After a long warm drive south through the French countryside my genial host greets me.
“Just walk through the vineyards this evening to the village where your dinner will be served. Stop at the brow of the hill and admire the view over the river to Angers”
The footpath through the regimented rows of vines is magical on this warm still summer evening. The walk is enriched by the distinctive fragrances of honey and lemon peel from the linden flowers coupled with the smell of heady jasmine. This is the land of the good life, chosen by kings: fine wines, sumptuous food and spectacular countryside. A perfect place for my laid-back road trip discovering the delights of the Loire Valley.
This “Garden of France”, takes its name from the majestic river, which meanders through the countryside. France’s lavish royal past is everywhere in the gentle landscapes. The Valley produces succulent fruit and vegetables as well as some excellent wines: Chinon, Saumur and Sancerre. The food and wines are renown and it seems like you are eating and drinking the views around you.
I am staying in the guesthouse, Chateau de Cheman, a 13th-century manor house tucked away in a valley among the vine covered slopes in the charming village of Blaison-Gohier near Angers.
This is truly châteaux country with stunning properties of elegant grandeur. Angers, famous for its medieval château and 14th-century tapestry. Nearby Chateau Brissac – boasting the tallest Chateau in France to name just two. These are statements of French aspirations. They are also settings for intrigue, power plays terrorism and dubious hygiene.
When château fatigue sets in, I explore the cities and countryside of the Loire, which have plenty to surprises.
Set in the nearby countryside are strangely beautiful troglodyte caves carved into limestone cliffs. After the quarrymen of centuries past had excavated the white tufa stone to make the Loire’s distinctive creamy white houses, they moved into the empty caves.
The valley offers an enormously interesting and varied range of accommodation, all easily bookable in advance. Further down the river near Chinon I stayed in a family run hotel Le Domaine Mestré in Fontevraud L’Abbeye”. This was once the main farm of the Abbey, an attractive, eclectically furnished building with a fabulous restaurant. All adding to the gastronomic holiday delight.
The Loire Valley is an enormous Unesco World Heritage site. So having whetted my appetite with an aperitif, would it be greedy to say that I need to go back for more?