Saturday, November 29, 2014

All Roads Lead into and out off MONTHOU sur CHER

Driving, riding to and from Thenay in most cases took us through the lovely village of Monthou sur Cher. Even if we didn't have to, we would anyway. Monthur sur Cher is nestled in a valley with all but one way out being up hill so I would mostly ride in and out for some hill work.

Scenes from Monthou sur Cher
There are so many roads leading in and out of Monthur sur Cher. For those not aware, many names are identified by the rivers that are nearby. Monthur is about 2 kms from the Cher river hence the "sur Cher".
This water way leads to the idyllic lake dividing the village into two areas. One side has the Marie, church and small commercial area, the other is the recreational centre and restaurant. 
It would not matter how many times you came through Monthur sur Cher, there would be another scene worth a photograph. 

We found out why so many restaurants seem so busy in these out of the way rural areas. It seems that many, as part of their employment package get lunch vouchers or concessions. From noon to 2.00 pm is the traditional lunch period and the farmers in their little white vans, and the road workers in their hi vis vests come in for whatever is on the menu for that day.
Like most of the villages in this area, photos from about one hundred years ago are displayed at different points to show the differences, or in some cases, no difference. The village from memory has six or more roads leading in (or out). There's two small waterways that pass by and quite a large lake with a restaurant overlooking it and playing fields. Naturally it has its own 12th or 13th century church.

The main road in from rue Nationale takes you by this scene from maybe early 1900s.
And today there are very few changes except that this house has been renovated and well cared for. Many are not and sometimes in ruins. It is in some cases more economical to rebuild rather than renovate houses of several centuries in age.
I don't remember the age of this church and one gets a bit blasé after seeing heaps of XII/XIII churches in the various villages. Although there is little change with the church, with the advent of cars, a square has been formed in front that allows for some parking.

Monthou had its own mill built on the small water way that runs to the Cher river. There is a small bridge and judging by the shape of the building, its not hard to imagine that the bridge was there first.
The old Mill comes to a sharp point where it meets the bridge. 
The owners in their sympathetic restoration of the Mill have retained the Mill wheel that can be seen by the wall.
It is however fairly overgrown with brambles.
Some other local scenes of the edges of Monthou sur Cher

With a population of less than 1000 residents, its been documented that the area was inhabited from Palaeolithic to Neolithic times. The land is rich in flint clay. The Roman's also settled at nearby Thesee less than two kilometres away. There ruins are still visible where it was said that the settlement produced pottery. I stole this photo from our Blogging friends Susan and Simon whom we always try to say hello when in the Loire. Susan tells its history with far more detail that I can.
Visit their site via the link. or see my side bar for their blog.

Thesee Roman ruins - photo taken by Susan from Days on the Claise
At the north east road leading out of the village is the Chateau of Gue Pean which was started in the 15th Century. Although closed for the season as we drove up, it looked to be in a fairly average state. You see several Chateaux in the Loire et Cher region that are now down at heel due to the great expense to maintain. The Chambord, Chenonceau and Charmont Chateaux are national treasures and therefore are financed both by the government and the general public passing through the gates.

On the other side of Monthou not more than 2 kms away is the local Chateau.
Gue Pean is also an equestrian centre. Unfortunately we were too late in the year to explore the inside.

Although we left the Loire et Cher region today and staying overnight at Versailles before settling in a Paris apartment for the last week, we still have several posts to publish before we leave for Melbourne, our Home by the Bay. The journey is not yet over.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Touraine Primeur at Montrichard

We drive by or through Montrichard most days. OK, we have had lunch there a few times. It never seems to have the charm of Saint Aignan that is little over 10 kms along the Cher river.

Today we discovered it has a life of its own. Today (Sunday) was the Montrichard Primeur which was the presentation of the new wine vintages of the Touraine and other produce such as fromage and porc. It brought the locals in from the surrounding districts and we were fortunate to find a parking spot close by due to Sue’s disabled sticker that we brought from home. Its been a bonus for Sue, its enabled her to get closer to all the great features of France, particularly the Chateaux and hilltop villages.

As I rode and drove around the district, we saw these posters not realising that we were going to still be here when it was on. It was a real treat.
The band struck up, the Touraine Primeur Producers marched proudly behind in their colourful outfits.
Behind is the tourist information office, one of the original half wood buildings - a fine example.
Down the street to the right of the building is a little square with a few restaurants where we have had several lunches.

As we wandered around Montrichard’s centre villa with the Donjon looking down on the town, we noticed that the streets had red carpet between the store holders either side. We could hear a brass band in the distance getting louder and louder till we saw a group of brightly dressed people in a parade coming up the main drag of Montrichard. These were the Primeur Producers of the Touraine in their specific cloaks adorned with medals and such that denoted their craft.

This gentleman who was in the march displayed his medal as a Touraine Primeur with great pride. We had a little chat as much as one can do within the language. He seemed very pleased that I took an interest in his medal and was happy to pose for me. 
I'm not sure that my photo does justice to this magnificent tree in full autumn colours.
The colours of the fallen leaves covered the green grass and red carpet. A very restful garden to stop for a rest.
Several of the municipal buildings were open to the public today and we had an opportunity to witness other aspects of Montrichard that normally go unnoticed as you drive through to somewhere else. We hadn't realised how much of the middle ages architecture still survived in Montrichard and the caves that are in the centre ville.

We had noticed posters advertising today’s event yet not put it in our diary as something special. We really only stumbled on it through word of mouth from Carol and Michael, our good friends here in the Loire.

The red carpet was out allowing us to see into areas not normally seen.

Not just wine, but so many other local producers showing off their wares.
This was inside the many caves within the side of the hills in Montrichard's central business district.
We are now less that two weeks left to go in France and only another four days before we leave the Loire. Before we leave I'll post the details of where we are staying with the website for bookings as a closing post of our time in the Loire.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tomorrow we leave Bordeaux - wish we had more time here. With 360,000 population, it has a big city feel without being big city. The inner city is designed for commuting by train and bike or by foot. Bordeaux has been pedestrianised and I can see the same theme for Melbourne in years to come. Cars are inefficient for inner city movement these days.

Scenes of Bordeaux

We booked a great apartment in the Quartier de l'Hotel de Ville with a tram stop nearby, restaurants, cafes, shopping and museums all within walking distance.
We've had the opportunity to visit a couple of those museums - The Musee d'Aquitaine (from pre-history to modern day) and Musee des Arts Decoratifs (furniture, glass, ceramics, etc).

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Musee d'Aquitaine

The tram took us to several of the other Quartiers of Bordeaux but our time here was not enough to truly absorb the true features of the city. You could fill a week without leaving the city and then there's the vineyards in the region. Maybe we will return one day and if we do, it will be longer than a two night stay.

Sorry of no photo captions - its all been a bit of a blur.