Weeki Wachee Spring and Mermaids – Travels with Allie.
Today we left the Marriott and set off on a wendering route south to the country of the Loire. We could have made the trip in about 3 hours if we’d gone on the motorways but we chose a roundabout scenic route with stops which took us the best part of 8 hours door to door.
It is our 32nd wedding anniversary today, so a very special day and we are always surprised at how the years have passed and all the things that have happened since that day in Bermuda! Not the least is our two lovely girls who are our centre. We always try and do something a little special for our anniversary, so we thought this year we would have an overnight to the Hotel de France in La Chartres sur le Loir, a hotel we stayed at a few years ago with very dear friends, both of which we have lost in the interim. We have such happy memories of being here before and it seemed a doubly happy thing to do, to go back there. To celebrate still being here, still together and to remember John and Sue and all the very very happy times we shared with them over the years.
The forecast had not been good and indeed we woke up to gloomy grey skies and there had been thunder in the night. It was still about 22C but very humid. We headed south on the country roads towards Fontainebleau and the large forests that surround it. By the time we got there, the rain was very heavy and we felt doubtful we would get any sightseeing done. The forests are extremely extensive and were used by the Kings of France for hunting, they are certainly old and dense. We kept going towards our first stop which was at Orleans, famous for the connections with Joan of Arc.
By the time we got there – 1115 – the sun came out, and we were once more in blue skies and warmth. We parked in the old city, near the Cathedral to explore. Much of Orleans took a blasting during WW2 because it was one of the main railheads for the country. First the Germans and then the Americans flattened large chunks of it as they invaded. It has been rebuilt and some of it restored so it can be difficult to tell what you are looking at. Joan of Arc’s house, for instance, is a reproduction, although it looks very genuine. The Cathedral is the real thing and it dates from the mid 1700s to the mid 1800s. There has been one there since around 1100AD but the earlier one was destroyed in earlier wars. It’s a fabulous Gothic structure with lovely stained glass, much of it depicting the life story of Joan of Arc in succeeding windows. We had a good walk round. The area of the old town is very scenic, full of old houses and narrow streets, cobbles and lovely gardens. We had a good explore.
We had lunch in the square right opposite the main doors of the cathedral. Bob had a chicken caesar salad (his favourite!) and I had a board of charcuterie. WOW! We were not expecting the portions we got! Huge to say the least and very delicious.
We set off again in the early afternoon and followed a very rural route down along the Loire valley, hugging the river and passing through many tiny villages and towns along the way. We stopped at one for a coffee and sat outside in the square enjoying a break. The owner spoke absolutely no English at all and he had a bit of a struggle with my French.
God knows why, LOLOOL. Maybe it was the mask…….
Although……. I have yet to meet anyone else who didn’t understand the words Coca Cola which is what Bob wanted……. In the end, I got him a Perrier which did seem to register. Oh – I mean’t to say, the covid scan apps have been working again since yesterday. The hotel told us there had been a problem with the app which has been resolved and indeed they worked in the hotel yesterday and everywhere today.
We got to La Chartres sur le Loir at about 430 and parked up in the little square in front of the hotel. It is absolutely stereotypical 1930s France…. the hotel has formed a base for some of the top racing teams at Le Mans over the years (Le Mans is very close by) and it has that as a theme. Each room is named after a famous racing driver. We have a very lovely room with a big bathroom and a tester bed. It’s not by any means one of their expensive rooms so they must be amazing is all I can say. Later we discovered they’d upgraded us which was soooo nice.
We unpacked and I went downstairs to take some photos and to have a cold drink. It was boiling by now, the sun very hot, almost a last flare of the afternoon. I sat outside the hotel bar and had a rose spritzer with ice – it was just the job. Then, we had a rest in the cool before dinner.
We went down to dinner at about 745 and the dining room looked really lovely, all candlelit, and quite a few people in there. The service was very friendly and we found a little card on our table wishing us a happy anniversary from all the staff. I think maybe I told them when we booked…. that’s all I could think of as to how they knew. The menu was very French and everything sounded delicious. It was 27 euro for 2 courses or 35 for 3 or you could make it 44 if you could manage 4 courses! That sounded doubtful after the lunch we had eaten!!!! We enjoyed a g&t while we studied the options.
I started with a warm Perigourdine salad of duck gizzards, smoked magret and grizzled foie gras. Bob chose 6 snails from La Ferme de Maine in garlic butter. Both were reallly delicious. The duck gizzards and magret were so tender……
For mains, I had braised veal sweetbreads with a truffle sauce and potatoes mousseline – absolute heaven and Bob had a grilled pave of Charolais beef served with a shallot reduction and frites. It was a fantastic fillet like piece of meat, beautifully charred on the outside and just as he ordered on the inside, full of flavour and very tender.
We washed it all down with iced sparkling water and a bottle of Loire red, from Touraine Amboise, M de la Touche which was very nice and not too bad at 25 euro. Raised several glasses along the way to John and Sue and swapped some memories of being at the hotel or at other dinners with them over the years. John was a great bon viveur and a hugely interesting man who remained interested in everything right to the end, always questioning and searching out knowledge.
Then there was a bit of a pause before we decided we could tackle the cheese trolley!!!! It had some yummy looking cheeses which we sampled. No room for dessert but they all sounded great….. Portions were good, but not over facing. I said to Bob that although I didn’t want dessert, I didn’t feel overfull and uncomfortable. It helped we’d taken our time.
After dinner we took our coffee and a nightcap out on the terrace by the square and got chatting to a very nice English couple who were on their way south to visit friends. They had recently (January) sold their longterm house in France and were back living permanently in England. They were happy they’d done it, although sad too, but felt it was time. They had often stayed in the hotel on their way back and forth and we swapped stories of other stays at gites and chambres d’hotes! It was most pleasant, to enjoy a final drink on a warm night, there in the square.
Retired to our comfy chamber and slept well, full of good food and wine. There will be a podcast that covers the whole 2 day trip – probably Sunday afternoon when things settle down a bit.