Castles, Caves and an Attic

Location: Tours and the Loire Valley of France

Introduction:

The Loire Valley is another popular tourist destination but it doesn’t feel like one as the popular tourist sights are spread far and wide across the lengthy valley. We settled in for a week and made daily excursions around the area. It had a rural feel to it and we quickly became very comfortable soaking up the fresh air and beautiful countryside. The food was great, the wine was good and the people were warm and welcoming. It’s fair to say that we’d found our comfort zone.

Sights Visited:

We spent a couple of days wandering the lovely city of Tours on foot and liked what we saw. The city is walking friendly with a mix of wide boulevards in the new areas and narrow streets closed to traffic in the old city, which includes some unique medieval homes in its center.
May Day is a national holiday in France similar to Labor Day back home. Our hosts tipped us off to a food and wine festival in the small village of Panzoult. So, off we went to get a sense of the local culture. We found local wine producers offering up tastings of their wines inside a very cool wine cave. The outdoor activities included some entertaining jousting matches. We purchased 4 bottles of wine and would have bought another if it hadn’t been sold out.
The Loire Valley is known for it’s array of Renaissance Castles and we made a point to visit a couple of them starting with Chateau de Chenonceau. It sits on the River Cher, with impressive grounds and gardens. We also visited Chateau Villandry, which is best known for it’s spectacular gardens. We especially enjoyed wandering the properties surrounding the castles.
We visited numerous wineries, caves and wine shops to learn about and sample the wines of the Loire Valley. Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc dominated the whites while Cabernet Franc was the dominant red varietal. The general style was light and fresh. We especially enjoyed a number of white wines and purchased our share of whites and reds to pair with local foods back in our apartment.

Accommodations:

We spent a week in a studio apartment that we found on airbnb in Savonnières, just west of Tours. It was located in a garage attic. Thus, the A-frame made it a bit cozy. We slept on a comfortable pull-out convertible sofa bed. The kitchen was well equipped. Our hosts Hélène and Sebastian Soubise were warm and welcoming. They went out of their way to help us overcome wifi challenges and a loss of power to the all-electric kitchen when we were in the midst of cooking dinner at 9pm. They invited us over for an aperitif one evening that was a night to remember as they then proceeded to spoil us with a variety of traditional French foods including Pork Rillons, Rilletes and Foie Gras. These were accompanied by 4 different Loire Valley wines. Their beautiful baby Adele also graced us with her smiles and curiosity.
Savonnières itself was a quaint village and we would often walk into town to buy a baguette or eat at one of the restaurants. Hélène provided us with a tour of the town. As a member of the town council, she took us to the biannual art show the evening before it opened and introduced us to the featured artist, Jean-Pierre Loizeau, who we had a lot of fun interacting with.

Food And Drink:

We took advantage of our apartment to dine in at night. Lunch usually consisted of French baguette sandwiches or an adult “Happy Meal” at a local restaurant.

Transportation System:

We rode the rails from Bordeaux to Tours where we picked up another Avis rental car. We reserved the Peugot 308 that we liked so much in Bordeaux but ended up with a Renault Kangoo, which we soon named the “Tours Bus”. It was another manual transmission with a very fuel-efficient diesel engine.

Shout-Out:

We must thank Dave Aragona for providing a wealth of information on his travels in France. If it weren’t for Dave, we might have missed Chateau Villandry. Thanks Dave!

For Your Amusement:

We’re hooked on French baguette sandwiches and making them got a little easier when we made the following discovery in a supermarket.
We’ve been drinking a lot of sparkling water on our trip and decided to have some fun. We did a blind taste test that included 2 leading brands and a local supermarket brand. The favorite finished last. The long shot finished second. And, the surprise winner was Perrier!
We were surprised to see several people making purchases at the local wine expo with personal checks.

Highlights: The Chateau Villandry Gardens and receiving the royal treatment from our hosts, Hélène and Sebastian, in Savonnières. They also have a wonderful son Jules who was always on the go.    

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Next Up: We’re off to the Rioja region of Spain

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