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Published: September 26th 2013
Loire Valley, France - Abby Fontevraud, Saumur, Doue-la-Fontaine and Troglodytes, Angers, 17 September 2013
Abby Fontevraud was going to be a walled city, originating from a monastery in 1101. However, it never moved beyond a monastery and its associated buildings due to the challenges of the time. It did become the royal tomb for Henry 11, Richard the Lion Heart among others. But in the late 1700s the monks left and the nuns were expelled.
In 1804 the Abbey became a prison through to 1985. Before this, in 1975, it became under the control of the Ministry of Culture of the Loire Region, so times were changing.
In 2000 the entire walled town was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List which of course will guarantee its preservation of its role in history. When we arrived, we thought that it was going to be just another network of historic buildings. We were wrong! There were areas that had been set up to display incredibly contemporary art/design presentations. One room was taken up by long red illuminated rods hanging from the ceiling in a shape of waves and the floor was dotted with black canoes. The room was a
brilliant red. It looked fantastic.
There was another room that had a list of the last 250 prisoners numbers (no names) and the story told by several of the prisoners and the treatment they received while they were in the prison. You can imagine the treatment they received in the 1800s!! Horrific!.
We also visited the cloisters, the chapel house and the old kitchen with its large conical chimney above the kitchen. The whole area was an example of contrasts. It was very interesting.
We then drove further along the Loire Valley to Saumur – yet another lovely old city with a long history.
We had picked up a couple of pamphlets on the Troglodytes which had lived in the area until the mid 1900s. For those who don’t know, Troglodytes are people who chose to make their homes in caves, usually from necessity as their economic situation was poor. They usually lived off the land and kept their way of life very simple. As their family size expanded so did the number of rooms in the caves. Many of the caved are now converted to restaurants and tourist attractions. The Loire Valley is littered with
history of these inhabitants, particularly around Doue-la-Fontaine. Before this time, I thought the term troglodyte as a derogatory term. One never stops learning!
We visited one of the caves to see how they used to live. People had only stopped living in this particular cave in the early 1900s.
We then drove further into the Loire valley and arrived at Angers. By the time we got here, it was getting late so we headed for Tours. Before we got there we came across a little town called Luynes which had a camp site (Camping Les Grange) and as it was after 7.00pm we called in. It had closed its gates at 7.00pm and no one was in the reception. We thought that if we drove onto the next camp site, the same thing might happen. So with my typical style of never giving up to a challenge, I went walking into the camping park and found a French man who couldn’t speak any English but I finally convinced him to get his swipe key to raise the barrier to let us in. Excellent! We were in.
We then walked into the town and found a restaurant opened
and had a lovely meal. It was misting rain was we were walking home but all was well.
The next morning we told the receptionist that we followed another vehicle in (!!) as we didn’t want to tell them that someone let us in with their key.
This day (18 Sept) we were off to see 2 magnificent French Chateaux so we were looking forward to this.
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