Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Morning in Pontlevoy

A morning in Pontlevoy, lunch in Thenay and dinner with new friends.

We'd had a few huge days absorbing the delights that the Loire had to offer so we though a quiet day staying close to home might be nice for a change - it was grey and overcast. The weather is very similar to Melbourne at this time of the year. One day in T-shirts, the next in pullovers.
Sometimes the morning is glorious and as afternoon comes it's quite humid and then the storms roll in.

A spot of coffee at Cafe de Sports before wandering around Pontlevoy
So on this day we took a short drive to Pontlevoy - short it is, less than 5 kms. Pontlevoy is one of those villages that you drive through on the way to somewhere else. The really weird thing is that about two months before leaving for France I popped into a bookshop and there in the bargain bin was this book, "A Village in France" which just happened to be a photographic portrait of daily life in Pontlevoy, 1902-1936 by
Louis Clergeau. Louis was a watchmaker and jeweller but his hobby was photography. His many photographs were of this village that we were to experience and what he photographed 80 to 90 years ago.

Photographs from the book "A Village in France" have been attached to various walls in Pontlevoy to show how it was during the years 1902 to 1936.
 Driving through Pontlevoy you would never know the lives of the people of those days, but we did through the book and we were amazed. Our first stop was at Cafe Sport. Not a lot of people in the rural districts speak English and that is my loss because I have nil French. But the man in the cafe saw my interest in his little miniatures of the Citroen Traction Avant or in English, Citroen L15. I asked him why he had these little models with Sue's help and discovered he had a Classic Citroen of his own. (Simon - a friend for you and maybe Celestine too)
After the coffee and a little chat and we were off for a stroll of discovery.

Pontlevoy's local Museum in the main street. Not open when we were there unfortunately.
This building features in the book possibly as an old blacksmith business. Now its someone's home.
After a little more research on Pontlevoy, I found this excerpt from Wikipedia:

The battle took place near Pontlevoy on the River Cher, between Blois and Tours, not far from the large Angevin fortress of Montrichard. Odo had ravaged most of the Touraine during Fulk's absence on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After Fulk's return, Odo, with a large force and many siege engines, attempted to besiege Montrichard, but was intercepted by Fulk just north of Pontlevoy. Surprised by Fulk's preparedness, Odo was forced to give battle without putting his troops into formation. This was his disadvantage. The opening went in favour of Odo, however. Fulk was unhorsed and his standard-bearer was felled. Fulk may have even been captured briefly. At this juncture, Herbert intervened, attacking Odo's flank from the west. Odo was routed and fled, leaving his infantry to be massacred. There were over 42,000 men killed.

Pontlevoy had suffered many ravages of war over the centuries right up to WWII - and yet today it has such a sleepy hollow feeling about it.

We left the cafe towards the Abbey after our espresso - for some reason we have never had a great Cappuccino or caffe latte in France, only in Italy and Australia.

Some folklore on the founding of Pontlevoy's Abbey:
It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of the Count of Blois. Allegedly, the Virgin dressed in white, appeared above the rolling deck and calmed the sea.
Geldiun endowed the abbey with enough revenue for Benedictine monks to build a huge church, dedicated to the White Virgin. From the east, it looks like a complete Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and trefoil stone tracery in the windows of the radiating chapels. There is a gravel courtyard where it the nave should be.
Yes - Wikipedia again.

Outside the Abbey's walls - I wonder what this hole in the wall was useful for?

The gates took us to the Medieval Chapel, damaged over the years from many wars.

We were quite taken by the grounds of the Abbey - it had a long rich history and had endured several wars and many uses over the centuries. These included a monastery, a school, a truck driving school and a convention centre. The grounds are peaceful and we spent all morning there before driving back to Thenay to take the washing off the line - clouds were brewing as they did on the odd afternoon.
I always need to post either a car or bicycle photo. This delightful early Peugeot was in great condition except for the layer of dust.

We decided to lunch at the local cafe in Thenay, not that we had noticed it before but most days we were somewhere else. There was no choice of menu - you had what was being cooked on the day and all for 12 euro. There was a salad bar for your entree, a jug of wine with a main course of braised duck and pasta. You had three types of cheese before the desert of a banana and chocolate gateau. We finished off with coffee and a walk back to the cottage.

Our hosts Carole and Michael had kindly invited us for dinner that night to join their friends, Katherine and Alan. I believe they were past renters of the Thenay cottage and have joined their circle of friends. It was a lovely night and we all had an enjoyable night comparing our different parts of the world. Mikey and I discovered we came from the same town of Preston, his in England, mine in Melbourne.
What a fitting end to a day of discovery, surprises and new friendships.
We headed back home after 12.30 and wondered how we would wake for our big day to see Chambord and Cheverny in the morning. But more about that next Wednesday.

A photo every day of our travels in France


  1. What luck to have found the book. If you know a bit of the history before hand, it is much more interesting and you are less likely to miss something. Looks like a great place to visit especially with the abbey. Diane

  2. How wonderful you found the book! And then to see the photos displayed in Pontlevoy—fabulous.
    When we were in the southern part of France near the Mediterranean, we went on a day trip to the town of Collioure, where the artist Henri Matisse had done many paintings. There were copies of his paintings here and there, where we could compare the paintings with the scenery. In some places were "frames" set up so people could look through them to see what Matisse saw.
    Enjoyed your photos of Pontlevoy.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. Diane - Its such a quiet place and normally you wouldn't take the time to stop. But like many towns, they have hidden treasures waithing to be found.

  4. Kay,
    Your comments reminded me that we will be in the Collioure region in May so we'll take the time for a look see.
    Here in Melbourne on the bay, we had our own Impressionists that painted not far from our home. We also have reproductions of their paintings along the cliffs and beaches for those who enjoy a walk.

  5. i like restaurants where you get no choice - more time to chat and ponder without interruption

  6. I make decisions at work everyday so when it comes to making one in my own time, I'm hopeless.

  7. Well, he hole in the wall is a well ...

    Posted by Philippe, who was in the past an happy user of the 403 Peugeot. Does it always belong to David L. ?


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