Lured by the romantic ideal of victorian castles, lush green fields and windy country roads we booked four days in the Loire Valley. While it wasn’t what we had expected we found surprises are quite romantic in France.
We rented a car in Poitiers and drove through the small towns of France to Champigne. The towns were all quaint and small with one main road running through them. The main road was lined with antique buildings, some with flower boxes full of flowers spilling over chasing the French afternoon sun. The countryside in between each town was made up of rolling green hills, and estates of various sizes. We had expected castles at every turn but instead we found they were few and far between but when they were there they were beautiful! The gorgeous beige, tan and grey stone pillars with slate roofs and long stone driveways were every bit as romantic as the movies portray them to be.
J has always dreamed of staying in a French castle so we found an exquisite one. It was still owned and run by the original family. The absolutely divine sitting rooms were filled with family memorabilia, beautiful paintings and gorgeous antique furniture. The grounds were immaculate with beautiful Victorian garden, pool house, pond and horses. We were transported to another time where service, relaxation and luxury were the norm. While I found it difficult to eat in most of France I was treated here to wonderful vegetarian dishes to compliment the french wine, aperitifs and gorgeous deserts.
During the day we ventured out into the countryside to tour towns and castles. Our favorite town in the area was Angers. I had no idea the castle there would be so vast and impressive. After touring the grounds, walking through the beautiful manicured gardens, and gazing over the city and the river from the walls we headed to the museum to look at the medieval tapestry. The room was completely dark save the lighting on the tapestry itself. It hung along three walls each at least 40′ long and 20′ high. To say that it was exquisite is an understatement. The 15th century work tells stories from the bible as well as French history. It is incredibly well preserved. As I stood studying every detail all I could think about is the artist going to the weavers and explaining his vision and them carefully putting each detail into this incredible tapestry for centuries of people to enjoy.
After the castle we explored the quintessential historic streets of Angers. There is a warm and friendly feeling in Angers that made us wish we had more time to spend there. There are half timber buildings alongside small Victorian shops and beautiful plazas lined with restaurants, statues and even carousels. Tucked away in the quaint streets are beautiful cathedrals boasting gorgeous stain glass, stone tombs and incredible organs. It also is home to one of the prettiest train stations in France with stained glass windows, trees in planters hanging from the ceiling and a piano where riders who are musicians will sit and play while they wait for the train.
We spent another day at Chateau de Montgeoffroy touring the castle, walking the grounds and enjoying the beautiful countryside. Learning so much about the history of the French elite was incredible. It was actually illegal for the wealthy people to work when they came to their summer homes so they had to have full staffs to attend to their every need and want. I think this could be a pretty great way to spend a summer.
We really loved the Loire Valley. It was a respite from the big cities, the harried travel and tourists. The time we spent wandering the grounds, listening to the peaceful quite of the French countryside was a bit dreamlike. Follow that up with lounging in the perfection of the Chateau des Briottieres and you can’t go wrong. (Even if we did have lunch in the Aldi parking lot on Sunday because none of the restaurants were open.)
(Angers and the Loire Valley are both short and easy train rides from Paris or a few hours from Bordeaux. I would recommend both to get a feel of the way France used to be and the way it still can be away from the tourist filled cities.)