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Celebrating in the Loire Valley
French trains; le Metro. le RER, le SNCF and along Les Grandes Lignes; is rarely relaxing. This principle was in action for our journey from Paris to Blois in Loire-et-Cher, the local department in the Centre region of France. Arriving in plenty of time by Uber it was still a hectic mission. Firstly finding our carriage and secondly finding somewhere to put our luggage. We were in a carriage with compartments. When we arrived at our compartment five occupants, all French, looked somewhat surprised that it was necessary for them to allow room for us to occupy our seats. There was baggage on the unused seats and most of the racks above. In fairness they did move the bags from the seats onto the racks, leaving the small matter of where to put our ample supply of baggage. Luckily for us Dylan, Emma, Paul, Amanda and Jude where in the next carriage which had a two sides with pairs of seats and an aisle up the middle; and plenty of room on the luggage racks. So to the bemusement of our fellow travellers we lugged our bags to the next carriage to travel with the others. That only left the strong body odour in the compartment to be endured, along with the manspreading of the large "gentleman" to my left. See what I mean about the lack of relaxation?
Upon our arrival in Blois we missioned it to Hertz and Tracy accepted the first challenge of driving on the right hand side of the road from Blois to Seur, the village that would be our home for the next seven days, a distance of about seventeen kilometres. After several days it becomes clearly obvious that Tracy is the genius of keeping the car within the lane and off the road shoulder. In fact I was banned from driving anywhere for several days until I had serious practice around the village. Alex, a member of "our" family in France gave us some tips about how the locals use roundabouts - much easier when you know how. I got better, I needed to.
Micreau Chateau McLaughlin
The large house we had booked at Seur was a complete winner! It was so big that I named it a "Micreau Chateau". Lots of rooms, lots of beds, lots of garden and lots of river. We had a frequently visiting Great spotted woodpecker, a rarely spotted red squirrel and big fatty hummingbird hawk-moths. Le Beuvron, a tributary of the Loire runs along boundary, with our own personal jetty, ready for those keen for a swim. Seur has no shops but does have a baguette box where in exchange for coins in a slot fresh baguettes pop out on a daily basis. Warren nearly had his arm chopped off when distracted during his bread purchase.
Chêteau Royal de Blois
A wander through Blois led to an unplanned return to Chêteau Royal de Blois. This fascinating castle on a hill in the middle of town has four parts built progressively between the early 13th Century and the late 17th Century. Joan of Arc received the blessing of the Archbishop of Reims there in 1429 before heading off to battle in Orléans. There is a Gothic bit, a Flamboyant bit, a Renaissance bit and a Classical bit. The newest wing is named for Gaston d'Orléans who is described as Prince, Rebelle and Mécène (Prince, Rebel and Patron of the Arts). Great name and a story to be discovered.
And so to the reason for this whole expedition, Emlyn and Typhaine's wedding. In France the legal responsibility for marriage rests only with the state so on Thursday we spruced up a bit for a visit to the Mairie (Town Hall) in Mont-près-Chambord. It's been fun watching the many different paths friends and family have taken to reach the middle of France for the big day at Huisseau-sur-Cosson for the ceremony on Saturday. Emlyn donned the shirt Lucy had made so brilliantly and I donned my bowtie from the leftover material - everyone else looked pretty good too. It was all quite different from how things are done in Australia and the Priest did a great job in including both French and English speakers. In addition to the stars of the show Dylan nailed it with his original newly penned and composed song for the occasion. There was an unexpected surprise tune from Emlyn played as things wound up. A most memorable afternoon.
Next it was off in convoy to Château de Villesavin in Tour-en-Sologne for the reception. Wow! A 16th Century country "house", what a place to celebrate! So much fun! We had friends and family from Australia, England and Canada joining us which was of course fun but making us all wish the distance between us all was much easier to traverse more often. The party went on until 6:00 a.m.when the traditional onion soup is served to wind things up. We made it until 3.30, which was a lot longer than I thought we would.
The festivities were rounded off the following morning (Or the same day, depending on when and if you went to bed after the wedding!) we returned to Château de Villesavin for brunch, a bit like an Aussie barbie. It was a nice way to keep the fun rolling and to spend some more time with those who would disperse across the globe. We even got some of the French involved in a game of cricket. They've never even heard of French cricket - I think this is an English invention as a insult some years ago.
A lit more drama on the TGV fast train back to the airport - not enough room for luggage, people mounting the pile to baggsy the positions close to the door, and we're up and away on our journey home. We skipped our stopover in Kuala Lumpur as it seemed to be way too hot and we were a bit to broken, shortening this adventure to forty-eight days. Maybe at our advancing age we'll rethink such a full-on itinerary next time! Emlyn's friend Jade reckoned that what I'd been calling cankles after our hectic schedule were really only fankles but on the trip home they turned into serious cankles. The end.
(Or choose from the menus.)
- From Sydney to Kuala Lumpur
- On to Abu Dhabi for a quick stopover here!
- Arriving in London
- Four days in London - Freedom for Tooting here!
- A week around Manchester. Northern country syle here!
- Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales - more norther here!
- Scotland for the brave - even more northerer. We'll take the low road to get.... here!
- Alongside the North Sea. There'll be puffins here!
- Heading away from the Old Dart. A quick overnighter here!
- Stavanger for some fjords, kavlis and vikings here!
- A quick look at Dubai
- A stopover in Kuala Lumpur for chicken and rice here! - scratched - too bloody hot!
- Home again!