Monday, June 27, 2011

Our last day in the Loire Valley!

Thank you blog friends for sharing the holiday with me :) It's wonderful to have you along!
We are leaving the Loire today!

We started our last day in the Loire at the village called D'Azay le Ridieau.

The fifteenth century chateau at d'Azay le Ridieu is built on an island on the Indre river. Surrounded on all four sides by water, it can only be reached by bridge. It is much smaller than the other castles in the area and very interesting. King Francois I seized the castle from his royal treasurer Giles Berthelot accusing the treasurer of embezzling funds. Psyche, the wife of Eros the Greek god of love is depicted in many tapestries inside. I just enjoy standing in the rooms listening to the memories of all the people who have resided here.

Candes Saint Martin is a gorgeous village on the banks of the Vienne river, on a confluence with the Loire, on a small hill. In the 4th century, St. Martin arrived secretly in the village, destroyed their pagan temple (although remains of the earlier building can be seen) and converted the residents.  When he died in the village he was laid to rest in what is now one of the chapels in the church.  I'm sure I've read somewhere that St.Martin is the patron saint of pub and innkeepers?  

It is amazing to me to be standing in a village that has been here since before the 4th century.  Perhaps it's because I live in Melbourne, where the oldest house is only just over 100 years old.  I find being here in these old, gorgeous villages something quite special.         

Lovely vegetable gardens of the locals

This vegetable garden has the most amazing views out over the sandbanks of the river, people fishing and splashing...
A tumbling down old building built into a cave in the hillside - still the vegetable garden is well tended!

Tall hollyhocks towering over Master Bok everywhere

Apple trees spilling over old stone walls

Loving the fragrance of honeysuckle everywhere. I can't seem to get this to grow back home!!

These roads are so narrow! Had to fold in the side mirrors.

Next stop - Fontevraud Abbey - an amazing place, the largest and  most extraordinary of its kind in France.

The road to the abbey is gorgeous. Wheat fields, sunflower fields, woods then the abbey in the distance...

Cornfields on the right, sunflower fields on the left...

The first hen house I've seen!  No hens in sight but plenty of hay in there.  I think perhaps they are hiding under the bridge away from the sun ( 34 degrees or so that car tells me)

Fontevraud Abbey was founded in 1101 by Robert d'Arbrissel, 'an itinerant priest and significant personality of the period' - what do you think that means?  I'd love to know!  It brought together men and women in a religious community ruled by the authority of an abbess - women! - for 700 years, many of the abbesses were royal family members.  King Henry II's widow, Eleanor of Aquitane, became a nun there.  She is buried here.   The abbey became a monastic city obeying rules similar to those of St Benedict - prayer, manual labour, silence and caring for the sick. It had a leper colony and became a refuge for battered women and prostitutes.   It is a huge complex built over 34 acres. 

Monastic life ended with the Revolution where it was taken over by the state and used as a prison in 1804. It held up to 2000 people (men, women, children) and was one of the roughest prisons. In 1963, prison life ended and a restoration campaign began. The last abbess died in poverty in Paris.  After ten centuries of enclosed life, Fontevraud became the contemporary and open city that we visited today.

Nave of the abbey church

The tablets on the floor are biblical texts. On the right are the tombs of four people including Richard I  of England (Lionheart), Isabella of Angouleme, King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane

Cloister galleries

The building above houses the Abbey kitchens. It is in a Byzantine style brought back by the crusades, the building differs from the other buildings in the abbey by its Charente stone, harder than tuffeau and more resistant to heat and has an octagonal shape. It has 21 chimneys decorated with fish scales and has eight radiating chambers. These eight kithens, known as smoke rooms, were used for smoking fish, the staple diet of the nuns. The fish were reared in the abbey ponds or from the Loire fisheries or the sea. Depending on the direction of the wind, they lit one or other of the chambers the smoke then rose and filled the central conduit.

Don't you love the gargoyle below? Sticking out its tongue - very fitting for a gargoyle attached to a kitchen :)

Below are the abbey gardens. The gardens are arranged in a precise and regular way. Vegetables and fruit provided the staple diet for the nuns which also included eggs, dairy, fish, bread and wine.

The garden is planted with vegetables (root crops, pulses like chickpeas and white beans, leafy vegetables) and herbs. Some vegetables were used for herbal medicine such as chard for its virtues on bites or onion which is an antiseptic and soothes wasp stings apparently! Medicinal herbs are cultivated...see if you can recognise one of them below!

Look what I found in the abbey's herb garden! I'm sure you know what it is...

Yup! :)

Look what else I found in the abbey's vegie garden! An acrobatic photo shoot was taking place in the potager grounds...

So many ladybirds!!

I wonder what kind of tangle my garden is turning into at home...?

Back on the road today...speeding away from the hot sunny Loire and towards Troyes...


  1. So beautiful and so much history. The gardens are all so dreamy! Lovely pics too :)

  2. Oh I wish our hollyhocks will bloom like that come spring if we are lucky.

  3. Good history lesson. Your are so right about the antiquity of the architecture in Europe. When we had a French exchange student stay with us for a few weeks, we took him to a pioneer village museum of our local history. He laughed at the 100 year old buildings. It is amazing that so many of the buildings in Europe are centuries old and still usable today.

  4. the architecture is so alluring...i can only imagine how amazing it is in person...thank you for including us in your holiday plans and giving us such interesting insights - a beautiful gift! traveling mercies to you all....thank you! -xok.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling with you through France, I love the small villages off the beaten track.
    History comes to you from every stone and turn in the road!
    looking forward to the next leg of the journey!

  6. Loving tagging along with you through the countryside. We have nothing to compare to their architecture (simple or grand). Loved the pot plant in the herb garden too.

  7. Thanks for taking us on your trip - I could almost feel that warm french sun... as you say, its hard to get your head around the age of some of those buildings!

  8. Your journey has been a pleasure to see. I have enjoyed the photos and the visits to places I have not been or have not been to for a while. Thanks!

  9. If you're garden is anything like mine, the weeds will be knee high and everything else will have come to standstill. Except the bulbs. My early flowering ones have already started. All grey skies and crisp mornings here.

  10. Ah! We are also an Aussie family who live in a 100 year old house, have an organic vegie garden and also in Loire Valley at present. Enjoying your blog and will read more on return to Oz. But for now we are cycle touring our way round Europe with our girls and loving the 'slow life'! We have a blog, but don't want to post publicly. Do you have an email address?

  11. Hi Fiona! You lucky thing! Wish we were still in the Loire Valley...loved it so much. You can contact me at

    Looking forward to your blog!


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