Monday, October 10, 2011

Forest for the Trees & A Grey but Pleasant Day

Fall sunset view out our back window

This was the week when the earth tipped definitively into fall. We started out with blue, cloudless skies and temperatures fit for a summer day and ended the week under gray and cloudy skies, huddled together in our thickest sweaters. Our television weatherman told us that "all good things must come to an end." For two full weeks we had record high temperatures and for 5000 miles there was not a cloud in the sky over Europe.

During those first bright days this week, we took a walk in the forest of Vibraye to see how fall was progressing. I worked hard to capture the beauty of the scene—sunlight illuminating leaves, dried leaves covering the pathways, color variations from tree to tree. We stopped on the path several times just to listen to the utter quiet.

There are not the dramatic color changes you can experience in other parts of the world, but our weather is mild, and so our fall is mostly sweet and subtle, but not without its charm.

The forest is mostly deciduous trees, though there are a few pines.

Ash and oak trees predominate, but we saw some birch as well.

There are sections of forest that have wide pathways, and ones where the forest closes in around you. There are very few openings among the trees.

I was really delighted with this blue tree. It seemed so unlikely and mysterious.

We walked rather endlessly through the pathways. There are miles and miles of them and in the hours we spent here, we saw only four other people.

Towards the end of our trail we came across this ancient iron street sign. Why was it here? What purpose had it ever served? I suppose these pathways must have once carried wagons and people who had real destinations, unlike us, who come just for the joy of wandering.


At the end of the week, we took our client, Mina, to Amboise for a visit to the famous market there and a tour through Leonardo de Vinci's house, now under gray skies.

The Sunday market here stretches on and on. It lays claim to being one of the largest markets in France. It is pleasantly arranged next to La Loire river, under great sycamore trees, with the beautiful Amboise Château as backdrop.

Vegetables fresh and in season,

Oysters, still wiggling in their green tubs,

huge pans of paella and roasting chickens,

vast flats of cool weather flowers in bloom were all on offer.

This gentleman seemed an unlikely candidate to be a professional basket weaver. But I suppose this craft has been passed down for generations in his family. His products were lovely and you could watch him make them.


After a very pleasant lunch at a local restaurant, we made our way up to the house where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life, Château du Clos Lucé.

The Renaissance, of course, was born in Italy and Leonardo certainly contributed towards the flowering of art, technology and philosophy there. In Italy, however, he was not highly appreciated in his lifetime, as he was openly homosexual and people like Savonarola preached radically conservative Catholicism to the masses, which made for a atmosphere not open to difference.

François I, the king of France between 1515 and 1547, was an avid patron of the arts and a great admirer of Leonardo. He invited him to come to France and installed him in this jewel-box of a house, just down the road from his castle.

We have been here before, but have only taken the tour once. It was inspiring to see again these rooms. Here is the bed where Leonardo died at the age of 67. Apparently he was very well treated here and his last years spent in France were very happy ones.

Some of the original murals are just visible on corners.

This is the room where Leonardo would meet with the king, who visited him almost every evening for conversation.  I think Mina looks like she belongs here.

Many of Leonardo's inventions have been realized as models by local engineering students, and they are on display in the basement of the house. Leonardo was particularly interested in flight, war technology and water works. He designed flying machines, tanks, bridges, locks and paddle boats.

This was, apparently, Leonardo's favorite view from his garden.

We particularly enjoyed strolling around the grounds, which we had never done before. They are vast and lovely.

There are many full-scale working models of some of his designs here.


I leave you with the last flowers from the garden. We will be away in England next week, visiting James and Adric and gathering more stories, visiting other castles and taking many more photos. I will meet you back here upon our return.


  1. I adore the blue tree! How striking. Thanks for sharing such a fascinating post. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  2. Hello Nancy,

    I never know where to even begin when I comment on your wonderful posts. So many beautiful pictures and places with interesting people thrown in for good measure!

    Please explain the blue tree????

    That last photo of the flowers in the pretty blue pottery jug is so very scrumptious! The colors!

    You certainly are getting around this year.....

    till next time

    Janet xox