Saturday, July 17, 2010

Troglodyte Delight (France Trip Series)

Troglodytes are man made caves excavated during the middle ages for stone to build the chateaus in the Loire Valley. The miners used these caves as homes, and later they were used for wine storage. Now they are being converted into high-end homes, inns, and artisan studios. Troglodelice is one such inn. Marité and Philippe have personally converted two of these troglodytes into luxury rooms and Philippe was busy converting a third when we rolled in after our 45 mile day one epic. This was to be the biggest test of our language skills so far as there were some logistical complications which had to be worked out and Philippe's English was worse than my French! At any rate they were wonderful hosts and served us a superb breakfast in their home the next two mornings.

The next morning we launched into 25 mile loop ride out to the gardens and chateau at Villandry. On the way we were treated to a short stretch of cobblestone (gave me real appreciation for this year's stage 4 of the Tour de France), our first view of the Loire, a pretty impressive chateau (that's saying something), and a punishing hill climb out of Villandry which the girls hammered! Once back to Trogolodice, we did a load of wash in the sink, hung the clothes on the bikes to dry, and uncorked some local wine on the veranda before heading into town for dinner.

Day three was the leg to Chinon. Wine country. Vineyards as far as you can see. But before Chinon we would traverse the Forêt Domainiale de Chinon which is a large public park/forest. On the map it looked exceedingly easy to navigate with just a handful of roads. In reality it was criss-crossed by a myriad of tiny roads and dozens of 8-way intersections - some labelled and some not. The effect was pretty cool but we eventually found ourselves miles off course and faced with two options:
  1. Backtrack to one of those 8-way intersections and try a different route
  2. Continue down a road with a sign that said ZONE DANGEREUSE
Ruth made it pretty clear that back tracking was not an option, so into ZONE DANGEREUSE we went. Eventually we started a long descent toward the town of Crevent-les-Coteaux (affectionately referred to as "Kotex"). On the descent we stumbled upon an tiny medieval enclave featuring a huge spring house and an ancient church dating back to the 9th century. We reveled in the refreshing spring house, explored the church, and had some snacks before continuing to town for an amusing (and very satisfying) prix fix lunch. We knew we were in wine country because the instant we were seated and before any words were spoken, the waitress put a bottle of chilled red wine and a basket of bread on the table.

We would stay two nights in Chinon, in the Hôstellerie Gargantua, which is the former Bailiwick Palace dating from the 15th century. To get to the hotel you had to ride a labyrinth of crooked and narrow cobblestone streets lined in the ancient town of old Chinon (inhabited since 700 BC). The Gargantua was straight out of a Harry Potter novel. Our room was at the top of a 70 step stone spiral staircase, and Sara even had her own small reading room in the top of the turret overlooking old Chinon.

The next day, Katey Jeff and I took a cycling loop of the surrounding wine country sans panniers. What a difference 20 lbs makes! We rocketed out of the valley and through the vineyards like a finely tuned machine, then pulled into Chateau de Ligre for a wine tasting. Five tastings later, we were stuffing two bottles into Jeff's camelback and were on our way...and our finely oiled machine had degraded into something resembling a three ring circus. Within a kilometer of the vineyard Jeff realized he was wearing 2 pairs of glasses, had nearly broken a collarbone, Katey had a near miss unclipping into a ditch, and we were lost (again). Something to do with mixing white and red wines I presume.

A future post will cover our last biking leg from Chinon to Saumur when our tight little group disintegrates and eventually regroups IN the Loire River.

1 comment:

  1. still posting about seems so long ago yet just yesterday...lots of good/bad (but all worth it) memories here. Hold onto this blog. :)