Villains at Villandry

Here we are at the next stop on the itinerary of my blog tour of France, which I’ve named “September ad-French-ure”. For those of you who’ve joined us late, or if you just want to skip to a different part, you can use these links:

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After we left Mont Saint-Michel, the next part of our trip began: a tour of the Loire Valley region. La Loire is the longest river in France, and dotted along it are many magnificent castles – or chateaux as the French call them.

A roundabout in Angers

The first stop on our Loire itinerary was supposed to be Angers, it only got us angry (har har). Seriously, we were using an outdated camping site guide book and a GPS loaded with old maps, so we ended up driving around the city in circles trying to find this non-existent camp site on a non-existent street. What made it worse was the very narrow streets, and navigating through them in a huge mobiroom must have been a very taxing experience for Jozef (and quite stressful for us too).

Oh well, it just wasn't meant to be...

By the time we managed to figure it out, it was nearing 11pm, so we ended up staying the night in an empty carpark outside some random building (probably a conference centre or something).

The next day, we set off for our next destination. While looking for a place to rest, we came across another chateau. Because it wasn’t an official stop, only Jenny and I ventured from the mobiroom to check out a castle perched on a cliff above a medieval village. At this stage, not having actually been into any of the castles yet, we were a little bit put off by the admission fee and decided not to go inside.

The mystery chateau...

Now the funny thing is, none of us thought to make a note of where this was, and to this day, we still have no idea where it is! Our best guess, based on extensive Googling, is Saumur. It’s between Angers and Villandry and sits perched above a city, but none of the pictures look anything like ours so we’re not 100% certain. Were we ever going to see the inside of a chateau?

... and the nameless village that it overlooks

Finally, we arrived at Villandry. Our first “taste” of French castles certainly didn’t disappoint! The 9 per person entry fee seemed pretty steep, but apparently it goes into the maintenance and upkeep – and a LOT is required. I didn’t pay too much attention to the posters on one of the walls detailing the history of Villandry, although I did manage to catch something about how some rich, intelligent American professor woman married an intelligent, but destitute Spanish professor man, and they decided to go to France and create THE MOST FRICKIN’ AMAZING CASTLE AND GARDEN IN THE WORLD.

Here are a few pictures from inside:

The chateau courtyard

The sitting room. The tapestry in the background was what crazily rich people used for wallpaper back in those days

A very small table for a very big dining room

Close up of the table setting

The kitchen. That's real bread...

One of the bedrooms. I don't think we have a picture of the master bedroom, although I don't recall seeing any double beds

A whole other separate building. Oh I don't know. That's probably, like, the dunny or something

Impressive? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Check out the garden:

Imagine this was your back yard

A "wee" pond up the back of the garden (which also happens to feed the moat)

The garden of love. Four different patterns depict four different types of love: tender, fickle, passionate and tragic

This is "just" a vegie patch. I kid you not

Endless corridors of grape vines (more on this in a sec)

There’s also a bit of forest out back, but not much worth seeing or mentioning there…

But the garden… oh, the garden. See that grape vine? What do you do when you walk past all those sweet, juicy, nice looking grapes…

You eats them! Om nom nom...

We ate all kinds of grapes. Red grapes, white grapes, red-white grapes... we ate and ate and ate

… and then Jenny started to get greedy and stole apples that were within easy reach, which was supposed to be off limits (Jenny says: “‘The Caesar police’ was totally giving me grief about it. He said I was ‘purloining’ those apples, but didn’t object to helping me eat them!”). Oh man, there was so much food it was crazy. There was also a really nice herb garden too, with every kind of herb you could imagine. It’s the most comprehensive garden I’ve ever seen in my life! Apparently they have a big team of gardeners looking after the place.

I think I was really overwhelmed by the place, ‘coz I very nearly blew ~375 (about AU$530) on a souvenir – a hand-crafted wall hanging depicted a miniature comic book store. Luckily I had a wee doubt as to whether Aussie customs would allow me to bring it into the country (being made of wood), which gave me the opportunity to sleep on it. Cool as it was, it probably wasn’t quite worth blowing a huge chunk of our budget on.

So with a stomach full of grapes and a handbag full of apples, we retired back to our campervan for a good night’s sleep (and the rain did its funky thing).

The next morning on our way out of Villandry, a stupid campervan driver coming in the opposite direction drove a little bit too close to the middle and swiped mirrors with us. The bastard didn’t even stop. Villains! Oh well, it just meant that there was no looking back* as we moved on to our next destination…

* No, I didn’t make that up for the sake of cracking a lame joke. We really did get swiped.