Proceeding onwards, we arrived Cherveny at 11:30am and began the chateau routines, walking from room to room as before. It wasn’t a big outfit, so that we finished and departed at 13:50pm after coffee and the mandatory visit to the gift shop. Out next target was Chaumont sur Loire Chateau and gardens. Once again, we experienced GPS problems because of the name, but we finally arrived just before 3pm, parking on the pavement outside. We reckoned that it wouldn’t save us walking even if we managed to make the chateau carpark. The admission tickets were rather steep. The chateau proper looked more splendoured outside, but there’s little to boast about inside if one is not into modern digital art. The gardens again are not as good as their reputation, but are vast and more specifically featured modern and young artists working on trees and plants.
We left around 5pm and headed for the Chateau we would stay overnight. The Chateau Laborde Saint Martin was privately owned by a couple, Nicholas and Valerie, who bought it 10 years ago and spent a lot of time and resources doing up the place. It is a three-floor building. Ground floor comprises the dining room and the owners’ residence, and where we would have breakfast. The three floors were connected by staircases with 13 to14 steps each flight. The first two were stone steps, marble like, and the first floor opened up to a grand ball room which could easily hold 150 guests for a sit-down meal. More interestingly, the room opened up on the other side to a patio garden, ideal for cocktail parties and could easily hold 200 guests. The other wing comprised a library and something else. The third floor was where the guests would stay. There could be as many as six rooms, but we were the only guests when we were there. The connecting stairs were wooden.
It’s a chateau OK and the hosts were friendly. It reminded us of Josephine’s where we had stayed and of the hard work the owners had put in all the years. Valerie tried hard to make us feel at home and we spent some time in the garden before we walked to the restaurant Su had booked for dinner. In our short meetings with Nicolas, he told us that within 15km of his chateau there were over 650 chateaux, but most of them were in private ownership and hence not open to the public.
We arrived restaurant Leon d’or (Golden Lion) around 7:23pm, but could only enter at 7:30pm when it opened. We had a great meal. The restaurant tried hard to please its patrons. It was not too expensive actually and indeed good value. We walked back to Chateau and had a leisurely drink before retiring. We had breakfast the next morning at Laborde at 9am as usual and we were all set to go by 11am. Valerie said we could use her gardens, which we did, took some pictures and only began to leave around 1130am
We arrived Montpoupon, after filling car with fuel beforehand. Su tried to take us to the Michelin restaurant there attached to the castle, but it was fully booked; so, we took pictures instead. They were rather impressive scenes. It was past 12:40pm and Mei-Mei needed food, except that all restaurants were closed by 1pm. We started off for another castle or location. We went to Montressor, which also featured a chateau. We arrived and landed in a restaurant instead for beef steak, which were not bad at all. Afterwards, we walked along River Loire for over an hour before driving to Loches. Little Maison was run by Chako and Olivier, who assured us that it was part of a chateau. Approach to the place was not straight forward though. We had to follow the instructions from the owners, running past no-entry roads a few times; and eventually parked on some designated area. Olivier went at great length to introduce his outfit and stressed that I must try his bar, which I did after dinner. After settling down, we walked to the Michelin star restaurant Su had booked for 7:15pm. It was a rather expensive 6-course menu at €85 a person. Back at the Hotel, I met up with Olivier and had a night cap with him which I found out the next day cost me €16.
We were to leave Loches the following morning after breakfast and to check out room at 11am, but Olivier said we could leave the car at his carpark so that we could do the Chateau and had lunch in city.
So we did the Royal Chateau and learned some French history involving St Joan of Arc, Louis XI and others. We finished around 12:30pm and looked for food, eventually staying outside an Italian restaurant Amoremio. We had to be here till 2pm when the pharmacy would open to allow Mei-Mei to top up her medications. After some shopping which gratified the ladies, we departed Loches for the Chateau that we would stay for the night and to have dinner and a pre celebration of Mei-Mei’s Big Six. The place is an abbey – Fontevraud.
The long and short of it was that I drove over 110km from Loches through Chinon to this abbey. The Abbey itself dated back to 1102, with some rich and kingly history. The hotel, restaurant and bar were all modern and utility structures, with garden rooms behind the manicured low bushes where Su and I stayed, and some other rooms on the three or four floors nearby with reception on the Ground Floor and the floors connected by lifts, where Mei-Mei stayed.
Su had booked dinner for 7pm in this Michelin restaurant to celebrate her very good friend’s birthday, and I wore the pin stripe which I took to London for the special ceremonies. The dinners were impressive as were the environs. We all had a great time. We had breakfast at 9am as usual; and Su reminded us that they cost €20 a plate. The pleasant surprise was that they had 64 degrees Celsius slow cooked or hot spring eggs put out in small glass jars with lids, two in each. After no egg breakfasts for a couple of days, it was a very good break indeed.