Saturday, 26 April 2008

The Chateaux

The Loire was a swollen wonder. So was the Vienne. The Indre and the Cher too. Downpour upon downpour flooded our midst.

We surfaced into sunshine every now and again. And during those interludes I got a sense that this was a really lovely region.

Actually I knew that before I set off having travelled to the Loire in various incarnations of m life.

This was the first as a fully signed up family man. And the three children added a new edge to the chateau tours.

I'm not entirely clear that I learned much more than I knew before. I don't think I've retained it. But I remember thinking it was interesting as I listened before it flooded out of my brain.

We went to Villandry which is about 10 kilometres from the base in Ballan-Miré just west of Tours.

There is a picture of me at Villandry from about 1990 taken by the then live in girlfirend. I remember buying a Stone Island sweatshirt and pair of linen shorts at Harrods for the trip.

The shorts disintegrated long ago and the sweatshirt was left in Ghana after sterling service.

Had I known during the Africa Cup of Nations that I'd be in the Loire a few months later I would have saved it for the sake of symmetry.

The chateau at Azay le Rideau is all about mirror images. The chateau is supposed to relfect in the water. Sad thing was that the water was so murky that day due to the rain that there were no bright shining images to be seen.

Never mind. We went along to see Fontevraud Abbey which has been restored since I was last there.

Can't say I was ushered into the feeling of a medieval nunnery. The parking lot seemed to be in a housing estate and we were directed to the abbey via a building site.

It was more effective when it was less polished. Left more to the imagination. But then again the eldest was quite taken with the fact that Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine were all buried there.

I'm quite taken too. Perhaps I should get her to see A Lion in the Winter and see what she makes of that.

To her credit she got me to go back with her to read the little panel near the tombs.

"How old was Richard, heart of lion, when he died?"

"I'm not sure...." From the mists of my mind I remembered he was in his 40's. I took an interest in Richard, mainly because there used to be a TV series called Richard the Lionheart when I was a kid. And of course there was Robin Hood.

There was definitely a few TV series about him and countless films. Shall we all go into the Errol Flynn canon?

I also went to Nottingham University and worked at the Nottingham Evening Post. So there is a link.

Once back at the gite, after gulping down a sandwich and hot chocolate there was silence and about 20 minutes later the eldest informed me that Richard was 42 when he got une fleche dans la colonne vertebrale (for she was consulting her French library book about the region).

This is the most enriching of all my incarnations.