Vikki: We have wheels - freedom. It's great to be in a car again and driving. Left hand driver's side and right hand road lanes are confusing, and the relaxing of driving isn't there yet though I'm sure it will come in time. The chanting of "loose left" and "tight right" as we go around corners and the million and one roundabouts we've come across so far (to make sure we stay on the correct side of the road) has become common place. Not sure what I was thinking getting a manual, auto would have been easier, but can't complain with a new car and the ability to go where ever we want. The drive down was picture perfect - fields of pink, yellow and purple flowers, wild poppies growing along the edges of the road - just what you'd expect for the french country side. The Loire Valley is stunning, a much quieter pace of life and a surprising number of English tourists. With all of the magnificent chateau's, it feels a bit like a fairy tale land. Having visited two of the local chateau's, the gardens are just beautiful - roses, peonies, lavender, and other scented perennials everywhere. With those and the amazing trees, its a gardeners paradise.
Raj: Driving in Europe for the first time (with extra challenges) was scary and Vikki did an outstanding job as first up driver. It was good to start as co-pilot with GPS at hand, but wanting to grab the wheel at times when the curb got close. Lots of extra advice was offered, some probably not that helpful! Today I was the driver and the advice came back to me! The car is a perfect size, high with good visibility, space and comfort as we start our self-guided Europe tour. What a contrast - we have left the hustle and bustle of Paris and an apartment for the country side in Saumur and a tent. No complaints though and fun to be trying different experiences, especially for the kids. The Saumur/Loire Valley area is picturesque with lush fields bordering the Loire River and limestone houses, and several huge Chateau's dating back some 800+ years dominating the landscape. Quite peaceful and relaxing. The campsite is well set up and during the evenings I managed to try local fresh-baked breads filled with different cheese centres, and a variety of local wines with names and blends I have not heard off, including a sparkling red which I rather enjoyed. Nice.
Anouk: I really enjoyed visiting the Chateau du Rivau. It was like a fairy tale castle and we got explore it and the surrounding gardens. We followed a pathway of stones, which led us to an enchanted forest. In the forest we saw 44 gnomes hidden amongst the trees. Next we found a lookout tower. From the lookout tower we could see a big maze which was in a spirally shape. Harley and I walked through the maze while mum and dad watched from the lookout tower. We saw an oak tree that was 300 years old and it had tree jewellery on it (like and earring). We saw lots of different flowers, one was a big purple spiky ball.
Harley: Over the past 2 days, we've been to 2 Chateau's (that's French for castle). The first, Chateau du Breze, had a dry (non-water) moat 25metres deep. We also saw how they made wine using the wine presses and big oak barrels. Today we visited Chateau du Rivau which had lots of gardens. My favourite thing was the gigantic gumboots which were made from fibre galss and stood about 4metres high. There were lots of roses and other flowers. Another cool thing was the wishing well. It was about 25m deep and if you looked down you could just see the bottom. We all made a wish in secret.
Facts: Chateau du Rivau was built about 800 years ago. It took 20 years to restore the castle because it hadn't been taken care of. In 2010 there was a fire which destroyed parts of the castle, it has since been fixed.
Yesterday on the Raj Factor: Visiting the Chateau de Breze, one of the cave areas was used for silkworms and the production of silk. After looking at the cocoons and Vikki explaining how silk was made, Raj asked Harley did he know what the phrase "you can't make a silk purse out of billy goats bol-locks" means. While I politely suggested this was not the most pc term and that a "sows ear" was correct, too late the raucous child laughter began and that was that. Hours later over dinner, as the diaries were written for the day, it was still being laughed about and I'm sure will be for a long time yet.
Today on the Raj Factor: We've both "mislaid" keys on the trip, however today after having a short siesta in the hammock of the gardens of Chateau du Rivau, Raj rejoined us on our tour of the garden. 15 minutes later I asked him where the bag was (which contained all our valuables including passports and money). Not many words were spoken as Raj immediately knew he had left it by the hammock! A quick sprint later retrieved the bag intact. Gees Raj!