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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

Trip Description: A week based near Loches exploring the Loire Valley, its châteaux, churches and small villages.

Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Loire Valley

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 33: Background

photo by MAW

Chenonceau

I visited France with my two aunts in 1960 and one of the highlights of the trip were the fairy tale châteaux of the Loire, especially the beautiful Chenonceau.

We enjoyed Brittany so much last year that we decided to see more of France this year and a week in the Loire Valley was top of the list. I still have my diary from the 1960 trip and I thought it would be interesting to compare notes 52 years on.

We decided to follow the stop in the Loire Valley with two weeks in the Auvergne, a mountainous area which hardly gets a mention in the guide books and few visitors. I have written separate reports for this (2030 & 2031).

As usual we booked ferry sailings and accommodation through Brittany Ferries. By booking early we got a 20% discount. We booked an overnight sailing from Portsmouth to St Malo for the outward trip, coming back overnight from Caen as there is no overnight service from St Malo. This suited us as we sleep well on the boat and it gave us a couple of extra days in France.

That was the theory until, at the end of the holiday, Brittany Ferries cancelled all sailings due to industrial action. We had been without internet and hadn’t read any newspapers, watched TV or listened to the radio all holiday so had been blissfully ignorant about the strike. Fortunately our final B&B did have internet access and Michael decided to check emails and clear out spam. It is just as well he did... Mind you I did think he was joking at first when he said, "There’s an email - our ferry sailing is cancelled." Brittany Ferries had arranged for all passengers to be conveyed free of charge by P&O between Calais and Dover plus refunding the cost of our Caen-Portsmouth ticket.

Instead of a nice leisurely drive to Caen for the overnight sailing (with a stop to stock up on wine) we had the prospect of getting to Calais. The short route through Paris was discounted and we chose the longer route round by Tours and Rouen using the motorways; a seven hour drive. The French motorways are so quiet, it felt almost eery driving along them. The only traffic we saw was round Rouen and as we approached Calais. It is a short crossing and the boat has stabilizers, just as well as there was a stiff wind blowing and the sea was decidedly choppy. There was low cloud as we approached Dover so we didn’t see the White Cliffs until we were almost on top of them.

We decided to spend a week in the Loches area and booked Gîte la Roselière in the tiny hamlet of Poire on the edge of Perrusson, about 10 minute drive from Loches.

The gîte is a delightful 1689 building at the end of the settlement which has been lovingly restored by the owners who live in the big house next door. The gardens are surrounded by a high stone wall and entry is through a large gateway. There are quarry tiles on the floors and the lounge still has a large fireplace with the old bread oven in the back wall. The kitchen was well equipped and, most important to us, there was a washing machine. I can manage without a dish washer but not washing machine. Another bonus was the excellent shower. Upstairs were two bedrooms (double and twin). A doorway and steps from the double room led down into the small private garden area with chairs and table for al fresco meals.

Perrusson is a pleasant small village of well maintained houses and has kept its bakers and butchers as well as a large supermarket and petrol station on the road to Loches. There is a large Marie next to the post office and 10th/11thC church. This is a National Monument but was always locked.

Perrusson proved to be a good base. The gîte was very quiet and there was plenty to do and see in the immediate area.

Did the châteaux live up to 50 year old memories? Yes, and Chenonceau is as beautiful as ever, even though it is a lot busier.

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