Friday, May 31, 2013

Streetlight shadow

I like the idea that a streetlight can not only project light on the darkness, but also darkness on the light.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More wisteria

I have already posted a photo of wisteria, but they are just outstanding this year.  I could smell this one half a block away.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

les champs de blé - fields of wheat

Sunday was another nice day for cycling and I went out for a short ride nearby Amboise where I found these wheat fields just coming into maturity.  The light winds, blue skies and photo-perfect clouds made for a memorable tour.

As usual, I recommend looking at this in full screen mode after clicking the image in order to see the wheat up close.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

outside the château de Valmer

This imposing wall was built to protect the little-known château de Valmer which was constructed in 1525 and later expanded in the 17th century.  Alas, all good things come to an end.  In 1948, the main building of the château burned to the ground, leaving one detached building, the fabulous gardens, and the surrounding defensive walls with turrets. Even without the original château, it is still a beautiful place to visit the gardens and to sample wines from the local wine region of Vouvray.

It's also very peaceful as it is off the beaten track for most tourists who visit only the major châteaux.  A few weeks ago I cycled by here on one of the few nice days of this spring with my neighbor who knows all these "secret" delights off the main roads.  The road in the picture is an example of many of the area's backroads that have little traffic and are great for cycling.

Monday, May 27, 2013

la brocante

A brocante is where you go to buy second-hand "stuff".  The older, more desirable, and more expensive things would be called antiques in the States.  And then there are vendors who sell less old, less fascinating, and less expensive things.  But there is everything in between.  Generally, the vendors are professionals, but sometimes brocantes are combined with "vide greniers" (literally, empty attics) where the locals (non-professionals) can sell stuff they don't need or want anymore.  These are what we would call yard sales or garage sales in the States.

Anyway, brocantes are so much fun to browse through (and photograph) even if you don't buy anything.  They can be permanent places of business in their own buildings, or often they are occasionally conducted in the open air at town market spaces.  The photos today show two aspects of a brocante recently held at the usual Friday and Sunday market space in Amboise.  Old furniture and toys for children are very popular...but not for the kids.  Generally, the adults buy them to decorate their homes with things from their childhood (or their parents' childhoods).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Red sunset

We're still waiting for spring in is all of France.  Today people are still bundled up in sweaters, coats, and scarves as protection against the cool air and wind (not to mention the rain).  At least we've had some nice sunsets.  I hope you are not tired of seeing them.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

the view from château Chinon

This panorama was taken from the highest point of château Chinon looking out over the adjoining vineyards. I do hope you will put your browser in full screen mode and click on this image in order to see it closer to its full size.  This is another nearby château that I have not yet posted photos, but I can assure you they will be.

Friday, May 24, 2013

the riding ring

This is an indoor horse riding ring at château Chaumont (which I have yet to post any photos, but they will come).  While by Loire valley standards this château is not one of the biggest, it has the most elegant complex of horse stables I have ever seen.  That's exemplified by this circular indoor riding ring that has this fantastic domed cover to let in the sunlight while providing protection from the elements.  The railing is part of of a viewer's gallery that is above the training area.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chambord !

Here is one of the best known and most visited château in the Loire valley, Chambord.  It is also the largest.  What really is amazing to me is that it was never a prime residence of any French king.  It was "simply" a hunting lodge constructed under the reign of king Francis I.  It turns out the king spent only a handful of nights here.  But after all he did have the châteaux at Amboise, at Blois, and at Fontainebleau.  It's good to be the king.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flowers of gold

I confess that I don't know what these flowers are called.  Maybe someone out there can help me.  Whatever they are, I am grateful to the town of Amboise for planting them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Up the river

This impressive house is in fact just up the river Loire from central Amboise.  This is the view from l'Ile d'Or, the island of gold.  A peaceful scene indeed.

Update 8 August 2013:  I have just learned that this is actually le Centre Malvau, a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center.

Monday, May 20, 2013

la place du marché au printemps

This is going to be a recurring theme here.  The large paved area where the Friday and Sunday markets are held continues to fascinate me with its rows of plane trees.  The mood changes with each lighting situation and each season.  Here is the spring view when the leaves are just making their appearance after a long and gloomy winter.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

the subterranean side street

This location is difficult to explain.  It appears to be something like a sink hole.  The building with the door is actually underground and I'm shooting looking down from the street at the top of the drive.  I am guessing this is another example of where the local stone (tuffeau) has been quarried and then re-used by later residents for either storage or for homes (more on this in later post).  Anyway, what caught my eye was not only the abundance of wildflowers tumbling down from two directions but also the nice bend in the drive.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

the Queen and her court

Every year in July and August, there are nightly performances at the château at Amboise that tell the story of the château and the kings and queens that inhabited it.  What I like about it most is that it is a production that is completely staffed by local (amateur) volunteers.  It's not high drama but it is infused with enthusiasm and joy by characters of all ages...including the school kids.  There's even a small fireworks display for the finale.

To drum up anticipation, the characters often appear on the streets of Amboise in full costume as they did this day in May.  Even though the costumes are in wonderful color, I couldn't help thinking the scene looked more authentic in black and white.

Friday, May 17, 2013

dusk over the château

This is the Chapelle Saint-Hubert on the grounds of the château at Amboise.  This is the final resting place of Leonardo daVinci who lived out his last years in Amboise.

Click on the labels "Chapelle Saint-Hubert" and "Clos Lucé" on the right hand side of the blog if you'd like to see my earlier posts about this chapel and Leonardo (which explain a bit of the history).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

the swing tree

This is another shot along the bike path (seen on the right) nearby Amboise.  This tree really stands out in the middle of the fields of wildflowers and the vineyards.  If you look carefully you can see a swing on the right side.  I'm wondering if another one led to the demise of the limb that would have balanced it on the left.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May flowers

If you don't know what May flowers bring, ask any American.  In spite of the gloomy weather this Spring, the flowers in Amboise have been spectacular.  Plantings are done with different varieties so that there are always flowers in bloom.

The town works very hard at maintaining its reputation for flowers.  In fact, France has a competition among the cities and towns (le concours des villes et villages fleuries) to be accorded a rating from one to four flowers (lowest to highest rating).   The National Council gives the rating based on floral beauty of course, but there are also factors for sustainable development, respect for the environment, and for promoting tourism.  Each city and village that is rated gets to post a sign along the roads entering to show that rating.  Thus, Ta-Da, the sign on entering Amboise:

Monday, May 13, 2013

the weekend artist

Almost every weekend in nice weather, this artist sets up shop on the levee in the hope of some sales to tourists as they pass from the bus parking lot to the château.  It's not only a good place for commerce but also for a great view of the Loire.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

after the fall

The title is not in reference to Arthur Miller, or Norah Jones for that matter (although I do love that tune), but simply an accurate description of the inevitable in May, the end of the cherry tree blossoms. This is what becomes of the glory of only a few weeks ago (click here to see my earlier post at the fountain by Max Ernst).  And yet even so, it was magical to watch the school kids happen by to shake the low limbs and then shriek with delight under the falling "pink snow".

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Headline: I bought a new bike.  And here I am on the inaugural cruise through the countryside around Amboise.  It's May and the leaves are not yet out on all of the trees, but the wildflowers are glorious and (this day) the sky was blue (OK, well it was only for a few minutes, but's a start).

Friday, May 10, 2013

champs de colza

The fields of colza are stunningly beautiful now all around Amboise (and large portions of the entire country of France as well).  Oil extracted from this plant is used as a lubricant for machinery and also as an ingredient of bio-diesel fuel.  This plant is related to the rapeseed plant that grows in the US.  In any case, for me it's most important purpose is to provide photo ops while I'm out riding my bike around the countryside.  It's difficult to capture these enormous fields, so I stitched together a nearly 180 degree panorama of photos.  I hope you will click on the image to see it on a larger scale.  But if you want to see it from a different perspective, try this video.

Today is another "two fer".  Two photos for the price of one, since I thought you would like to see a closeup of the flower.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 8 - VE day

Many cities and towns in France have a street named "8 mai 1945", for the day the armistice was signed to end World War II in Europe.  Victory in Europe day is still commemorated as a national holiday here.  In Amboise, it consisted of a parade through the streets by a small marching band, a small contingent of soldiers, the mayor and other town officials, and of course the school kids carrying flowers and little flags.  It was a rather solemn event as the officials and the kids placed flowers on the various war memorials.  There were no speeches but there was, of course, a spirited rendition of the Marseillaise!  It was a short yet moving ceremony.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Not yet a flood

All of the rivers in France are well above normal levels and the Loire is no exception.  It's now the highest I've seen it (of course that's only covers a period of two years).  Even so, it's got a very long way to go before the town of Amboise would flood.  That's not much consolation for the new bike path bridge however.  Compare this photo with the one I recently took on the day it was put in here to see it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

the salamander

Coincidentally, I snapped this little guy right across the street from the restaurant Le Salamandre on the Ile d'Or (the "island of gold" in the Loire in front of the château).   There are also lots of them on and around the dikes on the left and right banks of the river.  I was lucky to get this close as they are quite skittish.

Monday, May 6, 2013


The lilacs are in full bloom here.  I didn't have to go far to find these.  They are right across the street from our house.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

the floods

With all the flooding in France right now, this post seemed appropriate.  These high water marks ("crue" means rise in water level) are next to the front door of the church in yesterday's post.  We have been told our home in Amboise was built in 1850, so we assume it was flooded along with the rest of the town in 1856, and maybe also  in 1866.   As I have said before that with all of the many flood prevention measures taken since then, the likelihood of another flood of the town is quite low.  That's a good thing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eglise Notre-Dame-du-bout-des-ponts

Litterally, the church of Notre Dame at the end of the bridge(s), which pretty much describes where to find it.  (I'm not sure why "bridges" is plural except that the bridge is in two segments which connect the left and right banks with an island in the middle.)  This little church (which is no longer active) dates back to the 15th century.  In the foreground is the levee on the right bank of the Loire.  Later, I will post a photo that shows why the levee exists today.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tulip delight

This is one of a number of flower beds planted right on top of the dyke on the left bank of the Loire.  This day the tulips were in their full glory.  I'm glad I caught them on one of the rare sunny days we've had this Spring.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May theme day - the creative artisan

The first day of every month the City Daily Photo bloggers have a theme day on which everyone posts a photo of their own interpretation of that theme.  Today it's "the creative artisan", and I have chosen one of many photos I have taken at the Jules Verne museum (just down river from Amboise at Nantes).  There is an entire team of artisans who fabricate fantastic and imaginative creations in the style of Jules Verne's fiction.  Many of them are designed to be operated or even ridden on by museum visitors.  This sailboat is an example.  The steps allow kids (or the young at heart) to board the boat and take a fanciful ride.

The artisan team requires a wide variety of skills to produce these machines/creatures, including woodworking, metal working, carving, painting, carpentry, machinery, electronics, hydraulics, and more.  The warehouse size "factory" is filled with ongoing projects for the museum as well customers around the world.  It's a wonderful place to spend an afternoon to see all of the exhibits.  Their most famous creation I will show in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, here is a video of a few of the machines in action.

Click on the City Daily Photo logo on the right of this page (and then the link in blue "May Theme Day - the creative artisan") to see other interpretations.