Friday, June 17, 2011

Saumur and The Loire Valley

The Loire River and Saumur Castle in background

June 14 - Vannes to Saumur

Our drive eastward, from Vannes to Saumur  was one of our longer ones, passing by the cities of Nantes and Angers. As we drove into Saumur across the Loire River we were greeted with a grand view of the city’s brooding castle and a medieval looking bridge.

Our hotel was situated in a small village next to Saumur. After getting settled into our room we went into Saumur and walked along the Loire River, touring the steep walls of the castle and its grounds. They provided a splendid view of the Loire Valley as well as the river itself.

Right next to the castle, also having a grand view, there was a small restaurant perched at the top of a knoll. We settled in for a refreshing beer. Life’s good.

As luck would have it, we found an open cave (winery) as we made our way down back into town. Helene, a young lady at the Caves de Grenelle, gave us a wonderfully informative tour of the winery. Although they made many different wines, this was their sparkling wines facility. Their regular (still) wines were made elsewhere.

Helene proceeded to take us into the cool and dark caves a hundred feet below the surface and showed us the process they utilize (methode traditionelle) to make the sparkling wines. Afterwards, we got a chance to taste their sparkling wines. Typically, the wines are made with Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Savignon Blanc grapes. Needless to say, there was not a bad one in the bunch.

The following day our plan was to drive to the Chenonceaux chateau, one of the more outstanding chateaus in the Loire Valley. The drive was longer and more convoluted than we had anticipated, but we finally made it.
The driveway

Our new home

One of the several bedrooms

A hall used for balls and banquets

Part of the kitchen 

The Chenonceaux chateau is built across the River Cher grounds and gardens. As we walked through it, it struck me that there was an abundance of bedrooms - I concluded that it was perhaps due to all the women the chateau had in its history. It was here that Henry II kept a mistress (Diane), while he was married to one of the Medici ladies. After Henry died, Diane gave the chateau to Catherine Medici in exchange for another chateau. Appropriately, the castle the Diane garden and a Catherine garden.

Although you can tell these people led quite the opulent lives, it also had a gruesome aspect to it, evident with the early deaths of both Henry II and the Henry III. There was lots of scheming, intrigue and back stabbing. Life didn’t consist of only banquets, feasts and masquerade balls.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog! Lovely photos too. Cant wait to see you in one week!