Thursday, May 31, 2012

Brittany or Who Doesn't love Cows?

 We set out the other morning in brilliant sunshine and headed for Jugon-les-Lacs.  The town sits on the shores of a 2-mile long lake.  Charming.
We carried on toward the coast and while it continued to be gorgeous (even the highways are stunning as you can see) we did notice a bit of fog starting to creep onto the landscape.
 We stopped briefly to buy goat cheese, produced by these little beauties.  It was fun to buy the cheese directly from the people who made it.
 And then we made our way to Cap Frehel.  This is apparently one of the largest headlands in Europe and is covered with 4 square kilometres of wild grasslands.  And apparently there are pink sandstone cliffs which plunge 70 metres (230 feet!!) to the sea.  Well, I say 'apparently' because nothing was apparent.  There was fog everywhere.   Just as well.  The 70 metre drop might have been a bit dizzy-making.
On the left, in the photo above you can see the 17th century lighthouse, Tour Vauban, standing alongside the newer version.  That much we could see!!
 A little further along the road the fog was clearing up and these boats were just awaiting the incoming tide.  I was awaiting the outgoing fog.
On we went, to Saint Malo.  It was still a bit foggy so we had a coffee and poked about some of the many, many shops there. It's a real tourist destination.  This street however was quite quiet.  It is Rue Chateaubriand.  Saint Malo is important for Canadians because it is from this port that Jacques Cartier sailed to Canada (well, I guess he didn't really know that's where he was going) but he put up a cross in Gaspe and called it French.  Done!!
 This is just inside the ramparts of Saint Malo.  During the Second World War Saint Malo suffered terrible damage and the ramparts were nearly all that remained before reconstruction.
 Still in the fog, this is a shot of Dinard.  Dinard sits on the west side of the mouth of the River Rance and Saint Malo on the east.  Dinan, the little town that is about 10 minutes away from our gite, is an inland port on the River Rance. Dinard and Saint Malo sit at the mouth of the river where it empties out into the Manche, the English Channel.
The next morning, we walked the 15 minutes or so from the gite into Saint-Juvat.  The countryside here is so very beautiful.  Everywhere.
We had a coffee and, all right, I confess, a freshly baked croissant.  Sigh.  It's all too perfect.  Except I find the water is rather hard here and it's making my clothes shrink.  It's the strangest thing......
 On the way there were these lovelies.  So, so sweet.
We continue to have The Very Best Time.
more later......

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First glimpses of Brittany

 Brittany, like all of France that I have seen so far, is beautiful.  There are hardly any vineyards here, however, but there are lots of cows.  Lots and lots of cows.  The picture above is taken from the upstairs window in the gite at which we are now staying in a little village called Saint Juvat.  It is about 15 minutes from Dinan (more later) and about one hour from Saint Malo.   The owners have about 65 acres and lots of cows.  And so there is a certain 'perfume' to the air, but it isn't too bad.  (What I don't especially enjoy are the flies, but hey....does anybody really enjoy flies?)
 This is also taken just down the way from the gite.  It's all so very pastoral and just my kind of countryside.
 The day after we got to Brittany we took a drive into Dinan, a medieval city with a well preserved architectural heritage.  Apparently a monastery was established here in the 9th century and work on the ramparts began in 1283.  This is a picture of the 15th century clock tower that gave its name to the Rue de l'Horlage.
 We walked through the Porte du Jerzual  to access the Rue du Petit Fort.  We did a lot of walking down (which meant that it would be followed by a lot of walking up, sigh).
 The street is lovely and picturesque and we had gone fairly early in the morning so it wasn't too hot.
 And here is what is at the bottom of the hill:  the lovely Port of Dinan on the River Rance.  So very sweet, and well worth the walk (and even the subsequent climb!).
 This is the other side of the Porte du Jerzual, almost at the end of the climb back up.  We climbed up onto the ramparts as well to have a look at the city from that angle.  It was pretty amazing as well.

And then we went for a drive at the end of the day, just before sunset.  How lovely is that???!!! This is a field about a 5-minute drive away from where we are staying.  We drove past it again the next day, at noon, and it wasn't nearly so dramatic.  Isn't light the most amazing thing???
So, that was our first full day in Brittany.  I must confess we have been having some lazy days since we arrived.  Going flat out for 9 weeks would be nothing if not exhausting and so there is no guilt involved in the resting part of our programme.  My guy has been struggling a bit with allergies (the 'perfume' maybe??) but I confess, the quiet days have suited me just fine as well.
But we did get to Cap Frehel and Saint Malo yesterday, so I'll show you that soon.
I'll be back.....
(wow, on a side note, this is my 100th post!! Who would have thought.....)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fondettes, Les Pivottieres and a glimpse at Blois

 These are some more pictures of the gite that we stayed at in Fondettes, a little village just outside of Tours.  The first picture is of the back of the house that belongs to our host and hostess, an absolutely lovely couple with whom we spent quite a few hours chatting about all manner of things. They were very easy to talk to and were very gentle with my stumbling french.  A very enjoyable experience.
The next picture is taken standing just outside the courtyard that leads into our gite.  (The owner's home is on the right just outside the picture.) Such a lovely setting, don't you think??
 This next shot was taken by simply turning around 180 degrees from the picture above.  It was early in the morning and the sun was just coming up.  And always, the delightful coquelicots (poppies).
 Here I simply moved over a few feet and took a picture of the gate on the other side of our gite.  You can see how early it is by the sun just peaking over the house and through the slats of the gate.
And here is the little pathway we went down to get out to our car.  You can see the iris and the fence from the picture above in the left hand corner and at the right you can see one of the windows in the sitting room of our gite.  
 For this shot I walked back to the courtyard entrance and stood at the opening you can see in the second picture above.  All very lovely.
 We have been so successful with all of the gites in which we have stayed.  "Les Pivottieres" is the name of this particlar gite and it stands on a hillside overlooking the Loire, just 15 minutes outside of Tours.  The owners are literature, art and music lovers and the gite is a faithful reflection of who they are.  (It is gite number 10891 through Gites de France, in the region.  Do stay here if you are in that region of France.)
 This is a large brass bowl that now sits in the fireplace of the gite.  It was formerly used by our hostess's family for making jams and was brought by her from Normandy, where she was raised.
 This is my version!
 While we were in Blois we walked around the Eglise Saint Nicholas.  This shot was taken around the back.  I love the black against the white.
 This is my first attempt at the picture from the Eglise Saint Nicholas. I am tempted to try it again without the little bit on the top left.  What do you think?
 The Chateau at Blois has these gargoyles on the side and since I have always been intrigued by these fanciful downspouts I just had to have a go at painting one!  Aren't they fun!!??
So that's it for our week in Tours.  The condensed version.  Tomorrow I'll show you the start of my week in Brittany.  It's all good!!!  Back soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Catching up with castles.

 Just thought I'd do another post to try and get caught up.  The shot above was taken on the rainy day and is a picture of the chateau at Amboise, taken from across the Loire river as we were traveling down to Blois.  We visited it a couple of days later and there are a few more pictures a bit further down.
This shot is of the Loire River.  So many amazing spots, such a beautiful country.
 This is the Chateau of Chaumont, taken whilst driving by.
 This is Chambord, one of the largest chateau in the Loire Valley.  And one of the most visited, from what I can gather.  We came here on a gloriously sunny day.  Along with a whole lot of other people.  It was too much for me so we didn't go in!
 We visited Amboise the next day.  A beautiful little town on the banks of the Loire.  It's the town shown in the first picture on this post.   Most of the chateau has been demolished and only this part and another church tower remain.
 This shot is taken from the ramparts of Amboise chateau and features the clock tower.  You pass through the gates under the clock tower and there is a lovely little street with no cars that one can amble up and down (as we did!).  Quite tourist-y however.  And I guess, why not!
This shot is taken from inside the chateau, looking back at the chateau itself and at the city at the base of the ramparts. This is what we could see from across the river in the first shot.  Charming.
 We then drove on to the chateau of Chenonceaux.  At the left in the photo above is the Marques tower,  all that was kept when all else was demolished in the 16th century to build the chateau.  Below you can see part of the 'new' chateau.
 But this is what makes Chenonceaux so unique:  the gallery spans 60 feet across the River Cher and was built on the site of Diane de Poitiers' bridge by Catherine de Medici in 1576.  This gallery was used during the First World War as a hospital.
(More history: "In the Second World War, the River Cher corresponded to the line of demarcation.  The entrance to the chateau was therefore in the occupied zone right bank.  The gallery where the South door gave access to the left bank made it possible for the Resistance to pass large numbers of people into the free zone.  Throughout the war a German artillery unit was kept at the ready to destroy Chenonceau." This information is taken from the Visitor's guide to the Chateau.)

 On a more peaceful note, these little guys were our picnic companions when we stopped on a little byway in the mid-afternoon.
This is the Chateau of Montresor, a sweet little town that we went to later that afternoon.
 This is a shot of the church in Montresor and some of the rooftops.  Imagine how narrow the little streets are that are in front of, between, behind, etc. all of these houses!!
We passed this small holding on the road on the way home.  The light was just perfect.  I wonder what stories it could tell.
So, we're nearly caught up.
More in a bit.

1200 chateaux

Yes, there are over 1200 chateaux in this region, and fortunately for you, we didn't see them all!!! So you won't either just here! Phew!!  These first two shots were taken at the Chateau Sache that Balzac used as  country home.  There is also a Musee Balzac here.  Alas, the rain started just as we arrived and settled in for the day.
 As usual, I was more taken with the outside and the view so here is a part of the stone wall.  The chateau is off to the left of this photo.
 And totally out of order, these next two shots are from the gite that we were staying at (more later). The first pic is taken just outside the front door, turning right and looking out of the courtyard into the fields behind the gite.
 To take this shot I simply turned my head the other way and took these roses climbing up the wall to the left of our door.  Sigh.
 OK, back to the chateaux.  The first day we went exploring it was pouring, as I mentioned, which wasn't too bad, except that my guy's umbrella broke. So I guess that basically it was all right for just me, but I was willing to share.
This is the medieval chateau in the city of Chinon.  There is a lovely little 'basse ville' just below the castle walls and the streets are ever so narrow.  We looked into one courtyard, I think it's now a hotel, and there was a beautiful staircase that I just had to capture.

 This final shot was taken on the river just in front of the old town, looking out at the bridge that takes one to the newer part of the city.  Rain notwithstanding, it was a lovely day.
I'll post some pictures from our sunny chateaux day next time.  Back soon.