Into the Loire

After frantic planning and long (though thankfully uneventful) flights Katie and Michael have arrived back in La France. This trip will last about 3 weeks, and this time we are spending our time in Western France, travelling through the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, then in the south in Provence with a finishing flurry in Paris.

Our journey starts with a brief stay in Roissy- a small village minutes away from Charles de Gaulle airport with only 2,000 residents but 16,000+ hotel rooms - obviously an ideal stop off point for weary travelers. According to our hosts, Air France wanted to demolish the entire town to make way for the airport development - inspiring the wrath of the locals. The French have protest down to a fine art, and needless to say the beautiful town still stands. (Photo of Roissy town centre)

After a good nights rest we drove into the heart of the Loire Valley, stopping at several picturesque towns on the way.  The Loire is famous for many things, among them some of the most beautiful chateaux, stunning goats cheeses, and a wide variety of fresh produce. No wonder it is nicknamed 'Le Jardin de France'. French cuisine can be fancy and fussy, but some of the best meals are simple things done well with top quality ingredients. Few lunches in my life would exceed freshly baked bread, accompanied by exceptional French cheese, a glass of crisp dry Rose, preferably situated next to a beautiful vista like the postcard perfect town of Moret-sur-Loing at an ideal 27 degrees Celcius. (Photo from said lunch spot)

Our destination in this region is the town of Amboise, perched above the Loire River. The Loire is the longest river in France, being some 1,100km in length, wide and swift flowing. Beautiful in these parts too, explaining why French kings and Royal courts built so many extravagent properties here. (Photo of the Loire, and the town of Amboise).

Todays journey took us to the cellars of Clos de Nouys in Vouvray. We initially chose to import wines from this family winery into New Zealand after meeting and tasting with Philippe Chainier, and today was our first chance to travel to the winery and vineyards, this time meeting with charming brother François. Vouvray is one of the oldest official appellations in France, and while there is only one grape permitted here (the great Chenin Blanc) it can come in wildly different forms including bone dry, super-sweet, and event excellent sparkling wines made in the style of Champagne. (Photo of Katie and Francois outside the 'troglodyte' cellars).

We had a rare treat in tasting in the dark cellar - an old vintage from the personal family stash - the tremendous 1988 vintage Vouvray. It had been 10 years since François himself had tasted this year, and we felt very honoured to share in the experience. The wine was Deep golden in colour, it showed great depth and complexity, musky citrus, burnt honey, hints of marzipan and orange peel. Still very much alive after almost 30 years of age.  We also got to taste the unctuous 2005 Cuvée Grains Dorées, fat and full bodied, dripping with honey and marmalade, sweet flowers, exotic fruits and spice. (Photo 1988 vintage, from a very mouldy unlabelled bottle). 

We also managed a trip to Leonardo Davinci's last home, where for the last 3 years of his life he spent painting, talking at length with King Francis, and designing more incredible inventions from his small study surrounded by beautiful gardens. (Photo of Clos de Lucé).

Lastly we visit one of the smaller but most beautiful of the famous Chateaux at Azay-le-Rideau, built in the 16th century and currently undergoing painstaking restoration. Only in France would they delay the construction for 5 months every year to accomodate the bats living in the rafters of the chateau! (Photo of Michael & Katie infront of the chateau).

Tomorrow we plan to visit the most famous Chateau of the region, along with a multitude of wine tasting. Hard work this business!  The next blog features the Bordeaux region, follow the next step here

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