Monday, 25 July 2011

A surprise for Monique!

I was pootling about in the garden on Thursday when I thought I was seeing things - a lamb had appeared! Our neighbour, Monique has a few sheep and, unbeknown to her, one of them was pregnant. Afterwards she said she thought the female was a little tired that morning - no wonder, she gave birth early in the afternoon!
Mum was very protective, but I managed to get a few shots of the new arrival. The following day, Monique had to give it a tetanus injection, but said she didn't like doing it and normally closed her eyes! Poor wee lamb!!

We had rather a lot of rain last week, but it has had the advantage of making the grass nice and green again, and the flowers have all filled out.

Twice a year, the local Karting track holds competitions which count towards the national karting championships, so on Saturday night we went down there for the evening entertainment. We love these very French social events, when people get together for a bit of food, something to drink then a bit of a dance after - all held outside in the open air (thank goodness the rain had gone!) .We were entertained by 'Les Compagnons de Musette' which is a 4 piece band, complete with accordian player, and they play a wide variety of dance music. One of the members is also our neighbour, Alan, and Saturday was the first time we had heard them play professionally - normally we hear them practising in his barn. They were very good, and must be well thought of in the area, as they have a number of CD's and DVD's to their credit.
We had a good night with some dear friends - it was nice to relax after the very busy time we have had recently. I even learned to dance the Madison, which I have been trying to master for quite a long time!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Chatillon en fete - part 2

On Friday evening we had the Marche Gourmand, (see a previous blog for the description). We were surprised and delighted to find there was also a Belgian stand offering free Belgian beer and free Beef Carbonade with chips! Delicious!!
As you can see it proved very popular!

After our Apero (!) we joined the queue for the moules frites. Joel did a roaring trade that night, despite the free competition from the Belgians!
A very orderly queue!
After the meal, we joined a large crowd who had gathered to listen to the entertainment. The Chatillon brass orchestra played a lively selection, and they were followed by the choir Les Paroles de l'air. We have a number of friends who sing in the choir, and whilst a number of their members were away on holiday, they still managed to entertain everyone with a varied selection of foot tapping songs from across the world.

Our friend Natalie (in the centre)

They were followed by the boys from the circus school in Belgium, then soloists from Stoke College in Suffolk, sang and played the guitar. It was a really lovely evening. We left at 11pm and they were still going strong!

Saturday was the Marche European, and there were stalls from all over Europe there - Slovenia offered various types of 'interesting' food, the Bulgarians had brought some art work, there was wine from various local vineyards, lots of art and craft stalls, as well as the Clare artists selling their paintings. The Bulgarians sang and danced to entertain the crowd.

Bulgarian dancers

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Chatillon en fete

Well, it's finally here - L'Europe en Berry-Touraine, which is the 3 day event in Chatillon over 14-16 July. We had a tiring but worthwhile day yesterday as we held the Jeux sans Frontiers with teams from various parts of Europe. The children (and adults) had a whale of a time competing in the silly games. Bulgaria were the eventual winners (by 5 points) with England coming second. We've posted a few photos below:
Belgian team assembling their escargot jigsaw

The English with the Rocket game

There was paint and glue everywhere for the mask-making game!
The clowns from the Belgian circus school proved very useful!

The evening passed with a repas champetre which was provided by the local commercants of Chatillon, and was very popular with the queue seeming to be never ending. We watched some traditional Berry dancing followed by some lively Slovenian dancers. At 11pm we had the traditional fireworks to celebrate French National Day and they were certainly spectacular - lots of 'oohs' and 'aahhs' from a very large crowd. The evening finished off with the Pirates disco - unusual in that it's a guy dressed as a pirate, playing an accordian doing karaoke! Quite a combination but one that seems to work! Lots of people got up to dance.

We have a group of artists here from Clare in Suffolk, and they spent today painting and sketching in and around the town, accompanied by some of the Chatillon art group. It was very interesting to go round having a look at their work.

Tonight we have the second of the Vendredi Gourmand evenings (see a previous blog), and tonight Joel is providing Moules frites. It seems the French eat moules when there isn't an 'R' in the month. So, just time for a quick shower before we head off - oh and we have to feed Poppy! 

I'll post some info about the evening in our next blog!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Jeux sans Frontiers

As mentioned in previous blogs we have been busy constructing games to be played on French National Day (Thursday) between towns visiting Chatillon from Clare on Suffolk, Germany, Belgium and Bulgaria. I use the royal 'we', as the games have been dreamt up by John and mainly constructed by him. I've just done a bit of painting and collecting of bits. As we said, the French game involves a snail on wheels, and she (it has to be a she due to the size of her eyelashes and the red lipstick!) has been sitting in our barn for the past week, scaring anyone who happens to look in. John says we are having a competition on the day of the games for children to choose the name, but I think she should be called Esmerelda (after the 'heroine' in Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame - 'the Bells, the bells!').

             Scary isn't she!

There are 4 other games which are well on the way to completion, all we need now are the teams to arrive from their various towns and for the weather to be fine on the day. There is a lot of stuff which wouldn't take kindly to being wet!

We've got a busy few days ahead of us as the L'Europe en Berry-Touraine event starts tomorrow night

Au programme des festivités:Mercredi 13 juillet : Retraite aux fambeaux, feu de joie, envol de 27 montgolfères au son de l’hymne européen, folklore et musique.
• Jeudi 14 juillet : Cérémonie de la fête nationale, jeux mêlant les jeunes et les moins jeunes, dîner champêtre, feu d’artifce, suivi d’une soirée dansante avec disc jockey.
• Vendredi 15 juillet : Visites touristiques, peintres et musiciens européens envahissent la ville, table ronde des entreprises, nombreuses expositions et animations. En soirée, diner champêtre et concert de musique.
• Samedi 16 juillet : Grand marché européen regroupant les spécialités culinaires, artisanales et touristiques européennes. Restauration sur place aux recettes diverses et variées de notre continent, danses folkloriques, rencontres sportives, nombreuses expositions et animations.

By the time Sunday comes I think we'll be hiding in a darkened room for the week to recover!

We had a lovely thunderstorm this morning which gave the garden a very welcome drink. Poppy doesn't like thunder and when John opened the barn door at 7.00am, she couldn't get to the house door quick enough, then spent the next couple of hours hiding under the breakfast bar - what a softie she is!

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Tour de France in the Indre

We missed the Tour de France the last time it passed through the Indre in 2008 - Mark Cavendish won the stage as I remember, so this year we were determined to be there. Along with a group of British friends, we decided to go and wave the flag(s) - literally! We planned a picnic near the spot and duly set off. The picnic was a very civilised affair which lasted a couple of hours and drew lots of toots from French drivers passing by.

After lunch we made our way to Ecueille to take up a position just outside the town. The publicity caravan came through first throwing all sorts of stuff out
Eventually, the cyclists themselves came through - a group of 4 leading and then quite a gap before the main group. John managed to get a snap of Mark Cavendish who was at the back of the HTC team then they were gone!
There were lots of helicopters buzzing overhead, and then we saw them circling about a kilometre away. We since learned that there was a crash (and I'm not surprised really, as they were so closely bunched together!) and unfortunately, Bradley Wiggins sustained a broken collarbone. I hope it doesn't spoil his chances to defend his Olympic title next year.

When we got back to Chris and Julia's house we turned on the TV to watch the end of the race and were pleased to see Mark managed to win the stage - well done!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Choosing wine

I mentioned in our last blog that we were going off on Tuesday to buy some wine from local producers. We have gradually decided on the wine from our area (Touraine) that we like, and, as we needed red, white and rose, thought we were due a day off from game producing to go off and replenish stocks. Touraine is an area often overlooked by wine 'buffs', and whilst the wine cannot compare with the robust Bordeaux or Cote du Rhone, it does have a number of very nice 'drinkable' wines. Our friend, Gaynor, wrote about a trip we took earlier this year to Reuilly and Quincy in her blog. These wines (mainly white) come from a very small area in the east of the Loire, and they compare most favourably with whites from other regions of France - if not the rest of Europe, but then we are biased!

Our first stop would be up near Onzain on the Loire for some Touraine Mesland, a nice light red. I had telephoned ahead (always a good idea) to our normal supplier, only to be told by the lady on the other end that a visit in the morning was not possible (very strange, as usually the wife of the vigneron normally does the selling!). Not to be outdone, I found another grower in the same part of the village, so we set off. We stopped for coffee in Cere la Ronde which is a very tidy little place, just south of Montrichard. We noticed most of the villages and verges along the way had been spruced up and it didn't take us long to work out that the Tour de France is due through the area tomorrow (Friday), so they obviously wanted the places to look their best on international television!

We continued on to Onzain and visited Domaine Chollet where we tried some very nice Rose demi-sec (we bought 3 bottles for stock) and also some Touraine Mesland Vielle vignes (red wine from old vines). This was so good we bought 2 x 10 litre boxes. We also asked for Etiquettes (labels) which means we can bottle the wine (remember the corker John bought at a recent Brocante!). It works out a very reasonable 2,60 euros a litre!

Our next stop would have been to Francois Cartier in Pouille on the Cher, but as we were a little late for our appointment, I re-arranged it for the afternoon, so we called at our Sparkling Rose supplier in Seigy. Their wine is lovely - need we say more! We also bought some Cuvee d'Automne which is a semi sweet white and perfect for aperitif drinking.

Lunch was in the small cafe in Chateauvieux, which offers a 10,00 euro 4 course meal including wine! Can't go wrong really.

Suitably fortified, we then headed for Preuille and bought some of the rose - Pineau d'Aunis, again in a 10 litre box with labels so we can bottle ourselves.

Our last stop was to Domaine de la Girardiere, near St Aignan, where Patrick Leger makes some very good Sauvignon blanc. Try the link below to read about him and his wine-making (it's in English to make it easy for you!)

We had a lovely day out - and so did our gite clients, who also bought some wine to take home with them. The price from the vigneron is so reasonable, and you have the added opportunity to try before you buy.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Escargot a gogo!!!!

After a busy weekend we have made great progress with Escargot production for the games in town on the 14th July, oh the stress and responsibilities in retired life!!!

Maureen has been working hard to produce the escargot jigsaws, two down and three to go! The escargot vehicle is finished and I have even started on rocket launching inventions for another game - escargot photos below.

She is a beautiful creature for an escargot!

Painting the thick card for the Escargot jigsaws, hidden talents that girl!

Its been a glorious weekend so the guests in our gite have had a very relaxing time in the garden simply chilling out. We are having a trip to our wine vineyards this week as stocks are getting low and we have asked if the gite guests would like to come along.....they said yes as soon as the word 'wine' came up in the first sentence!

This Friday the Tour de France is passing through a local town so we have plans to attend and see the spectacle - apparently the Publicity Caravan is a sight not to be missed and it passes about 1 1/2 hours before the riders are due, so we don't want to miss any of the freebies they throw out!

I have been watering the gite lawn to keep it in reasonable condition, just very pleased we have a well and last week it still had 5 metres of water which is good considering the dry weather. The flower tubs and hanging baskets are filling out and looking good thanks to Miracle grow.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Time flies!

It's amazing where the time goes! It's been quite a few days since we posted our last blog, but those days have been filled to the brim. We are currently decorating our bedroom which hasn't been much fun in 36 plus degrees, but it has cooled down now to a balmy 26! Keeping the cave (wine cellar) cool is no easy task especially as its not a 'cellar'. The epine was ready for bottling so together with the French neighbour we managed to produce 52 bottles!!!
Bottling the epine

We've also been busy constructing some of the games for the forthcoming European fete in Chatillon (13 - 16 July). Remember Jeux sans Frontier? Well, this is even better (hmmm in Maureens opinion!), although we can't offer Stuart Hall, but the games are just as much fun (and they all come out of John's head!)
There will be 5 countries represented - France, England, Belgium, Germany and Bulgaria. Each country has a game based on something to do with or popular in that country, so we have:
France: The Escargot jigsaw game
England: Traditional English Skittles
Belgium: Rocket launching game
Germany: Giant Sausage making
Bulgaria: Mask making
Construction begins - its amazing what you can do with an old banana trolley
Covered in out for the painted escargot
All this will take part on France's National Day (previously called Bastille Day) along with other manly games such as sawing the log and building a tower.
Hopefully we'll get some photos of the event to post on the blog.

Keeing the grass watered is no easy task, we are managing - just!