Sunday, September 4, 2011

Villandry 3 September 2011

3 Sept 2011 - Villandry

I'm sitting happily on the lawn in the garden at Le Petit Villandry, our B&B for tonight. It's 6.44 and quite balmy, though the clouds rolled in with a thunderstorm in the distance at 4pm. How strange to see a summer storm in Europe. There are pink roses, black eyed Susans and dozens of other flowers I can't name set out in a cute little square garden. Beyond that lies the edifice of Chateau Villandry - I'm looking at the turret from my lawn chair. It's peaceful. The church is off to my left and swallows are circling it madly.

The garden at Le Petit Villandry B&B with Villandry chateau in the distance
Today was a good day. Luke woke up much better,despite being kept up by the noisy Friday night crowds in Place Pomereau in Tours. Our hotel was in a tiny street absolutely filled with restaurants and touristy diners. It was also filled with cigarette smoke, to the point that a white haze filled the air. Everyone sits on the outdoor tables and smokes like crazy and it ruins what could be a beautiful area. As it was I ventured out and held my breath a lot.

Thankfully the air was clear in the morning, with just street sweepers and cooks busily getting the lunch stared. Our cycle lady ?? (not Celine) was an hour late because she got lost due to roadwork. So we did a fair bit of hanging around at the Hotel L'Adresse. Breakfast was nice enough and almost every other client seemed to be Australian. We didn't talk to them, just recognised the accent.

Finally Celine arrived, delivered the bikes and gave us our instructions. The bikes are fab, mine especially, which is a ladies upright hybrid that is just a joy to ride. Off we went, navigating through the streets of Tours with surprising ease. The traffic lights are set up with areas for bikes, there are bike lanes and the cars are polite and leave you room. Fantastic.
On the outskirts of Tours
We finally found the official Loire a Velo route and followed it along the banks of the river Cher for most of the way. Rode through corn fields, small forested areas and past farm houses. At one point I walked to the small brook we followed and launched about six frogs into the water as they jumped away in alarm. Rode past flower-lined fields and lots of happy fellow cyclists.
On the official Loire A Velo cycle path

Field of flowers, lots of cornflowers
Had a chocolate eclair for lunch at Savioneirres. Luke's banana eclair was a disappointment. Across the river was a giant sandy beach with people swimming. I love how the rivers are easily available for swimming, it's not a furtive affair like it is so often in Australia. We really have made a mistake, allowing riversides to be privatised. They should all be public as seems to be the case here.
Chocolate eclair, banana eclair, Cher river in the background with swimming beach.

We didn't go to the petrified caves because we were running late. Instead we carried on to Villandry in order to visit the chateau. Thought we'd find the hotel first - alas, this involved riding up and down a big hill trying to find it. Our bags hadn't arrived by then (2.30pm) so we went to the chateau in our riding clothes.

At Chateau Villandry

The Chateau is not as spectacular as Chenonceau and the inside isn't that great but the gardens were good. The sheer scale of them and the care with which they are maintained is wonderful. I liked the Cloud garden which was mainly blue, purple and white flowers. It was amusing to see people start to eat grapes off the vine around us. For a while no-one touched them. Then Luke saw an English lady eating them so he picked some... then everyone had a go. It was like the secret grape-eaters club at one end of the vines, everyone happily picking and eating.
The moat was full of huge carp

The chateau featured a Turkish roof that was reconstructed piece by piece

Looking out over the expansive gardens

The fountain made of tongues

Picking grapes

The love garden

Back to the hotel, showered and now sitting here. But it's time to get ready, we're being taken to a restaurant somewhere for our dinner which was pre-paid. No idea where it is or what it will be like. One thing is certain, I'm bloody starving so it will probably taste fabulous.

Back at our room, bursting to full with our E28.50 three course meal. We were picked up at the gate by a man in a van that said "LIVRAISONS" (Deliveries), having watching him nearly back into a Renault after going the wrong way. The back of the van had a woman, two kids and a baby. We weren't sure what was going on.

Turns out this is Denis and Celine, our local cyclomundo people. The bike lady this morning wasn't Celine. I have no idea who she was. This whole thing has a distinct "fly by the seat of the pants" oily rag feel to it. They didn't really seem to know what was going on either.

In any case, they took us 1km up the road to l'Etape Gourmande, a farm restaurant set in 17th century buildings. The whole family got out because Celine and Denis decided they were eating there too. We were shown to a separate table which was a relief because I wasn't exactly expecting to eat with a family I'd only just met. In any case the meal was wonderful. I had goat's cheese and pickled vegies on warm bread, veal cutlet with tagliatelle and a summer fruit tart. Luke had Fois gras, veal kidney and mash and a weird dessert: tomatoes with olive oil ice cream. All great except I think they forgot to give me the grand marnier ice cream with my tart. Very cheerful redheaded lady served us, tried to teach Luke the word for veal kidney but he pleaded ignorance.

We've got back and realised that the heater in the bathroom has scalded all our lycra clothing which we'd washed and draped over it to dry. Who knew those things would get so hot.

Tomorrow we go canoeing. Denis happily told us to watch out for quicksand. Luke reckons this is similar to a dropbear story. Especially since he was telling Celine about wombats. "Le burrowing bat? Zey are making zis up! We will get them back." Luke had been asking about what the mysterious dug-up holes in the lawn were. It's moles.

This bed is very comfortable. We don't set out until 10am tomorrow. Time for bed.

No comments:

Post a Comment