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 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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Our Lovely Weather

Florida has the loveliest weather! Right now, while my friends and family up north are starting to bundle up, I'm still wearing short sleeves. And yet it's finally cool enough again to work outside in the yard. Our average temperatures are mild to very warm throughout the year.

It isn't quite perfect. We do get lots of thunder in late summer, and the occasional wild breeze (hurricane). We get a few light freezes, and a couple hard freezes most years. But we go many years without so much as a snow flurry.

We get tons of sunshine, though we have also had some problems with drought to go along with that. But we get enough rain to water the wildflowers and sprout some mushrooms.

So why am I not outside? Why do I not have a window open? Answers: desktop computer, don't need a/c if I keep the window closed, too much glare. [update: It's now 5pm, and lovely with the window open!]

When I do go outside, most often it is to enjoy my own yard, part of which I keep wild and friendly for wildlife and wildflowers.

There's quite a variety of native wildflowers in my yard, including:


and Cardinal Sage.

Butterflies, such as this Western Gulf Frittilary, enjoy them, too.

So do other bugs, such as these June Bugs or love bugs. But unlike butterflies, Floridians aren't so fond of these, which in their season are hazardous to the cleanliness of your car windshield, and to the paint itself if not cleaned off soon after a trip.

The flower they're on is horsemint, whose flowers range from whitish to dark pink / purplish, depending on whatever changes their mood.

In the winter and early spring, we can hang out, comfortably, at the beach. Perhaps with a light jacket; it does get breezy.

Even if it's a bit cool, brave souls can be seen splashing their little tootsies in the water.

This particular little one also has a blast chasing the birds on the beach. (These two beach photos were taken in late March.)

We're famous for our lovely sunsets...

...and after the summer rains, you're likely to see a rainbow.

We have lots of green year-round...

...but if you look closely, you'll see the warm hues of fall, too! These smilax berries are tiny but colorful.

So if you like sunshine, warmth, lots of greenery, and can put up with the bugs, come to Florida! See all the wild loveliness we enjoy throughout the year.

P.S. This post doesn't contain any pictures of the no-see-ums I mention in my About Me section. Can you guess why not?

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Troglodyte Farm

One of my favorite outings in France was The Troglodytic Valley of Goupillieres. This fascinating group of three working farms is both charming and historical. Take a step into the past with me.

Pig on Troglodyte farm, FranceAs I said, these are working farms, with crops and animals. This pensive black pig posed for me in the doorway of his abode.

Donkeys on Troglodyte farm, France
These donkeys were also working residents. Aren't they adorable?

The farms are rather small, easily worked by hand and animal power, with only a few people.

Window of home on Troglodyte farm, France
The people lived in caves, hollowed out of and built from tufa, the calcite rock of the hillside. This is the window of one of the homes.

Although the caves were first used in the middle ages, they were lived in until the 19th century. Therefore some of the utensils and ameneties are relatively more recent additions.

Table in home on Troglodyte farm, FranceA table inside one of the homes shows the rustic charm and simple life lived by the peasants.

I enhanced this image in Photoshop for drama and clarity. Needless to say, with only one open window and an open door, the back part of this small room was not very light. This was shot in available (ha ha) light, without a tripod.

Tools at Troglodyte farm, FranceBack outside, you can see several home and farm implements: a metal watering can, parts of a plow, a sickle, and a ladder I would definitely not want to climb.

Baskets at Troglodyte farm, France
Self-sufficiency and using available materials were essential to these people's lives. A rustic shed housed home-made baskets and the materials for making them.

Well on Troglodyte farm, France
And forget about a hot shower or running water. You want water? Draw some yourself. And I'm not talking about artwork!
Blue cart on Troglodyte farm, France
Remember those donkeys at the top of the page? They came in handy for pulling plows and carts, and perhaps even something as large as this blue wagon, though I'd think a horse would be more appropriate. Lovely color, n'est-ce pas?

Wagon hitch, Troglodyte farm, France
The wagon hitch was also lovely, in a very rustic sort of way. It doesn't seem to have been used recently, judging by the moss growing on it.

There were many other interesting sights I haven't included photos of here, including some vegetable plots and an interesting trick cave, which was a safety device that would send invaiders in circles inside it while the people hid safely below.

But be careful, and don't back up in this room, or you could easily suffer a bad injury! It's a pretty steep drop to the underground area, and there's no protection around the opening, just a small piece of rope "fence" a foot off the ground.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention, all the homes had packed dirt floors. Like the Flintstones, only with an abundance of French country charm!

If you decide to visit this amazing site, be aware that the guided tour is only given in French. However you are welcome to roam about the place on a self-guided tour. Also, note that when their website says, "Free visit with printed guide" what it really means to say is that there is a free printed guide with your paid visit. The printed guide is available in several languages, including English.

Be sure to check the current open hours and admission fees before visiting.

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