We arrived in Saumur, in the Loire Valley, on Saturday 27th
April, having booked 6 nights on a campsite situated on the tiny island of Offard, in the middle of the Loire River. From our pitch we had an amazing view of the waterfront opposite, the Saumur chateau (although unfortunately the chateau was obscured by a really large tree… but, still…) and the steady peaceful flow of the river.
We explored the town the following day, most of the shops were closed it being a Sunday but there bars, cafes and a patisserie or two open (what more could you need?) and an antiques market being held in the main street. Wandering through the market, we marvelled at the array of items for sale: furniture, ancient record players, swords (?!), clothing, rusting farming paraphernalia… you name it!! Heading away from the shops we walked towards one of the many wine producers outlets that offered tours of their cellars and tasting. Somehow, we seemed to attract the attention of one or two ‘colourful’ characters during our amble around the town, so we quickly retreated to a café to warm up with a coffee and watch the characters from a distance!
Monday brought some beautiful cycling weather so we headed out, with a map and a packed lunch towards Montsoreau. Do you know it’s impossible to buy a fresh, crusty baguette and not nibble the end off, whatever the time of day and regardless of whether you’re hungry or not? True. The signs along the roadside took us through the villages of Dampierre, Souzay-Champigny, Parnay, Turquant and Montsoreau, through vineyards as far as the eye could see, past little stone churches and houses and also some ancient Troglodyte caves. We cycled around 30k in total, unfortunately having to walk the last 5 or 6k as my bike chain slipped and jammed, although two very large beers ordered at the end of the walk, took the edge of the chain pain!
One rainy afternoon we paid a visit to the impressive chateau, stood high above the river. The climb up to the chateau took us through a mixture of pretty properties, both old and new; the new built respectfully so as to be in keeping with the old houses. The chateau was originally built in 962, as a Benedictine Abbey, through its long life it has in turn been burned down,
reconstructed, turned in to palace, a prison and a weapons and munitions depot. In 1912 it became a home for Saumur’s municipal museum. Some photo’s attached here are courtesy of Steve (check out www.stevelingerphotography.co.uk).
A couple of very rainy days, and a campsite that left a little to be desired, meant that we probably didn’t get as much out of our experience in this area of the Loire as we would have liked but there were a couple of great cycling opportunities and we did discover an interesting sparkling red wine, made from Cabernet de Gamay grapes…. Mmmmm!
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