The Charente – What A Beautiful Place

14 Oct

We certainly are in a beautiful part of France… at least that’s how it seems while the weather is still friendly!  Leanne arrived as planned on Tuesday and we have been enjoying where we are as well as making the most of the good weather to explore some of the local towns and villages.  The list so far is impressive: Fomperron, Parthenay, Saint-Généroux, Airvault, Oiron, Saint-Maixent, Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet, Sanxay, Ménigoute and there are lots more to see yet.

The photos are not actually in full chronological order but they should all make reasonable sense as they are.  Hit the comments button if I have left out any key information.  Enjoy but remember, I shan’t be held responsible if your boss catches you reading this at work!

Looking upstream along the River Thouet from the tower at Porte-Saint-Jacques in Parthenay.

Looking upstream along the River Thouet from the tower at Porte-Saint-Jacques in Parthenay.

The view back into the old town which is nestled in the valley.

The view back into the old town which is nestled in the valley.

A close-up in the old town of Parthenay showing a range of different styles.

A close-up in the old town of Parthenay showing a range of different styles.

Pale Tussock moth, Calliteara pudibunda, #2028 (Linnaeus, 1758).  This little gremlin was found crawling up John's shirt while he was mowing his lawn (John is an English neighbour).  The four tufts are quite distinctive as is the red plume at the rear.

Pale Tussock moth, Calliteara pudibunda, #2028 (Linnaeus, 1758). This little gremlin was found crawling up John’s shirt while he was mowing his lawn (John is an English neighbour). The four tufts are quite distinctive as is the red plume at the rear.

Also, the areas between segments is quite black making for a striking looking caterpillar.  BTW, it is only about 20mm long.

Also, the areas between segments is quite black making for a striking looking caterpillar. BTW, it is only about 20mm long.

Almost harvest time, these will need to go in the shed soon.

Almost harvest time, these will need to go in the shed soon.

The aubergines are plentiful and make a good ratatouille although I could see it getting a bit too much.

The aubergines are plentiful and make a good ratatouille although I could see it getting a bit too much.

Not sure what we will do with the marrows - I am not a big fan.

Not sure what we will do with the marrows – I am not a big fan.

Long term unemployed.

Long term unemployed.

This very rustic farm building is beside the lane that leads past where we are currently housesitting.  I ended up with an audience of one!  The old farmer was probably wondering what some idiot was doing taking pictures of the side of a barn!?!  Must be a bloody tourist!

This very rustic farm building is beside the lane that leads past where we are currently housesitting. I ended up with an audience of one! The old farmer was probably wondering what some idiot was doing taking pictures of the side of a barn!?! Must be a bloody tourist!

The walking track out of Sanxay quickly became quite charming, which should have been our first clue that we were on the wrong track!

The walking track out of Sanxay quickly became quite charming, which should have been our first clue that we were on the wrong track!

And some of the paving was possibly Roman, we were after all heading for some Gallo-Roman ruins.

And some of the paving was possibly Roman, we were after all heading for some Gallo-Roman ruins.

We passed by lots of lovely scenery...

We passed by lots of lovely scenery…

By the time we got to the hamlet of Herbord we knew we had gone the wrong way. It didn't matter too much because it was part of a big loop, it was just that we had intended this to be the short version of the walk so we could get to some other walks in the afternoon. Never mind, the scenery was charming.

By the time we got to the hamlet of Herbord we knew we had gone the wrong way. It didn’t matter too much because it was part of a big loop, it was just that we had intended this to be the short version of the walk so we could get to some other walks in the afternoon. Never mind, the scenery was charming.

Looking over the side of a bridge, once we had re-joined the main road in to Sanxay, I spotted a group of frogs.  They even stayed around long enough for me to change lenses and get some better shots of them.

Looking over the side of a bridge, once we had re-joined the main road in to Sanxay, I spotted a group of frogs. They even stayed around long enough for me to change lenses and get some better shots of them.

We finally made it to the Roman amphitheatre.  According to TripAdvisor, "Between the 1st and 4th century, Sanxay was an important centre for cures and pilgrimages placed under the protection of two divinities. Set in the verdant valley of the Vonne, the remains of the largest buildings (temples, amphitheatre, thermal baths) located throughout a 19-hectare site make the site one of the best preserved and most interesting of the monuments belonging to Gallo-Roman times"

We finally made it to the Roman amphitheatre. According to TripAdvisor, “Between the 1st and 4th century, Sanxay was an important centre for cures and pilgrimages placed under the protection of two divinities. Set in the verdant valley of the Vonne, the remains of the largest buildings (temples, amphitheatre, thermal baths) located throughout a 19-hectare site make the site one of the best preserved and most interesting of the monuments belonging to Gallo-Roman times”

OK, I did the research on this one for you!  It was spotted (yes that is a pun) near the amphitheatre…  The European Peacock (Inachis io), more commonly known simply as the Peacock butterfly, is a colourful butterfly, found in Europe and temperate Asia as far east as Japan. Classified as the only member of the genus Inachis (the name is derived from Greek mythology, meaning Io, the daughter of Inachus).  The Peacock butterfly is resident in much of its range, often wintering in buildings or trees. It therefore often appears quite early in spring. The Peacock butterfly has figured in research where the role of eye-spots as an anti-predator mechanism has been investigated.  The butterfly has a wingspan of 50 to 55 mm. The base-colour of the wings is a rusty red, and at each wingtip it bears a distinctive, black, blue and yellow eyespot. The underside is a cryptically coloured dark-brown or black.  The Peacock can be found in woods, fields, meadows, pastures, parks, and gardens, and from lowlands up to 2,500 metres elevation. It is a relatively common butterfly seen in many European parks and gardens. The Peacock male exhibits territorial behaviour, in many cases territories being selected en route of the females to oviposition sites.  The butterfly hibernates over winter before laying its eggs in early spring, in batches of up to 400 at a time.  The eggs are ribbed and olive-green in colour and laid on the upper parts, and, the undersides of leaves of nettle plants and hops. The caterpillars, which are shiny black with six rows of barbed spikes and a series of white dots on each segment, and which have a shiny black head, hatch after about a week. The chrysalis may be either grey, brown, or green in colour and may have a blackish tinge. The caterpillars grow up to 42 mm in length.  The recorded foodplants of the European Peacock are Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Hop (Humulus lupulus), and the Small Nettle (Urtica urens).  The adult butterflies drink nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants, including buddleia, willows, dandelions, wild marjoram, danewort, hemp agrimony, and clover; they also utilize tree sap and rotten fruit.

OK, I did the research on this one for you! It was spotted (yes that is a pun) near the amphitheatre… The European Peacock (Inachis io), more commonly known simply as the Peacock butterfly, is a colourful butterfly, found in Europe and temperate Asia as far east as Japan. Classified as the only member of the genus Inachis (the name is derived from Greek mythology, meaning Io, the daughter of Inachus). The Peacock butterfly is resident in much of its range, often wintering in buildings or trees. It therefore often appears quite early in spring. The Peacock butterfly has figured in research where the role of eye-spots as an anti-predator mechanism has been investigated. The butterfly has a wingspan of 50 to 55 mm. The base-colour of the wings is a rusty red, and at each wingtip it bears a distinctive, black, blue and yellow eyespot. The underside is a cryptically coloured dark-brown or black. The Peacock can be found in woods, fields, meadows, pastures, parks, and gardens, and from lowlands up to 2,500 metres elevation. It is a relatively common butterfly seen in many European parks and gardens. The Peacock male exhibits territorial behaviour, in many cases territories being selected en route of the females to oviposition sites. The butterfly hibernates over winter before laying its eggs in early spring, in batches of up to 400 at a time. The eggs are ribbed and olive-green in colour and laid on the upper parts, and, the undersides of leaves of nettle plants and hops. The caterpillars, which are shiny black with six rows of barbed spikes and a series of white dots on each segment, and which have a shiny black head, hatch after about a week. The chrysalis may be either grey, brown, or green in colour and may have a blackish tinge. The caterpillars grow up to 42 mm in length. The recorded foodplants of the European Peacock are Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Hop (Humulus lupulus), and the Small Nettle (Urtica urens). The adult butterflies drink nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants, including buddleia, willows, dandelions, wild marjoram, danewort, hemp agrimony, and clover; they also utilize tree sap and rotten fruit.

The ruins of the Roman baths  were stunning.  The entire ruin has been over-built with a very substantial roof under which there are walkways that allow viewing right down into the various features.  It is very well done.

The ruins of the Roman baths were stunning. The entire ruin has been over-built with a very substantial roof under which there are walkways that allow viewing right down into the various features. It is very well done.

On the ground level there was access right to the ruin.  This appeared to be part of the heating system for the "tepidarium" (next photo).

On the ground level there was access right to the ruin. This appeared to be part of the heating system for the “tepidarium” (next photo).

The remains of the tepidarium with feature from the previous photo protruding on the right.  At the top right the elevated walkway is visible.

The remains of the tepidarium with feature from the previous photo protruding on the right. At the top right the elevated walkway is visible.

150m away was the ruined temple.  Not much information on this - try Wikipedia.

150m away was the ruined temple. Not much information on this – try Wikipedia.

Tuileries Martial Victot et Fils, tile factory.  I was told by a local that there has been a tile factory operating on this site since Roman times.  I searched but did not find any further information on this.

Tuileries Martial Victot et Fils, tile factory. I was told by a local that there has been a tile factory operating on this site since Roman times. I searched but did not find any further information on this.

The abbey in Saint-Maixent was splendid.  There was a monastery established on the site in the 5th century and the abbey was built from the 10th century.  As usual with wars and changing politics, the abbey was damaged and rebuilt through the centuries with the last major work being in the 17th century and the spire added in the 18th century (according to the plaque outside and my memory!).

The abbey in Saint-Maixent was splendid. There was a monastery established on the site in the 5th century and the abbey was built from the 10th century. As usual with wars and changing politics, the abbey was damaged and rebuilt through the centuries with the last major work being in the 17th century and the spire added in the 18th century (according to the plaque outside and my memory!).

The main tower of Saint-Maixent Abbey.

The main tower of Saint-Maixent Abbey.

This building in the centre of our nearest village of Fomperron looks like a private home but I suspect was originally a public building.

This building in the centre of our nearest village of Fomperron looks like a private home but I suspect was originally a public building.

The view northwards along the main street of Fomperron.  A tidy little village.

The view northwards along the main street of Fomperron. A tidy little village.

At the square is a newly re-opened (only a week ago) café.  The new owners are a very friendly young English couple and we will probably be regular visitors while we stay nearby.

At the square is a newly re-opened (only a week ago) café. The new owners are a very friendly young English couple and we will probably be regular visitors while we stay nearby.

It was forecast to rain on Sunday so of course the weather was splendid!  By early afternoon we were in the town of Airvault.

It was forecast to rain on Sunday so of course the weather was splendid! By early afternoon we were in the town of Airvault.

The restored stonework near the entrance was fantastic.

The restored stonework near the entrance was fantastic.

The tower of the church at Airvault was completely shrouded in scaffolding which was an impressive structure in its own right.

The tower of the church at Airvault was completely shrouded in scaffolding which was an impressive structure in its own right.

The market hall in the centre of Airvault was also impressive.

The market hall in the centre of Airvault was also impressive.

This appears to be the home/workshop of a skilled plasterer and he has used his frontage as a demonstration of his art.  Very well done!

This appears to be the home/workshop of a skilled plasterer and he has used his frontage as a demonstration of his art. Very well done!

I guess these were the town's defensive walls.  The tower is now part of a B&B.

I guess these were the town’s defensive walls. The tower is now part of a B&B.

This looked like a cool idea - a modular hanging garden.

This looked like a cool idea – a modular hanging garden.

The Château d'Oiron which houses a modern art museum these days.  We didn't bother but liked the outward appearance of it.

The Château d’Oiron which houses a modern art museum these days. We didn’t bother but liked the outward appearance of it.

Since we got north of Parthenay on this drive the land was the flattest we have seen for a while.  Just miles of grass, wheat, sunflower, maize and a few other crops.

Since we got north of Parthenay on this drive the land was the flattest we have seen for a while. Just miles of grass, wheat, sunflower, maize and a few other crops.

In the church at Oiron, which was originally the private church belonging to the château, we did notice that the heads of all the statues and ornaments were missing.  The figure on the top of this sarcophagus still had a head but the nose and feet were missing as well as the head of the Gryphon at her feet.  Curious.

In the church at Oiron, which was originally the private church belonging to the château, we did notice that the heads of all the statues and ornaments were missing. The figure on the top of this sarcophagus still had a head but the nose and feet were missing as well as the head of the Gryphon at her feet. Curious.

I know there will be a story around these glazed ceramic signs but in my search tonight I didn't find it.  There were several around Oiron and on the way out of town there was a square granite pilar near an intersection with one on each face.

I know there will be a story around these glazed ceramic signs but in my search tonight I didn’t find it. There were several around Oiron and on the way out of town there was a square granite pilar near an intersection with one on each face.

An interesting new streetscape in Oiron.

An interesting new streetscape in Oiron.

Leanne has inherited a gene on the 47th chromosome from her Mum.  It makes the carrier put on an awful face when confronted with a camera.  Here is a sequence documenting her brave attempt to overcome this debilitating condition.

Leanne has inherited a gene on the 47th chromosome from her Mum. It makes the carrier put on an awful face when confronted with a camera. Here is a sequence documenting her brave attempt to overcome this debilitating condition.

Just starting to feel brave now!

Just starting to feel brave now!

And finally a compete, natural and lovely photo.  Didn't she do well?!

And finally a compete, natural and lovely photo. Didn’t she do well?!

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5 Responses to “The Charente – What A Beautiful Place”

  1. bonniemp October 18, 2013 at 13:35 #

    Jealous

    • bikernz October 18, 2013 at 20:16 #

      You can do the same in a few more years. Just teach the girls how to cook and clean for themselves and once Samantha is 18 you’ll be right!

  2. Jeff October 16, 2013 at 03:57 #

    Where are all the people! If you look through these photos there is no one showing until you get to Leanne in the end shots. It is like Syria completed saran gas tests in the area and everyone has gone…. as creepy as an episode of X files! 🙂

    • bikernz October 17, 2013 at 18:50 #

      Yes, you are right, there are no people! I usually try to minimise the number of people in my shots anyway but this week most of the photos were in the countryside. Then when we went to some villages it was mainly on Sunday and all the locals would have been in church! In addition, we are often visiting towns and villages between noon and 3pm so the French are at home with their families having lunch. I always saw that as a strategic advantage, it meant we had the places to ourselves, we don’t like crowds. It has been mentioned to me before that some of my photos would look better with a few people in them so I will try to make a point of it in future. Cheers.

  3. Sarah October 15, 2013 at 08:37 #

    Hennessy Cognac tour is good. Also, if you get into chateau country, they’re all gorgeous but Chenonceau is prob my fave.

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