Our Journey Through France
Les Chateaux et L’Oiseau?
After our stressful attempt to visit Versailles, we continued our southward journey towards Blois. Our plan was to look for a place to stay wherever we were around 4pm. We also decided to stay off the Autoroutes as much as possible, but after our late start we did journey down a toll road to make up some time.
As in every country, the main roads miss many of the small towns and in many places along the way there was no way to get off the dual carriage way to explore. After choosing a couple of towns that sounded like they might be nice and would have a café for a quick lunch, we found we couldn’t get to them from the highway. We finally managed to choose one that did have an exit and we found the local brasserie, which was empty, it being 3pm and lunch being well and truly over. No hot food being served, but we had a delicious sandwich each, almost a whole baguette, with cheese and ham in one and pate and cornichons in the other. Satisfied and refreshed we planned a stay just the other side of Blois, at a Logis, and called for a room. They had rooms available and a restaurant ‘Gastronomique’ which sounded promising. Logis are found throughout France and are reliable accommodations, clean, friendly, usually quite basic but mostly with a restaurant attached, so no need to search for dinner. The breakfasts are usually good too.
We drove through Blois which was impressive and decided to explore there the next day. We crossed the Loire and headed towards Chambord and found our Logis at Tour-en-Sologne. The efficient and pleasant lady at the desk showed us our room which was very clean, quite sparse but adequate for a good nights’ sleep. Dinner was at 7.15 to 8.00 so we took a walk around the town, which was quite small and found the boulangerie, chacuterie and another couple of restaurants. After returning to the logis, we managed to log on to wi-fi, but found that we could only get enough bars if we stood in the closet, or sat on the toilet or stood outside the front door. After communicating with my daughter from the inside of the closet, we washed and dressed for dinner. The shower was very good, but the towels were like sandpaper. No need for a loofah here! All scrubbed up and shiny and looking rosy after our shower, we headed out to the restaurant (Restaurant de L'Agriculture) just a short walk away.
The meal was divine – again see our food page. It really was Gastronomique and the same lady was in the restaurant taking the orders, serving the food, clearing the dishes, and everything else except cooking the food. It was a very peaceful and relaxing experience after our long drive. After a bottle of wine and 3 course meal plus coffee, we wandered back to the logis and fell into bed.
The next morning, we planned to visit our first Chateau, Chambord. One of the prettiest chateaux in the area. We had breakfast in the logis foyer area, again served by the same lady. Croissants, bread, yogurt, orange juice, coffee, cheese, ham and mini pancakes – we ate it all! Suddenly Marcel said, ‘there’s an Emu’. He was facing me, looking out the window behind me, I turned but couldn’t see anything. Now, I was starting to be a little concerned that he was not only becoming forgetful, but also now hallucinating! The waitress came by with more coffee and I joked in my broken French that my husband was seeing Emus. ‘Ah oui, deux emus!’ she said, as if they were a regular family pet. I turned around and there behind the hedge, with its dorky face and beak peeping over the top was, as he had stated, an emu! Not what I had expected to see in rural France.
We headed off to Chambord – it was rainy and grey and quite cold, so we were glad to go inside and look at this magnificent castle. It is a beautiful Chateau with a fireplace in every room. It was a shame no-one had thought to light a fire in any of them, although if they had we might have been there much longer than they would have wanted. There are three helix staircases in the Chateau which are very impressive, and we walked the halls and rooms imagining who had walked there before us in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The gardens were lovely, but it was too chilly to hang about for too long. The amusing part of the gardens, with the immaculate lawns and perfectly snipped bushes was the enormous lawn Roomba on each one. We watched as each one nibbled its way around the grass, aware of the modern technology in front of us and the amazing history standing behind us.
In order to see as much as possible on our short journey through the Loire region, we moved on to Chenonceau, another much smaller Chateau that is built across the river Cher. It was very pretty, again with lovely gardens, a maze, which we did try out and didn’t get lost! We ate lunch at the café before entering the building but it was quite chilly. As we entered each room, we were greeted by the beautiful aroma of fresh cut flowers. I was eager to see each room, not only for the lovely textile walls, or the antique furniture, but for the smell of the flowers. They were as delightful to look at as they were to smell and later I saw in the grounds that there was a whole building designated to cutting and arranging these flowers. What a lovely line of work! There was a beautiful gallery which extended all the way across the river, noting the history of the chateaux back to the 11th century. They even had kayaks to rent so you could see the building from underneath and from the river, but we decided it was too chilly to risk getting wet butts.
As the weather was still grey, and rainy, we decided to head back to the logis, but not before visiting a winery. After all, we were in wine country and we needed supplies for the journey and for when we arrived at our destination. We googled and found one on the way – a beautiful cave, with a very helpful owner. She showed us photos of her father as a boy, who worked the land, and told us her family had been there for over 200 years. The wine was good, of course, and we bought a case or two to keep us going. She didn’t speak English, but we conversed in basic French, bought another jar of pate, and headed back. After another wifi session in the closet we decided to try one of the other restaurants in the village that looked promising. Unfortunately, it was fully booked even though when we arrived, there was not one person in there. We tried the next one, Bistro Adrian, which looked closed, but as we entered through the bar we were greeted by several locals, who, by their glassy eyed looks, appeared to have taken root at the bar for the best part of the day. Quite amused at the ‘les etrangers’ they shouted out to ‘le Patron’ who came out to greet us.
It was 7.15pm and the restaurant was empty. What time did the locals eat? We weren’t sure if it was empty because it was a bad restaurant, or because we were just too early. Not to be put off, and we were by now, quite hungry, we sat and waited for the menu. Once again, the food was delicious and within the space of about a half hour the restaurant started to fill. Again, only one waiter, who I don’t think was Adrian, but he did everything, greeted, served drinks, took the order, served the food, cleared the table. I was reminded of Manuel in Fawlty Towers, but the efficient version. He was everywhere and yet nowhere – not bothering us during our meal, always aware of where we were in our meal, no rush, no waiting, just perfect timing. And he did the same for the other 30 customers in the restaurant. We were full, satisfied and ready to turn in after another successful day.
Our plan for the next day was to visit Blois, the main town, and then head to Villandry – the last chateaux on our list, and as we returned to the logis, we just had to detour across the street and say goodnight to the Emus!
Click on Photo Below to be taken to a Larger Gallery.