La LoirePosted: September 20, 2011
The wonder of the Loire Valley is its rivers; La Loire, Cher, Undre and Viene, just to name the bigger ones. Sources of life that ensured villages prospered upon its banks and the aristocracy had a playground to hunt, entertain and be entertained….. and hunting they still do. I’m not sure if we or they were more surprised when we came across these rifle hugging French duck hunters. We saw another fellow with a big, leafy branch of camouflage in his belt but he declined a photo!
We camped at the gorgeous Loire village of Chenonceau. In either direction, a short ride of 40 minutes along the River Cher, led us to another cute village and coffee!
We also visit the resident “Chateau” – Chenonceau – “the ladies Chateau” surrounded by a moat and dating back to 1500! “Chateaux” is the most common attraction in these parts. At a quick count 40 are open to the public within a 100 km radius. There is no doubt that the distinction between rich and poor is an age old issue. The incomes required to upkeep these homes was enormous – clearly the number of servants and staff far outnumbered the wealthy few……… and not surprising to see why eventually the poor rebelled and caused a revolution. It is interesting to note, that the earlier furniture was put together with dowel which made it easy to pull apart and transport. The Royal Families were moving from estate to house to estate and would take their furniture with them – times before chests were replaced with chests of drawers. Tapestries adorned walls, to help keep rooms warm!
Its hard to say if the Aristocracy had fun but they were certainly as comfortable as anyone could be!
We take up our journey again, south through the Valence valley and tip our big toes into Provence with a visit to St-Remy-de-Provence. A village of weaving, narrow streets and boutique clothing and gift shops. The next stop, Les-Baux-de-Provence, is a complete surprise. The village lives beneath the crumbling shadows of the Chateau Des Baux that sits pile high on craggy outcrops of grey limestone; magic views far beyond, olive groves, vineyards and orchards, stretch all the way to the Mediterranean sea!. It’s a romantic and beautiful destination for a sunset stroll.
The next morning we arrive in Arles. I already had a soft spot for Arles being a temporary home of Vincent Van Gogh where his brilliance bordered on the brink, capturing the windswept harshness of the surrounding country side, describing olive groves, parched, angst and beautiful, yet also where he spent some time in the hospital for mental health issues!
The city did not disappoint, streets surprising at each turn, a lovely stroll through the market, and a return that evening for a feast in a Michelin star restaurant!!!! But, there will be more of that later!