Levroux, France

While visiting my sister in France we decided to visit the town of Levroux (Google's translation) after seeing a photo of it's awesome Porte de Champagne in The Most Beautiful Villages of the Loire. We'll start with some of my photos of this historic medieval gateway. This first one is an artistic rendering of a photo I took. Rue Gabatum runs through it. Um, it runs through the gateway, not through my photo.
And here is another view, looking up. This gate is one of seven fortified gates built around the city at the command of King Charles VII in 1436. It is the only one remaining. The village itself dates back to 600 BCE!
Looking directly up at the center of the gate...
...and to the left, built into the tower, is the doorway to a home. It seems to be a side door of the house, as seen in this vintage postcard.
Behind the Porte de Champagne is Rue Emile Zola, a cobbled road.
And this is the back side of the Porte de Champagne. If we backed up a little and turned to the right, we'd see Rue Emile Zola.
Also behind the gate, on the other side of Rue Emile Zola, were some houses. A charming French gentleman called out to us, and he proudly told us all about the history of the Porte de Champagne. Even my sister, who majored in French in college and who was mistaken for a native speaker of the language when she first visited France after college, could not understand much of what he said. After his explanations, she asked him if I could take his photo, and he happily obliged.
But wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves. This is where our visit to Levroux actually began. We knew we were there when we turned a corner and saw this half-timbered house.
This is a detail of the carvings over the doorway.
Our first stop was on the right side of the Collegiate Church of Saint Sylvain, in this little area with a bench where we had a picnic. "The Shepherd Lying-down" sculpture is by Ernest Nivet (1871-1848). He was a native of Levroux and a pupil of Rodin.

The side door of the church faces the picnic area. Notice how worn the threshold of the left door is!

Detail of faces carved above the door. Quite an interesting assortment!

As the others finished their lunches, I walked around the immediate area and took a few pictures, such as this manhole cover...

...and these geraniums in a window.

Before we went inside the church I took some photos of the front.

Here's a closeup of the window, a modern clock, and the gargoyles...

 ...and a closer look at the door. Notice again, the worn threshold of the left doorway.

Before we enter the church, let's take a peep through the keyhole!

We're in! Many of the churches we visited had chairs rather than pews.

All the golden light comes from the stained glass windows.

Over to the right is a baptismal font. Not just to the right here, to the right inside the church, too! (I'm such an awesome tour guide!)

And in the upwards direction is the lovely ceiling. (Hmmmm... do I like this better then my own popcorn ceiling at home? YES!!! Sigh, they don't make 'em like they used to!)

Up front there are some interesting carvings on the chairs for the monks. Well, actually, they aren't chairs, they're more like little shelves the monks could kind of leaning sit on and still look like they were standing up. This is the view from behind a side wall of one of the rows of chairs.

This is the front face of one of the sit-upon shelves. Carved in the middle ages, these misericords symbolized virtues and vices.

The carved top, as seen from above, with writing carved into it, including the date 1742.

And over to the left... again, not just the left on this page, the left side of the church, too... is a statue of Mary and Jesus. Mary looks rather dismayed. Perhaps all the cobwebs are making her feel a bit neglected...

...or maybe it's her view of these candles, with only one burning.

If she'd only look up, she'd see the lovely organ pipes!

I love this little scene, inside one of the side doors.

And these lovely little heart-shaped locks.

These guys were in another side area. I'm not sure who they are, but my guess is the one in the center, holding the goblet, is Jesus, and the other four are the authors of the New Testament gospels. (The farthest guy also bears a resemblance to Confucius.)

Now we're back outside. While the others rested in the car, I took a quick walk for a couple of blocks around the church. I saw this lovely red door.

Another house with red doors and windows. Or maybe the door above is behind the plant in this photo. I'll just have to go back and check!!

Then there was this house with vines covering much of the roof.

One of my favorites is this bicycle in a doorway. And with that thought, we'll ride away...till next time! Hope you enjoyed this medieval journey!

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Chateau Chenonceau

I visited this remarkable French castle in October of 2008. Chateau Chenonceau has an extensive and quite thorough website, with lots of history and 3D views of every room that's open to the public. I won't try to replicate that here. Instead, I offer you my own photos and experiences, and recommend you also visit their website.

This expedition consisted of myself, my sister Sharon who lives in France, my sister Elizabeth, and our mother. Actually, the whole trip to France was our 80th birthday gift to our mother, and my sister Elizabeth and I accompanied her on the big trip across the pond. You know, safety in numbers.  :)

Here are out feet (okay, they're actually our shoes) in the parking lot (car park) at Chenonceau. The one with the cane is Mom, the pointy shoes are Elizabeth's, mine are pointed in the opposite direction, and Sharon's are the fourth pair. Now that we've all been introduced, let us proceed!

I found it amusing that the soda machine sports a photo of the chateau, blending the old with the new.

The promenade from the parking lot to the chateau is the spectacular "Grand Avenue of Plane Trees" which is for pedestrians only.

It's really pretty when you look up, too!

Alongside this wide walkway there are woods on one side with lovely little violets scattered about...

...and on the other side, besides woods, was a large area with an arbor, a maze of yews, and the Caryatides off in the distance.

Proceeding on towards the chateau, you come to the moat. Keeps out the riff raff, marauding invaders, whatever. Interestingly, I just found out the term riff raff comes from the French! "The term is derived from Old French 'rif et raf' " -Wiki

Then we arrive at the Marques Tower which was built in the 1400s. The original estate buildings were destroyed as a royal punishment, except for this tower, or donjon (from which we get the word dungeon), which was preserved.

Across from that and over to the right is the Chancellery.

And then we arrive at the front door of the Chateau. Real fancy doorknob for the front door of the castle, eh?

The chateau, part of which stretches across the river Cher, was built later than the tower. From inside the chateau we look out a window and see this extension.

The bridge was built first, by Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II, to whom he gave the estate. Then, after his death, the Gallery was built upon it by Catherine de Medici, Henry II's widow, after she regained possession.

As you enter the chateau, the first room on the left is the Guard's Room. My favorite parts of this room were the floor and the ceiling. Go figure.

This is a bit of the ceiling, with exposed beams, nicely painted.

And this is the very worn tile floor...

...and my favorite tile around the edges of the floor, which had not been so heavily trod upon.

From the Guard's Room, you can enter the Chapel. The windows were installed after WWII. A bomb had blown out the originals.

And looking up in the back of the Chapel, we see the Royal Gallery. This is where the Queens would hang out during Mass.

Ooh la la! These angels adorn the fireplace in Diane de Poitier's bedroom.

While we were in this room two entire tour busloads of people jammed themselves in. We were literally packed like sardines...it was very stuffy and claustrophobic. The two tour directors got in a tiff about which group should be there and which should not.

And this is a bit of the red tile floor. The initials are a combination of an H for Henry (King Henry II) and a mirrored C for his wife, Catherine de Medicis. It also looks a lot like an H and two mirrored Ds. Very clever, those French!

In the bedroom of Cesar of Vendome is this table and chairs. I imagine the floral arrangement on the table would make conversation a bit awkward!

Looking out another window we see the river Cher, and some steps in the wall on the opposite side.

Speaking of the river, let's visit the kitchen! Why? Because it also overlooks the river! See the spindle of rope and the window? I know, it kinda looks like a door here, but really it's a window. Anyhoo... the rope was used to hoist supplies up from boats on the river.

And aren't all those shiny copper pots,  pans, and implements pretty?

If you like copper, you'll adore these molds. I guess even at the castle there was always room for a bit of royal Jello!

(I confess, even though I'm vegan I prefer the thought of Jello to aspic!)

And as our tour of the chateau draws to a close, no visit would be complete without seeing the Gallery. Sort of.

You can see lots of images of this expansive room which crosses the river Cher, and many look the same, though some are more interesting than others. Mine is an artistic, fun shot of my family as we started to go.

But wait...

...there's more! Before you leave the castle, be sure to read this important notice, posted by the front door.

The French version tells you not to leave with a rented iPod. The English version says if you rented an iPod you can't leave the castle. (Ever???)
And take a look at my favorite photo of the castle interior: the flowers on the mantle in the Estampes Exhibition Room.

These flowers, and others throughout the castle, are fresh arrangements, changed twice weekly.

So now, let's go back outside and see some views of the gardens!
This is Jester Millet. Notice the curling top of the one towards the right, like a jester's hat.

I have no idea what this odd flower is. If I were naming it, I'd call it elephant flower cause the long part looks like an elephant's trunk.

Gourds, used in tabletop arrangements, are seen growing in their own little shade house.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour.
If you did, tell a friend!
Au revoir!

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