Friday 5th June
Is it the 3rd today?, no, it’s the 2nd. Actually it’s the 4th – that’s how our conversations go, or, what day is it today? All the shops were shut yesterday so it might be Monday.
Last nights show at Futurascope was a little disappointing, there were water jets, lights, lasers, robots and some fireworks but the whole story was in French, we think someone was trying to steal all the colours and the goodies managed to find them all and put them back. The globe shown above was nicely lit up and I let Lucy stand and be dazzled by it for ages.
Our next stop was Richelieu, the home of Cardinal de Richelieu. In 1631 Louis Xiii authorised the building of a model town and reconstruction of the chateau. The Cardinal died in 1642 never to see the buildings completed. All the roads have been set out in rectangular symetrical grids and the buildings all look very impressive but it all lacks a certain spark. Maybe it’s because the Cardinal never got to live in the town.
The chateau grounds are beautifully maintained but the chateau itself was destroyed in 1835.
Good old Stella got her knickers in a twist. We were 20 feet away from the aire but she insisted that we had to go left, right, right again and then through one of the narrow gates.
A short walk round the town found us in the covered market, built at the same time as the town.
And in the church we found pews with doors and locks and little lockable shelves to put your books in.
And a view of one of the other gates. The aire was OK, it was against the city walls but it was lunchtime, we’d done the quick tour and moved on.
We arrived in Truant on the banks of the Loire. A lovely aire, made all the better for the weather giving us a much needed Vitamin C boost. The aire is designed for 5 units, with a bit of French ingenuity we managed to get 14 in the second night we were there.
You may remember that Turquant is famous for two things. The first are the tufa caves, a very white stone mined in this area. The caves here extend for hundreds of miles.
And some have been turned into workshops to tempt us rich tourists. Did I have a moan about shops being closed during the week, here we are again at a closed village.
The second thing that Turquant is world famous for (according to the sign) is tapped apples. In the 19th century the grape vines were decimated by a virus (I seem to remember the French having to buy back vines from the Americans) so the locals had to look at earning an income from other sources. They came up with the idea of tapped apples. Ovens were built in the caves and apples placed in the ovens for 5 days. Every day the apples would be taken out, tapped with a hammer and put back. Once the apples were flattened to a couple of centimetres high they were ready for storing. This was an excellent way of preserving apples and became very popular for a while.
On our second day we went for a long walk along the banks of the Loire. Near Montsoreau we found a campsite, motorhomes, caravans and these 2 man tents on a platform with table and chair underneath which we thought were cute. I asked a motorhome how much a night it was there. €18 plus €7 for electricity, didn’t have the heart to tell him we were just down the road on a free aire.
Montsoreau Chateau built in 1455 by one of Charles VII’s advisors and made famous due to an Alexandre Dumas novel, La Dame de Monsoreau, there are so many chateaus along this river. Montsoreau is listed as one of Frances prettiest villages and it is right next door to Candes, another prettiest village.
With a huge church. This is the side entrance and I particularly liked the column inside the porch, a design feature that I need in my next house. So why has this small village got a huge church? This is where St Martin died in 397 although his body was later moved to Tours.
We followed the signs to the panorama point where we could look out over the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers. The weather is being very good to us at the moment and we took some time to sit and admire the views. On the way back we saw a tiny little sign to Fontevraud, never heard of it, must be the wrong way for us.
Only back at Frankie did i discover that Fontevraud is rather significant so next morning we drove all the way over there (about 4 miles in all). There was a free aire with free water so we topped up while we were there,
Fontevraud and the surrounding lands were given to Robert d’Arbrissel in 1101 so that he could found a monastery and nunnery on the same site giving pre-eminence to the women. The first Abbess started in 1115 and soon became a royal necropolis sheltering the toms of King Henry II, Richard the Lion Heart and Eleanor of Aquitaine who became a nun here after the death of her husband Henry II.
Eleanor commissioned the tomb carvings, the actual graves were destroyed, probably during Napoleons term as Emperor.
This is an overall shot of the cathedral interior. In 1792 religious orders were outlawed and the abbey given up to the state and in 1804 the whole site was turned into a maximum security prison. The cathedral had five floors put in with cells for 600 prisoners but by 1850 there were over 2000 prisoners kept here in very harsh conditions.
Only in 1963 was the prison closed. Due to the immense overcrowding every prisoner had to fight for everything and it became one of the most dangerous prisons in the country. Prisoners would kill just to get transferred.
Most of the original abbey is still evident, cloisters make an excellent exercise yard.
This is the kitchen. Inside there are 8 fireplaces and the wind direction determined which fireplace would be used.
The chapter house where the nuns could come and do sewing and embroidery while another read chapters from the bible.
And the gardens, next to the kitchen of course.
The aire at Fontevraud wasn’t up to our high standards so we’ve moved back onto the Loire about 3 miles downstream of Turquant. We are paying the princely sum of €5.40 per night but we have got grass to put our chairs out and just to the back of us is a cycle path that takes us into the main town in the area, Saumur. The cycle path is actually euro route number 6 which runs from St Nazaire to the Black Sea, over 600 miles, I’m lucky to get Lucy to cycle four miles (each way). Saumur has got a Lidl’s, a launderette and an LPG station, what else do we need?
Our first view of Saumur, another chateau, more churches and of course bridges.
The chateau was built by Louis XI in the 13th century and has served as dungeon, fortress and country residence. In 2001 a hefty chunk of the ramparts collapsed without warning and restoration work is still ongoing.
We’ve stayed a second night at this aire and could be staying for another two or three. The weather has been scorching, far too hot to sit out in, luckily we have a tree to shelter under but it got up to 32ºC in Frankie today and lots of motorhomes have been moving to get under trees and out of the sun.