Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Mini Chateau at Souzay Champigny

We have written about Margaret of Anjou's chateau in Souzay Champigny  before, but it's a lovely building and quite possibly larger than you would suspect.

This is obviously chateau
(and has a board to tell you so)

This shares the same cliff face and  could easily be a part of the chateau
 - you can see the end of the chateau on the right

This is one of those "I could live there" buildings. Not sure about the little hole in the rock place next door, but the staff have to live somewhere...

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

I Don't Know Why

...but this photo, taken a quite while ago now, really amuses me. Maybe it's just my puerile sense of humour...

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Random Cars

... in random places.

When we are out on the road we often see interesting cars. It could be because we are often driving an interesting car and go to places where interesting cars naturally congregate, or it could be just that I notice them. Usually I recognise the car, but sometimes I have to do some research (or ask in a car forum) as I did with the following car:

Salmson 2300 S A slightly poor photo, but it was almost dark when it was taken .
A few weeks before we saw this Jaguar XK120 fixed head coupé (no research necessary there) waiting outside the church in Montresor where a wedding was taking place. It's interesting to note that it had Polish plates, so I wonder if the wedding was something to do with the chateau. (I know, I could do research, but I research cars, not weddings!)

 And then there was the Delahaye in June. Still my favorite random car in a random place.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 11 Marguerite d'Anjou

Marguerite d'Anjou was born in 1430, probably in Nancy and died in 1482 at the Chateau de Morains, Dampierre sur Loire. Her aunt Marie d'Anjou was Queen of France, married to Charles VII, and her grandmother was the redoubtable sponsor of Joan of Arc, Yolande of Aragon.

Henry Beaufort and William de la Pole convinced the English king Henry VI that the best way to conclude the peace after the 100 Years War with France was to marry the neice of the French king. So the marriage was negotiated as part of the Treaty of Tours in 1444. The deal included the French king paying no dowry and receiving the Duchies of Maine and Anjou, previously under the control of the English. Not really the best start to the arrangement.

Nevertheless, in 1453 Marguerite produced a son, Edward of Westminster. There were however persistant rumours that he was the son of the Duke of Somerset, and the king was not his father. Marguerite also founded Queens College Cambridge early in their marriage and took an active interest in politics.

When Henry VI developed signs of instability, Somerset and Marguerite found themselves pitted against Richard Duke of York. Their personal rivalry led to the Wars of the Roses. The Yorkists won and Marguerite fled to Scotland. Later she took her son to France, where her cousin Louis XI received them with little familial warmth. 

In a last ditch attempt to reclaim the throne for her son Marguerite returned to England with an army, but was defeated at Tewkesbury in 1471. She was captured and imprisoned. Her son Edward was beheaded on the battlefield. Louis XI eventually ransomed her, on condition that her father hand over much of his territory to the crown, and in 1476 she returned to France and lived with her father in Aix en Provence.

After her father died in 1480 she came back to Anjou and lived in several manor houses and chateaux between Angers and Montsoreau. She is buried with her parents in the choir of Angers cathedral.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Ferdinand Taluet in 1877. To see Margeurite looking fiercely protective you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Giant Panda Snail Shell

I think this is a very bleached Giant Panda Snail Hedleyella falconeri shell. I photographed it on the rainforest floor in Ravensbourne National Park in south-east Queensland.

These large snails are eaten by Lyrebirds Menura spp and Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor. They in turn eat fungi, particularly bracket fungi from the Polyporaceae family, and forage in the leaf litter of damp sub-tropical forests. They grow slowly, but once mature can be 10cm across. If fresh the shells are shades of brown with radiating irregular black bands.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Aussie Trip 2017: week 3

Week three was on the road in the southern states - Victoria and the south coast of New South Wales.

 Click on the photos for full splendiferousness.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Things are Grave Part 1 -- Port Arthur Ginsburg

On our visit to Paris in September we stayed near Montparnasse Cemetery, so naturally we paid it a thorough visit. We will be featuring some of the more interesting graves over the next few weeks.

Moïsei Akimovitch Ginsburg was a Jewish Ukranian businessman based in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg and the Manchurian city of Port Arthur. He was widely known as Ginsburg of Port Arthur and was a member of a committee of powerful men in the Russian Empire's Jewish community who organised aid for Jews displaced and starving due to the pogroms at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. He and the aid committee lobbied the deeply anti-semitic Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II to rescind anti-Jewish laws and prevent attacks on Jews. The Ginsburg family was closely connected to the Rothschilds and used this connection to influence political affairs in Russia, particularly in the matter of the Russo-Japanese war.

Ginsburg had an extensive trading network throughout China and Japan and supplied the Russian army throughout the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, both with goods and intelligence. The Rothschilds meanwhile were financing the Russian war effort, at least partly motivated by a desire to win concessions for the Jewish population, whilst simultaneously secretly funding the Japanese. As such, they were all involved in 'The Great Game' and the machinations over the emerging petro-chemical industry in the Caucasus.

Ginsburg and his business partner, the notorious quadruple agent Sidney Reilly, capitalised on the Japanese threat to Port Arthur and made a fortune as profiteers selling food, medicine and coal to the Russians. Moïsei Akimovitch Ginsburg used his great fortune for philanthropic work in Saint Petersburg, building an almshouse and a prayer house at the cemetery for the community. Nowadays he is either forgotten or conflated with various other members of the family or contemporaries with similar names.

I can't find out why he is buried in Paris, but I assume the family came as a result of the Russian Revolution.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Mud Rescue

I photographed this machine when we were in Mont St Michel in July. I wonder what sort of siren it has?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

All in all, It's just another hole in the wall..

On this blog we have featured vegetable vending machines, pizza vending machines, fresh baguette vending machines, condom vending machines, and even bike inner tube vending machines.

Now, we have a parapharmacie vending machine. Parapharmacies sell the sort of associated stuff you get in pharmacies, less the pharaceuticals. Stuff like soap, shampoo, skin care, deodorants, razors, nappies (diapers), toothpaste, and yes, condoms.

So naturally, you need a machine to sell that sort of stuff when the shop itself is shut. This one is near Denfert-Rochereau in Paris' 14th Arrondissement.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Traffic Jams

Every year, Susan and I attend a Heritage Traffic Jam. And every year I comment at how unrepresentative of the past it actually is. The reason is that some cars were extremely popular in the 50s and 60s due to value for money and mechanical simplicity, but either became deeply unfashionable or were made out of kitchen foil and fell to pieces by 1970.

So here is a true 1960s traffic jam to compare our photos to:

The film is "Weekend" by Jean Luc Goddard and can be seen in full (but very tiny) here

Monday, 4 December 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 10 Laure de Noves

Laure de Noves was a real person, but the fact that she features amongst the 20 queens and illustrious women in the Luxembourg gardens may be based on a misidentification.

Laure de Noves may (or may not) be the woman who became the object of the remarkable Humanist writer Petrarch's unrequited passion. Very little is known about her, other than she grew up in Avignon and died there in 1348. She was married to Hugues de Sade (ancestor of the infamous marquis).

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Auguste Ottin 1848. To see Laure looking demure you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Fallen Tree

A large fallen tree in the rainforest.

Trees fall in the rainforest and modify the environment. The sometimes massive logs lie on the forest floor and provide nutrients for all sorts of saprophageous creatures, especially fungi and insects. The canopy opens above and herbaceous plants colonise the newly sunny space.

My mother, brother in law and sister negotiating the disturbance to the path caused by a fallen tree.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Aussie Trip 2017: week 2

Some random pics from the second week of our Australian adventure. More to follow, including the Pirates of the Neverbeen, the world's most grin making car, roos in the top paddock, and walking in the mountains.


Friday, 1 December 2017

Winter Planting

I spotted these at Cheverny the other week. They have to be decorative rather than practical, because the grass has a sign asking one to "Respect the Lawn".

I guess it's one way of getting colour into a winter garden.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Palais du Luxembourg

After the assassination of Henry IV in 1610 Marie de Medicis decided that as Regent she deserved a better type of palace. Styled after Marie's ancestral home in Florence (the Palazzo Pitti) building started in 1615 and lasted 30 years.

The southern facade of the Palais du Luxembourg

It has been extensively and frequently remodelled since then. It is now the home of the French Senate, and sits in the extensive (23 hectare, or 56 acre) Jardin du Luxembourg. The garden is lovely, and contains many statues (including the 20 notable ladies), playgrounds, a marionette theatre, restaurants and kiosks, tennis courts, basketball courts, and an art gallery. It also has "chalets de nécessité" - their term, not mine.

We visited the garden in September this year, and can thoroughly recommend it as something to do in Paris. The official site is here.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Célestine at Fougères-sur-Bièvre

In September we took clients through Fougeres sur Bievre and were excited (maybe too strong a word...) to see that the bus which normally parks blocking the view was not in occupation.

This mean that I could take a photo of Célestine with a proper looking piece of chateau behind. Which I promptly did.

There are more photos of the chateau here and here.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

That's a Range!

This shop sells many things, but at least one of them is superfluous to needs at all times - according to Simon. Accordion to Susan, it's just about perfect.

I love the imprint of grime from the volets (shutters).

Monday, 27 November 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 9 Marie de Medicis

This one is complicated...

Maria de Medicis was born a member of the "other side" of the Florentine Medici family, being descended from Lorenzo the Magnificent via her great-great-grandmother, Lorenzo's eldest child. She was Henry IV of France's second wife, replacing (in 1600) the barren Margaret of Valois. There is some evidence that the marriage was a very commercial transaction, as Henry owed huge amounts of money to Maria's father, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had helped finance his war against Henry III.

The marriage was not a happy one, although it produced a string of children, including an heir, a couple of spares, a Queen of Spain, and a Queen of England. Henry had a string of mistresses, one of whom (Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues) he had promised to marry when his official mistress (Gabrielle d'Estrées) died. Failing to do so and marrying Maria instead meant that the two women were constantly at each others (metaphorical) throats, with plenty of name calling on both sides.

Part of Maria's efforts to upset the apple cart included supporting Marguerite de Valois (Henry's first wife, remember), encouraging Henry to allow her back into France. Maria was finally crowned Queen of France in 1610, and the next day her husband was assassinated after being caught in a traffic jam in part caused by the crowds attending the Coronation.

Maria served as Regent for her son (Louis XIII) until 1617, at which time Louis banished her from the court. In 1619 she provoked her third son (Gaston d'Orleans) into rebelling and trying to claim the throne, but after the failure of that enterprise she and Louis reconciled - until 1630, anyway, when she tried to lead a rebellion against Richelieu. This failed, and Marie spent the next 12 years travelling around Europe, visiting Brussels, Amsterdam and London, before dying in 1642 in Cologne.

We have written about Marie de Medici before here.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Louis-Denis Caillouette in 1847. To see Margeurite looking complicated you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Cicada Shell

There are 800 species of cicada in Australia and I have no idea which species this quite large exuviae belongs to. This is the shed outer cuticle of a cicada nymph, left after the adult has emerged. You can see the slit down the back through which it has pushed itself out. There is also some soil still adhering to the cuticle behind the eye, a reminder that the nymphs live underground and only come out to transform into adults. I photographed it on a fern in Ravensbourne National Park, a remnant rainforest habitat near Toowoomba.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Aussie Trip 2017: week 1

Some random pics of our first week away. No doubt we will write about them in the fullness of time.

Friday, 24 November 2017

The Palace of the Dukes of Berry

On Monday I mentioned that Marguerite d'Angoulême was also known as Marguerite de Navarre and Marguerite d'Alençon. What I didn't say is that another of her titles was Duchess of Berry, a position she held in her own right, being granted the Duchy by her brother François I.

A part of the ducal palace in Bourges still exists, and is incorporated in the Prefecture of the Cher region. It was built in 1370, and has a rather plain 20th century extension blocking the view. You can see what is left of the Palace of the Dukes of Berry peeking over the new section.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Some more photos from the Traffic Jam

Back in September I went with Gaynor and TimB to the Bouchonne du Sainte Maure. Here are some additional photos.

Sometimes you have to improvise:

We're all going on a.... what sort of holiday?

Not only cars - there were quite a few bikes of all sizes

American and French style...

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Angevin Architectural Delights

Here are some more details of the Maison d'Adam, the late 15th century timber framed building in the centre of Angers. To see my previous post about it, click here.

The most famous of the carvings, the 'Three Balled Man'.

Saint George (or Saint Michael) slaying the dragon.

The Lovers.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Avranches Cathedral.

The internet is a wonderful thing, but you have to be really careful about using it as a reference tool: if you Google "Avranches Cathedral" the images you find will almost invariably be of the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Champs, misidentified.

Avranches Cathedral was rebuilt in 1204 after the previous building of 1121 was destroyed by Breton invaders. The "new" building was probably built on the Romanesque plan of the previous building, and incorporated its towers. The whole lot started to fall down in the 16th century, and the remaining parts were demolished in the 19th century.

The reason we know the internet is wrong:
this is all that survives of Avranches Cathedral

There is a reason I am interested in Avranches Cathedral - we were there in early August, and I wanted to see the place where in 1172 King Henry II of England performed his penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett.

 The monument was erected in 1843 by the local historical society.

The inscription reads "At the door of the Cathedral of Avranches, after the murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry II, King of England and Duke of Normandy, received on his knees the absolution of the legates of the Popes"

So, disappointingly, not only was I unable to see the church where this event took place, even the church that replaced the church where the event took place no longer exists.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 8 Marguerite d'Angoulême

Also known as Marguerite de Navarre and Marguerite d'Alençon, Marguerite d'Angoulême led a very complicated life: married twice, wife of a king, sister of second king, and grandmother of yet another king, patron of the arts, poet, diplomat and religious provocateur.

With her brother, François I she invited Leonardo to France and installed him in her home, Clos Lucé. She also invited trouble by writing a very long (and quite weird) poem, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of the Sinful Soul). It was enough to have her accused of heresy, a charge her brother had to fight long and hard to have overturned. The poem found its way into the hands of the 11 year old English princess Elizabeth, who translated it into English and gave it to her stepmother, Catherine Parr. It is claimed that the poem was in part responsible for the Protestant fervour of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Joseph-Stanislas Lescorné in 1848. To see Margeurite looking pensive you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday, 19 November 2017


Blackbean Castanospermum australe is native to the north-eastern coastal areas of Australia, New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It is a large tree with orange flowers and big pods of seeds that look like chestnuts.

Aboriginal people ate the seeds (carefully prepared to remove toxins) and the timber is attractively grained so after white settlement it was sometimes used for furniture.

The flower and seeds, fallen to the forest floor.