The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Thursday 31 January 2008

Markets in and around Richelieu

Shopping or just browsing in markets is part of the magic of being in France. 

Richelieu has a beautiful 1630 timber-roofed halle building which is host to most of the food stalls in the twice-weekly market. On Mondays, as well as meat, cheese, fish and fruit and vegetables in the market hall, the Market Square has a large selection of non-food stalls, which on a busy week can occupy the whole of the Square with varied goods on sale ranging from beds, fabrics, clothes and shoes to hardware. The Friday Market is mostly food, and there is usually a queue at the fish stalls where oysters sell 'like hot cakes'. There are also plant and flower stalls. I always watch what vegetable and salad plants are for sale, either to buy, or to give a good idea of what grows well in the area. If you buy flowers or house plants for a present, they will gift wrap them for you at no extra charge.

On the first Monday of each month there is a market in nearby Lencloître (24 km south).  This means that Richelieu's market is very small that day; all the traders go to Lencloître where the market is truely HUGE. You can buy virtually anything there, including live animals (chicks, geese, hamsters, sheep, goats, donkeys etc.), tractors and general merchandise. There are food and wine stalls dotted around, and we were amazed/amused/appalled(?) at one food stall selling barbecued eels, starting with the live items wriggling. This is definitely worth a visit, even if you don’t need to buy anything.

Other regular markets are at Chinon (21 km north), on Thursdays, and Châtellerault (30 km south), on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Les Halles at Châtellerault is the permanent market - a beautifully maintained building with a large variety of top quality foods. 

A more unusual local market is the nocturnal one held below ground level in caves near La-Tour-Saint-Gelin (9 km east). Held on a Friday evening (possibly the second Friday most months), and advertised widely by the roadsides around Richelieu, it is worth the effort to follow the signs and find this unusual setting.  There are plenty of stalls offering tastings, as well as a main bar and eating area where you can have a set meal. 

Of course, there are the seasonal markets, too. As well as the Christmas markets and the truffle market, look out for farms which open to sell asparagus in the season from mid-April to mid -June.  Some also sell their own honey, vegetables and even oil.

Happy shopping!

(thanks to Susie for this entry & pictures from Lencloître Monday Market)

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Londres à Richelieu, for Rosbifs

Calais to Richelieu - 365 miles - practically 6 hours tunnel to door.

Autoroute Calais to Rouen, through Rouen towards Caen and Le Harvre, then take the new autoroute south past Alençon, then around Le Mans, and onward to Tours, all still by autoroute, finally joining the Paris/Bordeaux A10, until exit 25 (St Maure-de-Touraine) half-an-hour south of Tours, then the same time on local roads to Richelieu. (See the smaller map below). 
Autoroute tolls are about 6€ before Rouen, 26€ at Tours and 4 € at St. Maure. The new Rouen route avoids Paris and most of the heavy trucks, which are much less of a problem to the driver as a result. And of course no standstill in Paris! (perhaps a petit bouchon in Rouen.)

The Cardinal and Monty Python's Flying Circus

A video version of the sketch with sub-titles in French.

Friday 11 January 2008

Richelieu and the black truffle of Perigord

One of the villages of the Canton that are administered from the town of Richelieu is Marigny Marmande.  For a long time it has had a reputation for its black truffles which grow round the roots of certain types of oak trees.  Lineaus  calls them Tuber Mélanosporum; most call them b***** expensive at 1 gram for 1€ (middle quality!)

Markets are held through the winter, this particular one between Christmas and New Year.  While the truffle is the 'main event', there are many other gastronomic products for sale, direct from the local farms.  
Foie gras of either goose or duck is for sale for the St. Sylvester evening meal (New Year's Eve), to be eaten with sweet raisin bread, fig jam and a bottle of Côtes de Layon (or two).

Thursday 10 January 2008

...a foggy night in Richelieu town...

A foggy mid-winter night in the Place du Marché shows off the square's new lighting scheme. The buildings are lit by projectors attached to points around the square, and these powerful lamps light up the foggy damp air in a spectacular way.
The square is almost empty as everyone is home in bed! Brrrrrr.....

19th & 20th Century shop fronts

The town of Rchelieu, being a sleepy place, has still retained several old shop fronts.  This paticular one, fastidiously maintained,  was shuttered up for the New Year 2008 when we took a snap of their meticulous restoration and pretty floral stencilling.  It is nice the way the traditional shutters fold back into the façade once they are re-opened.
More or less opposite is la boucherie chevaline or horse-meat shop with its extraordinary façade from the '1950s.

Tuesday 8 January 2008


The town of Richelieu is served by two separate blogs; the one you are reading at present, created mainly for the visitor and written  in the English language, and the other and original created in French by Jean-Louis Laurence and called 'Le blog du Cardinal'.
Jean-Louis is an IT expert and runs this computer centre now relocated to impressive premises right on the Grand Rue.  He offers all sorts of IT-based services, including a 'internet café' and a wi-fi zone that allows visitors disconnected from their usual IT bases to contact the world during their sojourn in the town of Richelieu.  
Citizens of the town can rely on him to solve their IT installation and running problems. Well done for building the entreprise in the real world as well as in the virtual.

Bonne année 2008, Jean-Louis!