Saturday, 23 June 2007

Chateaux of the Loire

This post covers our time spent in search of chateux in the Loire Valley including tales of hound dogs and a music festival.

The next morning, Thursday 21 June, we said our goodbyes at the vineyard and went in search of an aire de service. As well as being places you can spend the night, they are also places to fill up with fresh water and dump your waste water. We found one but because Ace was on an incline, the waste water wouldn’t empty! We emptied 4 x 5 litre bottles of fresh water into his tank before we then realised it had a rather yellow-ish tinge to it! Desperate times call for desperate measures and we were certainly desperate for water after all those hills!

We headed on, calling in at a castle en route, the renaissance-style Chateau de Serrant. There was another motorhome there that had pulled up for a look, luckily with this chateau you had a good view without having to pay to get in.

Above: Angers
Below: Saumur

I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned this before, but when you pass another motorhome on the road, it is customary to give them a wave. We first came across this tradition in England when driving about, people started to wave and flash their lights at us. I’m quite happy to wave but flashing your lights is a bit over the top in my opinion. We motorhomers are very friendly people! All through Scandinavia and France most people give you a wave, for some reason in the Netherlands and Germany people didn’t seem to wave at all.

We then passed through the city of Angers and as luck would have it, came across an empty car park 50 metres from the castle. This is a medieval castle with huge walls, round towers and a deep moat. It must’ve been a formidable fortress.

After briefly having lunch on the banks of the Loire (it was raining) we headed to Saumur, half way between Angers and Tours. Saumur is famous for several things, a national military riding school, mushrooms and absinthe production. Unfortunately we did not get to sample either of the latter two but we did see a young woman receiving riding instruction.

We made our way up a steep hill to walk around the castle, the interior has been closed for some time as some of the ramparts collapsed a few years ago. There was a special school visiting town and for a few seconds, Sarah was mistaken for one of them and got herded away with them! I kid you not!
Above: Riding instruction, Saumur
Below: Fete de la Musique

Back in town we noticed that preparations were underway for the Fete de la Musique. This is an annual festival held in most towns and cities in France where musicians and singers take to the streets and perform for free. We watched one percussion group practising and they were fantastic. We headed back to Ace for dinner and a rest then at 8pm headed back into town. The festival was only just starting but we managed to see about 7 or 8 acts perform on various stages around the town. These varied in size from 1 person to 20 people, their ages from school children to pensioners, and their musical styles from jazz to pop to traditional to heavy metal.

We left at about 9.30pm but then it was only just getting started, thousands of people were making their way into town and the streets were packed. The car park was also packed when we got back, we headed 8km away to an aire de service for the night which was free.

Friday 22 June was our chateaux day. We left our aire de service and drove to Chinon to admire the dramatic-looking medieval castle perched on a hill above the town. Next stop was Azay-le-Rideau to visit the renaissance-style chateau there. We moved on to Villandry where we walked around the beautiful gardens and where Sarah beat me to the centre of the maze. We drove past Chaumont-sur-Loire and Amboise chateaux en route to our final stop for the day, the Chateau of Cheverny.

Left: Azay le Rideau
3 Below: Villandry - Sarah in a gazebo, Matt lost in the maze, the chateau

We got to Cheverny just in time to see the “soupe de chiens” – the feeding of the dogs. 100 hunting hounds, a mix between French and English breeds, waited in a concrete enclosure for their dinner – a 3 metre-long heap of offal and dog biscuits. As they waited there were quite a few fights between the pack! The kennel master let them into the area where their dinner was but the dogs dared not touch it until he cracked his whip. We then witnessed an incredible feeding frenzy where the dogs fight each other for scraps of meat and offal. When there is no more left, they mop up the biscuits.

We headed towards the chateau which is beautifully furnished, Sarah said it was her favourite castle so far, probably because of all the cute nurseries! From a window we could see the orangerie, a building where many of the State’s national treasures, including the Mona Lisa, were hidden during WW2.

Left and above: Soupe de chiens, Chateau de Cheverny
Below: Children's playroom, Chateau de Cheverny

1 comment:

Big sis said...

Sarah!! What a little exhibitionist!!! Big fan of the photo of the sunset in vineyard could see that as a picture on my wall!! well done matt! Yellow water isnt sounding so good you really must have been desperate. Love ya big sis xxxxxx