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A DAY OF REDEMPTION (Loose in the Loire 3)

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We have come to the Loire primarily to visit some of the famous chateaux in this region of France … as well as enjoy some down time (after a somewhat hectic first few months in our new Pastorate at Abbey Baptist Church, Reading), and do some reading towards our doctoral studies at the University of Winchester. We know that we can’t visit all the chateaux because we are only here for a week, but Julia has a list of ‘must see’ chateaux that will give us a ‘taster’ for further visits to this part of France.

On our first real day here in Limeray we venture down the road to Amboise – we are not being too ambitious – there is an interesting chateau in Amboise, but we intend leaving that to our last day here. Having got up late we arrive in Amboise at just after 12.00 noon and look for somewhere for coffee. We find a nice restaurant where people are sitting outside drinking coffee and enquire if we too can have a coffee. We are given short shrift by a waiter who tells us in no uncertain terms that they are a restaurant not a café and directs us over the road to a somewhat lesser establishment (in his opinion) that will serve us coffee. I look at a couple sitting outside his restaurant drinking coffee and wonder why them and not us? I look at the various empty tables outside his establishment?  Perhaps this French couple have been there since 11.00 a.m.? Perhaps Brexiteers exist in France and not just in the UK? We can’t be bothered to argue and go over the road where we are given a warm welcome and enjoy a very nice cup of coffee. When we leave, we go for a walk around the town to get our bearings. We come back via the ‘restaurant’. The same couple are still there! The numerous empty tables are still there! What a plonker?

The following day we get up reasonably early … well early enough for us when on holiday … and head out to see the Château de Chenonceau. Julia first came here 50 years ago when she was 10 and recalls meeting a somewhat large spider (allegedly the size of a dinner plate) on the wall of the chateau kitchen. It is a remarkable chateau with an equally remarkable backstory involving Diane de Poitiers (the mistress of King Henri II of France) and Catherine de Medici (the wife of King Henri II) during the 16th century. Its setting is magnificent, and we have a great (if somewhat tiring day) exploring the chateau and its grounds. Julia revisits the spider kitchen and discovers that there is now no spider but a huge boar’s head in its place!

The following day we have designated as a ‘rest day’ … an opportunity to do some reading as well as resting. In recent years, whilst on holiday, we have developed a pattern of ‘one day on, one day off’ so that we don’t attempt to do too much in the course of a holiday and return to the UK more tired than when we left! We have a plan for the following day, however, which is to revisit Blois and see the chateau there. This is not our only reason for revisiting Blois, however. Eight years ago, we stopped off in Blois for a meal on our way back to the UK after an extended two-month holiday in the south of France. We found a seemingly nice restaurant, in a pleasant square, not far from Blois’ famous stone bridge. I have to say that it was the worst meal I have ever eaten in France. The square was packed with diners but none of received any food (even though we were kept waiting for ages) because the chef had had a row with the manager and had walked out on the spot?! Needless to say, we got no dinner to speak of that night and swore that we would never go back to Blois again.

Time is a great healer they say so we decided to give Blois an opportunity to redeem itself. We enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Royal Château of Blois – with another great backstory of intrigue and murder – and then went in search of ‘our restaurant’. We eventually found it and went in for lunch!? We had a great time! We were warmly welcomed. Enjoyed some good conversation (in French). And had a great meal! Blois is now our new favourite place! Oh … I forget to mention … Julia also managed to buy a new bag while we were there!

Jim Binney

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