europe,  france,  gastronomy,  travel

Garden of Eden – Day 17


It was still raining when we awoke, which dampened our enthusiasm slightly, as we had hoped to hit a few more chateaux. But we headed down to the breakfast area and munched on a few croissants to get us started. We packed up our stuff, including a bunch of our laundry that our hostess kindly did for us. D went and brought the car around front, and despite a morning of rain, it actually stopped raining while we loaded up the car, mercifully. After saying our goodbyes to the hosts, we drove off. Our initial route was going to take us to Cheverny, but we decided at the last minute to veer northwest towards Chateau de Chaumont-Sur-Loire. Every year, the chateau holds an International Garden Festival, with gardeners coming in from a host of different countries. We figured that since the rain had stopped, the cloud cover would keep our walk cool.

We arrived in town and parked by the side of the river before making our way over to the entrance. Since we knew that we’d be heading over to Cheverny later, we opted to not enter the chateau itself, but just to see the garden festival. We walked up a long uphill pathway until the Chateau de Chaumont came into view. It was a lovely chateau, with graceful spires, that looked almost like something out of a fairytale, as D put it. We headed off towards the gardens, stopping briefly to pick up a bit of caffeination for David. Each gardener/gardening team had their plot of land to work with. The theme of the festival this year was Body and Soul, so there were many meditations on this topic. D and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering the gardens to see, with their inventive and creative uses of flowers and shrubbery.  Many plots were quite abstract or avant-garde I suppose, but it was entertaining to walk through. There were several neat garden displays, and D was eagerly gathering ideas for his future garden. The sun eventually came out during our wanderings, and we were soon baking away in our jeans.

After drinking in our fill of pleasant and thought-provoking gardens, we headed back out to the car. A quick-change of clothes in the car rendered us shorts/dress-clad and remedied the overheating situation, somewhat. From there, we drove off in the direction of Cheverny. A relatively quick and peaceful drive soon brought us rolling into Cour-Cheverny, which is the town adjacent to Cheverny and where we’d be staying for the next few nights. We stopped by a pizzeria for a spot of lunch and a bit of postcard-writing before continuing on to the chateau. We were a bit apprehensive when we saw the multiple parking lots, but we steeled ourselves and headed in. There was little preamble leading up to the Chateau de Cheverny—no massive avenues or steep climbs—as it simply came into view after exiting the ticket office. Cheverny was a handsome house, pleasingly symmetrical, and we were quick to go inside to escape the heat. The chateau was particularly known for its interiors, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, with its ornate fireplaces, sumptuous fabrics and furniture. It had an amazing elk trophy mounted at the top of a staircase, with massive prehistoric antlers from the Siberian ice fields (some 2000 years old). D was particularly enamoured with the arms room, with its display of weaponry and armour. The king’s bedroom was fabulously ridiculous—so over the top ornate, with gold gilding everywhere, the walls completely covered with tapestries and a painted ceiling. We wandered through the rooms, and despite the presence of one tour group ahead of us, it didn’t feel overly crowded inside.

After we’d made our tour, we headed out to take a stroll through the grounds and to find the kennels. Apparently Cheverny was/is a major hunting estate, and so they keep at least a hundred French hounds for hunting purposes. After a long walk around the park, passing a small lagoon with a few swans, we saw a crowd of folks hovering around a fenced in area. A host of hounds were eagerly waiting to be fed in a caged-in area, as the raw chicken and kibble were already laid out. Not sure what the trainer was waiting for, but eventually the dogs were let out, followed by a feeding frenzy. These dogs were definitely working dogs, not pets, and I suppose it was a bit jarring to see the difference. There was a particularly old/sick dog who was having a hard time keeping his food, and it was a bit sad to watch. Eventually, we headed out, fully determined to always keep our dogs as pets.

We drove over to our B&B, Le Beguinage, which was only a few minutes away from the chateau. There, we were greeted by our hostess who gave us the lay of the land, and spoke in remarkably clear French (with every syllable clearly enunciated). Even I understood her some of the time! She took us up to our room, a spacious and sweet room, and we moved up our luggage. D was happy to be able to put his beers back in a fridge again. We relaxed under the cool breeze of our fan for a time before walking over to a nearby restaurant that the owner had recommended as having solid fare. Our starters were suitably delicious—I couldn’t resist a duo of foie gras (hot and cold), and D enjoyed a salad that was essentially bacon and eggs with a bit of salad thrown in! I had ordered a white fish dish in a buerre blanc that was very tasty. D, not surprisingly, had gone for bolder choice. He had ordered (experimentally) what he believed to be sausage. And when it arrived it very much looked like a sausage. Upon first cutting it open, however, D came to the rather startling  conclusion that it was intestine. My first question was of course, “but whose intestines?” Not that it really mattered of course because regardless of whose intestines they were, no intestines are terribly tasty. But D valiantly soldiered through his meal, vainly hoping that may improve or grow on him. It did not. Defeated at long last, our waitress brought around a rather impressive tray of cheese from which we selected, which were a vast improvement on his intestinal experience. We concluded our meal with a delicious chocolate mousse. All in all, D concluded that no trip would be a success, unless he found, through the course of experimentation, some food he didn’t like. Thus, honeymoon success!

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