedding anniversary (16 years) and we will be celebrating at one of our favourite restaurants, L'Ardoise in Chinon, with one of their super special lunches. Then maybe we'll take a walk along the bank of the Vienne afterwards.


25 December 2010


The Christmas lights were already up in Le Grand-Pressigny on the weekend of my quick trip for the Christmas market in Ferrière Larcon on 12th December. 

Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all.

21 December 2010


On 7th December I set off from home at 11.30 pm headed for Le Grand-Pressigny. I travelled with my friends and neighbours Mike and Jackie and the purpose of our trip was my having a stall at the Marché de Noël at Ferrière Larçon, a village a few kilometres from ours.

Coffee break on the motorway at 3 am.

We had debated at length whether or not to go at all. The snow in the UK the previous week had made travelling very difficult and dangerous. By now some of the snow had melted and no more was forecast for the UK but a band of snow was showing up on the Meteo France website, just north of Le Mans. But, with Mike driving and in their car, we decided to risk it.

The weather deteriorated near Gacé.

We made it to the tunnel with no problem and started our journey through France as it was just beginning to get light. There was no sign of any snow for the first couple of hours and I sent Nick a text to say we seemed to have got away with it. But then, north of Le Mans, things deteriorated and it started to snow. I had spoken too soon !!

I wouldn't like to be on a motorcycle in this blizzard.

For a couple of hours we drove through a blizzard. Mike just ploughed his way through the snow, saying that so long as the tyres were cutting through it to tarmac, we would be fine. Just south of Le Mans the snow finally fizzled out and we arrived in Le Grand-Pressigny in light rain. What a hero !! I could not have driven like that myself and would have been tempted to give up and wait at a convenient services for the weather to improve.

We spent the next few days having fun, eating out, winetasting and being tourists. I also sent Mike and Jackie out for a couple of days to enjoy themselves while I put together the last minute preparations for my stall.

Nicole had booked the table at the market for me, but it had not been easy.  I had no contact at all from the market organisers and by the time I set off for France, the cheque had not been cashed. I had no idea whether my application had been received and therefore whether I would have a table at all.

There were lots of outdoor stalls at the market, mostly selling food.

But, the train was booked and paid for so we decided to chance it. The market was taking place at the church and we turned up at 9am on the Sunday, loaded up with boxes of beads, display stands and gift boxes. 


The indoor stalls varied enormously. This one was in a tent attached to the church.

But, the system had worked !! As we opened the boot of the car a man with a clipboard and a list approched us and my name was on the list. What a relief. He told me I would be inside, in the entrance to the church so off I went in search of my table.

The atmosphere was very jolly and festive inside the church.

It was now 9.15 and the doors opened to the public at 10.00 am. We had practised setting up the day before using my dining table at home, so were able to get the stall up and running in no time at all. I was pleased with how it looked and we sat back and waited to see what would happen.

There were all kinds of fun and games to entertain people. This young man was making things with balloons, including his own hat.

We were not very busy. Nor was anyone else. Most people seemed to have sold hardly anything from their stall by the middle of the afternoon and it was freezing, literally, all day. Mid-morning, Simon and Susan of Days on the Claise turned up to give their support and fetched a couple of glasses of warm mulled wine for Jackie and myself. We were most grateful !!

This young man was dressed as a Christmas tree. I think that's his mum straightening a decoration !

I talked to my fellow stallholders and we came to the conclusion that this particular Christmas market was more a place to meet your friends and have a glass of mulled wine than a place to actually buy anything.


The lady with the stall next to mine seemed to have an eclectic assortment of things for sale.

But I did sell some things and there was a lot of interest in my wares and lots of compliments made about it. Lots of people took my business cards - not that they were much use except for the little 2011 calendar on the back.


My little stall.

But it was an interesting and valuable experience. I was pleased that my limited command of the French language was enough to enable me to talk to my customers and that none of them seemed at all perturbed or surprised that I was English.
I would certainly go to the market at Ferrière Larçon myself in future - but as a visitor, not a vendor. It was a super event to go to for entertainment on a Sunday before Christmas. But it was so cold in the church that by the end of the day my whole body was shaking. My table was in the coldest part of the church and it really was very helpful to have the mulled wine available to warm us up !!
If you are interested in reading more, I have written about it here.

26 October 2010


We stumbled across another privately owned chateau on the way home from Poitiers the day that it rained on and off all day. This one was at Dissay, which is about half way between Poitiers and Chatellerault.

  Although privately owned, you can visit the chateau on a few days each year, details of which can be found here. It is a very fine building in the truly grand Loire style. It was built by Pierre d'Amboise, Bishop of Poitiers in the fifteenth century.

  The village of Dissay has a slightly sad and down-at-heel feel to it. Or at least it did on the day we passed through. Maybe the grey skies and showers didn't help to make it look more appealing.


It would be nice to look around the house and grounds, if we could possibly manage to be chez nous on one of the days it is open to the public.
One of the interesting things we have found about our own village of Le Grand-Pressigny is that whatever the weather has been doing all day, come apéro time, the wind usually dies down, the rain stops and the sun comes out. The day we passed through Dissay was no exception. By the time we got home the skies were blue and we could sit on our little terrace enjoying the early evening entertainment provided by the church bells and the swallows. In the shadow of our own, very special, chateau.


22 October 2010


The Loire Valley area is pretty much wall-to-wall châteaux. There are big ones, small ones and absolutely huge ones. Some are beautiful and very popular as tourist destinations. Others are more every-day and less well known. Wherever you go, you are likely to see one peeping over the top of some trees. Or you will pass a magnificent set of gates and a long, long wall that conceals a château that you might just glimpse one across a well-groomed lawn or through some trees.


They are everywhere and quite a lot of them are still privately owned. We spotted the château at Palluau-sur-Indre from the road and decided to go into the village for a better look. Ken wrote about it here. I found his blog post when I put the château into Google.

When we enquired at the little tourist office in the town about the château, we learned that it was recently under new ownership and was due to re-open soon. The young lady we spoke to did not say how soon "soon" was but she did say that the new owner was a M. Norton.


The hotel in town was also very much closed up. It looked like it must have been quite something in its day. It also is due to re-open soon. I got the impression it had the same new owner. Lucky M. Norton. Getting both the château and the hotel ready for visitors must be quite a major undertaking.

There is a fine church at the foot of the château, which is very much not closed up. It was beautiful inside and there were signs that a wedding had recently taken place there.

We liked the little town of Palluau. It will be nice to go back for another look around some day, when the château has reopened for visitors.

18 October 2010


During our second week's holiday in August, Nick went fishing with our friend Andy (and his little dog, Jamie), so Pat and I went for a girls' day out. We went shopping to Tours and decided to have lunch at a restaurant called "Le Clos" at Chambray-lès-Tours. It's right next to Leroy Merlin on the road that goes south towards St-Maure.

It wasn't called "Le Clos" the last time I ate there. It was just a perfectly ordinary Itialian restaurant that served good pizzas. Nick and I had called for a quick lunch a few times when we were visitin Leroy's for some DIY stuff.

As Pat and I walked up the steps I was so busy telling her how good the pizzas were that I didn't notice the smart new sign by the front door. When we stepped inside I soon realised that the decor and layout were completely different. The place had lovely subtle colours and nice music playing instead of the gaudy red and green uniform of the pizza restaurant. I got the feeling that we were in for something rather special and I was right. It always helps when the other diners look happy and content, not anxious or fidgety, and especially if they are being served red wine from a smart decanter into the big wine glasses !!

We opted for two courses, mains and dessert. The menu was very tempting but we didn't think we would be able to manage three. We each ordered a different white fish dish for main course and they were delicious. It wasn't until we had been eating for a few minutes that we realised we had been given the wrong ones. This was an error on the part of the young waiter, who had asked who had ordered which, then put them down in front of us the wrong way round. They looked so similar but I was eating the one with chorizo in, that Pat had chosen. It hardly mattered. We had had difficulty in making up our minds anyway. I'm sure we could have chosen anything off the menu and loved it - except for andouillette !!

We both chose the same dessert. It was a fabulous strawberry tart which looked spectacular and was served with a little pot of thick cream and a blob of ginger ice-cream. It tasted divine.
We were impressed. It wasn't as cheap as a quick pizza would have been but it was excellent. Another really good dining experience and another restaurant to add to our ever lengthening list of great places to eat.