It is only to be found in the Pyrenees at the moment. A population is being established in the Italian Alps so conceivably that could expand and eventually reach France. Continue reading
Thouarsais wine is a little known denomination which is produced in the very north of Poitou-Charentes. Despite the name the town of Thouars is not actually in the region in which the grapes are grown but somewhat to the north and west. I suppose the region is in effect a satellite of the more famous Saumur and Anjou wines. (You can click on the map for a closer look) Continue reading
I have a small walnut tree in my garden in France. It is about 10 years old now and this year produced about 30 to 50 nuts. I can’t be sure how many it produced because I had to share them with the local red squirrel population. I think I managed to get about 50% of them.
Nearby are several other trees along the side of a little road and along a farm track so I managed to collect quite a lot of nuts and they are now shelled and ready to eat. Continue reading
We had a day in Saintes yesterday and despite it being the second week in October it was hot and largely sunny. There was a little cloud, some quite black and threatening but it only rained for about 30 seconds at the end of lunch, taken in Clos des Cours Restaurant, and eaten outside, but we were under cover and it would not have mattered if we had not been.
Saintes has a lot to offer, not surprising as its history goes back to before the Romans. It was originally the main settlement of the Celtic tribe known as the Santones and then in Roman times it was their southern capital of the region of Aquitaine. It has prospered from being on one of the Routes de Santiago de Compostela.
The Arch was constructed between 18 and 19 AD so during the time when the Emperor was Tiberius. The inscription on the Arch is to Emperor Tiberius and to his two sons Drusus and Germanicus. Obviously the person who paid for the construction, one Lulius Rufus, was trying to get maximum benefit by dedicating it to not one but two generations of emperors as he thought. As it happened the next emperor was the dreadful Caligula, son of Germanicus. With the passage of time the inscriptions have faded somewhat and now the most visible is the name Germanicus which is perhaps why it is known as the Germanicus Arch and not the Tiberius Arch.
When it was originally built the arch was at the end of a roman road running from Lyon to Saintes and at the head of a roman bridge over the Charente. It was then moved between 1843 and 1851. This was because it was going to be demolished so that improvements could be made to the bridge and banks of the Charente and it would have been lost forever were it not for Prosper Merimee who paid to have it saved and reconstructed just 15 meters from its original position. Good for him! He also wrote Carmen which was turned into the opera of the same name composed by Bizet and he was quite close to George Sands so it is said – at least, he was good friends with her.
This is a quite an impressive church in the Romanesque style and with a Tripartite Facade similar to the ones at Poitiers, Angouleme and Civray.
The facade was destroyed in 1562 during the religous wars and then recarved in 1710. For this reason the carvings are in fairly good condition being only 300 years old. It is quite easy to appreciate the animals and gargolyes that adorn the entrance. Continue reading
Autumn Crocus, (Colchicum autumnale) also known as Meadow Saffron and Naked Lady, this because when they flower the leaves have long since died, a bit like the pink garden plant called a Nerine.
Autumn Crocuses are very rare in GB but not quite so in France, they prefer a shady and well fertilised soil. They are famous as a source of the chemical colchicine which is found in the bulbs and is poisonous. However in the right amounts it is a useful drug and has been used to treat gout. Recently a lot of research work has been undertaken using derivative of colchicine in the battle against cancer.
More famously colchicine has been used in plant breeding to produce Polyploid plants. Normally species are Diploid, which means they have two sets of chromosomes, one from the male parent and one from the female. In plants however quite a few species like blackberry and Hawthorn have numberous sets of chromosomes, four sets are called tetraploids, six sets are hexaploids and so on. If colchicine is applied to plants then it will induce polyploidy, ie a diploid can be changed into a tetraploid. What is the point of this? well it can make the plant more vigorous so it grows quicker, produces more fruit or seed or has bigger seed.
One of the most important plants produced as a result of colchicine treatment is a cereal called Triticale. This is a hybrid of wheat and rye, but when you cross these two you get a sterile offspring, however by treatment with colchicine this sterile plant produces a fertile polyploid version and this is now a major crop. In 2009, 15 million tons of Triticale were produced world-wide.
Other major uses of Colchicine has been in the production of flowers like Orchids, Roses and Phlox
Click here for more photos of wildflowers from Poitou-Charentes.
It starts at Cheronnac with a man and a bowser of water! Well maybe, but the explanation to that is on a previous blog along with some photos of the source. Here is just one.There are others on Google earth so you can click through to see exactly where I took the photographs. Also whilst you are on Google earth, I have put several of the photos of these upper reaches of the Charente on Panoramio which is the photo section of google earth; also you can click on alan waterman to see all my other photos from all over the world, well almost. Here I will save you the bother just click alan waterman and you will be there in a jiffy.)
Brossac is a small town in the south of Charente. It is very pleasant although not exceptional, (although the authors of the excellent website about Brossac might disagree.) Possibly I consider that it is not exceptional in the context of all the places in Poitou-Charentes, in which virtually all the many towns and villages have something to offer. For me, however, it is special because my parents-in-law once owned a house there so we visited quite often. Our children spent their summer holidays there as did my sister-in-law, with her husband and children so lots of happy memories.