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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

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Page 3 of 33: St Malo to Perusson

photo by MAW

Église St Nicholas, Tavant

There was a splendid view of the fortified old town of St Malo as we docked.

We were off the boat and through Immigration by 8:45am. This was very laid back. The first car in the queue was stopped. The rest of us were waved through without even a glance at passports. We followed the traffic out of St Malo and Michael’s instructions from Google maps worked a treat. We were soon on our way.

We drove through open countryside with arable fields, cows and a lot of maize. Once we lost the St Malo traffic the roads were very quiet. All the settlement was off the N12 and the miles slid by quickly as I turned over yet another page in the road atlas. Signing was much better than in Brittany, even when negotiating large towns like Angiers. I sat back and relaxed.

We lost the sweetcorn as we got near the Loire Valley and this was replaced by sunflowers and arable. There were vineyards along the valley bottom and up terraced slopes Everywhere was very dry and the grass was yellow and dead.

We got lost in Samur as I hadn’t looked at the map closely enough and hadn’t realized there were two bridges across the river. "Are you sure this is right?" I asked Michael as we ended up in the college grounds. We had nice views of the small château above the town, but didn’t have time to stop.

The road along the Loire was a lot slower with small settlements running into each other. There are a lot of small châteaux along the river valley. Some are now hotels, others with vineyards attached, produce wine. We drove through Montsoreau, with its château next to the river, busy with tourists and tourist shops.

Next to it is Candes-St-Martin (page 4), which is marketed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Compared to Montressor it was much quieter. We parked up in the large car park at the end of village just before the bridge and walked across bridge for a photo of the village. This was well worth while as there is a nice view of river with sand banks, traditional boats and the village dominated by its church.

Next stop was Fontevraud (page 5) as this is the burial place of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart - part of our history.

After a brief stop in Chinon to stock up on foodstuffs in SuperU and to fill up with petrol, we continued along the river to Tavant where we made a short stop to visit Église St Nicholas. This is a small 11thC building, next to the Marie and surrounded by beautifully kept gardens. It has an elaborately carved west door. Pillars with carved capitals support beautifully carved arches with what look like pineapples on them and a round topped window above. Over the transept is a small 17thC bell tower with a hexagonal tiled roof with a small cupola on the top. The south aisle was removed at some time and the wall now has large buttresses to support it.

Inside there is a simple nave with round wall pillars with carved capitals which continue as the ribs of the barrel ceiling. Steps on either side of the crypt doorway lead up to the chancel. There are beautiful paintings of angels on the chancel ceiling. The 12thC choir has a painted apse with Christ in Majesty surrounded by more angels.

There are more frescoes in the crypt, but this can only be visited by a guided tour. These take about 45 minutes and are supposed to run every hour. (If there is no one in the church inquire at the Marie next door about a guided tour.) There is no access to the crypt once a tour has started. Unfortunately there was one in the crypt when we arrived we didn’t have time to wait until it ended.

This was a delightful find, ignored by the guide books and with little information on the web.

By now it was getting quite late and it had been a long day. It was time to head to our gîte.

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