Judy's Journal - Day 5
Monday, September 17th


Up early for prune juice. Another gorgeous day. Perfect temp, no humidity, dry w/ clear blue skies.

            It gets light here late in the a.m. – around 7:30. Dark at 8:00ish. About an hour’s difference on both ends from home.

            We say goodbye to Alan & Jenny at breakfast (the English couple we talked to everyday.)

            Off to Azay Le Riedau & its chateau. We are there before 10:00 & it’s still cool. (upper 50s probably). An adorable town & we park in free public parking & walk a short distance to the chateau, which has a long, tree lined entry. First views of ¾ story staircase. Built in 1520’s by a financial officer of the French King. Ornate balanced exterior. Much carved stone decoration, such as the ermine representing the French Queen & the salamander repres. the King. Also stone portraits destroyed in the Revolution & redone. Niches which never had figures put in. On 4th floor we walk first into the area below the roof, with its original oak timbers harvested in 1520. Servant sleeping area w/ holes cut in edges of stone floor for toilet. On to ornate rooms with Renaissance furniture & ptgs. One area set up for the king, who did once stay here for a few days. Kitchen area, dining room, billiards room. Orig. owner leaves in disgrace when he is suspected of embezzlement / lack of paying taxes.  Chateau eventually given to one of the king’s buddies. Exterior surrounded by an English garden w/ many large trees & a moat. Reflections of chateau in the wall are beautiful. Leaded clear glass windows, dark wooden shutters inside.


entry path to Chateau Azay Le Rideau, exterior staircase

hand railing carved into stone wall (one of thousands of such details)


Bridge over River Loire, in Saumur

           We walked around the town for a few minutes. Charming streets, small stores, art galleries, etc. Beautiful flowers, as usual.

            In the car and on to Saumur, about 45 km west. We went the back country roads & it took about an hour. We are fascinated by the trees trimmed of the lower branches & looking like tall poles. We also see the troglodyte caves carved from the rock cliffs & turned into homes, businesses, etc. They cover many miles. The stone was removed by hand, starting around 1000 & used to build houses. It is called tufa stone.

            We arrive in Saumur & park in town (pay parking at machine). It is now about 70-75° & perfect weather. We find an outdoor café to eat at – La Bourse – on the main drag. Good food again. Tim – fixe price steak, Don – tomato tart & beef carpaccio. Both have excellent choc. mousse for dessert. Deb – salad Nicoise & an eggplant concoction. Me – Caesar salad & moules (mussels) w/ crème fraiche & mushrooms & frites. Too much food but good. Again, perfect weather.

            After our meal, we walk to the TI (Tourist Information) & get some ideas for a wine tasting. We then try to walk to Chapelle Ste. Jean, built in the 12th c., but only see the exterior, since it’s locked.

            We get in the car, cross the Loire & go to the caves area to a winery which specializes in bubbly. It was established in 1852 & is called Bouvet-Ladubay. We have a tasting of about 7 dif. types of brut ranging from dry to oak barrel flavored to semi-sweet to rose to sweet red. Very knowledgeable young woman, w/ good English. Afterwards to a tour in the caves & an explanation of how the brut is made. Very interesting & informative. Constant 53-54° in cave. See tunnel/opening men climbed up to get out when digging stone & area where they lifted out stone. Caves still store magnums & small bottles. Rest are in new plant built in 2008. Champagne bottles no longer are turned by hand. Instead, it’s done by machines. One good employee used to turn 50,000 turns a day! At end, we bought a bottle of bubbly. As usual, no charge for tasting or tour because we buy a bottle/bottles! Stone is called tufa.

            Back to Villandry, driving alongside of Loire. See high levees next to river like in New Orleans.

            Back to room to rest & with postcards to the girls (3D animal cards purchased today in Azay Le Rideau). Also got emails & wrote a long one to many at home.

            To dinner at pizza place again & plans for tomorrow.