Who knew storming D-Day beaches and pilgrimages to Ste. Michele would be so much work? We left the bay of Mont Ste. Michele on 25 August for a much-needed week-long stay in our Airbnb cottage in Bréhémont just outside of Chinon, France in the western portion of the Loire River Valley. As we drove south and east of Normandy, we went from 70s and marine air to much warmer and drier 90s. Our authentic to the area cozy cottage was connected to the family compound of buildings (a big house, little house, back house, barn scenario). We checked in with our hosts just before they left to attend a wedding and holiday in Paris. As happens to us from time to time, we felt like caretakers of their property, and that worked just fine for us. We even had a couple chats (cats) to keep us company. But one ended up locked in the hosts house when they left. Fortunately, the next morning my sensitive hearing, that at times has kept me awake at night, clued into soft, muffled mewing sounds! We promptly called the hosts and remedied the situation after finding keys and setting off alarms!
The Loire Valley spans 170 miles and is considered to be where the weather changes from north to south in France. It is also known for the wine of the region and the chateau studded countryside. One could chateaux themselves to death here, but we focused on the area near us rather than driving an hour or more away. The chateaux of the Loire were not built necessarily as fortresses. In fact, most were built by rich Parisians wanting to holiday outside of Paris. We had a number of chateaux around Bréhémont within 20 minutes of us, but we chose to visit Villandry (known for perhaps the most beautiful formal gardens in France). I’ll just say, Villandry did not disappoint even in the upper 90s!
As a kid, I loved puppet shows on TV (thinking of Kukla, Fran, and Ollie as well as Sherri Lewis and her hand puppet Lamb Chop). While walking through the farmer's market in Langeais, we noticed fliers for a Guignol puppet show. A few days later we were watching Guignol, who has been a well-loved puppet character since the late 1800s! While it was in French – mai oui (but, of course), we were able to loosely follow along. What we enjoyed was the audience participation (any puppet shows I saw as a kid were on television, so no audience). Kids were shouting to the puppets and answering questions, while also warning Guignol not to go in this direction or that. Grandparents and parents alike enjoyed the show (as I’m sure they had all seen Guignol and his antics when they were children). And truth be known, one would have found us smiling, clapping, and laughing along with all the rest of the children while we sat watching Guignol. “Oh, la, la, la, la!” (Guignol said this many times while bringing his hands to each side of his face).
This was a very peaceful and relaxed stay for us with a lot of downtime and slow days. One of D’s favorite activities most days was to walk along the Loire River to our local boulangerie (bakery) in Bréhémont. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Other than the boulangerie, the town consisted of a church, Tabac (bar, sells tobacco products, and light meals), bicycle rental shop, and a new restaurant serving what is caught in the Loire during the day (one never knows when or if it will be open). No grocery store, but Langeais was just 10 minutes away by car and it had the supermarket as well as the aforementioned farmer's market.
We both enjoyed long walks in the countryside along the many pathways, rivers, and through corn fields around our little village. D went for a bike ride and me for a run. We did a little of this and that, and that was all we needed.
Thanks for joining us on our journey.