Monday, 28 November 2011

Marais Poitevin

A windmill near Marans. Being off-season it wasn't open at the time we were passing, but it does still operate (primarily as a tourist attraction) and produces flour which I would definitely have bought to try if it had been open. The sails are wooden slats which fan out - I think you can see in the second photo. And the weather vane is a hen and chicken.

Photos from our boat trip along the canals in the Marais. As posted in an earlier post (the one with the storks video): according to Wikipedia it covers about 970 square km , and according to our guide there are about 6000km of man-made drainage canals, as well as some natural ones. This work was started during the reign of Henri IV (1553 - 1610), who called in the Dutch experts, (just as the English did  with the Norfolk fens in the early 17th century). We saw a lot of wild hops and teasels, there was also a lot of willow, ash, birch, alder and hazel. In the old days, according to our guide, they used to transport cattle from field to field on flat-bottomed "barges".  I saw a night heron perched in some bushes, and a quick glimpse of a kingfisher. You can pre-book dawn or dusk boat trips which would probably be much more fruitful in terms of wildlife spotting. Introduced animals include the coypu - we saw their holes in a bank, but not any out and about.

The tiles on the roof of this little hut are typical of the region. They're made from local clay - at intervals along some of the canals you could see excavated areas at the edge where the clay had been quarried. Our guide could remember either his grandfather or father (I should have made a note, as at this stage I can't remember!) working in the clay pits. My recollection is that the guide told us the tiles were called dames (ladies) because originally they were shaped over the thigh, but quick research hasn't yet confirmed this.


Wild hops

We really enjoyed our boat trip - it was shaded enough that we enjoyed the sun without getting burnt, it was very peaceful and there were no flies. We'd certainly do it again if we're back in the area, although having had a guide this time and learnt about the area we'd probably hire our own boat next time. The poling certainly doesn't look as arduous as rowing, although I am sure there's a knack to be learnt before being able to do it smoothly and evenly.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sunny Park Day

I was on a day off today and it was a beautiful sunny day with blue skies. Still can't drive the car, waiting for circuit diagrams and so on...but I hopped on the bus and went for a walk.

The American Wood Duck has been so hard to get a good photo of in the water - I think because its plumage is so dark - but on land I managed to get some much better ones.

I saw a lot of rippling in the water at one end of the lake and spotted a little rat swimming along. I don't know if we have water rats or if it was just a regular one, and he's so small in the photo that it would be hard to tell. I was looking to see what caused the ripples in case it was the terrapin I saw a while back.

In Farmleigh I saw a little bluetit feeding from the base of a tree - shooting into the sun, so the photos aren't the best. Makes a change from seeing them on the feeders here, though.

Lots of toadstools around - this one was lovely:

Plenty of holly berries too. I was intrigued by this little sapling which must have rooted from a berry a bird dropped into the cleft in the tree trunk.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Favourite cards

Not much card-making in September with holidays, but plenty in October so I'm putting them all together.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


Nearly finished our French holiday!
Our last campsite was Le Petit Port de l'Houmeau. There is a big municipal campsite in La Rochelle itself, but this one was very near and on a regular bus route into the city, so we decided to go for it. Not as nice a site as LaRoche Posay, but very pleasant and helpful staff and a lovely location. In our short time we fitted in a couple of walks along the seafront, a swim (me only), and crepes at sunset in one of the few cafés that was still open at the end of the season.

We never did make it out to the Ile de Ré - but looking at the bridge out to the island I am fairly sure I would not have enjoyed the journey, either by car or on a bicycle. Personally I was content to admire it from a distance.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Red skies

On the days that haven't been overwhelmingly grey we've had some lovely sunrises and sunsets. The disadvantage of living in a built-up area is that you can't really see them that well - or get good photos.

The sky really was that pink for a brief while the other morning: I could see the glow when I went out to put a wash on, so I grabbed the camera and went out the front door, but within less than ten minutes it was all gone. That was also the morning I saw a heron fly over - but that was before I grabbed the camera.

In the night sky you can see the ivy flowering in the garden next door. I'd actually taken a photo of the ivy flowers when I walked along the canal last week.

Warm off the knitting needles, I posted this little jacket off on Monday morning. The little hood is detachable. I always wonder about long hair getting caught in the buttons, though! I'm currently knitting a neck-warmer to use instead of a scarf on the motorbike, and then I have a couple of projects for my nieces and nephews with some wool I got from my sister-in-law when we visited recently.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

La Rochelle, le fin

The 15th century  Hôtel de Ville (town hall) is undergoing extensive renovations - we didn't go in, just admired the amazing details from outside. You can see the marine heritage showing through, and the fleur de lys emblem of the French kings.

This plaque was on the perimeter wall. It's a memorial to Léonce Vieljeux, the mayor from 1930 to 1940. Originally an army officer he remained in the reserves when he started working in his father-in-law's shipping company. He actively resisted the Nazi occupation, refusing to hang the swastika from the hôtel de Ville when he was asked to, and helping Resistance members to escape. He was expelled from the town in 1941; when he returned in 1944 he was arrested and then executed, aged 79.

Double-decker carousel in the square where the bus  station is. I was hoping to capture the sound on the video, but it doesn't come through, sadly.