There is a city not far from us called Saintes. It doesn’t have anything to do with actual saints but is from a Roman name, Xaintes. Yes, another section of France where the Romans did their thing. On my way back from Cognac, I decided to make a little detour.

As you would expect, the Romans had an arch. This one was actually moved to the other side of the river that divides Saintes. There were ancient ruins and stones everywhere and even a small arena.

I went into a church while there and was surprised by this rather modern rendition of Mary looking rather stylish.

The old section of Saintes was full of fabulous architecture and there was a huge pedestrian area. It was really nice to stroll around without worrying about traffic.

A lovely lamp post in a garden there.

In a courtyard I saw a sign saying “small garden” where tables were set up for tea. It was very pretty and I walked in to take a few photos and this silly man said, “Take my photo!” so I did. His name was Xavier. I didn’t stick around to join him for a drink. I thought maybe he had had a bit much to drink but I noticed tea cups on the table so maybe he was just being funny.

After my exploration of Cognac I was headed in the direction of home when I saw signs for a Pineau des Charentes makers. The whole area is full of independent makers of Pineau, just as you can find independent wineries in wine country. I was going around a round about when I saw a sign for such a place and took off in the direction of the sign. Sometimes I would think about turning around but then I would see another one of their signs and kept going, first through vineyard after vineyard, the source of cognac and pineau. Pineau, in case you missed it, is a rather sweet aperitif of wine mixed with cognac which is really nice before a meal. Then I entered a really beautiful forest, all the while going up and down gentle hills and around curves. I finally reached my destination.

The sign on their entrance. I walked through the gate and got scared to death when a German Shepherd starting wildly barking. Thank goodness it was behind a fence. The dog served as a kind of door bell as a lady came out of the house. here is a link to their website: Grateaud

This house to be exact. A lady came out. I think I may have interrupted her lunch as it was 1:30 but she was polite enough. She told me that her husband and his family had been in this business for six generations.

I tasted a couple of types of pineau and ended up buying two, one made with white wine, the other with rose. I bought two glasses too with the name of the company on them.

I also tried the cognac with Napoleon’s name on it-I guess he was a fan-but it is just too strong for me.

I like this poster advertising Pineau as an aperitif.

Next to the property was a field of sunflowers, most of them brown and dead. I don’t know if they just die early around here or if there was a virus or if it wasn’t hot enough or too much rain, but every field I passed was brown.

Big heavy sunflower head.

I personally am not a fan of the drink Cognac. It’s really strong and, I guess, an acquired taste. I do like Pineau des Charentes which has cognac in it and I really like the city of Cognac and its history.

I’m guessing by the little barrel over the door that the owner is in the Cognac business.

Love windows like this-wish it didn’t have the reflection in the glass.

I once did a tour of the Hennessy building showing the barrels used for storage and how the whole process works. Their boutique is very elegant and rather bare. I mainly went in to see if there was a toilet, which there was.

Here is a fancy, private cognac tasting room. I did the tasting, but not in this room, the time I did the tour as it was offered at the end

Pretty sculpture over a door.

We aren’t very far from the city of Cognac. I’d been there once before. Maurice and I were driving along and I saw an exit for Cognac (being an American, I didn’t even know that Cognac was an actual place, not just a drink) and asked Maurice to make a stop there. I don’t remember being that impressed for some reason. All of the stones of the buildings are gray from years of the process of making cognac and it was strangely empty. We did take a tour of one of the companies that make Cognac which is rather like that of one which makes wine and were back on the highway before long. I made another stop there the other day and found Cognac to be a delightful place with fascinating architecture and cobbled streets.

Unfortunately, it was an overcast day so the light is poor in all of my photos but here is a photo of those cobble stone streets. Cognac has a very interesting history. Kind Francois was born here, there was a very large salt industry because the city is on a river and then, just as that business started to decline, the cognac making had started leading the wealthy people which leads to beautiful buildings. Many of the streets are made of ballast stones, which were used to make ships heavier on return trips after they had delivered their wares. Cognac is a brandy, by the way. “The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine when aged in barrels, and most cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement.”-in case you wondered.

One of the windows on a half timbered house with Pinocchio hanging from the window box. Don’t know why but sort of fitting.

A scallop shell by the door, a sign of welcome.

I took many photos of windows and doors.

Another half timbered building with interesting upside down figures carved on the wood. There was also a man like figure which looked like an alien to me-very primitive anyway.

Cute little corner café. I arrived too early to have lunch in Cognac which I would have enjoyed. I did notice that their prices were close to those that I see in Paris taking advantage of all of the cognac lovers.

Just regular life here on the beach. I took some photos to document it.

You can see by that dark strip on the sky above the ocean, that rain was on its way.

And we got it. It poured. The kite surfers were out in droves. It cleared up after long and we got sun.

This is my favorite house in our village. Wish there had been a blue sky to set it off.

Here is the front porch. Someone has a green thumb. The house has a huge yard, all fenced off so we can’t see much but what we can see looked well taken care of, and a lot of work.

Maurice and his grandson.

You seldom see such a well preserved Citroen Deux Chevaux. The cheerful yellow really set it off. They aren’t made anymore but you still see them everywhere putting along, being passed by newer, larger cars.

I have a mix of photos, some left from our trip to Bordeaux.

I wrote a bit about this on Facebook. It’s a photo of some bottles in a window of Ott Rose, said to be the best by many in the States. It is more expensive than wines I usually buy. I just as happy with a 4 Euro bottle to tell the truth with my discriminating taste. I asked a wine expert in a Parisian wine shop if it was the best and he shook his head and pointed to another bottle and said it was better. Ott just has really good marketing. Ott is a Provencal wine by the way by way of an immigrant from Germany. Marketing seems to be the way in many areas-just look at Louis Vuitton and its prices for instance.

A huge bottle of rose from Aix that I was surprised to see in a Bordeaux bar.

Alone for an hour with a two year old who only speaks French. The hardest part is that he’s two, actually. I have collected many toy trucks and cars through the years so I can keep most boys entertained for quite a while. And then there is the beach of course. He is Maurice’s grandson and we are having him with us for a few days. Oh, the energy of a two year old! Plus, he is learning to use the toilet and wants to give it a go every 30 minutes.

I was trying to get a magical shot of the water, the birds and the light this morning on my run but the sun wouldn’t co-operate and my lens isn’t good for what I want. I’m going to check out the one you can get for iphones one of these days.

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