Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Scallops & St Peter

The town of L'Île-Bouchard straddles the river Vienne and we've written about the capitals of the ruined Prieuré de Saint-Léonard there before. On the south side of the Vienne river, just before you reach it, is a small village called Parçay-sur-Vienne.  
West front
We decided to have a quick look to see if the village church was of interest before heading on towards L'Île-Bouchard and Chinon: it was a another case of one of those slightly battered and faded 'monument historique' signs which intrigued us.

We weren't disappointed. The village church boasted a beautifully ornamented 12th century west facade. We weren't able to find out a great deal, but it seems that originally it was a monastery which then was turned into a priory linked with L'Île-Bouchard. The church is dedicated to St Peter.

Scallop shell motief in the stonework
The most well known image associated with St Peter is keys. However, Peter was a fisherman and the information panel next to the mairie informed us that this was the reason that there are so many images associated with fishing and the sea on the west facade.

What makes the west facade more interesting is the fact that the scallop shell motief is heavily used. The scallop is the symbol of St James, not St Peter. Pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela would wear a scallop shell badge. In the early church [5th - 6th cent] the scallop shell was also used as an image of the resurrection as the upturned shell looked similar to the rising sun.

One of the major medieval pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela ran via Tours and Poitiers. Parçay-sur-Vienne is about 1/3 of the way between Tours and Poitiers which could explain the use of the scallop shell motief; however this is an educated guess on our part.
Mermaid capital
Cockerels on the left. Mad merman on the right?
The capitals are all richly carved and the one above shows a mermaid clutching a fish in one hand and her tail in the other. Others show various grotesques, many of which have a marine theme. We noticed one which seemed to depict a mad merman wielding a club!
A carnivore chasing its prey
At the bottom of one of the three arches surrounding the central door [left-hand side] there's a wonderful bit of carving. It shows a wolf chasing an animal which looks a little like a Schnauzer dog, but is probably a deer. They are both certainly running at full tilt!

Bearded faces
The outer of the three arches surrounding the door is made up of little bearded faces, each one is different and clearly shows off the carver's skill. They certainly made us smile!

The church facade was restored in 1991. Sadly, on the day it was locked, so we don't know if there were more carved treasures inside. Hopefully, during the tourist season it will be unlocked and when next we're over this way we can find out.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Lazy Sunday afternoon

It is cold outside! This morning we woke up to a powdering of snow and since then we've had frequent flurries.

Happily, as we were in danger of running low on wood, we received another delivery this morning at 10 am. Obviously the cats appreciate this concern for their comfort as this photo taken 15 mins ago shows!

Spot the imposter ...
Shadow moved as I came back with the camera, but Tinka was oblivious! She adores heat and will sit very close to the woodburner, roasting first one side then the other.

I suppose we should just count ourselves lucky that we get some of the heat too....

Thursday, 21 February 2013

This time they really are cranes!

Yesterday we were down near Le Blanc, a town on the river Creuse to the south of us. We were en-route to find a small village called Chalais; about which more another time. The weather, as it has been this week, was glorious. Cold, but sunny thanks to the high pressure system. You can tell spring is slowly on its way as the sun can be quite warming if you stay tucked out of the cold, mainly NE wind.

Driving along a field of stubble corn [maize] we saw over the hedge -- yep you guessed it -- Grues cendrées; cranes!

Definitely cranes!
We managed to turn the car into an access track next to the fileds and get relatively close.  They were busy foraging and intermittently little groups landed and others flew off resettling a bit further on; all the while they were making a heck of a racket! Very much like a bunch of elderly biddies outraged at the price of fish.

This one flew obligingly overhead

Finally we watched this pair who didn't want to get left behind once the majority of the group moved a little further off.

Oh where are the others?

Shall we be off then?

Almost like an airport with planes coming in on different runways
When we came back heading towards home they were still there, still noisily 'chatting' to each other.  We have yet, however, to hear/see any over our house.

Do please click on the photos to enlarge as it does do these lovely birds more justice.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Les Grues Cendrées are back .... erm no they're not! It's storks

Yesterday Today has brought bright blue skies and what difference that has made! We were out and about and even had the temerity to open the sun roof of the car! It was just about ok with coats on as it was 11C outside.
Yes those splodges are cranes er no... storks,
As we left Charnizay driving along the Aigronne towards Le Petit Pressigny we saw a small group of cranes er... no storks, circling to gain altitude before flying away in a NE direction. The first we'd ever seen flying of the year! They were a bit distant by the time we parked the car but we did take some photos anyway.

A friend of ours who has lived in the Dordogne for years said she'd heard cranes over her house about 2 or 3 weeks ago. Obviously they have a break before they fly on --more or less over us-- towards a major stop-off point in the Champagne region [Lac du Der]. Sometimes we are lucky enough to hear and see them fly directly over the house. But these weren't cranes, these were storks.....
The best shot we could get considering the distance
It really set us up for the day to see them. Spring may not be here quite yet, but it is certainly on its way! For more information about the cranes try the RSPB crane webpage where you can also hear a recording of what they sound like. For more information about storks have a look at the BTO's site.

Our thanks to Susan for raising the query about which bird, and to Tim  who knows what he's talking about when it comes to birds for having a good look at the pics and establishing that: no they aren't cranes, yes they are storks :-)! Evidently storks too would head in a NE direction to fly to Lac du Der in Champagne [according to the info on the BTO website] but they, unlike cranes do not make a noise; they fly silently.

Before this we'd only ever seen a single stork sitting on a nest high on top of a church in the Netherlands and never in flight.

Right: I think we've got ourselves sorted out now! Apologies! We do try and make sure that what we post is accurate.

As always you can enlarge the photos.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A break in the grey

All the grey, gloomy and mostly rainy weather we've been having has given rise to the odd dose of mild cabin fever; so recently we decided to pop out to lunch on a day we weren't working.

Mairé: village square with auberge across the street
It proved to be an excellent antidote. We went to the Auberge du Vieux Port in Mairé, a small village on the Vienne side of the Creuse river. We can't remember who first mentioned it --I suspect we read about it in a blogpost-- apologies that we can't remember whose. The auberge sits on the corner of the rue du vieux port, so at one time there must have been a riverside landing for trade on the Creuse.

It is one of those typical French places; it combines a tabac, cafe, restaurant and hotel all rolled into one. The proverbial little white vans [well they were green that day] were parked outside which means 99% of the time there's a bon rapport qualité/prix [simple but good food and value for money].
Appearances can be deceptive--it looked as if it could have been closed, but most certainly wasn't!
The auberge is clearly a family affair which has been serving the community more or less unchanged for years. Maman was serving and the daughter was cooking in the kitchen. The daughter came out afterwards and we settled the bill with her at the bar. The menu du jour was €10.50.

Now as regular readers will know we're hopeless at photographing food in eateries. For some reason neither of us have ever felt comfortable doing so--no particular reason, we just don't. However, we can tell you what we had:

Mairé: rue du vieux port
starter part I: a slice of charcuterie with a shallot & parsely vinaigrette
starter part II: a very soft boiled egg sat on top of an artichoke heart and slice of ham topped by home-made mayonaise. This was without doubt the star of the show!
main course: pork chop with sauteed potatoes [there was also a fish option which we didn't go for]
dessert: a slice of apple crumble cake

we both decided to have a coffee afterwards.
Mairé: church, sadly locked
It was nothing fancy, just plain and simple, but home-cooked and tasty--exactly the right thing to brighten up yet one of those grey days.

Afterwards we tried to have a look inside the church but sadly it was locked.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


We had some insurance admin to deal with and the agent's office is in Beaulieu-les-Loches [about 30km NW of us]. We've been meaning to go and see them for a while, but when not working the weather has hardly encouraged us to go anywhere. Frankly it has been miserable for some time. However, it wasn't raining this morning --hurrah-- in fact the sun was shining and the skies were blue so we drove up.
Flooded road in Perusson
Normally, when we get to Perusson, rather than continue on towards Loches and staying on the left bank of the river Indre we turn off right, go over the river and use a small D road to cut cross-country and enter Beaulieu-les-Loches close by old abbey church where Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, is buried and which we've written about before here.
You can just see the road rising to the bridge beyond the flood waters
Not today! The river Indre has burst its banks and the flood meadows are completely awash. So much so that the D road is closed, although pedestrians can still cross as the path is on a raised walk-way which extends right up to the actual bridge.
Looking south on the rue des ponts between Beaulieu les Loches and Loches
Flooded garden. You can just see the flat roof of Loches' donjon peeping through the tops of the trees
After concluding our business we drove into Loches, stopping on the rue des ponts [part bridge, part road] which crosses the flood meadows and two meandering smaller channels of the Indre. Here too all was awash and the [modern] house which abutts the old medieval bridge chapel has temporarily lost its garden on the other side of the channel. Their little bridge is fine, but the lower lying garden -as you can see in the photo- is not!
Medieval bridge chapel on the rue des ponts
We finished off the morning by having lunch in our favourite pizzeria--Pizzeria Sforza which is just up from the Porte Picois in Loches' cite médiévale.
Loches, 15th century Porte Picois ... oh and a rarity:- blue sky!