Tag Archives: Blois

Outside My Front Door

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Paula McInerney from Contented Traveller, whom I’ve already featured in my weekly blogger round-up, is publishing a series of posts entitled “Outside my front door”.  I was delighted when she asked me to contribute and I’ve been enjoying hearing from other bloggers as well.

Outside My Front Door

blois_with_traditional_boatOutside my front door is a large expanse of trees and grass and on the other side is the Loire River, flanked by two levees, first mentioned in 1584, which is the exact same year in which my Renaissance house was built.

If I go left five kilometers along the river, I will come to the city of Blois, with its royal castle, built on a promontory overlooking the Loire, and former home of Louis XII, François I, the star of the French Renaissance, and his son Henri II. Read more

Photo of the Week – Stepping up to Blois

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

blois_stepsWe arrived in Blois on Friday and are here for a month, the longest we’ve ever stayed. This morning, we were rewarded with bright sun and blue skies so we went for a walk on the other side of the Loire River. The church is that of Saint Nicolas, probably the most noticeable monument in the city while the church in the header photo is the Cathedral.

For more photos of Blois, click on my other blog, Blois Daily Photo, which has a commentary in French and English.

And just to fill you in on the chicken situation: in January, we noticed that the enclosure was open during the daytime and so was the front gate. The half-a-dozen chickens run around the large yard and sometimes out into the street. There was a not-too-annoying rooster last time as well but we haven’t heard it this time. So unless the neighbours change their minds again, the chickens should no longer be a problem. We won’t have a noisy smelly poultry yard next door in the summer. We, have, however, learnt our lesson and will put the garden of the gîte behind it and not in front of it. It will actually be much prettier.

Photos of the week – Through my window in Blois

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Sunrise from my office window in Blois
Sunrise from my office window in Blois
Morning frost from the same window
Morning frost from the same window
Late afternoon suj
Late afternoon sun

We’ve been having lovely weather in Blois – very cold, with minus temperatures at night and sometimes throughout the morning followed by bright sun and blue skies. The view from my office window is unfortunately marred by those horrible cables. They’re supposed to go underground in a couple of years’ time.

For more photos of Blois, you can visit my photo site Blois Daily Photo.

Top Ten Chateaux in the Loire Valley

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

There are so many wonderful places to visit in the Loire Valley that newcomers to the region often need guidance. It’s pointless saying “Chenonceau is my favourite. You should go there” or “Forget about Chambord, there’s nothing to see”. Each of the châteaux is different and visitors will be attracted to one or the other according to their own individual tastes. My aim here is to give an idea of what each has to offer so you can make your own choice.

Château de Chenonceau Château de Chenonceau

I only intend to talk about the “pleasure castles” here, and not fortified castles such as Chinon and Loches, or religious edifices such as Fontevraud l’Abbaye, or mansions such as Clos Lucé. I’ll start with the four “Cs”: Chenonceau, Chambord, Cheverny, Chaumont, followed by the royal castles of Amboise and Blois, all of which are located in the same general area, then Azay le Rideau, Ussé, and Villandry, which form another geographical group, with Valençay off on its own to the south. You can see more photos and further detail about each château by clicking on the corresponding name.


Château de Chambord Château de Chambord

The rooftops of Château de Chambord, along with its famous double staircase, are its best known features and must be one of the most stunning examples of architecture I’ve ever seen. François I, the star of the French Renaissance, was only 25 when he commissioned the château in 1519. Unfortunately, despite the presence of 2000 workmen, it wasn’t completed in his lifetime and he only stayed there for 72 days out of his 32 years on the throne! He used it as a hunting lodge of course and it was not furnished – he used to travel around with everything and everyone he could possibly need. But his son, Henri II, as well as Louis XIV, who also loved hunting, turned it into the château we know today.

Double staircase in Château de Chambord Double staircase in Château de Chambord

There is a series of furnished rooms in one wing that can be visited as well. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Count of Chambord decided to open the château to the public and furnish some of the apartments with his own private collection, mainly consisting of royal portraits and other rather disparate pieces of furniture. On 1st May every year, there is a wonderful antique and second-hand fair in the extensive castle grounds that is certainly worth attending. There are several restaurants and souvenir shops in view of the château.

Rooftops of Château de Chambord Rooftops of Château de Chambord

Open all year except 1st January, 31st January, 25th December. From 20/01 to 31/03 and 01/10 to 31/12: 10 am to 5 pm; 01/04 to 30/09: 9 am to 6 pm. 16 euros.

Places to eat

Le Saint Michel, Place Saint Louis – 41250 CHAMBORD, +33 2 54 20 31 31, www.saintmichel-chambord.com, hotelsaintmichel@wanadoo.fr,

Le Saint Louis, Place Saint Louis – 41250 CHAMBORD

Au Fil du Temps, 11 Halle, 41250 Bracieux, France Tel. 0254460384 (8 km from Chambord)


Château de Chaumont Château de Chaumont

Château de Chaumont stands in a prize position overlooking the Loire and is best seen from the other side of the river. From April to October, it hosts a wonderful garden festival with a different theme each year.  The château as it stands today was rebuilt from 1468 to 1511. It was bought by Catherine de Medicis, wife of Henri II (son of François I) in 1550. On his death, she forced her husband’s paramour, Diane de Poitiers, to swap Chenonceau, a gift from Henri, for Chaumont.

Chaumont The bedroom of Cosimo Ruggieri, one of Catherine de Medicis’ astrologists, at Chaumont

The château was later restored by Prince de Broglie between 1875 and 1900, including the beautifully furnished state rooms and luxury stables with their exercise ring. The top floor of the château, currently in a somewhat derelict state, can also be visited, as well as the basement kitchens.  Between the château, the stables, the grounds and the garden exhibition, you can easily spend the day on the Domain, which has no fewer than four different restaurants.

Chaumont from the garden Chaumont from the garden

Open all year round, from 10 am to 4.30, 5.30 or 6.30 depending on the season. 15 euro for the château, park and stables, and 20 euros if you include the garden festival.

Places to eat

If you want to combine your visit to Chaumont with a gastronomic experience in one of the finest restaurants in the region.

Domaine des Hauts de Loire, Route de Herbault, 41150 Onzain (across the Loire from Chaumont),  02 54 20 72 57, hauts-loire@relaischateaux.com, www.domainehautsloire.com


Château de Chenonceau Château de Chenonceau

Built from 1513 to 1521 and celebrating 500 years of existence this year, Château de Chenonceau spans the Cher River. It’s a ladies’ castle, built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, decorated by Diane de Poitiers, extended by Catherine de Médicis and saved by Louise Dupin during the French Revolution! All four are featured in a wax museum in a separate building. The château should be viewed from all sides, so you should allow time to walk around the grounds themselves, which include Diane’s and Catherine’s gardens, a vegetable garden and a labyrinth. You can also walk (or cycle) along the south bank of the Cher River or hire a rowing boat in summer.

Diane de Poitier's Bedroom Diane de Poitier’s Bedroom

The sumptuous inside is completely furnished with several masterpieces and includes a visit of the basement kitchens. A free iPhone app (Découvrir Chenonceau) offers an introductory visit in 11 languages! You can taste the château’s own wine in one of the restaurants inside the grounds. Every weekend in June and every evening in July and August, the gardens are illuminated at night.

Open all year round, 9 or 9.30 am to 5 to 8 pm, depending on the season. 11 euros for the château and grounds, 13 euros including the wax museum, plus 2 euros for an audioguide.


Château de Cheverny Château de Cheverny

Château de Cheverny is another experience altogether. The domain has been in the same family for more than six centuries and open to the public since 1922. The château as we know it today was built between 1624 and 1640 by Count Henri Hurault and his wife Marguerite Gaillard de la Marinière. The sumptuous interior decoration is by Jean Monier from Blois. It is the only major château to have retained its original furniture and furnishings. Fifteen thousand bulbs are planted in the gardens each year, so if you can, time your visit for spring!

Painted ceiling in Cheverny Painted ceiling in the grand dining room at Cheverny

Cheverny has two other attractions. The feeding of its 100 hunting dogs is very popular with visitors during the summer (although the kennels are currently closed for refurbishment) and there is a Tin Tin exhibition – Cheverny was used as a model by Hergé for Marlinspike Hall, Captain Haddock’s residence in the Tin Tin comic books.

Just next to the château is the Maison des vins de Cheverny et Cour-Cheverny, where you can taste and buy the local wines.

Living room in Cheverny Late 18th century Erard harp in perfect working order

Open all year round. 9.15 to 9.45 am to 5 pm to 18.45 pm depending on the season. The dogs are fed from 1/04 to 15/09 every day at 5 pm and from 01/01 to 31/03 and 16/09 to 31/12 at 3 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays. Château and gardens, 14.50 euro, with Marlinspike museum 19 euro, with boat and electric car trips 19.50 euro, plus Marlinskpike 24 euro.


Château d'Amboise Château d’Amboise

The Royal Château of Amboise stands in a stunning position overlooking the Loire, best seen from the little island called l’Ile d’Or in the middle of the river. It became a royal residence in the mid-14th century and was a favourite with many French kings, from Louis XI to François I. It has an exceptional collection of Gothic and Renaissance furniture. An unusual feature is a wide ramp inside the château used directly by horses and carriages. Saint Hubert’s chapel is thought to be the last resting place of Leonardo da Vinci whose home in Amboise, Le Clos Lucé, contains scale models of many of his inventions.

Amboise interior - photograph by Kathy Standford Amboise interior – photograph by Kathy Stanford

The beautiful panoramic gardens afford wonderful views of the Loire, the old town with its half-timbered houses and the surrounding countryside. The very extensive Friday and Sunday morning market along the river is one of the best in the area.

Open all year round from 9 am to 12.30 pm and 2 pm to 4.45 pm from 15/11 to 28/02 and from 9 am to 5.30 to 7 pm from 1st March to 15th November. 14.60 euro.

Places to eat

Chez Bruno, 38-40 Place Michel Debré 37400 Amboise, tel 0247577349, cell 0620562551 or 0617844228, http://www.bistrotchezbruno.com (just opposite the château)

Le Shaker, 3 Quai François Tissard, 37400 Amboise,  0247232426 (on l’Ile d’Or, the island in the middle of the Loire with a breathtaking view of the château)


Château de Blois Château de Blois

Like Amboise, the Royal Château of Blois is built on a promontory right in the middle of the town overlooking the Loire River, and encompasses several different architectural styles from mediaeval times to the 17th century.  At the end of the 14th century, the château was bought by the Orleans family and nearly a century later, Duc Louis d’Orleans became Louis XII and brought his wife, Anne de Bretagne, and his court to Blois. They modernised it all, so to speak, with stairs at each end and balconies on the first floor, decorating it with their emblems, the porcupine for Louis and the ermine for Anne.

Guardroom in Blois Guardroom in Blois

François I, whose salamander is a recurring theme, lived in the château after he ascended to the throne in 1515. The Duc de Guise was assassinated in the King’s Chambers on the orders of Henri III in 1588 after plotting to take over the throne and Catherine de Medicis, wife of Henri II (son of François I) and mother of Henri III, died there the next year at the age of 70. The interior is extremely rich and colourful with many fine fireplaces and majestic pieces of Renaissance furniture. There is also a lapidary section with gargoyles, statues, pediments and other bits and pieces taken from buildings on the site. There is a sound and light show in the summer.

Blois One of the sumptuously decorated bedrooms in Château de Blois

Open all year round from 9 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 to 5.30 pm in the winter months and 9 am to 6 or 7 pm from 01/04 to 31/10.  Sound and light show at 10 or 10.30 pm. Château 14 euro; château + sound and light show 21 euro.

Places to eat 

Au Coin d’Table, 9, rue Henri

L’Embarcadère, 16 quai Ulysse Besnard, 41000 Blois, contact@lembarcadere.fr

Azay le Rideau

Azay-le-Rideau reflected in the Azay-le-Rideau reflected in the “mirror” moat

Considered by many to be a “jewel of the French Renaissance”, Château d’Azay le Rideau was built on an island in the Indre River by a rich financier in the early 16th century during the reign of François I and combines the Italianate and French styles. It is more sober than the larger châteaux and one of its most striking features is its monumental fireplaces. The château was abandoned after the French revolution and redecorated by the Marquis de Biencourt. In 1898, the 4th Marquis had to sell out and it was not until it was bought by the State in 1905 that renovation began.

Philippe Lehazy's Renaissance bedroom in Azay-le-Rideau Philippe Lezbahy’s Renaissance bedroom in Azay-le-Rideau

Now most of the rooms are decorated in the 19th century neo-Renaissance style, but the royal apartments still have some older pieces. A wonderfully reconstructed Renaissance bedroom with copies of authentic soft furnishings and rush-matting on the walls is accompanied by a very instructive video. The roof space, opened a couple of years ago after major restoration, is the most remarkable example of Renaissance master carpentry now on show.

Salamander fireplace in Azay-le-Rideau One of the monumental fireplaces with François I’s emblem, the salamander, in Azay-le-Rideau

The natural moat forms two “mirrors of water” reflecting the ornately sculpted frontons and pointed roofs of the château. The lovely  jardin à l’anglaise or landscaped garden is the perfect place to wander on a fine day and affords stunning views of the château.

Open all year round. Every day from 10 am to 5.15 from October to March, from 9.30 to 6 pm in April, May, June and September, from 9.30 to 7 pm in July and August. Closed 1st January, 1st May, 25th December. 13 euro.

Places to eat

Le Lavoir in the castle grounds and a large choice of restaurants in the town itself.


Château d'Ussé Château d’Ussé

Known as “Sleeping Beauty’s castle” because it was one of the châteaux that inspired Walt Disney, Château d’Ussé overlooks the Indre River. Cycling towards it in summer with sunflower fields on either side is an unforgettable experience. The original 11th century castle has been rebuilt several times, which explains its 16th-17th century aspect today. The grounds were redesigned in the 17th century by André le Notre, Louis IV’s landscape architect, who masterminded the gardens of Versailles.

Costume exhibition at Ussé - photograph by Loire Valley Time Travel Costume exhibition at Ussé – photograph by Loire Valley Time Travel

Inside, monumental fireplaces and beautiful 18th century furniture and tapestries offer a backdrop to a life-like exhibition of mannequins in period costume which changes each year. The parapet walk offers access to rooms containing scenes from Sleeping Beauty and everyday life in the 19th century. A lovely Renaissance chapel stands outside the château.

Open from mid-February to mid-November, 10 am to 6 pm 17/02 to 31/03 and 1/09 to 11/11, and 10 am t 7 pm 01/04 to 31/08. 14.50 euros.


Château de Valançay Château de Valançay

Valençay, rebuilt in 1520 by Jacques 1er d’Estampes and extended in the 17th and 18th centuries, was bought by Talleyrand in the 19th century at the instigation of Napoleon to welcome foreign dignitaries. Its sumptuous Italian arcaded gallery makes it a reference in the field of Renaissance architecture while its domed towers, dormer windows and bull’s eyes are perfect examples of the neo-classical style.

Valançay The King of Spain’s Chamber at Château de Valançay

The inside is furnished just as it was during Talleyrand’s time, with elaborately embroidered Empire chairs, ornate tables and sumptuous chandeliers. Magnificent vaulted cellars house the kitchen, pantry and cellar in which one of the best tables of Europe was prepared.

Renaissance Room in Valançay Renaissance Room in Château de Valançay

The château is surrounded by a lovely formal garden and a landscape garden. Two nights each summer, the château is illuminated with 3,000 candles, and costumed actors and trumpeters revive the imperial celebrations of the past.

Open all year round. Every day from 16/03 to 11/11 from 9.30 to 10.30 am to 5.30 to 7 pm. 14.50 euros.


Château de Villandry Château de Villandry

Also built overlooking the Loire, Château de Villandry is a château for garden lovers and the last of the major Renaissance castles to be built in the Loire Valley. It was the home of neither a king nor a courtesan but of Jean Le Breton, François I’s finance minister. He demolished the old feudal fortress, except for the keep, in 1532 and replaced it with an extremely elegant and richly decorated purely French Renaissance château. When the Marquis of Castellane bought it in 1754, he revamped the interior in the neo-Classical style. Unfortunately, he also destroyed the harmony of the outside, adding balconies, balustrades and trompe l’œil windows.

Villandry gardens Villandry gardens

The gardens were much more successfully refurbished in the early 20th century to recreate the ambiance of a Renaissance garden. An arbour of grape vines leads to a large parterre, designed as a Garden of Music. The Garden of Love is on the other side of the canal. The garden combines flowers and vegetables and its true glory can best be experienced from the top of the château.  A shop sells seeds and plants and other garden-related items.

Another view of the gardens at Villandry Another view of the gardens at Villandry

Open all year round. The gardens are open every day from 9 am to 5 pm to 7.30 pm depending on the season. The castle is open from 9 am to 9.30 am to 4.30 to 6.30 pm from 16/02 t 11/11 and during the Christmas holidays. 13 euro, gardens only 8 euro.


And if you’re looking for an authentic place to stay in a central location, why not check out our rental accommodation for  two in the mediaeval quarter of Blois – Châtel Rose. Click here for more information.


AllAboutFranceBadge_bisFor more articles about France from other bloggers, see All About France

An Autumn Walk in Les Grouets

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

The sun’s shining outside and we’ve just had lunch. Instead of getting back to work on a very boring translation and the Big Fireplace Operation respectively, I suggest to Relationnel that we go for a walk. What’s the point of living in the country if we can’t make the most of autumn? Relationnel immediately agrees so I put on my big thick walking shoes and off we go.

Closerie Falaiseau in autumn

We turn right out of the gate and walk down the road until we get to the railway underpass. We turn right again, up the hill, to the forest. I see there is a sort of path on the right, so we walk along that. Then I see a cyclist bearing off to the right once more and suggest we follow him. We keep going until we come to a sort of clearing.

Forest clearing

In front of us is a fairly steep slope and I realise this must be what Alain meant when he talked about being in the forest and seeing the tree tops. The light is amazing and it really is very beautiful and peaceful. We come out of the forest and past a field of stubble, then through a bower of trees that have already lost their leaves.

Natural archway of trees

At the end of the path, instead of continuing straight ahead, we turn right to explore the houses which Relationnel tells me overlook ours. I’m amazed that he knows where we are as I have lost all notion of geography by this time. We then start walking through brambles and Relationnel lets slip that “according to the satellite photo, this should take us back to the other path”. Ah, now the secret’s out ! He’s been checking out Google maps.

Ring of agaric mushrooms

We finally have to turn back because the brambles are getting too thick and I am wearing my only decent anorak. We connect up to the field of stubble again and Relationnel finds a Marasme des Oréades (Marasmius oreades) but there’s only one so we don’t keep it. Then we see a whole ring of agarics but they’re on private property which means we obviously can’t pick them even if there’s no fence. A little further on, we see a little group of parasol mushrooms somewhat past their prime huddling together in the sun.

Parasol mushrooms huddling together

We go past a few more houses and I see a delightful little number plaque with blue shutters and a blue bike. Now, I wonder what sort of plaque I could find for a house that’s 400 years old and has mullioned windows and a half-timbered tower? And I wonder whether Mei Lun’s beautiful drawing of Closerie Falaiseau could be made into a plaque.

N° 13

Suddenly I recognise where we are – we’re walking down a road called Rue de la Grande Filaire that I’ve never wanted to take because we usually approach it from the bottom on our bikes and it looks like a long haul up ! So we turn right and walk down Rue de l’Hôtel du Grand Pasquier that eventually meets up at the church on the corner of our road. Another 15 minutes and we’re home, delighted with our lovely autumn walk and ready to get back to work.

Mei Lun’s sketch of Closerie Falaiseau

Another Three Reasons to Live in Blois

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

It’s Mei Lun and Alain’s last day in Blois. The sun is shining brightly even though it’s four degrees. We decide to go into Blois and visit the Cathedral area. We park on the mail, so-called because of a game called mail, from maillet meaning mallet, that was very popular in the Loire Valley. We cross the road and walk up a little street that leads to a set of stairs called petits degrés because they are shallow, as opposed to the steeper grands degrés near the château. We keep going until we come out behind the cathedral. I’m enjoying myself as I’ve never taken this route before.

Petit degrés steps

We visit the cathedral , which has had a chequered existence. The original sanctuary, built during the reign of the Merovingians (5th to 8th century), was dedicated to Saint Peter. A second church was built there in the 12th century, this time under the patronage of Saint Solenne. In 1678, “a hurricane forced its way inside and lifted the roof” (I love the translation !), destroying the nave. Gothic restorations were carried out between 1680 and 1700 and the new cathedral was dedicated to Saint Louis after Louis XIV presented the church with an organ.

Cathedral of Saint Louis

Like many of the churches in the area, most of the stained-glass windows were destroyed by American bombs in the Second World War. Chartres was an exception, because all the windows were taken down before the bombing started. A new set of 33 windows, inaugurated in 2000, was designed by the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets and made by the French stained-glass artist, Jean Mauret.

Sweeping view of the Loire from the terrace above the rose garden

We turn right as we walk out the church and past the Town Hall. Just opposite is a beautiful, though inaccurate, sun dial, which reminds me that I need to go to Italy again to find one for Closerie Falaiseau! We continue walking until we come out on the terrace overlooking the Loire. The last time I came here, it was freezing cold and difficult to really appreciate the wide-sweeping view. The large urns remind me of my balcony in Paris.

View of Joan of Arc’s equestrian statue

We go back in the other direction and wander down the hill until we come to the Denis Papin steps. At the bottom we turn right and keep following the little streets in the general direction of the château, eventually arriving at Place Louis XII. Alain is keen to find some vouvray moelleux and has noticed a wine shop called Chez Laurent on one side of the Place.

Chez Laurent wine store in Blois

As we walk in, who do I see? Virginie, the sommelier, from Vinomania, with whom Kathy Standford and I did our wine tasting in June. I knew that she was going to another location because she wanted to be more involved in the wine-buying and tasting process, but hadn’t been able to locate her. She welcomes us in and although she doesn’t have the wine Alain is looking for, she suggests we try two other vouvrays. We prefer the 2005 tendre from Domaine du Viking so Alain buys a couple that she puts in an attractive carry box. They’re only sorry they won’t have time to have a Loire Valley wine historical tasting – it’s a good incentive for next time.

Chez Laurent with Virginie

Our last stop is L’Appart’thé, where Mei Lun and Alain want to sample a café/thé gourmand, as I’ve told them it’s one of the best in Blois. We ask if we can just have a tea or coffee, but the owner explains that it’s lunch time, so we decide to have an early lunch. Alain and I have the goat’s cheese and zucchini tart while Mei Lun has the spinach and salmon. Both are delicious.

Inside L’Appart’thé

The thé/café gourmand lives up to expectations with a lovely selection of baked goods, including a mini cannelé, a moelleux au chocolat, a panna cotta and a chocolate and vanilla sponge cake. In the car on the way home, we all agree that Blois is a great place to live!

Café Gourmand at L’Appart’thé

Chariots and Pâté in Blois

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Miraculously, the sun has come out so I suggest to my Australian friend Mei Lun, who’s staying with me for a few days, that we go into Blois for coffee and maybe find some ginger tea. It’s warm for late October – 15°C – and the sky is bright blue, certainly not time to be working!

Half-timbered houses in Blois

We park on the “Mail” along the Loire River and walk into the centre of town admiring the half-timbered houses in the sun. Mei Lun remarks on how clean everything looks. It’s almost 12 so most of the shops are shutting up. We’re in the provinces after all. We go past the most amazing collection of shopping trolleys. There’s a black one that says Le Chariot de Maman. “Are they really called chariots?” says Mei Lun. And I suddenly realise how funny the name is!

Chariots in Ambiancestyle.com

We arrive at the tea shop in time. The man behind the counter is very welcoming and finds us the tea we are looking for. We wander around looking at all the wonderful things connected with tea and coffee in the shop, including some Chambord biscuits, which are the local speciality.

Tea shop in Blois

We walk towards Place Louis 12 where “The Clipper” has great lounge chairs but awful coffee, so I discovered a few days ago. Much better for an apéritif which is accompanied by some great tapas. There are a few market stalls. A lady calls us over, vaunting her wares. She has various sorts of pâté, local honey and Cheverny wine. She suggests we taste the wild boar and prune pâté, explaining it comes from Sologne, which is the big hunting area around Chambord castle which you may remember from my bike ride with Jane in the summer.

Our slice of wild boar and prune pâté

It’s delicious so we ask for a slice. She then suggests that we try another one – duck foie gras and truffle pâté (not to be confused with foie gras), saying she only has two left and that she’s willing to cut it in half if a whole one is too much. I remark on her excellent sales technique which makes her laugh. We try the pâté and it’s divine but I’m thinking about those extra holiday kilos so I check that it will keep until Relationnel arrives on Thursday. It will, so we buy half. It turns out she’s there every Tuesday and Thursday so I promise to come back another time.

Le Marignan on Place du Château in Blois

We climb the many steps up to Blois castle and come out on the esplanade. I had planned to go to Les Forges du Château which opened at the beginning of the summer, but it’s closed, so we go down to Le Marignan, which is near the Maison de la Magie. We order our coffees, which are not too bad and enjoy the sun, with the beautiful façade of the castle as a backdrop. And I’m so glad that we found our beautiful Renaissance home in Blois!

Back Home in France

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

By the time we leave Australia, I am starting to feel less of a foreigner. I can understand most of what people are saying and know what to do in a restaurant or a bar. OK, so I still can’t recognise the coins but Relationnel is looking after that most of the time anyway. We arrive back in Paris on Sunday, after a 13-hour flight from Hong Kong, one suitcase less, six kilos heavier between us (4:2 in my favour of course), tired and frazzled.

Dreary Paris street

Outside, it’s cold and rainy. As we come back from the airport in a taxi, I try to imagine an Australian arriving in Paris for the first time. What would they think of all that mournful suburbia on either side of the motorway? We arrive from the north, of course, and even though the buildings become more Parisian and less ethnic as we near the centre, the empty Sunday streets are hardly enticing.

Scaffolding on the balcony

We climb the four flights of stairs to the apartment and open the door to the living room. The balcony renovation is not finished. We didn’t expect it to be, but the gloomy day is made even worse by the scaffolding in front of the windows. Not to mention the layer of stone dust. We put down our single suitcase and wade through the mound of mail including 30 copies of Le Monde, buoyed up by a couple of colourful postcards but depressed by the bills.

The fridge is empty so I add a bottle of sancerre and we set out for the Saint Eustache market in the rain. We cheer ourselves up by buying our favourite spéciales oysters and fill the shopping trolley with vegetables and chasselas grapes which are the only fruit we eat from September to November. I then go and buy yoghurt, fromage blanc and butter from the little supermarket while Relationnel takes the heavy trolley back home and up the stairs.

Spéciales oysters & sancerre to cheer us up

After delecting the oysters, we crawl into bed for the rest of the afternoon, emerging about 6 pm in a jetlag daze. It’s 3 am in Australia, the worst time for waking up. I still feel lightheaded – you know that sort of spaced out feeling when you first arrive after so many hours of travelling. Relationnel busies himself putting things away and doing things at the computer, annoyingly chirpy, while I recline hopelessly on the sofa incapable of doing anything except look at my iPhone from time to time.

We have a light dinner of fresh plaice and spinach and I try desperately to stay awake until 8.30. Amazingly, I sleep until 6.30 next morning, admittedly with a few wakings but I manage to go back to sleep each time. It’s depressingly dark and still rainy but the jetlag haze seems to have cleared.

Early morning view from my office in Blois

After reading my emails and checking out my Facebook and Twitter accounts :), I start the urgent translation due that day (my clients very nicely waited until I came back from holidays instead of getting someone else – there’s nothing worse than getting back from 5 weeks’ holiday and having no work). At 8 am, I hear the first workers arrive on the scaffolding.

“It’s not so bad. I can put up with this”, I think, until they turn on the radio. Loudly. A woman’s voice appears and there is loud discussion. I can hear every word they’re saying. A drill starts, followed by hammering. My concentration disappears completely. How can I possibly come up with advertising material for anti-aging cosmetics with this in background? It’s depressing enough to know that I never remember to use any of these miraculous products.

Temporary office in Blois at night

When Relationnel comes home at lunchtime, I tell him that I am definitely going to Blois next day. But I hum and ha all evening because I really don’t want to go there by myself for a week. Next morning, I get up at 6.30  again (hoping this won’t become a habit – it’s dark outside) thinking I might stay in Paris after all. At 8 am, the workers arrive and I buy an on-line ticket for the 12.38 train. The only thing that consoles me is that my friend Françoise is picking me up at the station.

A Painter Comes to Stay

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Closerie Falaiseau was almost ready for rental when I received a phone call from an American and his wife who wanted to stay for nine days, starting just two days later. I was having dinner at L’Embarcadère with Kathy Stanford from Femmes Francophiles. Relationnel had already gone back to Paris to work.  I frantically tried to remember what still had to be done to receive our first guests but it seemed “do-able”.

When John Modesitt and his very charming Japanese wife Toshiko arrived on the Sunday, everything was ready. I showed them around and they immediately loved the house. Toshiko seemed intrigued by the Henri II mirror in the living room  and she also liked the fact that you could see the kitchen through the original oak beams.  John loved all the wood everywhere. He mentioned to Kathy that he “painted” but it was not until a few days later that I discovered that he is a well-known American impressionist artist and the only living impressionist to auction in Christie’s impressionist auction.

Relationnel and I returned to Blois while John and Toshiko were still there and we were delighted to see his recent paintings spread out on the floor of the kitchen to dry. They had two days left before returning to San Diego which is the time needed for an oil painting to be dry enough to roll up. John was out in the countryside finishing off his last painting. Toshiko explained to me that he had spent a lot of time working on the colour green this year. There are many different shades of green in the French landscape that are difficult to render on canvas.

I had already seen some of John’s paintings on his website so I knew that I liked his style. When I saw the actual canvasses, though, I knew I wanted one!  There were several I liked but one in particular took my eye. Relationnel preferred another painting but it was of Amboise and I wanted one of Blois! So we went away and thought about it. From time to time while John and Toshiko were out, we’d steal a look through the glass door of the kitchen and finally decided which one we wanted. “The Loire at Blois, Noon”. It depicts a scene that we see each time we take the lovely drive from Closerie Falaiseau into Blois along the Loire River.

John just had the time to stretch the canvas for us before he left.  Now all we have to do is frame it. We are extremely happy to have this beautiful work of art for more reasons than one. First, we both love the painting itself and that is surely the best criterion! We love the composition, with its brightly-coloured turn-of-the-century house and tall poplars up on the left , the steel truss bridge spanning the Loire, Relationnel’s favourite river, with its sand banks in the middle and overgrown vegetation. And you can almost see the clouds moving across the top of the canvas.

Second, it was painted by someone we have met and like. Third, the artist told us it is a “special” painting for him. Fourth, it was painted by our very first guest. And last, but not least, it is a symbol of our future life in the Loire Valley where we will be living permanently when Relationnel retires in October 2014.

You might also like to read my interview with John published on My French Life http://www.aussieinfrance.com/2012/07/profile-john-modesitt-american-impressionist-painter-in-france/
John Modesitt http://www.americanimpressionist.net/


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...