Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CHINON and Jeanne d'Arc

I'm not sure we knew much of Jeanne d'Arc before our stay in Chinon - that is to say much more than movies and folk-lore.
I'm sure that I was not aware of the strong connection between Chinon and Charles VII, that is until I saw the amazing bronze statue with the "Maid of Orleans" on horseback in her suit of armour and brandishing a sword in one hand while holding her flag in the other. We stood there looking at the statue for some time in awe. It stands in the area of where Chinon's market is held every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Looking up from Chinon's medieval lane ways, this is what you see.

Looking down from above Chinon are the ruins of Chateau de Chinon. We we were there in 2008 there was a great deal of rebuilding and restoration going on. Unfortunately we didn't get to actually inspect the ruins, nor did we on our visit the following year. Writing this blog has enlarged our knowledge of the places we have visited. It wasn't until we returned and I developed a passion for Joan of Arc's history that I discovered that her meeting with the Dauphin, Charles VII was the turning point in the 100 year war between the French and English. I didn't know that earlier much of the grand chateau was the built during the period (1100s) of Henry Plantagenet. It was also the inspiration for the play/film "The Lion in Winter" very loosely based on the plotting and intrigue between Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons, Richard (the Lionheart), John and Geoffrey.

I could walk these streets and see something new every time.
It was in 1429 when Joan of Arc travelled from her home in Domremy in northern France to Chinon to gain an audience with Charles. She said she had visions and heard the voices of holy angels telling her to seek an army from him to battle the English so that he may take his place as the rightful King of France. Legend tells us that when Joan arrived at his court at Chinon Castle, the Dauphin was in disguise and another was dressed as the future King. Joan went straight to Charles although she had never seen him previously and kneeled before him. In private conversation she told him of things - of a personal nature that no one else knew. The rest is history and Charles was crowned King of France at Reims some months after Joan of Arc's successful battle at Orleans.
Her reward was to be imprisoned and later, burnt at the stake after a lengthy but dodgy trial at the age of 19.

Wikipedia tells us that there was a portrait of Jeanne d'Arc that has not survived but there are many statues, paintings and stain glass windows depicting her that we have seen in our travels throughout France.

Charles VII crowned king of France 1429 at Reims after holding court at Chinon.
This monument to Jeanne d'Arc is what sent me on a research learn more of her history.

We stood motionless for some time, taking in the detail of Roulleau's work. I then walked around and took photos at many different angles but none can do justice to the actual statue.

I sometimes wonder if Charles or Jeanne d'Arc walked the streets of the commoners below Chinon Chateau.

The Medieval buildings of Chinon hold some intriguing details - you only need to look more closely.

Walking the streets by day we returned to our B & B Logis Saint Mexme to shower and go out for dinner - we ate in the square at a restaurant with an Italian influence. Walking back home, the streets of Chinon took on a totally different dreamy atmosphere. You wondered what century you were actually in.......

It had been a big day but the next day was to be a visit to the Cadre Noir in Saumur, something that Sue had dreamed of. In her early days, pre-Leon that is - she was a horsey person. She tried to influence me in her passion but I've always preferred two wheels. I have to admit though, to see the precision of these horses and their riders was an experience I'm glad I had the opportunity to have enjoyed the show. Our host at Logis Saint Mexme, Helene organised all the negotiations for Sue. Nothing was too much of an effort to make our stay memorable, so much so that we return next May.

I've asked Sue to do the next "Wednesday in France" at the Cadre Noir. It was her special day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A BIASED VIEW of Melbourne Newspapers

Living in Melbourne, we have on offer two local newspapers - there were three when I was very young. The other was the now defunct Argus.
The Age is the only one that I will put my hand in my pocket to buy, the other - The Sun Herald I refuse to buy - well that is until recently when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France.

You wouldn't believe that the two papers came out of the same city when looking at the front page. The Sun Herald, a tabloid usually will run a front page on some footballer's scandal - turn the page and there is the obligatory shapely young lady pouting at you, not that I am against nubile young women, but its not NEWS.

Sure, The Age covers sport too but their front page story is usually dealing with local or world issues of the day. They have a great coverage of finance, food, entertainment but not in the gossip sense of the Sun Herald which is more about who has a new hair style or who was caught having an affair with whom ever.

Do I sound biased yet - you betcha. Its a bit like TV and radio news these days where the ABC report the news and the commercial stations make the news. Why do the commercial news readers act the news with inflections in their voice or that "look".

Maybe I'm just becoming a grumpy old man!!!! (or was I like this when I was young?)

Strangely, I was struggling to fine a weekend post and yet We have had a great weekend starting with an impromptu invitation Friday night to see a movie documenting on of my fave photographers, Annie Leibovitz of Rolling Stone magazine fame with dinner beforehand. Lovely ride was had on a great spring morning Saturday. To conclude the weekend we just arrived home tonight after a great dinner with friends with fantastic food and several bottles of Pinot Noir mixed with lots of laughter. Hope I can get up for my morning 6.00 am ride.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Song - Daddy Cool

1971 Daddy Cool hit the Aussie charts with Eagle Rock. It still gets played long after the group disbanded. Ross Wilson went on to other bands and has written so much material with many other bands and singers recording his songs.1971 - Eagle Rock and Daddy Cool.
After listening to Daddy Cool, tell me that you didn't tap your feet along with the boys.

35 years on and they occasionally come together for Rock n Roll tributes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

YOU LOOKIN' AT ME - friday feline foto

She's either Rosita, Rosie or Rose depending on the mood we are in at the time.
She loves the camera - this taken by my son, Mitch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CHINON and our B and B for three nights

Did you know that Sue had been trying to convince me that the Loire was the place to be. I just couldn't get excited by the idea of fairy tale castles and manicured gardens. It all seemed a bit "Girly" to me. Well I did change my mind. With only a three night stopover, I was wanting more. I don't know how we packed so much into such a short stay. The next few posts will include our visits to Abbaye de Fontevraud, Chateau d'Usse, Saumur to see a performance by the Cadre Noir, and the Chateau de Villandry and of course Chenonceau. We even took the time to see the motor museum at Chatellerault.

The social hub of Chinon

We arrived at Chinon at mid-arvo to be greeted by our hosts, Helene and Jean-Michel at their unforgettable B and B in the Medieval heart of the the town. I'm not sure how Sue located their B and B but it was a gem. Since that visit we have recommended friends to our hosts and we returned there on our third visit just to say hello such was their warm reception. We actually return there next May for two nights on what will be our fifth trip to France.

The Vienne River nestles Chinon before joining the Loire river.

Our B and B sits directly on the narrow medieval laneway of Chinon. The gateway to the very right is where Helene let me keep my bike while there. I had three days of pleasurable morning rides discovering the banks of the Vienne and the vineyards either side. One ride took me to I'lle Bouchard no more than 12 kms down the banks of the slow flowing Vienne. Coming back on the other side were several small Chateaux. I'd be back in time to join Sue for breakfast at our host's breakfast room.

Yes, we did feel very special and pampered in our room (Chambre Jardin). The desk was just perfect for our laptop to keep in touch with home. A collection of a varied range of CDs kept us musically entertained. Helene even shared some of her private collection with us.

It was from this door that we left to explore Chinon every day of our stay. We relaxed at the end of the day in the garden to play with their French Bulldog now sadly gone but replaced with another that we will meet next year.

This photo doesn't do justice to the view from our bedroom window. We let the morning sun wake us so as not to miss a minute of our stay.

The door that led to our room had a white stone spiral staircase. Rose bushes showed you the way to the door.

The slow flowing Vienne, the plane trees, sunny skies - how good is life?

Chinon captivated us so much that on our third trip to France and the second to the Loire, we made it a point to return to say hello to our hosts. Jean-Michel was at work in Paris but Helene was home and greeted us with, Oh, the Sims. Our visit was unannounced and she remembered us. We had tea and talked for some time and discovered that their dog had passed away. Friends on our recommendation stayed recently and they brought back a letter and a picture or
f their new French Bulldog. We can't wait to meet him and see our hosts Helene and Jean Michel Craye at Logis Saint Mexme in Chinon next year.
During our little visit she said that she rated her guest much the same as guests rate the places they stay. We laughed when she rated us as four star guests because there weren't enough stars to rate how special we felt at their B and B.

Sue has a mad passion for horses and had a need to visit Saumur to see the Cadre Noir, Helene did all the organising for here. It was a highlight for Sue that she will never forget. Wednesdays in France with drift through the Loire over a few weeks I fear. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


It's 5.30 PM - looking out my study window, the jasmine is flowering all white and crimson - the gum tree hardly moves and the prunis is sprouting these little pinkish white blossoms. I can't see any clouds from where I sit while sipping on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I've not long returned from God's Own Country where the Rob Roy Hill Climb is located. This historic site of motor racing is situated out past Kangaroo Grounds at Christmas Hills. I wrote a book on it's early history about six or seven years ago, maybe more. I spent a lot of time there a decade ago as the meeting secretary after our club (MG Car Club) resurrected it but I became burnt out and hadn't been back for some time. It was soooo good to be back.

Since 1937 when the Light Car Club of Australia ran its first Rob Roy Hill Climb, spectators and competitors would enter Clinton's Pleasure Grounds by these two buildings - to the right was the dam or swimming pool of the day. The diving board has gone and so has swimming. It's probably full of Yabbies now.

The Vintage Sports Car Club had a meeting at Rob Roy this Sunday and I thought I would go back, I almost didn't and it would have been my loss. The weather was perfect, the spectator car park was full and I kept bumping into old friends that I'd not seen for years. Faces and names can sometimes get a little misplaced over time but it was so rewarding to catch up with several of the drivers who helped me put together the book on Rob Roy Hill Climb - it's our Prescott, our Shelsley Walsh of the UK.
Sunday's event with the most perfect almost spring day had the best array of Pre-War sports cars that I'd seen for some time but then I've been away for maybe a decade.
The best part was chatting with old friends.

The stating line is graced with these giant brake shoes which came from another historic hill climb now defunct. The MGCC saved them and installed them at Rob Roy.

There were those perfectly restored pre-war cars at Rob Roy but this one appealed to me due to its patina paint work.

Bugatti were as common as navels ( I cleaned that up for the blog)

The Austin 7s line up for their run at the hill.

Motor bikes ran at Rob Roy before cars and there were a few on display.

Guarding the bikes creates a hunger.

One of Australia's own - the Holden.

What is this - let me tell you. It's a replica of a famous Rob Roy car. It's a special built from the basis of a Lancia that one of our early driver's Eddie Perkins competed with that Rob Roy.

Then there's this Lancia in street clothes.

It was a great day - cars, people and memories.

This book gave Sue and I the opportunity to travel France in 2006 and 2008. It paid for our air fares - how lucky are we? We've seen great things and met wonderful people along the way.

My book website

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday Song

I really don't know much about these Australian singers (I'm an old Fart) - I do know I quite like them and love the artwork. A younger friend of mine who is a little bit more trendy than me introduced me to them. His blog is on my sidebar "Eger Eyes"- give him a look in. Mainly a mobile photo daily post.
Have a great weekend and talk on Monday.

Oh yes - almost forgot to mention that my daughter is riding a weekend 200 plus kms charity ride for cancer research. She raised over $2500 and her blog is also on my sidebar - CWA - Cat with Attitude. You are right, I'm a proud Father.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Friday Freaky Foto

Found on a wall in a street in Melbourne, now long forgotten.
I took this with the thought of using it for a Friday Foto at sometime.
Because I'm tired after racing at the velodrome and I'm too lazy for a full on post - this is all you get.
Graffiti or Art - you make the judgement!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poitiers and Mirebeau

Leaving Confolens was not so difficult. We were excited about our next night time stop at Chinon but more about that next week.

Our first time stop was Poitiers (for coffee of course), capital of the Vienne Department and founded by the Celtic Pictones tribe.
Romans, Visigoths - Clovis I returning Poitiers back to the Franks.
732 AD Battle of Poitiers/Tours - 1356 battle of Poitiers - the home of Eleanor of Aquitaine at times, what a rich history and here are us just wanting a stop for coffee.
With a population of 91,000 I was a little unsure of venturing into the central part of the city but with encouragement from Sue I mustered all my courage and drove on. Unbelievably there was very little traffic and an underground parking lot made life quite pleasant. We climbed the stairs to the open morning sunlight to be hit with the sight of Poitiers' cathedral. We sat drinking our shot of caffeine with the view of this beautiful structure before us. As magnificent the outside facade was, inside was just as enthralling. The mid-morning sunlight sent shafts of light within - there must be a god, or was that the Catholic architects designed such buildings to make us believe so?
Without a doubt, Notre Dame La Grande in my mind holds its ground with the great cathedrals of Paris, Senlis and Chartres despite not being large. The sculptures of the 12 Apostles at the entrance and inside, the columns painted in perfect geometrical colorful panels add a mystique to be absorbed without rush.
Poitiers is a place to return to more leisurely than a coffee stop.

We had this view while sipping on our coffee.

Some description of what we were to experience.

They tell me that at night, lights make the Cathedral come to life. Maybe next time.

The sculptured figures tell a story.

Joan of Arc is my favorite Heroine. There are more J of A images to come in our travels.

Sue admires the geometrical painted columns within.

And those shafts of light - how uplifting.
We left Poitiers wanting to return one day but we had a deadline to meet in Chinon. We were leaving Richard the Lionheart, Eleanor of Aquitaine territory for the region of Joan of Arc's successful conquests.

But after a couple of hours drive we were needing a lunchtime stop. There was a sign directing us from the highway to Mirebeau, not a village on our agenda but the stomach was rumbling. As we turned off the highway and ventured into the village, there was no one in sight. No pedestrians, no cars, no life. We pulled into a car park in front of a bar, wandered in and saw three people there. We asked if lunch was available. The barman was helpful when he discovered we were from Australia, he had been to Brisbane. The owner, a French lady with a grasp of English said there was a Creperie not far away, "follow me, we can walk there" she said.
The best Creperie in the whole world - well in our world.
I personally didn't want to argue with such a strong woman. She took us to this little eatery no more that 200 metres away and it was one of those hidden treasures with the best galettes I've had to this time, despite the fact that we had to step over a sleeping Boxer bitch to enter. We sat in this covered courtyard with flowering creeping vines with the sunshine filtering through as we had our lunch washed down, naturally with a chilled rose. Tell me now - how good is this?
Our trip next year includes a return visit - God please let it still be there!!!!!

Every eatery has a door bitch and this is the one at Mirebeau.

Goodbye Mirebeau till maybe 2012 for lunch once again.