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from … Saturday May 1

On this Saturday of our journey to Montrésor, it dawns bright and clear with some small white fluffies; as the day wears on, they become larger and less white, but it doesn’t actually rain.

The journey is largely uninspiring — meaning that we aren’t frequently to be heard crying “Oh, look at THAAAT !” — but our destination very different: Montrésor is wonderful ! It is a true member of the L’Un Des Plus Beaux Villages de France (which are now around the 150 mark); it is not only beautiful, but interesting, provided with a number of shops — including a small supermarket — and just the one pub, possessed of a marvellous ruined château, and also not being let go to rack and ruin by absentee landlords !

Our gîte’s owners are there finalising the clean after the previous tenants, and prove charming; Monsieur and Madame Brochot have provided their little house with everything temporary residents could want — including the barbecue that we had hoped to find in both the previous places we stayed — and helpfully show us around it. Once more we have welcoming flowers — lilac, this time — and the Brochots leave us some extremely yummy goodies from the boulangerie directly across the road. (I can tell you without exaggeration that even if we aren’t amongst the first in there each morning — “Une baguette et deux croissants, s’il vous plaît !” — we are most certainly amongst its greatest fans. There’s nothing quite like have a boulangerie over the road; for there’s nothing in the world like having hot from the oven baguettes and croissants on your breakfast table.)

Memory: seeing CS’ face fall when I have to confess, one morning, that we’ve got up so late that there was only the one croissant left …

Here’s a reflection on the contrast between France and Italy: in France, we have breakfasts to die for, but have to look hard to find much pleasure in the other meals; whereas in Italy, breakfast is rubbish, but the rest of the day’s meals wonderful !

And Montrésor’s very fine little hypermarché … Well, you’ll find a picture of it, and you may be hard-pressed to believe it’s as good as I say it is. Croyez-moi — the people who run this little place have worked out exactly what to stock to keep the locals (and some visitors) happy and to make the profit margin they need; I have personally never been in so small a shop that stocks so wide but so relevant a range of goods. Down the back is the butcher’s counter, where the beef is aged and utterly wonderful !; and along one side at the front is the greengrocery. The rest is all the groceries you want, and then some, all packed on shelves like any huge supermarket, but — well, small. Super ! :-)

Memory: our nightly ritual, in the gîte, of closing the bedroom shutters — I’ve never done this before ! The window looks down onto the little street and thus across to the boulangerie, to which wondrous spot the entire neighbourhood turns up, every morning …

And it’s here that we commence our Foulkes Nerra ‘treasure hunt’. This kind of super-figure from history was the first of the Plantagenets, and I found out about him only pretty recently (per kind favour CS); it’s a fact that my favourite monarch of all times has forever been Richard III of England, who was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty — so you will understand that Foulkes Nerra, whose name is, more contemporaneously, Faucon Noir or The Black Falcon, is of great interest to me. The actual founder of the Plantagenet dynasty, he was a strong man amongst strong men; in the 10th and 11th centuries, he held sway over the Touraine area by strength and cunning (and plain beastliness), and was a most prolific castle-builder. Montrésor was one of his many strongholds, and his ruined château includes a B-gate and a lot of footings from the original construction. I could go on about Foulkes Nerra at length, but won’t; suffice it to write that we look for and find several of his castles, and derive huge pleasure from doing so.

Sunday a beauty; the sun’s out and the skies perfect. This is the day for the barbecue, says CS — we’ve seen TV forecasts of rain for the coming week. We buy steaks from the hypermarché and make a simple lettuce and tomato salad, and open a bottle of Montirius rosé … honestly, life doesn’t get much better than this.

Memory: finding with delight that the little hypermarché really does stock what you want; they have both charbon du bois and genuinely odourless fire-lighters for our barbecue (and we haven’t yet found these latter here in oz!).

We walk Les Balcons de l’Indrois. These are the little river’s banks, where it flows prettily underneath the châteaux walls; there are, dotted about, information placards that tell of all manner of interesting things before your eyes, and you can see CS familiarising himself with some of them. (As for why I refer to the plurality of châteaux … erected on top of the ruins of Fulke Nerra’s castle are two more, of different periods !)

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