May 7, 2014
Breakfast this morning was typical European...but all homemade!! The croissants were just out of the oven, the jam was homemade (5 different kinds!), fresh organic apple juice, fresh fruit, and fresh yogurt and goat cheese.
Short bus ride to our first chateau...Villandry...famous for its symmetric geometric gardens (10 acres). Spectacular...can only imagine what it will be like by mid-summer! We did see a slide show that took us through the seasons. There are 10 full-time gardeners! Villandry was the last great Renaissance chateau built on the Loire...finished in 1536. Three generations of current the owners have reconstructed what the original gardens would have been like.
Guide info about what was necessary to create a "garden" in the 16 th century:
...large, flat property with a chateau ( flat so you are able to see all of your garden)
...gravel lanes that disappear toward the horizon
...symmetry, geometric patterns
...moving water, starts with a big basin on top, then canals, cascades, and fountains
...can add, labyrinth or citrus fruits or herbal garden or grotto or statues
The garden is an extension of the chateau designed by man...man dominating and manipulating nature.
The chateau Villandry is very warm and welcoming. One of the women who lived here changed the design of the traditional chateau where you had to go through rooms to get from one to another. Villandry is the first chateau to have a central staircase and hallways (the idea was brought from Italy).
Short drive to our next point of interest...Chateau of Azay-Le-Rideau located in a tiny town of the same name...tiny as in 2000 people...my kind of town! After our self-guided audio tour, we found a small brasserie where we tried the "plate of the day"...grilled eggplant/ham/cheese on an herbal scone with a super fresh chopped salad. We added an order of fries...tres bien!
Weather today has been showery but not enough to ruin any of our activities. Took a short walk to the town square for coffee once we returned to the hotel. Then a couple of hours rest (and journal writing and Words ) before the wine tasting with the hotel owner.
The wine tasting in a word...hilarious!! And we had a test at the end!! Everyone was practically in tears from laughing. Stephanie won the prize...a jar of homemade jam...a perfect test score! We tasted 3 whites and 2 reds from this region...for me, all were very good. Paired dry goat cheese with the whites and crusty bread and pork pate with the reds. You had to be there!
Walked a few blocks for a light dinner before packing for tomorrow's 8:30 departure. I am so looking forward to the croissants and jam for breakfast again.
Traditional French eating (at least at Rolinka's house)...baguette with jam, and juice for breakfast. Main meal at noon with wine. At 5:00 you eat a little snack (apple, pastry, juice) to tide you over until dinner...around 8:00.
Salamander is the signature icon of King Francis I...could eat and spit fire representing a strong leader. We saw the symbol in town and in decorations inside the chateau.
Many netted fruit tree orchards along our drive. Everything is lush and green just like our Willamette valley. Many of the village homes have small garden plots for vegetables. In general, the yards seem very well kept...lots of flowers. The homes are modest in size.
Couple of days ago we saw a Roma camp along side the river. These are gypsies, mainly from Romania, who follow the harvest for work...or sit on the steps of cathedrals and churches with their small children begging for coins. We have seen gypsies in every country we have visited.