We left Loches on Saturday, after a last walk in the medieval village, just in time to get an organ concert at the church, illuminated by a rainbow of lights in the morning sun. To see the chateau of Chenonceau, as in my french books, we asked for directions and walked through a forest. There, suddently, at the corner of the track, this graceful reminder of the past appeared, elegantly arching its way over the Loire river, a fairytale fantasy of white towers and deep windows, reflected in the water, sitting there calmy under the weight of history. But as the locals told me, considering the brazen opulence of those places built on the hard work of heavily taxed peasants, no wonder there was a french revolution. At least now the whole region benefits from the adoration of tourists. A small payoff for centuries of labors.
After this last peak in the Loire history, We went to Sancerre to spend the night in a winery. Pul it like that, we did not have to walk far after an enriching wine tasting session...in the cold cold night, and over the fields, ther was even a firework lighting up the night, a perfect end to a perfect day.
On Saturday, we drove along vines and littles villages all the way to Bourgogne, to be welcomed by Jean Pierre, our room neighbour in Tahiti and his partner Nicole, the local town concellor, who knows the area like the back of her hand. They live in a tastefully renovated farm in the bourgogne countryside with their cute little dog. We were able to park our van in their garden overlooking green rolling hills and share a few days of their peaceful bucolic lifestyle. Maxim and Callum played with the dog to mutual exhaution. They got to feed baby rabbits and bosterious chickens and picked rasberries and blackberries during a lovely walk in the neighbourhood. Here you can feel a love of things done well, a care for neighbours, not matter where they come from and an immense pride for Bourgogne and its history. We followed old roads to old villages, walked around old castles smelling of old stones but felt enough energy here to get things growing and moving for many more centuries.
Its is in one of those villages that we ordered one of the local speciality, Escargots de Bourgognes, that is to say, snails (yes, cooked) in a garlic, parsley and hot butter sauce. I should have not smacked my lips so much, Maxim loved it at the first bite and nearly polished off my dish. I had to fight him off with the tiny snails fork they are served with...
Talking to Nicole helped me solve one little mystery. Travelling through France as a kid, I remembered french villages as dark and dirty, with grey unkept houses and follorm inhabitants...Now, there are colourful flower baskets at every street corners, the houses are bright and the round abouts resemble works of art...What happened to this country, is there not supposed to be a crisis or something? .Money happenned, money and a bit of fair competition between villages. About twenty years ago, the french government had the brilliant idea to offer generous amount of money to villages who won and most importantly keep "flower stars" it took a while but now, every town council is determined to win yet one more star. They even go on spying missions to see how other places are doing it. It is a win win situation and the tourists are coming back for more every year...Would you like some flowers with your croissants?
We felt very grateful and priviledged to have shared Jean Pierre and Nicole's heaven in the heart of France, but more castles were waiting, so we drove on to Gigny sur Saone to the Chateau de l'Épervière. This is why we are dining at the castle tonight, as valued guests, on the menu, a casserole of beef bourguignon...sounds fancy?
The camping is in the garden of a recently renovated castle, which we can see from our van. We got the beef bourguignon from the local restaurant, it was poured right into our pot for the evening diner. The problem was, we made the mistake of lifting the lid...a few minutes and a fresh baguette later, we had devored the whole lot... Ah well, I just have to convince the cook to give me another, bigger portion.
Tomorrow, we will leave this fertile region to climb up the Jura towards Annecy where more friends are waiting for us...life is good, expecially after such a divine beef bourguignon...