Day Ten - Looking for Troglodytes but Nothing is Open on Sunday


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Europe » France » Pays-de-la-Loire » Saumur
December 30th 2012
Published: July 29th 2013
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Start of a Long Road TripStart of a Long Road TripStart of a Long Road Trip

Today we would spend no time on long boring highways. The closest we got to that was this 4 lane road leaving Guerande. All day long we were blessed with very little traffic. Unlike Americans, Europeans don't go out joyriding on a Sunday. Instead they like to take long walks. (Note that my GPS was still not working. I could only charge it in my hotel room. The cigarette lighter in our rental car was kaput).
Since checking into this wonderful little hotel the very attentive hosts had asked us on numerous occasions whether we wanted to take breakfast in the morning (for an extra charge). We kept telling them "no, merci", but they just smiled and said we could change our mind in the morning. We didn't. At this point in our journey I had decided we were getting maybe a little too crazy with our money. Close to $40 for breakfast seemed a little insane at this juncture. Right around the corner was the Carrefours mini-market where we were able to assemble our own moveable feast for less than $20.

Loading the car was once again a puzzle worthy of its own TV reality series. No longer was I concerned about damaging items in the suitcases when I slammed the rear hatch. Now I feared I'd pop out the whole rear window. Next time we rent a camper for the 4 of us.

Out on the open road we ate as we drove through a rather unique ground-hugging fog. Looking up the skies were totally clear and blue, but straight ahead of us was a soupy mist. As we drove further inland that
Pretty Obvious Why a Town Grew HerePretty Obvious Why a Town Grew HerePretty Obvious Why a Town Grew Here

Our in-car GPS indicated we were nearing our first village on our list: Sainte-Suzanne. We were powering-up my dashboard Garmin for just a few minutes at a time in order to see the extensive itinerary I had drawn-up in advance. By doing that we could note exactly where we needed to go next and program that into the in-car unit that was functioning properly. Coming around the bend from a lackluster half farm/half industrial town we saw this promontory ahead of us. In an area of flat farmland the town of Sainte-Suzanne rose high on an easily defendable hilltop. No doubt the local baron took this land for his castle while his serfs labored in the fields below.
quickly dissipated. Our route was toward the highly recommended touristic region labeled "Les Beaux Villages de France" (http://tinyurl.com/lohpufs). This was another late addition to the itinerary. The travelogues I had read online praising this area of France was geared primarily toward summer travel with vivid descriptions of the lovely flowers, smells from the apple orchards and the glorious sunsets, but I figured we could still make this route work for us. As it turned out we probably chose the worst time of the year and worst day of the week to explore this fascinating region. Everything, and I mean everything, was closed. Had it actually been in season here we could've spent a whole week just looking around at all the old fortresses, castles, chateaus and rolling landscapes. Not to mention all the shopping we might have done (there's always a positive). This area has now been officially added to the "We-Gotta-Come-Back-Again list". Actually, our retirement Grand Tour of Europe may require close to a month to see all the stuff I need to really reconnoitre in Western France. Because of everything being shuttered for the off-season there were no other tourists out on the road to impede our progress.
Castle Walls Defending an Important CrossroadsCastle Walls Defending an Important CrossroadsCastle Walls Defending an Important Crossroads

The road signs indicate that Sainte-Suzanne was right in the center of the road linking Normandy and Brittany. Those high walls of the castle have an interesting history: this town was the only village in western France to successfully ward off attacks from William the Conqueror. After conquering England he returned to Normandy and proceeded to add to his holdings on the Continent. For four years he built a huge military camp on the site of earlier Roman fortifications. But try as he might he was unable to take the town.
We ended-up doing 235 miles simply cruising through beautiful country on twisting, thrilling rural roads. For the first time we had sunshine all day. However, the temperature seemed to drop toward more Winter-like conditions the further inland we drove.

Our hotel for the night: http://www.hotel-lecanter.fr/


Additional photos below
Photos: 66, Displayed: 23


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First Stop of the DayFirst Stop of the Day
First Stop of the Day

And probably the most interesting. This little town gets one line in Wikipedia and no mention in our tour books. I read a blog by a bed and breakfast owner who lives 30 miles away but never heard of it until one of her overnight guests mentioned it. The innkeeper eventually took a look and was awed -just as we were.
In Honor of More Recent WarriorsIn Honor of More Recent Warriors
In Honor of More Recent Warriors

The memorial was written in French but we interpreted it to be erected in honor of French soldiers from WWI and WWII.
Very Deserving of the AwardVery Deserving of the Award
Very Deserving of the Award

While Cassie napped in the car, the rest of us took a little stroll through this Sunday ghost town.
How Did They Get Up There?How Did They Get Up There?
How Did They Get Up There?

Even though we walked around for close to an hour, we never figured out how these people got up on the tower. Everything was locked-up.
Idyllic StreetIdyllic Street
Idyllic Street

The place seemed almost Disneyesque. It was so clean and perfect that it looked manufactured. This was where I spotted the first of what Gail and I thought were the coolest signs ever. If there had been an open store selling these I have no doubt we would have ordered a half dozen and had them shipped back to the States.
What a Nifty Way to AdvertiseWhat a Nifty Way to Advertise
What a Nifty Way to Advertise

Loved these signs but I'm not real sure what they were selling. I'm assuming this guy is an hermit?
The Pope Store?The Pope Store?
The Pope Store?

Maybe these signs aren't advertisements. I still like them though.
Imposing Castle WallsImposing Castle Walls
Imposing Castle Walls

The town withstood attacks for 300 years after William the Conqueror's failed siege. The English briefly held it for 14 years during the Hundred Years War, but other than that it was successfully defended for a millennium. Because of the fast flowing river below which was used to power various mills the area eventually went from being totally agricultural to a mixed economy of farming, textiles, papermaking, tanning and grain milling.
Off LimitsOff Limits
Off Limits

Not only was the castle closed on Sunday, it was closed for the entire Winter. Too bad because admission would've been free.
Definitely 11th Century Norman ConstructionDefinitely 11th Century Norman Construction
Definitely 11th Century Norman Construction

I scare myself sometimes: I just looked it up - I'm right! In the left background you can make out the big scene telling us the castle was closed for the next 6 months.
How Crazy Must This Place Be in Summer?How Crazy Must This Place Be in Summer?
How Crazy Must This Place Be in Summer?

Although I might've liked the chance to go inside the fortifications and see some of the little shops, this tourist attraction is probably a zoo when the crowds arrive. Not much room to pass by on these narrow streets.
Tyler and Gen Would Like the Devil StoreTyler and Gen Would Like the Devil Store
Tyler and Gen Would Like the Devil Store

Now I'm getting the impression that these signs are telling some sort of story. But I can't find any information on the internet and there was no one around town to ask.
Now I'm LostNow I'm Lost
Now I'm Lost

So how does the French Cake Boss figure into this story?
Evidently People Still Live HereEvidently People Still Live Here
Evidently People Still Live Here

But where are they? They must be out on their Sunday walks.
Charming Little PlaceCharming Little Place
Charming Little Place

If they had better TV in Europe I think I'd really like to retire in a little village like this. In this very house in fact. But I get the impression things might be really boring on a Sunday in Europe. Especially if you can't afford the $9 per gallon gas to go somewhere.
Peaking Inside a French SchoolroomPeaking Inside a French Schoolroom
Peaking Inside a French Schoolroom

I got the impression this was one of those small rural schools where numerous grades are combined into the same classroom. No PCs in this classroom.


29th July 2013

Sainte-Suzanne's mysterious signs
The signs you depict are all numbered and it's my guess that they relate to the audio-guide of Sainte Suzanne, which can be hired from the museum inside the ch√Ęteau (when it's open!).
19th September 2013

That makes sense. Thanks.

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