Found this report from the Daily Mail…. I hasten to add that I do not buy or read this publication but this came up on FB
Found this report from the Daily Mail…. I hasten to add that I do not buy or read this publication but this came up on FB
Nowak Immobilier is closed… the end of an era. We bought our house in France from this agency way back in 1991 but having looked them up I see it started in 1969!
How many Brits passed through their hands over the years? I remember we had made an appointment and met in the office in Civray. Monsieur Nowak took us out to visit several properties. He had a big black Volvo estate and he drove like a lunatic. He was a very nice man but being a passenger was terrifying.
I wondered if it was some sort of ploy to get you to buy a house, then you would not have to endure any more narrow country roads at 120kmph or more. We did make an offer on one house but it was not accepted and we had a budget.
In the afternoon John Reid took us round some more houses, much nicer, the driving and indeed the houses. We, well I was torn between one in Surin and one just out side Chappelle Baton. We decided to sleep on it. The Surin one had a better view but was awkward and on a slope. the Chappel Baton did not have a view, well not at that stage as the garden was completely overgrown and inpenetrable.
The following day we met up with John again and his opening sentence was ‘Well, do you want the one in Surin or do you want the nice one’ Just as well really that we had both decided on the ‘nice one’.
John and Ruth were very helpful both with the purchase and afterwards, bringing people like Jean Pierre Brun to help with plumbing and Monsieur Barraud from Ruffec (LocVehMat) to help with building work. I was sad to hear that John passed away some years later.
If you read this Ruth then many thanks. the best purchase I ever made.
This building which is by the traffic lights on the main road through Civray from the N10 towards Limoges is a former bank.
This side view has a remarkable similarity to the College which it is directly opposite, I wonder if they were built at the same time and designed by the same architect, the college was built in 1805. However the dorma windows and roof are not quite the same and this building has a large clock tower at the right hand end. Here is a better photo of the clock tower part.
This is entitled ‘Caisse d’Epargne’ and dated 29th March 1910 and is attributed to Eug. Texereau.
Incidentally the clock stopped at 25 minutes to 7 or 6.35 but whether that was am or pm and what year who knows?
The Caisse d’Epargne is a mutual savings bank with branches all over France it also has a cycling team. See what Wikipedia has to say about it. There is still a bank of this name in the centre of Civray, more conveniently placed but not so imposing.
There is a web site with old post cards of Civray, I have mentioned it before. Some of the pictures are of easily recognisable places like the church and the bridges but some are a bit harder to place.
I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try and locate the subjects of these post cards and then to take the same photo today. This afternoon before it rained I roamed around the streets of Civray camera in one hand and a couple of bits of paper in the other on which I had made rough sketches of the postcard photos ( No printer here in France you see) I found some of the locations, here is one called L’Allée des Capucins . It is opposite the traffic lights, by the College. (for those of you who live in the area).
If you would like to see more old postcards then the web site is called Cartes Postales Anciennes de CIVRAY (86)m
With some of the postcards the site gives you the date the photo was taken but not all and normally it gives the location. I will in due course prepare more ‘past and present’ photos.
Dotted about in the countryside you would often come across a few rows of grape vines. These belonged to the local farmer and would supply him with enough grapes to produce sufficient wine for his own consumption.
Gradually over the years I have seen these small local vines fall into decline and then be grubbed out and disappear.
It is inevitable, but I still think it is a shame. When you can buy a cheap bottle of wine from the supermarket for under 2 euros, one can understand that the local farmer is not going to go to all the trouble of pruning, spraying, harvesting brewing and then bottling a wine that will be of dubious quality.
How many more years before this is another aspect of rural France that is gone forever? The vines in the photo were removed in the winter of 2014/15.
This to my mind is one of the best eating establishments in the Civray area, it has been established for longer than we have had a house in the vicinity which is over 20 years and we have been regular visitors over the years. Not that frequent it has to be said, probably every two years or so but that still adds up to around 10 visits. Possibly one of the reasons for not visiting more often is that it does not have the facility to eat outside and we probably spend more time in France during the warmer months and so for a long time a favourite eating place was the Pizzeria in Surin which is sadly no more and offered much more than just Pizza although having said that Aldo’s pizzas were the best I have ever had. I digress….. there’s a change.
Location is directly opposite the Halle in Charroux, so for those who know the area there is good parking close by and if you don’t know then just park in the car park in the centre of the village and its only a one minute walk away. From the outside it looks a bit uninspired but do not let that put you off. I have often wondered why the owners do not try to get some tables set up under the Halle, even if it was only for pre dinner drinks. I know it would mean crossing the road with the drinks but that happens all the time in bigger cities. Perhaps they have tried to get permission to set up across the road and not been successful or maybe they do not think it appropriate.
Don’t just take my word for it have a look on Tripadvisor, which is notorious for having nasty reviews from customers who found one tiny thing wrong and then slag off everything about the place. Le Charlemagne as it is known on Tripadvisor comes out very well. Click here to see the reviews Tripadvisor review
The chef is Pierre Martel which sounds like a good cheffy name he specialises in high quality French cuisine, but sometimes goes for something a bit strange like rosemary sorbet which was actually quite good. I presume it is his wife Cathy Martell who is the hostess and is always very friendly and tolerant of British who try to speak French, she actually speaks good English but will persevere in French as long as the customer wants, and she speaks slowly and clearly when needed in contrast with Parisian waiters.
Their contact details are
Le Charlemagne, Rue de Rochemeau 86250 Charroux
Tel. : 05 49 87 50 37 Tel. : 06 85 76 61 36
Email : email@example.com
For more on the town of Charroux click Charroux
And for other restaurant reviews click Restaurant reviews
This was not a hotel but a restaurant and it was very popular in the early 1990s. This photo was taken in the early 1990’s with a film camera and now I have coppied the photo with my digital camera and so the quality is not 100%.
It was just up the road from the church and the market square and after the restaurant closed a sign above it appeared saying Café de l’Europe but when I went past it today I saw that there is now a large piece of plywood attached to the windows on the right hand side. It has been closed for many years and it is very sad because it was once a really buzzing place.
This photo was taken March 2014.
My first experience of this establishment was in 1990. We had visited Nowak Immobilier in search of a house to buy and had been driven around by Monsieur Nowak to view several properties. He was a nice guy but obviously took the view that time spent in the car -he had a big Volvo- was not earning him any money, so he made sure that this time was reduced to the minimum. I was terrified! Maybe it was a ploy to get you to buy – ‘OK I will take this one, yes its fine, I love it, and now please take me back to the office and we do not need to visit any more properties – yes its fine, yes I love it and please no more!!’
Eventually the more sedate Reids took over (a Scottish couple who worked at Nowak Immobilier) and we were less stressed. At lunchtime we were directed to the Cheval Blanc which later morphed into Le Cadran. In fact we never made it to the Cheval Blanc but we did make it to the Hotel de l’ Europe and this became our favourite.
I kept a diary at the time, and still do and today I looked up any references to the Hotel de l’Europe because whilst my memory is still quite good it is always better to get back to the original data. There was no mention of our first meal there but this is what we said in 1991.
‘As it was 7.15pm we decided to go and eat before going to the house – fairly mild evening. We inevitably headed for the Hotel de l’Europe where the menu choice was better than ever and still 48 francs. We all had jambon de montagne to start, John and I had mushrooms in mayonnaise, Alan had avocado stuffed with ham and mayonnaise and Caroline had terrine. For main course John had duck, Caroline and Alan had Coq au Vin and I had a fish called saint pierre in a provencal sauce, then cheese, followed by fruit for John and me, lemon mousse for Alan and Caroline, coffee, lots of wine and two glasses of Cognac and all for £22.00.’
This was the only reference I could find which actually detailed exactly what we ate, probably because we ate there so often that it became the norm and did not merit a special mention. What I do remember is that it was always busy both at lunch times and in the evenings. On market days it was absolutely packed and not just with Brits -there were loads of locals and a few Brits. We were favoured guests and sometimes there was no room but Madame would always drag a table and a few chairs from somewhere and make a space and squeeze us in.
The food was always good. It was rustic but you had the advantage that the terrine was presented in a huge pot and you could eat as much as you wanted before it was removed and placed on another table. The same applied to huge jars of cornichons or big bowls of chocolate mousse. The wine was house wine and in open top bottles but it was always replaced when the bottle was nearly finnished and the same with the bread. Madame was always shuffling round topping up this or moving the cheese board from one table to the next. She did sort of shuffle but it was fairly fast shuffling and you were never left waiting.
There were a lot of standards like escalope de dinde but there were also some specials. We remember the perch in a white parsley sauce – fantastic. You never really knew what was going to be on offer. It depended on what Monsieur could get. Sometimes you did get a clue. The toilets were outside across a bit of a courtyard and sometimes in this courtyard you might see two rabbits in a cage, in which case it was a good bet that lapin would be on the menu the next day. It did reassure you that all the ingredients were fresh.
Some time in about 1993 or 1994 the owners moved on and opened up in the Hotel de Commerce. It was never so good. The atmosphere was gone, the starters were presented as a buffet instead of being served and Madame seemed a bit tired. She was not happy if you asked to dine on the terrace next to the river -too far to walk!
This photo was again taken in March 2014, now the Commerce is a good restaurant and you are welcome to eat on the terrace with the view of the river. see our review from a visit we made in 2013. https://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/restaurant-reviews/hotel-du-commerce-civray/
The venture at the Commerce only lasted a couple of years and then some time later the owners turned up at the café in Saint Romain but I only ate there once and that has also closed now. What a shame. The Europe was really the most lively eating place in Civray during the early 1990s and it is now boarded up and just a distant memory. Maybe someone reading this will know more about this restaurant. I would like to know when it first started. I do remember that Monsieur was a keen football fan and followed a local team – was it Bordeaux? Anyway when they were playing service was not quite 100% but we can forgive that.
Thank you to the Hotel de l’Europe and its owners and the good times we had there, and to their little daughter who was very shy but sometimes said bonjour and then scampered away. There was a son as well who sometimes helped with the serving when they were at the Commerce. Where are they now?
I sometimes take photos of old adverts that were painted on walls back in the days before plastic and modern synthetic adverts.
Back then it was either painted on a wall or produced on an enamel plate which was then attached to the wall. The painted ones are now very faded and rapidly disappearing, they are sometimes called Ghost Adverts, I did a blog about them some time ago, click Old adverts painted on walls to have a look.
Here is one I took recently it is just as you come into Civray from the N10 direction, you can see it says Atlantic but I can’t make out much else. Does anyone know what Atlantic was, was it a type of petrol maybe?
There is another one on the way up to Poitiers near Saint Benoit, that one says Donnay and was for clothing, I believe Donnay still produce clothes to this day.
Civray is twinned with Downham market in Norfolk, England and until recently I lived some of the time in a village two miles from Downham Market and some of the time in a village about 8 kilometers form Civray.
On the weekend before we moved from Downham Market I took some photos and so for all of you who live in or near Civray and have never visited Downham Market here is what you are missing!
The most photographed place in Downham is the clock tower. It stands at the centre of the town and is quite distinctive.
Downham was on the old A10 road which went from King’s Lynn down through Cambridge and eventually to London. Now there is a bypass but the legacy is that there are several large ex- coaching inns in the town. These still look quite impressive but have all perhaps seen better days.
As with most small towns in Engannd these days Downham has a large number of estate agents, banks and charity shops, none of which really add much to the shopping experience.
Despite the name… Downham Market, the town has one of the smallest markets you have ever seen, probably no more than 10 stalls, my favourite being Wards which supplies plants, seeds and shrubs.
It has the normal compliment of restaurants – fish and chip shops, Indian and Chinese along with traditional English fare in the hotel restaurants. It also has a number of tea rooms where you can get ‘a nice cuppa tea’. The best restaurant in town is Palmers. There is also Ozzy’s kebab van, almost rivalling the clock tower as an icon of Downham!
There is a Civray Avenue in the town boasting some smart modern houses and a road sign saying “Civray 628 miles”. At the playing field there is a gravel area where a few hardy souls gather each weekend to play Boules.
I suppose a comparison between Downham and Civray is inevitable.
They are both small towns. Downham is in the shadow of Norwich and Civray in the shadow of Poitiers, They are both on a river but the Charente runs through Civray and adds much to it’s beauty. The Great Ouse is down the hill from Downham and despite the town council hanging some plant containers on the bridge it certainly adds nothing to the town. Downham is in a bit of a time warp – the 1970’s still pervades the town. It is not quite a town where Elvis is still King- those places are to be found in Lincolnshire- but it is close! I lived there for 25 years – it did have a charm albeit a bit faded, but I liked it.
There is a site relating to the twinning club and I note that it’s latest addition is rather sad. Tinker Taylor who was instrumental in setting up the twinning in 1976 passed away a few days ago (May 2013) Click Downham Twinning Club to see what they are up to
So please look at the gallery of my Downham Market photos. Have fun.
Here is a sneak preview of this weekend’s production by Civray Footlights. The play is being performed this Friday, 2nd of November and on Saturday 3rd November. There are some tickets left for both nights and you can turn up and pay on the door or you can secure you seats by booking in advance. Continue reading