Wednesday, June 16 – Fontevraud-l’Abbaye: Having been impressed with the description of the hotel breakfast as containing eggs (lots of British and American guests), we started the day with a very large and satisfying breakfast. They had a self-serve egg boiler and brought out a plate of ham. Great way to start the day!
Another cool and sunny day for seeing the outstanding chateau of the Loire, Chenonceau, and our hotel is a 3 minute walk from the entrance. Although we arrived at 9:15am, we didn’t beat a large busload of Japanese tourists. Nonetheless, the crowd amounting to perhaps a fifth of the one we encountered on our last visit, so we felt very lucky. The rooms are marvelously furnished with lots of third rate paintings ambitiously attributed to second-rate artists. Lots of tapestries, some quite lovely, but most in ill-repair.
The best part of the chateau was the kitchens, last used seriously during World War I when the chateau was a hospital.
Following our visit, we sat for some time on the hotel terrace composing our post for Tuesday — the wifi was not strong enough to actually reach to our room!
Next, we drove to Villandry, on the Loire, with its unbelievable gardens and a most sympathetic back story: poor Spanish boy goes to study medicine in Paris and meets an American heiress who has caged a job in a famous research lab. They marry, buy the decrepit chateau and start fixing it up; the family still owns it. The restoration work on the chateau is quite marvelous but the gardens are once-in-a-lifetime. I can say that because on our trip through the Loire (when we saw the other chateau for the first time) we pulled into Villandry in the late afternoon, too late to be admitted, and had to settle for a cold beer at the entrance.
We then drove a ways to our current lodging, out of the Bienvenue aux Chateaux guide saved from 2006, where we’ll be for two nights while looking at the western group of chateaux. It’s a soap factory complex with some nice outbuildings turned into rooms.
Unfortunately, our large breakfast had left us with little hunger to appreciate the farmhouse dinner they were offering even though our lunch consisted of an eclair at 3:30p. So we went off to Saumur in search of a pizza. We surveyed the eating places (no pizzerias!) and settled on the dining room of the best hotel. We were too tempted by the snails,
the foie gras,
and the carpaccio
to make it the small meal we had in mind.