Monday, June 6, 2011

A week in the Loire, 1: Loping around Loches

After the rather frantic relocations of the past week, it was lovely to think of settling in one place from Saturday to Saturday. The Loire area was one we had visited twice before but of course last time in Chinon Nick was recovering from pneumonia and even if we saw things, he doesn’t remember too clearly. He was one sick bunny

The drive from Mosnac was lengthy so we stopped at just one church, the Romanesque St Pierre in Aulnay. Situated in a graveyard dating well back, it is in pretty good repair. I remarked the carving on the front of St Peter being crucified upside down, with the soldiers appearing to work very energetically. Inside, the church has typically robust columns and a vaulted nave. It is lovely to consider that Christian worship has continued here for centuries, despite wars of religion and politics.

Crucifixion of St Peter

Sometimes travel brings a few surprises, like this roundabout on our way. No, I have no idea what it signifies but it was big.
Hand and cars at roundabout

The town we chose this time was Loches, a citadel with two castles, a severe donjon and a prettier Renaissance chateau, the Logis Royal, all embedded in a walled area and situated on the Indre River. The town within the walls is beautiful, with pedestrian streets, numerous ornamented gates and up in the citadel area some pretty houses with gardens and gates that I long to live in. Sigh!!!

The Cordeillers gate and Logis Royal behind
Can I have this one please? A house inside the citadel walls.
Gate and square. The markets are held here and further throughout the town.

Our accommodation at the gite at the Logis du Bief was a little hard to find from the street, but was delightfully situated just below the citadel on the mill pond of the Indre, so our back terrace was right on the river and also opened onto the terrace of the associated B&B. Our hosts were the delightful Moha and Jean Claude, who loved to fuss over us and had made a delightful little home for our week’s stay. Two bed rooms and a bathroom upstairs and a small kitchen and living/dining downstairs with the terrace. Lots of antiquities as they call them here in France, in the furniture and paintings

Our accommodation from across the river. The orange umbrella is our terrace

With advice from Jean Claude we soon found the supermarket to buy essentials. Love French supermarkets: they have a proper butcher who cuts to order, a proper deli section that cuts to order, including marvellous pates, terrines and cheeses. A fresh fish section, but only if the fishermen have been out the day before, their own bakery for baguettes, and a very comprehensive wine section. On Wednesday we shopped at a marvellous market (also on Saturdays). Great meat, sausage, cheese, smallgoods, wine as well as the clothing and shoes sections. We got white asparagus and stuffed canelloni in different flavours. I cooked three dinners at home.
The first night we found the Gerbe d’Or (Golden Wheat Sheaf) on JC’s recommendation and had a stunning meal on the terrace under the wisteria. Just one course, mine a plump chicken breast on four, fat, white asparagus spears with a cream sauce with truffle scents. Nick had tournedos rossini with real foie gras on the top. We drank rose. Heaven! We returned with another couple later in the week and had a similarly delicious experience.
The next day we had breakfast on the deck and then explored the citadel of Loches itself. It was Sunday and also French Mothers’ Day, so there was a well attended mass in the church followed by two baptisms. It was interesting that most of the attendees at the baptism wore white, a nice touch I thought. (Or maybe that was for Mothers’ Day)

The church of St Ours with its curious pointed pyramids over the nave

The Renaissance Chateau is mostly about Agnes Sorel who was the first woman to be named as “Official King’s Mistress” and who died at 30 from what now appears to be mercury poisoning. Maybe used as a medicine for her ascaris infection (Erk! ascaris is from infected pork and those worms are BIG) or to aid in prolonged childbirth, or maybe… Her grave and memorial are now in the citadel church of St Ours, moved there quite recently from the Logis Royal and is where she wanted to lie. I love the gentle look on the face of the angels at the corners. She was regarded as a great beauty and several portraits show her as such.

Logis Royal
Roofs of the town from the citadel and the Tower of St Antoine
The tomb of Agnes Sorel in St Ours

Dog on the steps of the Logis Royal commemorate hunting dogs

Annunciation  painting in the Logis Royal
This was also the chateau at which Jean d’Arc persuaded the Dauphin to go to Paris and be crowned king, so a fairly important place. It looks out over the roofs of the town and is surrounded by lovely gardens and roses. You walk through them to reach the donjon which is massive, solid, tall, but surrounded by small gardens and defensive walls, a legacy of changing use over time. It was certainly defensive, some of the walls being five feet thick and it was also used as a prison as some of the scratched graffiti attest.

The donjon
Lavender at the foot of the donjon
Prisoner graffiti
Roses in the citadel
That afternoon we also visited a local town, Chedigny, which was having a rose festival. Now the roses in France are just amazing. They bloom out of apparent solid concrete. They climb walls. They decorate roundabouts. They cover doorways. And they bloom with abundance, profusion and generosity. My favourites are the David Austin roses, tight and double, usually fragrant.

Roses on the wall at Loches
Massed climbing roses, Chedigny
Rose festival at Chedigny

The festival was very crowded, even late in the afternoon. People were buying roses but the town also had its own profusion. A sweet excursion.
And the best of all is the pink climber that fades to cream and is so heavy its heads hang downwards.


Next episode: Chateaux; from the marvellous to the mad


  1. I'm so glad I found this blog! We are visiting France for 2 weeks in September, and will spend 3 nights in Loches, staying at Le Closier St. Jacques. I look forward to visiting many of the places you wrote about, especially the gardens!

  2. Some of the gardens will be past their prime in many areas, but they do try to have seasonal plantings and the green "bones" of the gardens are always there. Have a great trip.

  3. I found your blog through a trip advisor link. We are going to France next spring (2013) and I was looking at this apartment in Loches. It sounds great. Did you have a car? Where did you park?
    I'm assuming from what you write that you recommend the apartment. I am looking to book it for a week as it seems a central location to see the area.

  4. Jule, there is parking just nearby. You can see it if you look on a Googlemap. Only a tiny sign on the door so it is easy to miss when driving. The gite was fabulous and Jean Claude a wonderful and knowledgeable host, the situation perfect, the town a delight.

  5. Thanks. I'm a bit confused about the bedrooms. It is described differently in 2 different ads. How many beds are in each room? We are 4 adults.

  6. One double bed and a small narrow room with two single beds. There is not, I think, room to arrange these as a double.

  7. That's fine, my husband and I don't mind separate beds. But his email said that there was only 1 bed in the small room and so it might not be appropriate for 4 adults. But all the ads say 2 beds in the small room. I'm wondering if it's a translation issue.