Sunday, 29 August 2010

Angers Market

The tribe left the second gite yesterday morning to our very great relief. It's so peaceful here now and the weather has changed to being much more sunny and also a little cooler. Yesterday we went to the market at Angers which took a bit of finding which was strange as when we did find it it was massive. The flea market was mainly fleas but the fruit and veg was amazing, but unfortunately we didn't want any food. After the market we walked through a little park next door which had some beautiful gardens, a bandstand and a big fountain. I managed to take quite a few photos and some video of the fountain. Then we went to a creperie and had the gallette de jour and a bottle of cider de ferme which was great.

We wandered back to the car and drove a little way to the Lac de Maine which is a big lake just outside Angers. There is a big boating place and a beach area where people were swimming and sunbathing. Near the boating place we spotted a heron on a little jetty along with some seagulls. I managed to get a few photos of the heron before the gulls saw me getting closer and spooked it. There was another smaller lake next to the big one with a path around it so we had a little walk.

There was a big sporting area too with courts for different sports and a play area for the kids. Had an ice cream from the little kiosk as we hadn't had a pudding at the creperie. On the way back to the car the heron was in a smaller pond and I managed to get a few more shots of it before leaving. Back at the gite sunbathing and swimming in peace until after 8pm, it was a good day.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Feeling Unispired

So the second week of our holiday is reaching an end and I am feeling somewhat uninspired photographically. Don't get me wrong, I'm having a great holiday, lots of good food and drink and very relaxed but nothing has really got my juices going for taking photographs. The weather on the way here was a bit mixed and although we went to some nice places there was not too much to get me into the rhythm. I guess part of it is not being able to upload any of my photos while we are away due to not being able to get the camera conector for my iPad before we set off but I think the weather while we have been here hasn't helped either. We've only had one morning when it hasn't been either cloudy or misty and the cloud has also returned every evening so there's been little scope for sunrise or sunset photos. When it has been sunny during the day it's been too damn hot to do anything much but sunbathe. The gite is also a bit uninspiring. It's OK but is doesn't match up to Les Fourneaux where we originally booked to go. The building is a converted barn which doesn't have much in the way of features and the inside is purely functional.

Also we have the neighbours from hell in the adjoining gite. Maybe an exaggeration, but they turned up in a massive camper van. The drunk grandad who thinks he's Adge Cutler and sings Wurzel songs all day and night, his very plain missus who busies herself doing things all day. The daughter and her husband who's idea of starting a barbecue is to use half a gallon of highly inflammable, highly toxic and eye stinging fluid until flames appear out of the top of the chimney. The two kids, a boy in his early teens who grunts a lot, a younger girl who screams and whines a lot and then the two dogs that piss a lot, especially around our gite. On the odd occasions when they leave the gite the performance of turning the camper van around is something to be seen. I know it's been windy but when they shut the doors it sounds as if they're slamming it as hard as they can and the wall between the gites must be paper thin because all we can hear all day is their noise. We were late to bed last night so as a bit of revenge I slammed our bedroom door twice at about half past midnight, about an hour after the din had subsided next door. Childish yes, but so what. They appear to think they can use every inch of the site as their own, their stuff in strewn about everywhere and the drunk grandad even came in our back door thinking it was the spare loo at the rear of the gite which he seems to use all the time. Thankfully they leave on Saturday and nobody is renting the second gite next week so it should be much more peaceful.

Anyhow today we haven't much planned so hopefully we can laze around while next door pack their stuff away ready for setting off on Saturday morning (early I hope). Tomorrow we're going to the market at Angers which includes a flea market bit so that could be exciting. Then on Sunday we're going to Lire which is just a couple of miles South on Ancenis. We went to the market at Ancenis yesterday and when we got back to the car there was a leaflet about something going on at Lire, couldn't understand most of the leaflet but it seems the day starts with something in the church at ten, then stuff is happening all day until midnight. There are jalopies, farm machinery, a brass band, some dancers and stuff from the surrounding regions. There's food and drink and surprises, so it should be good.
Couldn't find a photo to steal today, it's too early in the morning. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Chateau de Serrant

This morning was the first morning when the sky was clear blue rather than cloudy or misty. However the clear night meant that it was quite cool first thing. We went to Chateau de Serrant in the morning which was very good. We had a guided tour in French but we did have most of the blurb in a folder in English. There was some amazing stuff inside the chateau but we weren't allowed to take any photos. In the kitchen there was lots of brass pans and some lovely china. The guide was asking us to recognise some odd kitchen implements but we couldn't understand what the people were saying. The bedrooms were very interesting and there is an amazing library with some massive books and also some games tables. Some of the rooms had the walls covered with tapestries with some incredibly detailed and strange scenes on them. There wasn't a lot to see outside of the building except the building itself and the lake and moat around it. At some chateaux there are extensive formal gardens but there was nothing like that here.
After the chateau visit we had a crepe at the nearby town St. George sur Loire and then went on to see the abbey town of St. Florent le Vieil. The abbey church was lovely but the abbey itself had mostly disappeared. There was an exhibition of some things from the original abbey in the crypt of the church. We went down to a path along the edge of the Loire and went for a bit of a walk which was very pleasant. There were lots of people fishing and the path was very busy with cyclists.

Monday, 23 August 2010

La Moulin du Rat

It's been very hot and sunny for the last two days so we have spent the time around the pool and outside the gite. We popped out to the shop yesterday and I managed to lose the key to the gite. Had to confess to Hazel so we could get the spare key.
Last night it came cloudy and then overnight it rained very hard. This morning had to go to the Super U at Cande to get some spare keys cut so I can give them to Hazel in case I lose them again. The weather forecast told us we were due for thunderstorms around five this afternoon so we went to Challain le Protherie to have a look around and go for a walk. We had a look at the chateau which is a hotel so we couldn't go in but the sign say they are open for visitors on Sunday afternoons so we might go back then. We walked around the lake which was quite nice but it started ti drizzle some more. Decided to walk to La Moulin du Rat in the picture. The signpost said it was three and a half kilometres so we set off in the rain but it soon cleared up and we saw some sunshine. As you can see from the photo there's not much there and what the signpost didn't say was that it was the highest point in the area so it was all up hill on the way there. By the time we got back to the car we were both quite warm and getting tired as we'd walked well over five miles in the humid heat of the early afternoon.
It's just after six and although there are some very dark clouds in the sky there's no sign of the thunderstorms yet. Tomorrow we're planning a trip to the Chateau de Serrant just south of Angers near St. Georges sur Loire. The weather is forecast to be fine tomorrow so let's hope so.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Lizards

This morning it was a bit foggy but it didn't matter because we had to go to the supermarket to get all the things we need at the gite. As well as food and drink we bought some decent sized drinking glasses, a bread knife and a couple of knives for cooking. Not sure how previous occupants of the gite managed without them and why they aren't in the gite already. We'll probably leave them here as they were cheap and we have limited space in the car.

This afternoon it is incredibly hot, windy and there's barely a cloud in the sky. We sat outside under the umbrella for a while but it was still too hot for me. We've had to sit inside most of the afternoon reading. There are lots of lizards on the patio an last night one of them came into the gite. While we were sat out last night there was a little mouse playing on the gravel area in front of the gite.

I'm just a out to summon up the courage to go outside to light the barbecue because it's still very hot out there. Unfortunately there's no thermometer about but I think it must be in the mid thirties and there's precious little shade to hide in.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cholet

Today we left the hotel Jardin du Lac and headed North to the gite. The day started a bit overcast but quite pleasant for driving. We decided to keep off of the motorways and take steady route through La Rochelle and to Cholet. A little way past La Rochelle there had been a very bad accident and the firemen where cutting people out of one of the vehicles. Not sure what had happened because it was a straight stretch of road but there appeared to be a caravan and a trailer in the wreckage.
We stopped at Cholet for lunch and to have a bit of a look around. In the photo is the cathedral and the theatre with the square in front. The sky looked very much like it does in the photo and while at Cholet the temperature shot up to 29 degrees. The remaining journey from Cholet to the gite was very hot and sticky but we're here now and settling in. Hazel, the owner, has made us some bread and put some provisions in the fridge so we don't need to go shopping until the morning.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hoopoe at Dinner

We had dinner at the hotel Jardin du Lac last night which was very nice and a bit posh. We went for the 40 Euro menu which gave us three courses and some extra bits. We started with a champagne cocktail which was a house speciality. We were also served canapes which were a little bread with pate, a melon ball with cured ham and a redcurrant and what looked like a tiny toffee apple which had tomato inside. Then we had a hot lobster soup with salted cream. After that we had the three courses we had chosen and it was all very nice. During the meal we saw the strange bird on the grass outside the dining room and the waiter told us it was called a poo poo because it smells. I guess he was kidding because when I looked it up it was called a hoopoe. This morning it is a bit overcast so we went to a little local market (3 stalls) and had a look around the abbey at Trizay. Later we are going to walk around the lake here at the hotel and have a look at the gardens. This afternoon we are going back to Rochefort to look at a shop museum, the naval gardens, possibly the royal cordorie (rope makers) and then have dinner at one of the brasseries in the Place Colbert.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Place Colbert, Rochefort

It's a beautiful sunny day in Rochefort. This photo was taken by Planete Vivante (Marie Sophie) yesterday and I have borrowed if from flickr. Unfortunately al of the photos on my blogs from France are. Going to have to be stolen because I couldn't get the adapter for my iPad before I left England. I apologise and give regards to everyone who owns the photos in advance. I will, of course acknowledge any where I know who took them and will remove them if the owners object.

The photo is the Place Colbert in Rochefort and when we were here the man came to fix the fountain. I have some photos and video of the fountain in action so Marie Sophie can steal them if she wants when I post them sometime in September.

We have just arrived at the Jardin du Lac hotel in Trizay which has wifi and the reason I am posting to the blog in earnest. It's my birthday today and we are eating at the hotel tonight. I will post more from here tomorrow but I'm just about to show ere and change ready for the evening.

Vendomme

Another rainy journey on Sunday from Northern France to Vendomme on the Loir. Walked around the town on the evening in the rain before going back to the hotel for our evening meal. We are stopping at the Manoir du Foret at Ville le Clercs a few miles North of Vendomme. The meal was very expensive but very, very good. The next day the weather improved and went for walk along an abandoned railway line starting at Troo. In the afternoon we has another look around Vendomme and went up to the castle high above the town. The views were amazing and they had lots of photographs and artwork on display in the park at the castle. In the orangery they had a display of photographs of monkeys wearing clothes, but we weren't impressed at all so we walked straight back out of there. The woman in there was ranting about something to do with here son I think. I don't know if he had taken the photos or was the monkey in the photos, I didn't wait around to understand what she was saying. In the evening went to a pizzeria for dinner, it was very good and even with the carafe of wine the whole meal cost less than the botle of wine at the hotel the previous night. The photo is the Abbaye le Trinite in the middle of Vendomme.

Rue, France

On Saturday afternoon we arrived at the hotel Auberge de la Dune after a very wet journey through Southern England and Northern France. The weather brightened up nicely for us to have a walk on the beach nearby. People were riding horses along the beach and we saw a couple of horse and carts drive by. We had our dinner at the Brasserie Central in Rue opposite the chapel in the photo, but it wasn't brilliant. Had a glass of wine at the hotel which was also pretty dire, so went to bed.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Weeds, crops and battery problems

I've been having problems with my camera batteries recently with them going flat very quickly.  I have three batteries, the original one from when I bought the camera and a couple of cheapo ones from 7dayshop.  The thing is I'm not very organised with charging them up and keeping track of which ones are fully charged so I wasn't too sure if I had a problem or not.  Anyhow yesterday (Sunday) I was sure that the original battery was dead so it went in the bin and I put one of the others in the camera and went out for a walk with the dog.  Guess what, the battery that I put in the camera was also a bit dud so as soon I took the first half dozen shots the battery icon on the camera started to flash and of course I hadn't stuck the other one in my pocket.

So you may think this was a very bad thing, but I'm not sure it was because I had to change the way I worked.  I switched off the camera when I wasn't using it, normally it's always switched on a ready to fire off a blast of shots.  I framed my shots carefully, looking a a few different angles before committing to the shot I wanted and switching the camera back on.  I only took a couple of shots for each composition rather than blasting off half a dozen at a time.  I used only my 50mm prime so there was no zooming back and forth and no image stabiliser draining the battery.  Then when I got home I just had a couple of dozen images rather than a couple of hundred and almost half of them are worth posting instead of 4 or 5 percent.  See what you think.

This first image of the weed was my second attempt because in my first attempt the depth of field was far too narrow and only a small part of the flower head was in focus.  The 50mm lens goes as wide as f1.8 which is what I started at, but then I stopped down to f3.5 for this shot.  The other weeds in the background are well out of focus which simplifies the image very well. The main problem with this shot was the light colour in the background at the top of the frame which gives far too much weight to that area.  I couldn't get high enough to fill the background with the other weeds, maybe I should clone some weeds into the top area to darken it down.


The next three shots where the one time I fired off a few shots in a row.  A bit opportunist as the bee was emerging from the flower and then flying off.





The next image is the same sort of weed but these ones had far richer colour than the ones with the bee.  I spent a bit more time composing this shot and tried to get some more of the flowers in the background.  I think I needed even more depth of field on this shot as the flower on the left of the three is pretty soft.


The last of the weeds was a bush with these tiny white flowers.  Each of the little flowers seemed to be at a slightly different stage of development which makes them quite interesting to look closely into.  I was also intrigued by the bits that look like snow flakes, what are they I wonder.


All of these photos where taken from around Scout Dyke reservoir although there's no sign of water in any of them.  Around the reservoir there are several farms and in some of the fields the grain crops are getting close to harvest time.  The next two shots are the edges of corn fields where I'm trying to show lots of detail of the heads of the corn.  They look to be two different varieties with the first ones being short and fat whereas the second are longer, thinner and a darker colour.  Maybe they are just a slightly different stages of the growing cycle.



The final two photographs are at the edge of a barley field. In the first shot I have gone close up in the same way as the corn fields but in the second I am shooting higher up and getting more of the field in the background.  There are almost lines across the field as it stretches back into the distance.



In conclusion, I guess it was a good exercise to limit myself to the number of shots I could take on a trip out and I think the resulting images are better than my average.  I have to admit I didn't really like having a limit put on the number of shots I could take and I have ordered a couple of new batteries which I hope will arrive before I go on holiday.  In the future I think I will try to take less shots and take more care with composition but then again old habits die hard so we shall see.