Letter From the Loire - Part 1

Letter From the Loire – Part 1

It was a dark and stormy castle… Ominously begins the sequel to “Wine, Women and Watercolors.” Week 2 of summer sojourn begins with the Principessa (aka Carolyne Roehm) and me flying from our painting workshop in porto Ercole to Paris to meet our menfolk and friends, and then to cycle around the Loire Valley…

It was a dark and stormy castle…

Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France
Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France

Ominously begins the sequel to earlier posts Wine, Women and Watercolors (Painting in Italy – Part 1 and Part 2) Week 2 of summer sojourn begins with the Principessa (aka Carolyne Roehm) and me flying from Rome to Paris to meet our menfolk and friends, and then to cycle around the Loire Valley at the end of May.

Call it “Bottles, Boys and Bikes?” No that sounds awful.

Land of storybook chateaux and glorious gardens, the Loire had its heyday during the 16th century French Renaissance, reigned o’er by François I and his son Henri II.

Chateau de Chenonceau, via Trip Advisor.com
On a sunnier day, Chateau de Chenonceau, via Trip Advisor.com

France was reigned o’er, and we were rained o’er. But if you have to be in bad weather this is not a bad place to be.

A bicycle, however, might be a bad place to be. Just saying.

Dark and stormy, but a beautiful castle. This one is Chenonceau, one of the most famous. The grace of its size and scale makes you think, “I could live here,” whereas you wouldn’t take Versailles on a bet.

Diane de Poitiers,* stylish and savvy mistress of Henri II;  and the formidable Catherine de Medici, wife of Henri II, both lived here. Even castles can be small at times.

The ballroom gallery is stunning. Like many grand houses in Europe, Chenonceau also served as a hospital during World War I.

The Gallery at Chenonceau
The Gallery at Chenonceau

The outbuildings are charming.

Cottage at Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France
Cottage at Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France

As of course are the gardens. The Loire Valley is known as the “garden of France” as well as the “valley of kings.”

Gardens at Chenonceau, via Trip Advisor
Gardens at Chenonceau, via Trip Advisor

Also charming of course is His Grace, aka my husband, and his charming fluent French, which consists entirely of “Magnifico.” If you followed our trip to Burgundy last year, you may recall this compelling linguistic detail.

Here’s another compelling detail: electric bike, by Trek. You still have to pedal but a small battery-powered motor gives a boost. Brilliant. Flies up hills, it does. Sparks envy in the very soul of Evil Knieval himself.

Magnifico indeed.

His Grace on Trek moto-bike.
His Grace on Trek moto-bike.

Just don’t forget to charge the battery and end up on the side of the road in the middle of effing nowhere and have everybody looking for you for hours, or you might end up in the magnifico maison du chien,  hypothetically speaking.

The storm passes.

When the sun comes out you’re so happy to be on a bike because you get to stop and stare at a field of poppies and imagine you are in a Renoir painting.

Field of Poppies, Loire Valley, France
Field of Poppies, Loire Valley, France

Or look out your hotel room window to a lovely courtyard.

Courtyard at Le Choiseul Hotel, Amboise, France
Courtyard at Le Choiseul Hotel, Amboise, France

Then visit to an ancient monastery on the grounds of a farm and be shown around by the farmer whose family owns the property and continues to work the land around it.

Ancient monastary, France
Ancient monastary, France

Followed by a picnic lunch by the fire, all organized beautifully by outfitter Rachel Foulkes (rachelfoulkes@aol.com).

Fireside Picnic
Fireside Picnic

Then back on the bikes. Stopping along the way discuss blow-dry techniques with miniature ponies.

Miniature ponies, Loire Valley, France
Miniature ponies, Loire Valley, France

I have never seen a fluffier mane on man nor beast. Except possibly that of my friend Jonathan Mermagen in London.

Wait, Jonathan, is that you?

Miniature Pony, Loire Valley, France
Miniature Pony, Loire Valley, France

To be continued…

Castle at Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Once the royal palace of Francois I, the castle at Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Cycling through villages of the Loire Valley
Cycling through villages of the Loire Valley

…and wait’ll you see this…

Pagode de Cantaloupe, Loire Valley, France
Pagode de Cantaloupe, Loire Valley, France

15 Comments

  1. Nina griscom

    Dying to know more about those fluffy manes!! Absolutely hilarious!!!!

  2. Thanks for the travel log. We leave for St Boil, France in September, so you have my juices flowing for the experience.

  3. The motorized bike is in my future!!!!

  4. Mary Jane

    Maginico— magnifique—- magnificent in any language is what these pictures are. I am sure that these places are even more beautiful in person!

  5. C’est magnifique! Adore your blog — look forward to your next post! Blessings to you and yours…

  6. You all are living life to the fullest and not missing a moment. Best of all you share it with all of us and see that we we add one more amazing trip to our bucket list.

    Nancy

  7. Did you paint? Or did the rain wash them down…

  8. Lucky you Frances. My husband and I spent the month of May in France…for two weeks our base was Amboise, and then Paris for two weeks. Was rainy and freezing cold the entire time..only three days of sun the entire time. Fortunately, we had a car. But yes, I agree, if you have to have bad weather, The Loire is the place to be in!

  9. Sitting here chuckling and going “Magnifico!” I will take that cozy rose-bedecked cottage, please. Hope you all remembered to charge the bikes and no one wound up in the maison de chien again, too funny! Tres belle post! Magnifique!

  10. Louisa Blodgett

    Love revisiting with you..haven’t been to the Loire since 1960..yikes.am I that old..next time come to the Dordogne a nd see medieval France..Eleanor of Acquitaine territory. .one of the greatest women of all time..!!!..lots to see and write about…

  11. merci beaucoup mon ami. Trek a la velo electrique – voila! Jan

  12. Lynn Ziglar

    I too am intrigued by pony’s mane…looks like atmosphere got to it. The Veronica Lake of the Loire. Your photographs are reminding us of a rainy trip we made there…doesn’t dampen spirits. FRANCE IS BEAUTIFUL!
    In N. Carolina the motor bike you have is referred to as chicken power.
    xo

  13. Frances – your life is so much fun. I want to come back as you in my next life time…lol

    regards,
    Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

  14. Becky Roddenbery

    Have been waiting for the photos of the Loire..You do not disappoint !! Beautiful. The ponies look like Highland Cattle in Scotland.
    xo Becky

  15. Have a wonderful time!
    xo, Lissy

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