Thursday, October 31, 2013

ivy covered walls

These ivy covered walls are in the courtyard of a local hotel.  I love the ivy because it's the main source of fall red, that is to say, there aren't many trees here whose leaves turn red.  Generally, the trees turn yellow.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

lizards on the levee

This is an update to my original title and description.  One savvy reader caught and commented that these are not salamanders but in fact lizards.  How I went wrong is described in my response to her (so take a look). I'm blaming this all on François I (a local favorite king from the 16th century) !

I spied this little salamander along the levee in Amboise.  Well there was a double surprise.  First, he didn't seem to mind that I was taking his portrait.  Usually, these guys are so skittish that they run away at the first sign of a photographer closing in.  The second surprise: he wasn't the only one.  See the little panorama below.  I wasn't sure if they were trying to spell out a message to me.  In any case, what a treat.  Of course you can click on either image to a larger view (then maximize your browser).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

No swimming ...or not?!

I was amused to see this "no swimming" sign (baignade interdite) which literally translates to "bathing forbidden" nearby the Loire.  The river could not have risen to the level here to wash out the "forbidden" part of the sign so I'm not sure now this happened.  In any case, I liked the resulting reversal in meaning as well as the interesting blurring of colors.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

variations on red

I was fascinated to see the difference in color between the full bloom and new blooms of this flower in the gardens at château Chaumont.  While it looks to me as being quite rose-like, I'm not sure that it is. In any case, it was a beauty to behold.

Friday, October 25, 2013

gargoyle on alert

This gargoyle at château Chenonceau seems to be very attentive to anyone, or anything, approaching.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Installation de Nuage

This is a "fog sculpture" in the gardens at château Chaumont.  It's placed among these silver birches and periodically spews out a large cloud that envelops the trees and the visitors nearby.  Unfortunately the photo does not do it justice as it looks and feels quite magical.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

les courges

This basket of squashes was on display in the kitchen of the château at Chenonceau.  I'm sure they were all grown in their nearby vegetable gardens.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the annual road race

Every October, there is a running event (les Foulées Amboisennes) with competitions for kids (1 KM and 2 KM in length) and adults (10 KM and 17 KM).  Each competition starts and finishes in the main town square (Place Debré) just below the château.  So I positioned myself just in advance of the finish line and here is my favorite snap.  I have to believe this couple did not hold hands throughout the entire race.  But I think this would make a good publicity ad; even their T-shirts match the Amboise town colors .  And to me, it looks like even the tower in the background seems pleased (or maybe shocked, you decide).

Monday, October 21, 2013

le sorgho

It took a lot of searching on the internet to figure out that this is sorghum (in English).  I would not have thought much about this crop if weren't for the fact that it is so abundant this year locally.  I can only presume that this is a part of the crop rotation cycle since it seems to me that it replaced many fields of sunflowers this year (from last year).  Anyway, while perhaps somewhat less photogenic, it is still an interesting plant up close.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


That's what it takes to be an egret living on the banks of the Loire.

Friday, October 18, 2013

the water droplet

I don't know what this plant is but the leaves are very thick and this leaf is probably 15 inches / 40 cm across.  On this rainy day a bead of water collected at it lowest point and acted as a natural lens to produce a bit of magnification of the the leaf's veins.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

how foggy was it ?

It was so foggy Sunday morning that even the pigeons were grounded.

(With due respect to McMahon and Carson.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the gallery at Chenonceau

The gallery at Chenonceau is basically a long hallway that runs the length of the château across the river Cher.  I love the tiled floor and the windows that look out over the river in both directions.  During World War II, the river here was the dividing line between "free" France and occupied France.  There are stories that tell of people escaping to "free" France through the château.  It's hard to image now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

les raisins

OK my Anglophone friends, here is another example of a faux-ami where a French word looks or sounds like an English word but means something different.  A raisin in French is a grape whereas in English a raisin is a dried grape.  In any case, pictured here is what I brought home from the grape harvest on Saturday.  As you can tell, this day made a big impression on me.  And speaking of impressions, and to complete the story, below is a description of the pressing itself.

Le pressoir is the press used to extract the juice from the grapes.  In this family operation, it is a manual press.  In the first photo above, the grapes (stems and all) are dumped into the press which is somewhat like a wooden barrel but there is space between the staves to allow the juice to run out.  The grapes are then covered with a wooden "top" and then wooden planks are added so as to distribute the pressure equally.   Atop the wooden planks sits the essence of the press which is a metal "pig" that has a long handle.  Pushing and pulling on the handle causes the pig to be screwed down tighter and tighter via a ratchet mechanism. When it can't be screwed down any tighter, the wooden top is removed and the grapes are "stirred up" as many of them will not have been crushed.  This pressing process is repeated a second and then a third time.  At this point the entire press is dismantled leaving what I would call a grape "cake".  In the photo you can see how the juice in the tray runs down into a collection bucket.  The "cake" is completely removed and the entire process starts over for the next load of grapes.  The last photo shows the containers into which the juice is collected.  Maybe in six months or so I can show you the final results.

Monday, October 14, 2013

heading for the barn

The title is an American expression that means "my work is done here".  That would apply to this photo of the fully loaded containers of grapes after the harvest is complete (see yesterday's post).  However, in this case, they're not headed to the barn but the wine cave.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

la vendange

Today I was privileged to participate in the annual grape harvest by the family of friends living in Amboise.  The morning was spent cutting the grapes by hand and putting them into buckets.  The buckets were then dumped into a large container on a trailer pulled by a tractor.  Finishing the harvest (la vendange in French), we returned to the nearby family home and had an amazing lunch that was reminiscent of an American Thanksgiving (without the football).  Afterwards, the pressing of the wine began.  That's a whole other story.  I was truly lucky to participate in this unforgettable family tradition.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

stairway to ...

This stairway takes you to the top of the castle keep at Loches.  But before climbing those stairs let me take you on a little linguistic side trip.  A keep is a tall defensive tower.  In French, the word keep is donjon which sounds a lot like the English dungeon.  Of course a dungeon is just the opposite, a deep underground prison where nasty things happen to people.  Anyway, this is what is called in French a faux-ami, litteraly in English false friend... a word similar to an English word but means something totally different.  While this example won't get you into much trouble here, there are others that definitely will.

Friday, October 11, 2013

les cèpes

These mushrooms are what I had known in the States as porcini.  This is actually the Italian name but I think many American cooks call them that (boletus edulis is the scientific name).  Anyway, my wife and I feel like we have died and gone to heaven as we have one neighbor who brings us copious amounts of fresh vegetables from their garden and another neighbor who harvests wild cèpes from the forest of Amboise and shares them with us.  I spent part of the afternoon cleaning them up, chopping them up, and cooking them up (this bowl is just a fraction of the total gift).  And now after eating the yummiest omelet ever, I can relax and tell their story.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

la maison art nouveau

This house is in the center of Amboise and is embellished with touches of art nouveau.  The city apparently thinks it is worthy enough to see that it includes the house on signs directing you to tourist sites.  This doorway with the fanciful sculpturing has earned this house the name "the bug house" by us Anglophone locals.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

the faithful defender

This faithful guy is defending the entrance at the château at Loches.  He has helpers though as one can see on the steps in the wider view below.  Alas they all suffer from the same lichen infestation, but I kinda like that.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

all good things come to an end - the October sunflower

The contrast between the sunflowers of July and and the ones of October could not be starker.  This shot I think really captures the feeling of Fall here now.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

the tunnel

I found this tunnel on the banks of the Loire which clearly allows water to flow into the river... but from where?  I started to walk to the other end to find out but it was so long that I got spooked and turned around.  Almost a year later, I found out from one of the long-time residents of Amboise that this is a "relief valve" for the Amasse river which often flooded the town before the tunnel was built.  The tunnel bypasses the town mostly underground. The Amasse itself empties into the Loire about a kilometer downstream from the tunnel.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

the wall

This is not Jackson Pollock at work here but mother nature.  This lichen covered wall surrounds one of the main gardens at château Chenonceau.  While previewing photos for upcoming posts I spotted its cool (in the temperature sense) counterpart below.  This is a "wall of water" photographed from above on the Leclerc bridge in Amboise.

Friday, October 4, 2013

seeing red at Villandry

I guess I could just as well have titled this "RGB" as all three colors are very strong here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

les framboises

The raspberries are in full season here.  Our neighbors with the large garden on the banks of the Loire invited us to go pick them the other day.  Would that there be words to describe the taste of fresh-picked berries.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

not a hummingbird

Sitting outside on the terrace one day, I was astonished to see what appeared to be a hummingbird buzzing around our flowers.  It would have been more astonishing if that's what it turned out to be since there aren't any in Europe.  So after some digging around on the internet, I finally figured out that it is actually a kind of moth (macroglossum stellatarum).  But like a hummingbird it can hover over a flower in order to get nectar out with its long proboscis (see photo below).  I don't know if the markings on his tail are supposed to be frightening to predators; I'm guessing "not" since to me it looks like a puppy dog.  Anyway, this guy was fascinating to watch but difficult to capture with the camera as he flits about very quickly.

That curled up loop is the proboscis which straightens out to get the good stuff.

And by the way, this was my runner-up in my contest to select a post for City Daily Photo theme day (yesterday).  I liked the idea of a moth proboscis illustrating the concept of "detail", but in the end, the other one was better.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October Theme Day for CDP - "details"

Regular viewers of ADP will not be surprised by today's photo.  It was just a question of two bees or not two bees.

OK.   Sorry 'bout that.  In any case, please check out what the other City Daily Photo bloggers have posted today on this theme here.