The last 5 days have been pretty amazing. A mix of staying in some fabulous luxurious and historic locations, with camping. Being with family, meeting friends and new extended family. None of this was anticipated or planned for this year. The only downside being the news, a couple of days ago, that we will have to self-isolate (again) as France has been removed from the list of safe countries one can visit, due to the increase in Covid-19 numbers.
From the 10th – 13th was very “full on” with my youngest son, James, daughter-in-law, Sarah and 3 grandchildren, Jasper 6, Anna 3 and Siena 1. We stayed at Chateau De La Marronniere, in Aizenay, a very grand establishment. However, as the owners have 6 children and a number of grandchildren, although the accommodation was gorgeous, there were plenty of facilities for the little ones.
The weather was very warm so the first morning was spent in the pool. In the afternoon we ventured to a beach near Bretignolles-sur-Mer to meet friend’s of Sarah’s, Helen and Matt and their 3 children. Sarah and Helen were at school together and Helen’s family have owned a house in Bretignolles for years. After an afternoon of sand castle building and surfing in the waves, everyone was quite worn out.
Returning to Chateau De La Marronniere, it was decided taking 3 small, tired children to a restaurant was probably not a good idea. The Chateau has large grounds and provides a number of picnic locations. We chose a shady area in the walled garden and relaxed with a glass or 2 of vino, cheeses, cold meats and fruit, while the children played on the swings and in the sand pit.
The current Chateau De La Marronniere is a replacement of the original Chateau. This was destroyed during the French Revolution. The owning family escaped, though and later returned and rebuilt a smaller version, using the original stone. The current owners purchased and renovated it 12 years ago.
On Wednesday we woke to grey skies, thunder and heavy rain. A shopping day was thought to be the best option. We headed to a Hyper-U and Decathlon. After a morning’s retail therapy, it was still bucketing down so we set off for the pretty town of Apremont. Here we found a Bar/Creperie and decided we would have lunch. It turned out to be a very much better restaurant than we had anticipated with lovely staff and an excellent menu.
When we emerged the sun was shining and a walk was feeling very necessary after a huge breakfast and an unanticipatedly large lunch. We headed for the castle and then a walk by the river.
That evening we returned to Bretignolles for dinner with Helen and Matt and family in a little restaurant just down the road from their holiday home. Not that we were really hungry, but we still managed to over indulge and then returned to Helen and Matt’s place for a nightcap.
Leaving the Chateau the following morning we set off for Nostang where we were to stay for a night with Sarah’s sister, Kellie, her French partner, Louis and their 9 month old daughter, Meredith. We set off separately, as Dennis and I prefer to wander through the smaller country roads.
Breaking the journey in Vannes, which Sarah had recommended as being a pretty place to stop, we searched unsuccessfully for parking in the town centre. Eventually we found a spot on the town outskirts and made ourselves some lunch in Poki. On the way back out of Vannes, we apparently passed James, Sarah and the family in a restaurant by the waterside. Despite their frantic wavings, we were
unfortunately looking the wrong way!
Arriving at Louis and Kellie’s place long before the others, Louis made us very welcome and showed us around the manor house and grounds, which include a Walnut orchard and several acres. The property is in the process of renovation, a very major undertaking, but Louis and Kellie have achieved a great deal in under 2 years.
Sarah’s parents, Bill and Penny, were staying too. So as we were too many for the number of converted bedrooms, some of us were camping in the garden. This included us and James and family in their large tent, which easily accommodated the 5 of them.
That evening a large party were assembled. Louis is one of 6 children and Louis’s parents, plus 3 of his siblings joined us for dinner. The centre piece of the manoir is the huge dinning room, with an enormous oak dining table, which came with the house. After the children were all tucked up in bed, a very convivial evening followed.
The following morning we all mucked in and helped clear a part of the garden. Some of us stripping ivy from an overgrown wall. Others cutting down trees. Dennis showed he is very handy with a chain saw. The little ones were helping too, clearing up piles of ivy and cuttings into a trailer.
After lunch we reluctantly said our farewells and set off for Le Coudray-Macouard, where I had booked us accommodation for the night of 15th. It was a long drive in one day, so we decided to do it in two stages and camped that night in Redon.
Redon is on the Nantes-Brest Canal. There is a cycle route through here, a part of which we took 10 years ago. We shared the campsite with a large number of cyclists. A peaceful night followed and before setting off the following morning we had a look around Redon, after visiting a Patisserie, to stock up for lunch.
Arriving in Le Coudray-Macouard at 4.30, the place was deserted. A small ‘City of Character’ with crumbling stone walls and tiny, challenging roads for Poki. As check-in wasn’t until 5pm we stopped at the Tourist Information Centre. Open, but unmanned and stocked with dusty brochures.
We headed for Manoir de Boisaurault via a tiny street. We came to huge, but closed doors in thick, but crumbling stone walls. A smaller door had a bell, which I rang, but no one came. Dennis thought we could not be in the right place, but the signs on the wall advised us we were. What to do? We decided to drive around the village and return at 5pm.
At 5.02pm we returned to still closed doors. I rang the bell again and this time the doors slowly opened, revealing a smiling hostess, Beatrice, waiting to show us where to park.
The property is pretty special. Full of antiques and with gardens riddled with caves and tunnels. Wine was produced and stored in the caves in the Middle Ages and in the 17th century salt was smuggled through the tunnels. The government had placed a hefty tax on salt, so to avoid paying, it was transported underground. The tunnels apparently form a 600 km underground network in 3 levels, linking towns in the surrounding area.
Beatrice had booked a table for us at a restaurant in the next village, Montreuil-Bellay. In a lovely location overlooking a Chateau, we once again seriously over indulged.
We were to have breakfast in the garden, but during the night it had rained heavily, so instead we were inside. Breakfast was beautifully presented in a dining room full of family antiques. Before we left, Beatrice insisted we must see some of the caves, where husband, Jean Pierre, had been setting up lighting and decorations for their daughter’s forthcoming 18th birthday celebrations. It was fascinating to see all the old wine producing paraphernalia and the many old implements and antiquities Jean Pierre had uncovered over the years.
Meandering along the Loire, our first stop was the market at Montsoreau where I stocked up with fruit and veggies. Next a visit to the beautiful village of Candes St Martin and then the Chateau at Rigny-Usse. We were feeling lazy, so camped early at the village of Savonnieres, just outside of Tours. After all the excitements of the last few days, we needed to get back to a more laid back and less indulgent routine.