Friday, August 24, 2012

Château du Clos Lucé, Loire Valley

This post outlines some of our adventures on our Spring Trip in April/May 2012.

Here we are at the Château du Clos Lucé. This castle was built in 1471 and has the honour of being the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. (As well as home to other Kings and royalty beforehand, but what did they ever invent? Yeah, exactly.)

Chateau du Clos Lucé, castle entrance, Loire Valley, France

In 1516, King François I, a huge fan of Leonardo's, invited the scientist to come and live at the castle (the King lived at the nearby Château d'Amboise).

The gardens of Chateau du Clos Lucé in the Loire Valley, France

Leonardo live here for the last three years of his life with an allowance and his works financed by the King.

A bust of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Lucé
Leonardo da Vinci

A true admirer, all the King asked for in return was to be able to talk to Leonardo, which he apparently did nearly every day.


Guess which painting Leo brought with him when he moved in?

The Mona Lisa
Oh yes he did

The castle is nicely decked out in period furniture:


In the basement is the model room, which shows scale models of some of Leonardo's many inventions.

A model of a military tank designed by da Vinci.

In the basement there is also the secret passage that's said to lead to the Château d'Amboise. The King would use it to pop in for a visit when he couldn't be bothered getting out amongst the peasants.


The castle is indeed lovely, but the highlight (especially for the kids) is the extensive gardens around the residence. Parc Leonardo da Vinci contains several life sized versions of his inventions, set up for interaction.


Here's the tank again, this time built as one of those merry-go-round things you sit in and spin until centrifugal forces push your brains out your ears and vomit out your nose. Fun!


Leonardo was a prolific inventor. Just a small portion of his inventions are represented in this room of little models, just outside the castle.

Can you imagine how awesome a sewing machine Leonardo could invent were he alive today?

Quite the architect (as well as artist, engineer, twelve-time strip poker champion) Leonardo was also keen on designing staircases. Although not proven, most folks think that he designed the famous double helix staircase at François I's Chambord castle.


Another of Leonardo's designs, this time a bridge over a pond:


Where this poor duck and her mate were being harassed by a rather vicious fish:


At exactly 11:55am the two ducks hopped out of the pond:


And waddled over to the café next door just in time for lunch at midday.


After lunch, we spent the afternoon wandering through the gardens:


I loved this 15th century pigeon house in the grounds.


Square on the outside and octagonal on the inside, it has 1000 little niches for pigeon pairs to live in.


Pigeons were serious chi-ching back in the day. You could eat or sell the pigeons and their eggs, plus they produced lots of quality fertiliser for the owner's veggie gardens.

The kids got a good work out on the playground:


We all played 'spot the Leonardo invention' as we went around:


I suggested that perhaps we also get a life size drawing of a naked man to hang in our garden, but my suggestion didn't make it through the committee.


I'm just trying to bring more science into our lives, that's all.

Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine

So, that was the Château du Clos Lucé - a visit definitely recommended for families and those interested in the fascinating life of the great Leonardo da Vinci.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Les Jardins d'Albertas in Bouc-Bel-Air

Thank you for all the encouragement regarding my new point and shoot camera - I'm hoping things will only get better once I read the instruction manual!

Jardins d'Albertas in Provence, France

I've put all the camera details and the reasons why I chose it in on my Resources page for those who are interested.


Wednesday was a public holiday here so we took a little excursion to the nearby Jardins d'Albertas. 

Jardins d'Albertas fountain, Provence, France

Their website shows a short video of the flower markets they hold in the Spring (which we sadly have not attended).


We have, however, visited the gardens before - almost exactly 2 years ago.


I took my DSLR that day - yesterday I brought the point and shoot.


These were all taken with the automatic setting (because I still haven't read the manual) and I think they turned out pretty well for not too much effort on my part!


And so we wind down to another weekend. The mister is taking off to participate in an epic, one-week biking event (the Haute Route) for which he's been training very hard. He is indeed crazy. Crazy with very tight buns. Je profite, non? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! See on Monday with a little Liberty tutorial.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Point and Shoot

I'm actually talking about my new camera but the title works well with our potty training dramas.

I'm happy to report the little guy can point and shoot like a pro, and yesterday we had our first break though with the grosser side of potty training. I had no idea releasing your poo into the wide world of porcelain could be so traumatic.

I'm praying he's got the hang of it and can repeat his efforts today.

The new camera: it's a little point and shoot I bought during the July sales.

Fountain and restaurant seating in the evening light in Aix-en-Provence, France

I love my DSLR, but it can be a lot to lug around with lenses and all. I've missed plenty of great photo opportunities because I didn't have the brick with me.

A glass of champagne before dinner in a street in Aix-en-Provence, France

Dinner dates are a great example - it's easy to slip the camera into your handbag. These shots were all taken in Aix-en-Provence on Saturday evening.


If I hadn't taken the point and shoot I would've missed these Olympic athletes out on the town:

Dressed up as an Olympic gymnast
Love the cigarette.

Lanterns at the Aix-en-Provence evening markets, France
The Aix night markets are on every evening in August, along the Cours Mirabeau.

Another case: the beach. We headed out to la plage on Sunday morning, somewhere I would never take my DSLR for fear of getting sand in it. (I would take it if I was alone on a specific photo-taking visit, but not with four kids and three bags of beach gear.) I just popped the camera in a zip lock bag and then put it in my pocket.

It was the baby's first trip to the beach. This is what he thought of it:


Hated the water, hated the sand. He had to be held the whole time.

We told him this just would not do for an Australian, even a French-born one. More beach time required.

Some other weekend activities:

Finished another pair of boxers, for the baby this time.

hand stitching to embellish a piece of French linen
Some embellishing during the closing ceremony (had to watch George Michael, of course!)

Have a wonderful week everyone,
A bientôt!

P.S. I have decided that the little critter in the tree was in fact a vole or dormouse, as some of you suggested. Let us never mention the word rat again. #indenial

Friday, August 10, 2012

Potty Training Sucks

We're in the throes of it now and it's not going so well. I've had some traumatic experiences today.

We're doing this a little earlier than I'd like to because he has to be trained if he wants to go to school in September (and he really wants to go to school). He's got just under 4 weeks to get himself sorted.

Some boxers for the mister. Nothing to do with potty training an almost 3 yr old. 

If you want to see what Aidan, Sara Louise and I got up to the other weekend, you can read Sara's post here. All I'll say is there was a naked man in my kitchen.

I found this critter up in our mulberry tree:

He has a long tail. Is it a rat? Please tell me it's not a rat.

I won a little giveaway over at Krista's blog Poppyprint and some Liberty scraps are winging their way over the ocean to me. Once I receive them I will whip up a tutorial to contribute to the Liberty Scrap Challenge. Thanks Krista!

I've made a few new pages for the blog, attempting to make it more useful - you'll see them up along the top there. There are single pages that collate all my travel, craft and quilting posts so you (and I!) don't have to sift through the archives to find them. There is also a Resources page that has links to anything I have found really helpful in my travel and sewing adventures.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. We're set for another warm one down here in Provence.

Off to tackle the potty training again - more vodka required. (For me, not him. Although...)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Château de Chenonceau.

This post outlines some of our adventures on our Spring Trip in April/May 2012.

Now we're getting into the fun stuff - castles. I love castles. Especially furnished-like-back-in-the-day castles. And heaven help me if the staff are in costume.

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

After our enjoyable yet soggy tour of Normandy, we headed into the Loire Valley for a good dose of sunshine and châteaux. We had a lovely time.

Not so lovely was Morning 1 of Day 1 when the 2 yr old found our holiday home's game stash. He upended 4 jigsaw puzzles of 1000 pieces each on the carpet. Is it okay to admit I wanted to throttle him?

4000 mixed up pieces of jigsaw puzzle.
Why you little...

One had a green coloured backing but the other three were very similar shades of blue. It took a long, long time to sort them out.

After the jigsaw debacle we headed off to visit the elegant Château de Chenonceau.

The moats around the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

Chenonceau is also known as the Château des Dames (Ladies' Castle) due to the women who helped shape its history:
  • The castle's construction (starting 1515) was supervised by Katherine Briçonnet, the wife of the finance minister who bought the property. It was eventually taken over by King Francis I due to the family's unpaid debts.  
  • King Henry II gave the castle to his favourite mistress, Diane de Poitiers in 1547. She built the arch bridge to the opposite side of the river Cher. 
  • When Henry II died, his widow Catherine de Medici kicked Diane's arse out of there and moved in with her son, the young King Francis II. She built a gallery over the bridge and held huge parties there. 
  • When King Henri III (Francis' brother) died, his widow Louise of Lorraine moved in and mourned there until her death in 1601.
  • Louise Dupin, wife of the wealthy squire who bought the castle, breathed new life into the château and saved it from destruction during the French Revolution.
  • Marguerite Pelouze, wife of a squillionaire chemist, restored the castle in 1865 to that of the times of Diane de Poitiers. 
  • A wealthy chocolate magnate bought the castle in 1913. He paid to convert the castle to a hospital during WWI and his daughter, Simone Menier, served as matron. Simone was also rumoured to be active in the French Resistance during WWII (the castle was in occupied territory but the opposite bank was not - hence the bridge became a great asset to the Resistance).
I hope you found that as interesting as I did. I love those crazy royals and all the wild stuff they got up to.

Château de Chenonceau main entrance
The main entrance

Guards' Tower at Château de Chenonceau, France.
The Guards' Tower

Swallows' nests on the Guards' Tower at Château de Chenonceau
Cheeky swallows building nests on the Guards' Tower

Chenonceau certainly feels like it's had a woman's touch - it's more homely and relaxed than a castle should be.

This is helped by the staff (sadly not in costume) lighting the fire in each room:

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

And also ensuring every room has an arrangement of fresh flowers from the many gardens that are on the grounds:

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

It still has all the adornments you'd expect of a royal residence:

Ornate wallpaper in gold floral designs
Work of art wallpaper

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.
One of the ceilings. What's with the sweating ice cream cones with wings?

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.
Louis XIV in the most over-the-top frame I've ever seen

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.
Vaulted ceilings

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.
King Francis I's drawing room. Hmm. No comment.

A reminder of the gallery's use in WWI:

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.
2254 injured were cared for here during the War 1914-1918

The grounds are gorgeous and the kids really enjoyed all the moats:

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

Not to mention the gardens, the small farm, playground and hedge maze.

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

A beautiful castle with an interesting history - needless to say we recommend a visit to Chenonceau.

Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France.

Especially on a sunny day.

Have a great week, everyone!


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