Road trip to Loire Valley and moving south 


160706 1 Drive trip Day 1 to Saumur

With the arrival of friends Darb and Nell from Australia with a hire car it was decided we should tour north of La Rochelle to the infamous region of Loire, particularly given we had just sailed past this area without landfall. So with map in hand, a very loose itinerary and Katherine secure in the harbour we headed off.

160706 2 Cave Robert et Marcel Wine Coop tunnels

First stop the wine cooperative of Robert and Marcel in Saumur. Formed in 1957 by forty vintners at a time of economic challenge the cooperative has grown in success to now cover around 1800 hectares and incorporate around 300 members. We chose Robert and Marcel as it included a Cave tour. Although not a tour of wine production with bottling and wine barrels as we had expected the tour was an informative, artistic display of the history of Robert and Marcel and an informative presentation of the grapes, their environment and the factors in play for the wines on sale. Our English Speaking guide for well over an hour in the Caves was Philipe Imbert who had a sharp sense of humour and a lot of knowledge and passion for the coop. His skills extended to the wine tasting bar where we lost another two hours sampling the many varieties of locally produced wines. The best lesson of the day was definitely the making of Sparkling wine (Champagne if you were allowed to call it that) including the disgorgement of a bottle which provided for a great photo. 

160706 4 Cave Robert et Marcel Wine Coop tour wine disgorgement Philipe Imbert
160707 27 Chateau de Chenonceau over the River Cher

Day 2 of our road trip was definitely a tour of Chateaus. We have come to appreciate every town has a Chateau of some stature. Chateau de Saumur in the township of Saumur where we had overnighted was established in the 14th century and stood looking over the township and Loire River. Continuing east we enjoyed a morning coffee stop at the gates of the Chateau d’Usse which had apparently inspired the writing of Sleeping Beauty. But the Chateau of interest for us for the day was Chateau de Chenonceau recommended by fellow Australians who had recently visited. The Chateau is said to have been shaped over the years by the women who resided here, the first of influence being Catherine Briconnet in 1513 who established Chenonceau in the Renaissance style. For me I found the extension of the Chateau undertaken in 1570-1576 by Diane de Poitiers to be the most impressive with an extension of some 60 meters across the river Cher to form the Grande Galleries and the establishment of beautiful formal gardens. From the Chapel with its stain glass windows restored after bombings in 1944, the kitchens with copper pots, chambers with elegant fittings and artwork along with the gardens it was an enjoyable Chateau experience. 

160707 28 Chateau de Chenonceau over the River Cher


Our accomodation for the evening was in the township of Blois where once again we happened upon another Chateau - Chateau de Blois built between 1515 and 1524 and once the royal residence. Blois was also where we got to experience our second Eurocup soccer match seeing France beat Germany in the Semi. As we now know it wasn’t going to continue to a final success. 

160708 4 Rochecorbon near Vouvray Homes in the hill

Our third and final day of touring moved on from Chateaus to Caves or Troglodyte dwellings. The caves were created after years of extracting the soft limestone soil for building materials. Due to the constant temperature inside, around 12 - 14 degrees, many if the caverns that have been left behind have been adapted for use including storage for wineries and dwellings providing warmth in winter and coolness in the heat of summer. Having been in the Robert and Marcel Cave the day prior I think I would find it just a little too cool for my home.

As with touring there are always a few interesting unexpected travels. For us it was trying to find the town of Rochecorbon. One is next to Vouvray and has examples of the Troglodyte dwellings, the other we discovered is about 24 kilometres away and is home to a couple of farm houses and a lot of wheat paddocks. 

Back onboard Katherine there was time for the Finals of the Euro cup then we headed south to Port Medoc. The approach to the channel that runs some 50 miles inland to Bordeaux gave an insight into what the Bay of Biscay could no doubt provide given the wrong conditions. Happy we were sailing in on what was meant to be a calm day. 

That would be sailing. Mother nature always in control. 
Next stop Spain. 

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© SV Katherine 2017      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Faro Portugal with Askari of Australia