13 December 2017

Montrésor (nº 21)

Five more Montrésor church photos... This makes three weeks I've been posting photos I've taken in one village over the past dozen years. I have a few more in my archives, and I might just continue posting Montrésor photos as we move into the holiday season.

Most of us, when we go touring around, just wander and look for striking, colorful, interesting, and unusual things to look at and point the camera at. That's what I do. And I hope you enjoy the photos.

It's the atmosphere of a village, château, or church that we are interested in. It's not so much the historical or architectural details that matter.

In other words, a blog like this one is not an encyclopedia. It's more like a magazine.

Writing encyclopedia articles is a lot of work. As a retired person and senior citizen, I don't go out looking for work. I have plenty of that to do in the kitchen, yard, and garden.

12 December 2017

Montrésor (nº 20)

Heads or tails no heads... but hands. Inside the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church in Montrésor, you can see the tombs of the family that had the church built nearly 500 years ago. The family name was Batarnay (sometimes spelled Bastarnay) and Imbert de Bastarnay was an advisor to and confidant of several French kings back then.

"Recumbent" statues of the deceased (father, mother, and son) adorn the tombs. These kind of statues are called gisants in French, from the "defective" verb gésir meaning "to lie (down)" or "to be lying (down)" — not to be confused with telling lies. Other forms of this irregular verb appear as ci-gît [name] meaning "here lies [name of deceased person]"... and also gîte meaning vacation or holiday rental house. A gîte is a hare's nest, where the animal lies down to sleep. Gîte means "shelter" in this context.

The author of the Cadogan guide to the Loire Valley says that the gisants at Montrésor are "fine effigies" that make the Batarnays "look rather like a family tucked up in bed with their heads deep in their stone pillows." Imbert de Batarnay reportedly lived to the ripe old age of 85.

The hands are striking. Why are people who look like they are dead or sleeping holding their hands up in such a prayerful pose?

The Batarnays are luckier than the saints whose statues adorn the façade of the Montrésor church. Those statues are headless thanks to the pillaging and plundering of churches that went on at the time of the French Revolution.

11 December 2017

Montrésor (nº 19)

Montrésor en hiver. A wintertime shot through the bare branches of a tree.

February 2005

We're having strong winds and some rain this morning. Tree branches are down in the yeard. We had very hard rain for a couple of hours yesterday morning. Winter is asserting itself. This is typical weather for the season. The good news is that it's a warm storm. (Positive) 9ºC this morning (nearly 50ºF).

10 December 2017

Montrésor (nº 18)

Quelques maisons... The four houses pictured here are in Montrésor. There are quite a few houses in Montrésor but not very many permanent residents — just 350.  (Warning: this is a nerdy post full of statistics.)

According to the French Wikipedia article on the town (commune) of Montrésor, quoting French government statistics, nearly one in five logements (housing units) in the village is vacant. Another 20% of the village's logements are occupied only seasonally or occasionally. There are 280 logements in all.

In other words, only about 60% of the village's logements are occupied on a permanent basis as somebody's résidence principale. In the rest of the département (the Indre-et-Loire, pop. 600,000), which is centered on the city of Tours, the percentage of logements that are résidences secondaires (second homes) is only 4.4%. The number of second homes as a percentage of Montrésor's total housing stock has increased from 9% fifty years ago to 21% today. Well-to-do people who live in Paris and other cities famously have maisons de campagne (country houses) to which they can retreat for vacations and weekends. Often these houses have been inherited.

For comparison purposes, in the village where we live (pop. 1,100) there are more than 600 logements and, as in Montrésor, nearly 20% of them are occupied only seasonally or occasionally. However, only 3.5% of the logements here are vacant, compared to nearly 20% in Montrésor. In the "hamlet" or neighborhood we live in, there are nine houses and only five of them are anybody's principal residence. The other four are vacation/holiday/country homes that are only occasionally occupied.

One major difference between our village and Montrésor is the land area each occupies. Montrésor is about one square kilometer, while our village covers 32 square kilometers (12 sq. mi.) of territory. In what I consider the Saint-Aignan "metropolitan area" — four towns/villages covering about 80 square kilometers (30 sq. mi.), pop. 8,300 —  there are about 4,600 logements and about 10% are second or vacation homes, not résidences principales. In a similar area of 83 sq. km. around Montrésor (three other villages included), there are about 1,500 permanent residents. The Montrésor area is really sparsely populated.

09 December 2017

Montrésor (nº 17)

In my archives I recently found this photo from the year 2000, the first time I ever saw the town of Montrésor and its château. We were driving from Loches over towards Burgundy, and we had a memorable lunch in Valençay that day — for the atmosphere as much as the food. I had lived in Paris and Normandy years earlier.

We had rented a nice Renault station wagon [pictured below] for a couple of weeks. We spent the first week in the Loire Valley, based in Vouvray, just exploring, taking photos, eating, and drinking the local wines. I had driven through the Loire Valley three for four times in my life but I hadn't ever spent more that 24 hours here.

During that week in October 2000, I was just starting to realize how many small, off-the-beaten-track châteaux and churches dotted the Loire Valley countryside. I really enjoyed talking and listening to people speak French, because the Loire Valley accent and usage are the international standard for spoken French. I knew I wanted to come back one day. What I didn't know wwas that we'd be living here starting in 2003.