Cycling along the Loire from Jargeau to Germigny

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

We’ve talked it over and decided that, based on the experience of the practice window, the kitchen windows may take a lot longer than expected and we may well have to forego our summer cycling holiday this year. I was hoping to go to Romania but we would need at least a month to cross half of Europe by car so the plan is now to go for short trips closer to home instead whenever my workload permits. Otherwise Jean Michel is going to be stressed out of his mind trying to get everything finished.

Jean MIchel contributed to the garage sale by bringing a picnic lunch to share

Jean MIchel contributed to the garage sale by bringing a picnic lunch to share

The practice window is now in place. The laundry still isn’t finished – it’s missing the sink – but I have no urgent work waiting for me and the weather forecast is looking good. After participating in the local garage sale on Sunday which was held in the grounds of the old school, we pour ourselves a gin tonic (our holiday beverage) and debate on where to go. I’ve been wanting to go back to Gien for a while to complete our porcelain breakfast service, especially since I broke one of the two egg cups.

Gien at dusk taken in a moving car!

Gien at dusk taken in a moving car!

Gien is a two and a half  hour drive east from Blois along the Loire and is part of the Loire à Vélo and Eurovélo 6 cycle routes (the one that goes from Saint Nazaire on the eastern Atlantic seabord to the Black Sea). We find and book a B&B about 10 km out of Gien for the next evening – it seems to have plenty of positive comments on Trip Advisor.

The bike path from Jargeau with the gabarre flat-bottomed boats

The bike path from Jargeau with the gabarre flat-bottomed boats

By the time we get up and get ready – it’s amazing how much we always seem to need for even a short trip – it’s nearly midday. We take the motorway to Orléans then drive along the Loire until we get to Jargeau. We can’t find our Eurovelo 6 maps, which is annoying, but I’ve been checking out the route on my phone app. The 30 K return ride from Jargeau to Germigny via Châteauneuf-sur-Loire looks good according to the description.

Wide-sweeping view of the Loire

Wide-sweeping view of the Loire

The bike path  along the river to Châteauneuf takes us past the inevitable gabarre flat-bottomed boats in Jargeau before offering wide-sweeping views of the Loire from the levee.

Jean Michel halfway across the bridge at Châteauneuf

Jean Michel halfway across the bridge at Châteauneuf

At Châteauneuf, we cross the 276 metre long suspension bridge (initially built in 1838) which unfortunately doesn’t have a bike lane, but there isn’t much traffic so we are able to stop and take photos.

Houses with their unusual chimneys

Houses with their unusual chimneys

On the other side, we turn right and evenutally come to a cluster of quaint houses with very unusual brick chimneys.

One of the less ramshackle houses

One of the less ramshackle houses

Another village follows full of somewhat ramshackle dwellings most of which are very kitch but I am thwarted in my attempt to photograph the best examples. There seem to be people all over the place!

The beautiful mosaic work in the Carolingian oratory in Germigny

The beautiful mosaic work in the Carolingian oratory in Germigny

We finally arrive at Germigny which is rather dull after the other villages along the way. It is not until we go past it in the car later on that I discover that it has a Carolingian oratory. Jean Michel remembers it perfectly from a previous occasion. I am embarrassed to say that I only remember having a cold drink in the café opposite. Jean Michel makes his usual comment about how wonderful it is to take me anywhere. Since I don’t have any recollection of a lot of the places we go to, I derive new pleasure each time we visit again!  Now that I’m blogging I tell myself that at least I’ll have photos to remind me of where I’ve been.

View from the cafe at the end of the bridge in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire

View from the cafe at the end of the bridge in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire

On the way back to Jargeau, we stop at the café at the end of the bridge at Châteauneuf for a Coca Zero – it’s an intermittent fast day so we can’t indulge ourselves any further.

The resident peacock at our B&B

The resident peacock at our B&B

We reach our B&B at about 6.30 pm. The 18th century mansion, renovated and redecorated when the owners bought it twenty-five years ago, is set in a beautiful park. It even has a couple of peacocks. Unfortunately it’s a little early in the season for the male to be spreading his tail feathers. He seems to make a lot of noise though!

The view of the park from our bedroom

The view of the park from our bedroom

The room is spacious and full of light, its windows looking onto the park on one side and wisteria on the other – the perfect setting for our picnic dinner. Afterwards we walk around the park examining the different types of vegetation. Some of the trees must be centuries old. But we see how much upkeep is needed and are glad of our little wood which is so much easier to look after!

Posted in Cycling, Loire Valley | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Three Tonnes of Freestone

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Now that the practice window is coming along nicely and we’ve bought the secondhand stone sills and bricks for the kitchen windows, the next step is to buy some freestone blocks for the window on the back façade so it will match the ones in front. For those who don’t know what freestone is (like me!), it’s a fine grain stone which can be cut easily in any direction, in particular a type of sandstone or limestone. In our area, they are made of limestone.

The front window with its freestone surround looking its best with the wisteria in bloom

The front window with its freestone surround looking its best with the wisteria in bloom

As usual, Jean Michel starts searching through leboncoin.com. “This looks good”, he says, one evening in front of the fire, “only 50 euro for a whole heap of stones, some of them very big – about 80 kilos”, he adds. I nearly have a fit. “What are we going to do with them all and how are we going to transport them?”” We’ll do a couple of trips with the trailer”, he replies. “Won’t they be too big to use?” “Je me débrouillerai“, he reassures me.

The practice window at the back of the house coming along nicely

The practice window at the back of the house coming along nicely

He phones and talks to a young woman who hardly seems the type to be selling 80 kilo stones. It takes us an hour to get there and we are about ten minutes early for our 7 pm appointment. It doesn’t look like a house owned by someone selling freestones either. Two young people in their early thirties soon pull up in a car. The young man gets out and opens the gate. The young woman drives in. She gets out and shakes our hands.

The house with the free stones

The house with the freestones

“I’ll go and let the hens out”, says Olivier. Christelle shows us the stones and Jean Michel drives the trailer in next to them. He then proceeds to put two planks at the back of the trailer to form a slide for the trolley he’s going to use. Olivier soon returns, having changed into yard clothes. He is tall and slim and I wonder if he is really going to be much help.

Jean Michel wheeling the stones on the trolley

Jean Michel wheeling the stones on the trolley

However, he turns out to be amazingly strong, which is a good thing because I seriously do not think I would have been much use! This is a much heavier operation than the bricks. It takes them both more than an hour to get 15 stones of various shapes and sizes into the trailer.

Olivier pulling up the trolley (thank goodness I didn't have to do that!)

Olivier pulling up the trolley (thank goodness I didn’t have to do that!)

In the meantime, I chat with Christelle about her house and garden. The land, which originally housed a large barn, belonged to her grandmother. After she and Olivier bought it, the barn was demolished (hence the stones) and they had a new house built because the barn would have cost far too much to renovate. Christelle’s parents live opposite. Her father used to be a farmer and still has a few hectares.

The bottom of Christelle and Olivier's garden

The bottom of Christelle and Olivier’s garden

Christelle and Oliver’s garden is very large with a lot of trees and even a little stream at the bottom. Next door, there is a pond. It looks very idyllic in the spring and they have large French windows at the back of the house to make the most of the view.

The trailer is now packed and ready to go. Christelle asks if we’d like to stay for a drink but we explain it is an intermittent fast day so all we can have is water. They ask where I come from and are thrilled to learn I’m Australian. They visited Christelle’s sister’s brother-in-law in Sydney last year! We make another appointment for a few days later and Christelle’s father, who has wandered over, offers to come with his tractor. Now why didn’t he come by earlier???

Tipping the stones from the trailer onto the ground at home

Tipping the stones from the trailer onto the ground at home

It is nearly 9.30 pm by the time we get home. By now we’re pretty hungry, especially Jean Michel. Next day, he up-ends the stones into the front yard – I had no idea our trailer was a tip truck – and uses the trolley to take them into the garden of our little house next door which is ready to receive them.

Jean Michel organises the stones into different types.

Jean Michel organises the stones into different types.

As soon as we arrive at Christelle and Oliver’s house to pick up the next cargo of stones, Christelle’s father promptly arrives with his tractor. This time it only takes a half an hour to get the next 16 stones into the trailer.  As a present, I have brought some cuttings from our garden: a little yew tree, a laurel and some winter jasmin. Christelle and Olivier are delighted.

Loading the stones into the trailer is so much easier with a tractor!

Loading the stones into the trailer is so much easier with a tractor!

It’s the third and last trip. Christelle’s father, who takes every opportunity he can to use his tractor according to Olivier, has already picked up two stones on the fork lift by the time Jean Michel gets the trailer in place. One of the stones is a sink. I hope we’ll be able to find some use for it.

The stone sink

The stone sink

Theyve got it down to a fine art by now so, once again, within a half an hour, we’re all set and ready to go, with another 18 stones in the trail. However, I’m hoping that they’ll ask us if we want an apéritif again. It’s not an intermittent fast day! Christelle pops the question and we accept without hesitation.

I would like to suggest that she invite her mother over too because I want to ask her more details about the way she keeps her geraniums in winter. Christelle telle me that she takes them out of the pots and hangs them upside down ! But I need more details. However, I think it might be a little out of place to do so.

Christelle's father and Olivier with the épine

Christelle’s father and Olivier with the épine

Olivier goes off and gets a bottle with EPINE written on it. We learn it is a homemade brew consisting of tender blackthorn shoots cut in the spring and steeped in brandy, red or rosé wine and sugar. I ask what the alcohol content is so I have an idea of what I’m drinking. Olivier does a rough calculation and comes up with about 20°. One glass will do me!

We sit round the table drinking the épine which is very tasty, and are joined by Pierre, who’s staying with them for a couple of days. Because they live close to the Saint-Laurent-sur-Nouan nuclear power plant, there is occasional demand for extra accommodation which they offer on airbnb.com. What a good idea!

Saint Laurent de Nouans nuclear power plant

Saint Laurent sur Nouans nuclear power plant

The conversation mostly revolves around farming (and Australia) as Jean Michel is interested in knowing what Christelle’s father used to do. He grew cereal crops and raised beef cattle. Unfortunately he didn’t have a son to take over after he retired and he misses the activity. What a pity he lives too far away or we could ask him to bring his tractor over when Jean Michel is putting the stones in place!

Sunset over Blois on the way home

Sunset over Blois on the way home

We leave reluctantly but it’s getting late. We have taken a liking to these two young people and their farmer father. We’ve only been gone ten minutes when Jean Michel’s mobile rings. It’s Christelle to tell us I’ve forgotten my jacket. So back we go. She comes out to give it to me. I’ll make sure I send her a photo when the window is finished so they can see their stones in their new home. We drive home into the sunset.

Posted in Closerie Falaiseau, Flowers & gardens, Loire Valley, Renovation | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Busy Back Soon

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I am not sick. I have not given up my blog but like Owl in Winnie the Pooh, I am busy! After a sluggish start to the year workwise, I am suddenly inundated with translations. I can’t complain but it’s not easy to juggle with work, the beautiful weather, the garden and cycling.  I am (more or less) keeping up with my photographic blog, Loire Daily Photo. In the meantime, may I invite you to join me in the garden with a cold glass of jurançon in front of our wisteria which came into bloom in just two days!

jurancon_wisteria

 

 

Posted in Blois, Closerie Falaiseau, Flowers & gardens | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Easter Sunday in Les Grouets

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

We have just finished breakfast at a very late hour, mainly due to the switchover to daylight saving last Sunday, which is still playing havok with my already terrible sleeping habits, and have decided to go for a walk before lunch. It’s sunny but only 8°C and there is a northern wind which means it feels like it’s about 4°C.

Jennet in front of a half-timber house

Jennet in front of a modern half-timber house

We walk down our very long street towards Blois and turn left at the church, then up the hill and under the overpass, admiring all the flowering shrubs on the way.

You can only guess at the view from the front of this house

You can only guess at the view from the front of this house

We take the first street on the left and keep climbing. We are eventually walking parallel to our street, but about seventy metres above. Many of the houses have a spectacular view of the Loire but the noise of the riverside traffic is louder than it is at river level.

Our house is two houses to the left off the edge of the photo

Our house is two houses to the left off the edge of the photo

Eventually we find a track that leads us to the edge of the hillside overlooking the railway line. This is the closest we can get to our house which is two doors down from the last house on the left of the photo.

A very un-environmen-friendly cubby house

A very un-environmen-friendly cubby house

We go back to the main path which eventually leads us to a steep track down through the forest. We spy a little cubby house built many moons ago to judge by the materials used – and very un-environment-friendly! The forest floor is covered in little yellow and white flowers.

Flower-covered forest floor

Flower-covered forest floor

After lunch and a little siesta interrupted by the doorbell (by the time we emerge it’s too late, the person has already left), I go into the kitchen to start preparing lamb shank for the first time in my life. It’s Easter Sunday after all. With no children or grandchildren around, this is our only concession to Easter which our family has not celebrated since my sister died on Easter Saturday many long years ago. We’ve already eaten our April Fish Day chocolates.

April Fish Day chocolate

April Fish Day chocolate

I love lamb shank but you usually have to order it at the butcher’s and it takes a long time to cook. Yesterday at the supermarket, there were four shanks just crying out to be bought. I check out a few recipes on the web, many of which seem time-consuming. Not my scene … I eventually find one that looks easy.

Delicious lamb shank

Delicious lamb shank

You just have to peel and chop a couple of carrots, thinly slice a couple of shallots (which, amazingly, I happen to have!), peel some garlic cloves, brown the shanks in olive oil in a pan that you can put in the oven, déglaze with vinegar, add the other ingredients along with a bouquet garni (which I go and gather in the garden), a teaspoon of cumin and a tablespoon of honey. Add ½ litre of water (it’s supposed to be beef bouillon but the only cubes I have are chicken), bring to simmering point, cover and put in a 200°C oven for three hours, adding another ½ litre of water halfway through cooking. Easy, huh ?

The wood I stacked with the resting block next to it!

The wood I stacked with the resting block next to it!

Meanwhile Jean Michel is up in our little wood filling the wheelbarrow with logs from the ailanthus tree he cut down last year. During the night the pile of logs collapsed making evacuation urgent. He then takes them down to our sheltered wood pile. I play my part by unstacking them after he empties the wheelbarrow onto the ground. Some are a bit heavy but I still manage. I have a little rest on the cutting block while waiting for the next load. It’s much less stressful that having to make sure my logs are exactly 50 centimetres long!

It’s time to go and check the lamb. The smell is heavenly – I only hope it tastes as good.

My weeded garden bed outside the gate, with flowering forget-me-nots and a yellow daisy affair,  and hollyhocks, roses and irises in the making.

My weeded garden bed outside the gate, with flowering forget-me-nots and a yellow daisy affair, and hollyhocks, roses and irises in the making.

We follow up with some gardening. Jean Michel is cleaning an area in front of our little house to store the freestone blocks we’re acquiring at the moment. He unearths about forty refractory bricks which I stack in a neat pile. If we don’t eventually use them, we can always sell them over leboncoin.com!

My stack of bricks next to the first lot of freestone blocks

My stack of bricks next to the first lot of freestone blocks

The lamb turns out to be delicious. I serve it with creamy mashed potatoes flavoured with truffle shavings from the truffle we bought at the Truffle Fair and froze in January. We have a red bergerac from the Dordogne to go with it.

Our Renaissance fireplace

Our Renaissance fireplace

By the time we’re sitting in front of the fire having our decaf espresso, I think that every muscle in my body must be aching which makes me realise how out of shape I am after my flu this winter. Let’s hope the weather is going to get warmer soon so we can be out and about on our bikes again.

Posted in Country living, Flowers & gardens, Les Grouets, Life in France, Loire Valley, Renovation | Tagged | 18 Comments

Old Bricks, a Cloche and a Priory

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

While the concrete sill on the practice window (made with our new secondhand concrete mixer) is drying, Jean Michel is planning the logistics for the two large windows in the kitchen. We’ve already bought two stone sills for the rear façade window through leboncoin.com (where else ?) but we need bricks for the side window and the barn.

The concrete window sill drying

The concrete window sill drying

We can’t use new bricks of course as they would not blend in with the original architecture. Jean Michel sees an advertisement on leboncoin.com for 200 bricks for 50 euro. Considering that another vendor is asking 2.50 euro a brick, it seems a pretty good offer. He phones and organises to pick them up next afternoon. The vendor lives about 40 minutes away.

The first pile of bricks

The first pile of bricks

When we arrive, we see the first stack of bricks waiting for us. We load them in the car along with another stack slaked in mud. Fortunately, it’s stopped raining. Before we go and pick up the rest from his grandmother’s house another 30 minutes away, the vendor shows us a couple of other things he has for sale, including three beautifully preserved glass cloches once used to grow seedlings. He’s selling them for 70 euro a piece but you have to take the three.

Glass garden cloches

Glass garden cloches

His grandmother was still living in the house until she died peacefully in her sleep last December, just 4 days after she turned 100. The house turns out to be a priory built in the 12th and 16 centuries and still has a chapel at the rear. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the key with him but we can make out the vaulting through the grille.

The priory from the back. You can see the archway leading into the chapel.

The priory from the back. You can see the archway leading into the chapel.

The renovations on the front façade, with its roller blinds, are a little bit modern for our taste but the vendor seems very proud of them.

The front façade with its roller blinds.

The front façade with its roller blinds.

We load the rest of the bricks into the car. I’m a bit worried about the weight. It may be a Volvo stationwagon but there are 244 whole bricks, each weighing about 2 kilos, and another 50 or 60 broken ones. That’s over 550 kilos.

The Volvo very close to the ground at the back!

The Volvo very close to the ground at the back!

As we drive very carefully over the first speed bump, we hear a terrible grating noise casued by the trailer coupling. Hmm … The next speed bump looks even higher so we stop and reload the bricks so that the weight is more evenly distributed.

The bricks unloaded. You can see the stone sills at the end of the garden. The "practice" window is the last one on the right.

The bricks unloaded. You can see the stone sills at the end of the garden. The “practice” window is the last one on the right. That horrible concrete block wall will eventually be rendered.

Jean Michel drives home at a maximum of 70 kph instead of the usual 90 kph and we’re both relieved when we make it without further mishap. Next time we’ll take the trailer!

The kitchen window will be made after the small window on the left.

The kitchen window will be made after the small window on the far left where the ivy is growing

We then spend an hour or so loading the bricks into the wheelbarrow, taking them around the back of the house and unloading them. Does this sound familiar? Particularly if I say it’s also a fast day?

The side façade. The rounded part is the back of the bread oven. The window will be on the right and will match the window up the top, only it will be bigger.

The side façade. The rounded part is the back of the bread oven. The new window will be on the right, to the left of the small window and will match the window up the top, only it will be bigger.

Posted in Architecture, Closerie Falaiseau, Renovation | Tagged | 15 Comments

Friday’s French – je me débrouille

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

“Je me débrouille” is one of Jean Michel’s most oft-used expressions. The verb brouiller comes from the Gallo-Roman brodiculare which is turn comes from the verb brodigar in the Italian dialect of Bergamo (a lovely city, what’s more) meaning to sully or soil, a derivative of the German brod, meaning broth. In old French, it was used figuratively to mean to alter and finally to mix up or disrupt.

This is not Bergamo of course, but Milan, which is the next big city.

This is not Bergamo of course, but Milan, which is the closest big city.

Apart from its use in “oeufs brouillés” (scrambled eggs), the initial meaning has been lost. It is now used figuratively to mean “to create confusion by eliminating order” as in “brouiller les pistes” which literally means to cover tracks but metaphorically means to confuse or cloud the issue.

This has led to a series of uses that all revolve around the idea of something not being clear.

Il a des idées brouillées:  His ideas are somewhat muddled.

Après avoir fermé le coffre, il faut brouiller la combinaison – After closing the safe, you have to scramble the numbers.

Cette affaire d’argent l’a brouillée avec sa famille. – This money business has created bad feeling with his family.

La buée a brouillé mes lunettes – My glasses have misted up.

Il m’a brouillé avec l’informatique – He really put me off computers.

Now for débrouiller. Well, it’s the opposite of brouiller, used in expressions such as débrouiller les fils (untangle the thread)s, débrouiller les papiers (sort out your papers), débrouiller un élève en informatique (teach a student the basics of computing).

In the reflexive form, i.e. se débrouiller, it takes on the meaning of being able to work something out for yourself despite the difficulties, which is the way Jean Michel uses it.

Tu es sûr que tu as assez de briques? Je me débrouille : Are you sure you have enough bricks? I’ll make do.

As-tu la liste des courses? Je me débrouille : Do you have the shopping list? I’m looking after it.

Il pleut. Comment fais-tu pour le béton? Je me débrouille : It’s raining. What will you do about the concrete? Don’t worry.

In fact, the essential meaning is “don’t worry, I’ll find a way and you don’t have to ask me any more questions about it”. But I’m one of those (annoying) people who likes to know how problems are solved so I’m always asking “Tu vas te débrouiller comment ?” (How are you going to do it?). But I don’t always get an answer. I should learn to use it more myself, but being a woman, I always feel I have to give an explanation for everything!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Cement Mixers and Crows

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Jean Michel has widened the window in the laundry to put in a new one as practice for the bay window that he is going to make in the 70 cm thick wall in the kitchen to let in more light and give us a view of our little wood which is currently full of daffodilsand primroses.

Daffodils and primroses in our little wood

Daffodils and primroses in our little wood

Now he needs a cement mixer. He’s come to the conclusion that he needs a 150 litre model and has combed leboncoin.com, our favourite secondhand website. He has found a likely candidate in Blois and we’ve hooked up the trailer.

Jean Michel cutting through the lining bricks  from the inside

Jean Michel cutting through the lining bricks from the inside of the enlarged window

When we arrive at our destination on Saturday afternoon, he has a look at the cement mixer and, despite what was written in the ad, sees there  is a plaque saying that it is 110 litres. Hmm. We sit in the car and look at all the other ads on my iPhone (I have a leboncoin app). We phone several people but to no avail, leaving messages when there is no answer.

Just as we are get home, the phone rings. A man near Montrichard, about 40 minutes away, has a 165 litre model that seems to correspond to what we are looking for. It’s 200 euro as opposed to 500 or 600 euro new. We make an appointment for Monday morning as he’s busy all weekend. It’s the end of the hunting season, he tells Jean Michel, and he’s looking after the final feast.

The road ahead is where the Tom Tom tried to take us!

The road ahead is where the Tom Tom tried to take us!

We arrive on time despite the fact that our Tom Tom tries to take a short cut over a grassy track. Fortunately, there is just enough room to turn around, never simple with a large trailer.

The farmyard

The farmyard

A sliding gate opens in a high hedge and the hunter indicates where we are to park. We can see the cement mixer at the far end of the garden. The grounds are large and flat with a basic-looking house on one side. There are several enclosures and sheds. Dotted about the garden are small statues.

Jean Michel and the hunter in his flat cap

Jean Michel and the hunter in his flat cap

While Jean Michel sizes up the cement mixer, I take a few discreet photos. There is a donkey, lots of hens running around, at least two geese and three dogs of various sizes. There are also three large bird cages which, to my untrained eye, appear to contain crows and magpies.

The hunter points out the cleanness of his cement mixer and the blades inside that he made himself to replace the original inefficient ones. Jean Michel then discovers it’s fifteen years old so tries to bring down the price. No, that is my final price, says the hunter, so Jean Michel says he’ll take it and starts getting the trailer ready.

Getting the cement mixer onto the trailer

Getting the cement mixer onto the trailer

Between them, that get it into the trailer and attached with two straps. Jean Michel hands over the money and we’re all set to go. But I am curious about the crows.

“What do you do with the birds in the cages?”, I ask, careful not mention crow or magpie just in case I’m completely wrong and they’re some sort of special species.

Bird cages with crows up the top

Bird cages with crows up the top

He explains that he captures them and sets them free further afield where there are fewer crows and magpies. Some of his hunter friends seem to be a part of this operation. He then lets slip that he has far two many crows on his own property and they steal his eggs. There you go!

Stopping to pick up the cardboard

Stopping to pick up the cardboard

We set off for home, but have to stop a couple of times on the way. First, some loose cardboard flies out of the back of the trailer and second, one of the straps snaps. Fortunately, Jean Michel notices it immediately and the other strap is still firmly securing the cement mixer.

Cement, sand and gravel

Cement, sand and gravel

We arrive back home with no further mishaps and unload our new acquisition. After lunch, Jean Michel goes off to buy sand, gravel and cement. When he comes back, I help him bag it (well, I prepare and hold the bags while he shovels) and he takes it around the back to the window in the wheelbarrow. By the time we’re finished, we’re well and truly ready for a shower and dinner. It’s a 5:2 fast day and we’ve worked up an appetite!

Posted in Renovation | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Voting in the provinces

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

There are no provinces in France but anything that happens outside Paris is called “en province”. In fact, France is divided first into 27 regions, including Normandie, Picardy and Brittany (our region is called Centre and not Pays de la Loire as one might imagine), while some of them are overseas (Guadeloupe and Martinique, for example), which in turn are divided into 101 départements.

France's regions in bold letters and départements

France’s regions in bold letters and départements

The present elections are for the départements (sometimes called departments in English which can lead to confusion) and called élections départementales. They used to be called cantonales.  Our département is called Loir et Cher, after two of the rivers it contains. We also have the Loire of course, but we share that with a lot of others as well.

Election billboards outside the polling station

Election billboards outside the polling station

We made sure we registered on-line as residents of Blois before 1st January, which is the cut-off date for the place in which you vote for the coming year. Last time, we voted in Paris. Our polling station  is n° 408 which we learnt from our new voting cards which we only received earlier in the week. Voting is always on a Sunday in France. Fortunately it’s just down the road in the school that closed last year.

Sign pointing to voting bureau 408

Sign pointing to polling station 408

When we arrive around midday we are surprised to see quite a crowd. We follow the usual procedure. First we show our voting card and identity card. We are then invited to pick up a ballot. As we have already prepared our ballots at home (we received theseby mail during the week as well), we say we don’t need one. “Ah”, says the attendant, “since you have taken an envelope, you should pick up at least two ballots.”

The voting bureau is at the end of the building where the people are standing

The polling station is at the end of the building where the people are standing

I proceed to take one of each, while Jean Michel refuses altogether. While he’s arguing, I go into a booth (isoloir) and put my ballot in the little blue envelope. I come out and stand in line for the next step. Jean Michel arrives behind me. “You have to go into the booth”, he says, “you can’t just put your ballot in the envelope”. I explain that I’ve already been in booth while he was arguing!

Step 1 where you should your ID and election card

Step 1 where you should your ID and election card

I throw away my other ballots in the rubbish bag and take a couple of photos, hoping that it won’t be considered out of turn. No one seems to notice. I then give my ID to a man sitting at the voting table. He looks at it and gives it to the next man who calls out my name, loud and clear. The lady on the other side, who has the electoral roll, asks how to spell it.

Standing line to vote

Standing line to vote

She then finds my name and I go past the urn to sign the roll. After I have done so, I am invited to put my ballot in the urn. “A voté” says the master of cermonies.

Jean Michel about to but his ballot in the urn

Jean Michel about to but his ballot in the urn

I then take a photo of Jean Michel about to vote.  We walk home feeling very Blésois now that we’ve actually voted here !

The school in our street from the outside

The school in our street from the outside

As I’m writing, the estimated results are UMP-UDI-Modem-DVD (right-wing/centrist parties), 36%, far ahead of their competitors, Socialist Party and allies, 28.5%, Front National (ultra-right-wing) 24.6%, the largest ever for these elections and the single party with the largest number of votes, and far left 6.3%. However, I don’t know what the turnout is but the figures at 5 pm showed it should not make 50% but is higher than the previous élections départementales by several percentage points. Unlike Australia, voting is not compulsory in France.

Spring flowers on the way back from voting

Spring flowers on the way back from voting

Most of France will probably have to vote again next Sunday because of the election system. One of the parties must have an absolute majority (mor than 50% of the votes) to get through on the first round. So looks like we’ll be doing the same thing next Sunday.

Posted in French customs, Les Grouets | Tagged | 7 Comments

Friday’s French – Important, importance, substantial, substantiel

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Unlike English, important in French can indicate quantity where in English, it only means “of great import or significance”.

e.g. Il y avait un nombre important de demandes : there were a large number of applications.

Il y a un nombre important d'églises en France

Il y a un nombre important d’églises en France – There are a large number of churches in France

In English, we have to choose among a whole range of words such as large, considerable, substantial, big and extensive!

You sometimes see substantiel in French but it is often a loan translation or calque. Substantiel is used more restrictively in French.

Nourriture substantielle = nourishing food

Exposé très substantiel = An essay with a lot of substance

Only in sentences such as il a obtenu des advantages substantiels = he obtained a substantial number of advantages  is it used in the typical English meaning of the word.

My Chambers dictionary gives SIXTEEN different meanings for substantial :

  1. Of or having substance
  2. Being a substance
  3. Essential
  4. Actually existing
  5. Real
  6. Corporeal, material
  7. Solid
  8. Stable
  9. Solidly based
  10. Durable
  11. Enduring
  12. Firm, stout, strong
  13. Considerable in amount
  14. Bulk
  15. Well-to-do, wealth, influential
  16. Of firm, solid or sound value.

WOW! What a useful word. Unfortunately it doesn’t give examples but I’ll try and find some. You can see that the solution in French is different every time.

He sustained a substantial loss = Il a subi une perte considérable.

My father was a very substantial man in his heyday = Mon père était un homme imposant dans la force de l’âge.

That is a very substantial argument = C’est un argument de poids.

The house has a substantial structure = La maison a une structure solide.

He offered substantial proof of his innocence = Il avait des preuves convaincantes de son innocence.

They run a substantial business = Ils ont une grosse affaire.

They are in substantial agreement = Ils sont d’accord sur l’essentiel.

His objections were substantial = Ses objections étaient bien fondées.

She comes from a substantial Scottish family = Elle vient d’une famille prospère écossaise

Une modification substantielle d’un contrat  concerns the substance of an agreement i.e. an essential component such as remuneration or qualification. This is called a substantial amendment in English but un élément substantiel d’un contrat is an essential part of a contract and not a substantial part.

Substantial completion is a term widely used  in construction and applies when the contractor has substantially but not completely performed the contract requirements. In French this is known simply as achèvement but we’re getting into legal subtleties here!

Do you know any other examples in which important/important and substantial/substantiel have different meanings in English and French?

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Invited for Dessert

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

We haven’t seen Mr and Mrs Previous Owner for quite some time, what with moving, retirement blues, Christmas, New Year, the flu, Granada, getting over the flu and finishing the glass doors and shutters. However, we are now sufficiently en forme for a visit.

I took this photo from the stop of a step ladder on the other side of the wall enclosing the house when I was cleaning of the moss

I took this photo from the stop of a step ladder on the other side of the wall enclosing the house when I was cleaning of the moss

Mrs Previous Owner emails me and suggests either dessert and coffee or an apéritif. We decide on dessert and coffee because we know that the apéritif means a lot of vouvray and we’ll be driving to their home a half an hour away. We’ve also scheduled a visit to the nearly Brico Depot DIY to buy a window for the laundry.

I always feel badly when we see their house. Having to trade Closerie Falaiseau, which they spent twenty years lovingly doing up, for a modern house, must have been very hard. Fortunately, our enthusiasm for the Closerie helped them to get over the hurdle of having to sell for financial and health reasons after they both retired.

The daffodils planted by Mr and Mrs Previous Owner

The daffodils planted by Mr and Mrs Previous Owner

When we get there at 1.30 pm, Mr Previous Owner, who is very punctual,  welcomes us in and I am a little surprised to see that neither the living room table nor the kitchen table are set. Mrs Previous Owner appears and I give her the enormous bouquet of daffodils that Jean Michel gathered in our little wood earlier on. We have Mr and Mrs Previous Owner to thank for our wonderful carpet of daffodils.

Mrs Previous Owner takes us through to the veranda that fronts onto the kitchen. Despite the fact that we’ve been to their new home several times, I have no recollection of a glassed-in veranda! The table is set with plates, serviettes, wine glasses and coffee cups.

Wine glasses and coffee cups on the veranda

Wine glasses and coffee cups on the veranda

We sit down and Mrs Previous Owner brings out not one, but two stunning cakes from a local pâtisserie.

I don’t know what the situation in Australia is today, but back in my youth, no one would have dreamed of inviting someone over and not baking their own cakes or biscuits. In France, however, that is not the case and cakes bought at a good pâtisserie are more than welcome.

Chocolate and raspberry cakes from Eric

Chocolate and raspberry cakes from Eric Saguez’s pâtisserie

We accept the offer for a glass of vouvray to accompany the very delicious chocolate and raspberry concoctions made by Eric Saguez at his pâtisserie in Rue du Commerce in Blois, and even take seconds ! Good thing yesterday was a 5:2 fast day

Thanks to my iPhone, I am able to show them the new glassed-in doors and shutters. They are suitably impressed.

I tell them about the broken weathervane and Mr Previous Owner immediately says that if it happens again, he’ll be more than happy to repair it.

Our repaired weather vane

Our repaired weather vane

A little later, after coffee, when Jean Michel and Mr Previous Owner are in deep discussion about our alarmingly high property tax, I learn that Mrs Previous Owner hasn’t downloaded the photos on her iPhone for 3 years. We go upstairs to the computer so that I can show her how to do it.

It’s getting late and we still have to buy the window so we take our leave and promise to see them again soon at the Closerie, when the wisteria is in bloom.

Our standard white PVC tilt and turn window

Our standard white PVC tilt and turn window

At Brico Depot, we learn that they only sell white PVC turn and tilt windows which are not what we want since all our other windows are stained a dark oak colour. At least we haven’t gone out of our way. Two days later, however, having checked the prices for coloured PVC and wooden windows which turn out to be five times higher, we go back and get a white one. It is, after all, at the back of the house, down near the woodpile in an area which I intend to close off with bushes so I can put up a discreet clothes line. But that’s another project!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in Blois, Closerie Falaiseau, Flowers & gardens, Food, French customs, Renovation | Tagged , | 13 Comments