Our Family

Our Family

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Enough with the Chateaux

With a wonderful day of wine tasting with Cathy and Nigel from le Tasting Room behind us, we had a quiet evening at home.  We had not planned our next day so Tuesday night, we brought out the good-ol' Rick Steves France book to figure out what to do.  He had a huge section dedicated to the Loire so we opened it up to that section and looked at all the places we hadn't been yet.  There were a couple other chateaux in the region, but we wanted something different, so we decided on Chinon.  I was excited because on this trip I found a new love for the delicious red wines from Chinon.

Chinon (shee-nohn) is a lovely little town right on the Vienne River with ancient medieval streets and a historic royal fortress.  We didn't want no more stinking chateaux, we were ready for a fortress.  Once we parked and started walking around the town, we immediately fell in love with the medieval charm of the old town.  The character of all the buildings were incredible. 
Starting to walk around Chinon.
 Looking up at the fortress--it took us awhile to figure out how to get up there.
 Wine cave.
 I loved all the doors and windows.
 Tex-Mex in France?!?!

 A look down one of the streets.

 Place du General de Gaulle in the center of town.
As we made our way up to the fortress, we had to take an elevator to the top to get in because it is so high up.  They had stairs, but we weren't about to walk all the way up there.  Some history of the fortress for you: three medieval buildings are on top of the hilltop.  Fort St. Georges and Fort Coudray protected the residential chateau that is between them.  Henry II once called this home.  Joan of Arc pleaded with Charles VII here to retake the throne from the English.  He took refuge here during the Hundred Year's War, making Chinon the capital of France at that time.  The fortress has recently been renovated which allows visitors to get a better understanding of the turbulent history.  Unlike many of the chateaux, which were built more for comfort, this fortress was definitely made for protection. 
Overlooking the Vienne River from the hilltop near the fortress. 
 The stairs we could have climbed to get to the top--instead we took the elevator.
 Our first look of the fortress.
 Entering the fortress.
 Don't make me throw a boulder at you--the first but not last aspect that showed us this place was for protection and not pleasure.
 The residential chateau.
 Another view of Chinon from the fortress.
 Takin' a rest to enjoy the view.
 Inside the chateau.
 Heading down to the dungeon.
 Looking through a gun hole.
 The River Vienne--had a lot more water than the Loire River.
 Ange and I.
 Playing around at the souvenir shop.
In the center of town is the charming place du General de Gaulle.  After touring the fortress, we headed down to enjoy a lovely lunch.

Lunch we perfect and this was a delicious ending.  The BEST lemon tart I have ever had (don't worry I licked the plate, I just stopped midway to get a picture). 
 The cafe.
 Enjoying lunch.
After lunch, we headed home to enjoy our last night at Le Bois.  We had a lovely dinner planned and wanted to get some pictures around the gite.  On our way home, we took the optimized route and stopped to get some pictures of the towns around us. 
Oh you know, just a beautiful chateau on the side of the road. 
 The town that we were closest to.
 Church in Meigne Le Vicomte
Once back at the gite, we saw that the owners has a couple of bikes, so Andrew and I took them for a spin.  We wanted to get some pictures with the beautiful nature around the gite, out in the countryside of France so we took our camera and went for a ride.  
Getting ready for our ride.
 Playing in the hay.  I climbed all the way to the top (with Ange's help).  It was windy and kinda chilly as you can see, but crazy beautiful skies.
Ange made it to the top too.
 The sunflowers were insane.  There were sunflower farms everywhere.
 I loved them, they made me so happy to see them every morning as we left our gite.
 Look at the bee on the flower.
 Heeelllloooo little sunflower babies.
 A view from above.

 Andrew was having fun climbing the poles.
 He also had fun riding his bike pretending he was wining the tour!
 Back in the sunflowers, I really couldn't get enough of them.
 Andrew's turn.
 Riding back to the gite--the sun came out and it got warmer.
We enjoyed a delicious meal at home on the last night at Le Bois.
 Enjoying our vouvray on the patio.
 Our bubbly Vouvray that we got from the winery in Vouvray.
 Cheers to Le Bois.
We packed up our stuff and the next morning we headed to Paris.  Not before though stopping in Chartres.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wine Tasting at le Tasting Room

After a wonderful day at Chenonceau, the next day we headed to Cumeray for a wine tasting at le Tasting Room with Cathy and Nigel.  Let's just say it was a wonderful day.  We started the morning at their beautiful home minutes from the Loire River that used to be an old winemaker's home.
The house.
 There was a garage cellar built into the rock wall behind the house.
Another quick drive from Le Bois, we got there to enjoy some cafe and madeleines.  As we got to know Cathy and Nigel, we started with a lesson in Loire wine.  Cathy and Nigel have so much knowledge of wine, especially french wine.  They came to France in 2006 from the UK and found their magnificent, beautiful home.  They have created their business and enjoy teaching lessons on wine to those who are ready to learn.  While I won't share everything, we learned a ton of information.  The part that I remember the most was about the 3 different types of wines in France.  The quality level and appellation system used to have four levels of classification, but starting in 2012, they have only 3.  The lowest level, also known as table wine is called Vin de France, the next level up is Indication Geographique Protegee and the highest level is the Appellation d'Origine Protegee.  If a wine label has AOC, you know that the wine will be consistent and the highest quality of wine.   

The classroom and wine tasting room.
At the end of the lesson, we tried three white wines and three red wines.  I didn't write them down and don't remember them all, but they were delicious.
After our wine lesson and tasting, Cathy and Nigel served a delicious French lunch.  It included a caprese salad, green lettuce salad, cured meats and a rabbit terrine.  We also had some cheeses and baguette and a fabulous tart for dessert.    
Enjoying my wine on the patio before lunch--I liked one of the reds the best.
 Some of the wines we tasted.
 Ange liked the red too.
 The old barrel cellar where we had lunch.
 Seated for lunch.
 The cellar again.
Once we were full from lunch, we headed to an organic vineyard to learn about growing the grapes.  A very interesting aspect of the wine lesson.
An apple tree.
 At the vineyard.
 This vineyard built a wall to grow the vines on.  It provides the vines with more heat.
 Look at this crazy flower.
 At the vineyard.
 So beautiful.
 An old building on the grounds of the vineyard.
 Baby vines.
 Enjoying the view.
 Headed down to the cellar to taste more wines.
 The dogs of the vineyard wanted to come with.
 In the cellar.

 Cellar door.
 Wine cellar.
 Smelling our wine.
 Tasting it.  I'm breathing in air to give the wine oxygen.
 4 wines that we tasted.
 Outside the vineyard.
Once again, we had a wonderful day.  These experiences in France have really been incredible, and our trip is only half way over at this point.  Getting to know Cathy and Nigel at le Tasting Room was great and they are so wonderful to open their home and share their knowledge with us.  

We had a quiet night at home to get ready for the next day. 

Next up: Chinon

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