Tuesday, April 30, 2013

the Poppies are back

This poppy (le coqueclicot) was planted in one of the town's many flower beds and is already at its peak.  The large fields of wild ones are yet to arrive however.  But when they do, they will be spectacular.  Stay tuned.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Context is everything

This statue of Georges Henri Anne-Marie Victor de Villebois-Mareuil (really!) is just down the road from Amboise in Nantes.  It depicts Marianne (the emblem of France itself) embracing this war hero who was born nearby.  I'm sure the sculptor did not envision his work of art would end up in front of a FNAC.  (In the States, this is like a Best Buy, a place that specializes in electronics and such.)  I found it ironic that from the angle I took this photo, it looks like George might be blissfully giving his blessing to this French institution.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cherry tree at the fountain Max Ernst

Every year this cherry tree blooms its heart out and this year is no exception.  While today is yet another cold (9 degrees C, 48 degrees F), non-spring-like day, I managed to run down from home to catch it when the sun made a very brief appearance.  Today, is what we call a two-fer...you get two photos for the price of one.

The part of the fountain in the first photo was not seen in this earlier post.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wisteria - la glycine

This wisteria is right next door to the new tourist office in Amboise.  I don't know how old this vine is but the base is the size of a tree trunk !

Friday, April 26, 2013

the bandstand

This bandstand in Amboise is located in the center of a very large parking area that is always filled with cars. Well almost always as this day the parking area was closed for the setup of the annual spring fair.  So I managed to get a clear shot without all the usual cars.  The white tents in the background are for the fair's vendors and exhibitors.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

old and new Orléans

In this case, the "old and new" is not a reference to the two cities but to the mix of the historic and the modern.  Nearby Orléans is continuing to implement a major renovation of the city center including a new tram system.  The gleaming new coaches make quite the contrast with the cathedral in the background which dates back some 700 years.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting for shade

Looking down from the top of the dyke, I could see the leafless tree shadows on the grassy space below.  Soon, the trees will fill out, and these wildflowers will be replaced by folks having picnics in the shade while looking out over the Loire.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

le chocolatière Bigot

The chocolate maker Bigot (pronounced bee-goh) has the most prominent location on the main square of Amboise (Place Michel Debré).  As you can see, this is a big year for this business that has been operating at the same location since 1913.  I was very lucky to just catch the owner at the door in this photo.  So if you want outrageously good chocolate,  a good coffee or tea, or an enormous and extravagant ice cream creation, this is the place to go.  In fact, in this video you'll see one of the locals loading up on treats to take back to his nearby château.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wood and stone

I really enjoy seeing the combination of wood and stone in the local architecture.  (By the way, does anyone else see a clown face in this door?)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Green growth in the Loire

This is what looks to me to be seaweed, but it's growing in the fresh water Loire.  My neighbor, a retired biology teacher, couldn't identify it.  On the Atlantic coast of France, there is a huge problem with algues vertes which is being removed from the beaches in truckloads; but this is different.  It makes for an interesting photo, but unchecked, it might become a problem in the future.  Those little white dabs in the photo are actually little flowers, around an inch (2 to 3 cm) in width.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A profile in shadows

This window shutter in the late afternoon sun created this profile that just stopped me in my tracks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New bridge for the bike trail

It was a big day in Amboise on Wednesday.  At least it was for me and all the other avid cyclists and hikers that live in and visit our community.  The network of bike trails continues to expand and be improved throughout the Loire valley.  This new bridge completes the construction of a path that passes through Amboise.  You can tell I'm excited because I'm posting additional photos of the installation...which employed the biggest crane on a truck I have ever seen.

Here is the bridge, in a single piece, being lifted off the truck and over the dyke that protects the town from flooding:

And here is the bridge being carefully put in place over the Amasse which flows underneath downtown Amboise and emerges underneath the dyke into the Loire.  Then, a lucky cyclist who happened by was captured for posterity as the first cyclist to cross the new bridge by the news media.  The gentlemen on the left is the mayor:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Culture clash à Orléans

OK this may be pushing the envelope of acceptable cultural integration.  Most Europeans probably have encountered a doner kebab at some point.  It's a Turkish dish served in a fast food restaurant which has (often in the front window) a large cylindrical hunk of meat roasting on a vertical spit (as demonstrated by the drawings in the window here).  The meat is usually veal, beef, or lamb.  It's sliced off in thin strips and put on a flat-bread like pita with a tasty sauce.  I love 'em.  Anyway, that's all well and good, but this restaurant has decided to merge the fast food concept into its name by borrowing from a certain well-known chain.  I could only groan when I first saw it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More flower explosions in front of the château

I can't help but post another spring flower photo after two whole days of spring weather.  You might want to compare this to my post on 21 February.  That seems a long time ago now (I would not have said that last week).

Monday, April 15, 2013

the promise was kept !

Everyone in France is so happy today, since spring weather finally arrived and, as I expected, the flowers just exploded.  Here is just one simple example.  Hopefully this is the start of a trend.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring sunday market

The vendors line up along the two long, tree-lined "boulevards" of the market place every Friday and Sunday.  The Sunday version is the largest in this region of the Loire valley and attracts shoppers from all around the surrounding area of Amboise.  While the Friday market is mostly food, the Sunday market also includes clothing, kitchen supplies, flowers, furniture, home furnishings, jewelry, garden supplies, live birds (see 5 February post)...and just about anything you can think of.  Soon the trees will fill out with leaves.  So in the summer, the shade and the breezes coming in off the Loire keep the markets nice and cool.   After many, many visits. I still never tire of going to the markets...les marchés.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Promise of Spring

Promises, promises.  Ever since the equinox passed nearly three weeks ago, there hasn't been any real spring weather yet in Amboise.  However, the forecast (promise) is for that to change Sunday.  Overnight the daily high is predicted to jump 10°C / 18°F for a high on Sunday of 25°C / 74°F.  This photo taken at the base of the chäteau gives me hope.  Even the gargoyles seem to be looking forward to it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Traditional and contemporary meet for lunch

This restaurant in Orléans has one of the most inventive designs I have ever seen.  While ultra-modern and contemporary, it is located directly across from buildings with a distinctly 19th century architecture.  For example, you may be able to distinguish a red and white half-timbered facade in the wild distortions of the all glass restaurant wall.  It was before lunch time and the chef appears to be gathering himself for the crowds soon to arrive.

It's easier to sort this out if you enlarge the image (by clicking on it).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hints of Spring at Clos Lucé

This is the view that Leonardo would have had from Clos Lucé towards the château where his friend and benefactor François I resided.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the two could pass between the two locations via an underground tunnel.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"old" Orléans

I was recently in Orléans, a city upstream from Amboise on the Loire that is steeped in French history and culture.  Meandering around I was astounded to see this building that anyone in the States would say, "oh that must be in New Orleans" (Louisiana).  I wish I knew the history of architecture well enough to understand who is copying whom.  Any theories ?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

la fontaine Max Ernst

Yet another landmark of Amboise is this fountain designed and sculpted by the artist Max Ernst in 1967.  To me it is surprising that such a contemporary sculpture by an avant garde artist would end up in a small town in central France.  This is definitely a piece designed to amuse and I think it works.  Interestingly, the twin of the little guy on the very top has been placed on a simple pedestal right across from the Pompidou Center in Paris.  I have put off posting a photo because I've been waiting weeks for the flowers and some (brief) sunshine.  I can just hear the little guy saying "at last" !

Monday, April 8, 2013

Clos Lucé - Leonardo da Vinci's home in Amboise

Three years before his death in 1519, Leonardo was convinced by French king Francis I (here that would be François I) to leave Italy for Amboise to live out his last years.  The mansion that the king provided for Leonardo, Clos Lucé, is of course one of the main tourist attractions here.  The home has been meticulously restored and furnished.  On the bottom floor you will find a museum with models and videos of many of his inventions.  There you will also see the entrance to the underground tunnel that connects the mansion with the king's château (unfortunately it is not open to the public).  On the grounds of Clos Lucé there are full size models of some of his inventions that are designed to not only entertain but also to educate kids.  And of course you can buy your own scale models (among many, many other things) in the gift shop.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Virée en Touraine - auto rally in the area around Tours

As it often happens when living in a tourist town, I stumble into little unexpected events.  Today, it was a local automobile club passing through Amboise on a weekend tour around the area (called Touraine because of its biggest city, Tours).   I've seen lots of this type of event before but what separates this one is that these cars were built in the 1920s and 1930s.  Not knowing anything about these matters I was able to determine (with the help of the internet  of course) that these two brands, Rally and Amilcar, were manufactured in France until the global depression and World War II (respectively) put them out of business.  I felt a bit sorry that the weather was not cooperating today...as there was heavy overcast, cool to cold temperatures, an occasional misty rain, and an unpleasant wind.  As you can see these open cars cry out for warm sunny days.  Anyway, the dozen or so participants looked to be having a great time in spite of the weather.  I hope they get better weather next year.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Château Cheverny series - the library

The château was lost by the family to the French Revolution, but managed to buy it back in 1824 during the brief Restoration under Charles X.  The library is home to over 2000 books as well as this incredible piano.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Château Cheverny series - intimate eating area

Ownership of the château changed hands many times before 1768 at which time a major renovation was completed. This little dining area demonstrates the great details and elegance that are evident throughout the interior of the château.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Château Cheverny series - child's room

As a result of a bit of fraud against the state, the château was taken over by then king Henri II who subsequently bestowed it upon his mistress Diane de Poitiers.  Apparently, not lavish enough, she preferred the Château de Chenonceau.  Thus the Château de Cheverny was then repurchased by the Hurault family.

I enjoyed seeing these children's toys as it furthered that feeling that this is someone's home.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Château Cheverny series - dining room

The original building dates back to around 1500 when it was constructed by Henri Hurault, Compte de Cheverny, who was a general under king Louis XI.  That building has now disappeared into history.  The current chateau was built in the 1620s by the architect who designed the royal chateau in Blois.

This beautiful dining room spares no luxury.  The wooden walls have been painted to illustrate the story of Don Quixote.  The furniture is from the 19th century and the hand carving is incredibly detailed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Château Cheverny series

Here begins a series of photos taken at the Château de Cheverny which is to the east of Amboise.   The château exterior is beautiful itself, but the interior is really one of the most remarkable of all the châteaux in the valley.  As you will see, the furnishings and art work have been chosen with great care to recreate what looks like an actual yet luxurious home still in use. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Theme Day - Pedestrians Crossing

This is my first theme day as a member of the City Daily Photo group.  Click on the CDP link on the right below to see what the others posted.  The idea is that on the first day of the month, the group focuses (pardon the pun) on a single theme and today it is "Pedestrians Crossing".  Instead of the usual "Abbey Road" photo, I thought I would post a more typical French interpretation...and tradition.