Loire Valley – The Land of Chateaus

I think this location has been my favorite in all of France so far, even including Paris. We rented an upper level of a farmhouse, out in the country of the Loire Valley. Our train landed in Tours, but we rented a car as we had a bit of a drive to get to Azay le Rideau.  The rental car company gave our car away and we ended up with something much smaller, we got lost several times and the boys were not impressed with the length of the drive or the squishy ride they had to endure. After two hours, we made it! And it was worth the drive! The house was once used as a barn for a neighboring chateau and they also made wine in it. It is now owned by a young couple who are getting married this summer and they have converted it into a two level residence and vacation rental by owner property.

Our VRBO.  Our entrance door in on the left, up the stairs.

Our VRBO.  Isn’t it awesome? Our entrance door in on the left, up the stairs.

French countryside is beautiful; filled with apple orchards, vineyards and some of it much like Alberta with dairy farms, crops of corn, wheat and barley and then the old, sometimes crumbling stone houses, barns and out buildings. Everything is old and quaint and every property is prettier than the last.  Window sills are filled with bright cheery flowers and the wooden shutters are wide open to let the fresh air in.

The road leading up to our VRBO.

The road leading up to our VRBO.

While we were in the Loire Valley, we visited a site where peasant farms were discovered. During the Middle Ages and up until the last century, the peasants dug dwellings out of the caves to live in and then during the summer they farmed for the chateau lord and in the winter months, mined the white tufa stone used to build over 200 chateaus, 700 cathedrals and other buildings in the Loire Valley. We saw a typical peasant troglodyte or cave house where around 8 people lived next to the cow shed to help keep the cave house warm. We saw the stone oven they used to make bread, saw the old well that they dug out of the stone and explored the secret tunnels they excavated to hide during robberies, attacks and times of war. We wandered around for hours and we all enjoyed every single minute; with the boys asking a thousand questions.

At the Troglodyte Valley of the Goupillieres near Azay le Rideau

At the Troglodyte Valley of the Goupillieres near Azay le Rideau

Peasant boys, peeking out the window of their cave home.

Peasant boys, peeking out the window of their cave home.

The sod roofs needed to be mowed down to prevent roots from growing through the rock and cause leaks.  The peasants planted irises to keep the soil in place.  A pig pen has been hollowed out of the stone right in the middle, the cowshed is to the left with a feeding trough cut out of stone and rivulets in the floor to let the manure flow away.

The sod roofs needed to be mowed down to prevent roots from growing through the rock and causing leaks. The peasants planted irises to keep the soil in place. A pig pen has been hollowed out of the stone right in the middle, the cowshed is to the left with a feeding trough cut out of stone and rivulets in the floor to let the manure flow away.  The peasant home is to the right.

The boys were just fascinated by everything here.  It was so well done with a little guide in English so we could talk the boys through everything.

The boys were just fascinated by everything here. It was so well done with a little guide book in English so we could talk the boys through everything.

Inside a peasant cave cut from tufa stone where a family of up to eight would live.

Inside a peasant cave cut from tufa stone where a family would live.

Then we got to see how the other side lived when we visited a chateau. This place was opulent and grand and some of it was designed and built just to show off vast wealth and give the owner bragging rights. We went to Chateau Langeais, just outside of Tours and explored the lifestyle of the rich and noble. The boys instantly saw the disparity of the caves to the chateau so it sparked an interesting debate on who had a “better” life, or a more content life and which one would they choose. We packed a picnic lunch, walked the grounds and then escaped the rain and wandered around inside to look at the rooms, the furniture and the purpose of everything back then.

Exploring the grounds at Chateau Langeais.

Exploring the grounds at Chateau Langeais.  This is a shot of the old outer chateau wall.  They rebuilt it, more opulent and grand than the last one.

My knights in shining armour!

My knights in shining armour!

Another day we visited a chateau in Usse, which inspired author Perrault to write Sleeping Beauty.  The chateau owners have staged out different scenes from the famous story, so we climbed the tower where Maleficent has her secret potions room and saw the three fairies shower baby Aurora with special gifts. It was fun for the boys to see it set up like that and to imagine the story happening in that location.

In front of Sleeping Beauty's castle, near Rigny-Usse.

In front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, near Rigny-Usse.

The grounds at the Chateau Usse; just beautiful!

The grounds at the Chateau Usse; just beautiful!

Maleficent in her potions tower, mixing together a brew of something wicked.

Maleficent in her potions tower, mixing together a brew of something wicked.

We had a few quiet days at home as well. The place had a pool which was a little chilly, but we enjoyed it anyways after some coaxing and we played some board games that we had packed and even did some puzzles that were included in the house.

This was the only way to get the boys in the rather cold water; playing catch and jump.

This was the only way to get the boys in the rather cold water; playing catch.  Matthew missed that one, but he caught the next one.

One our last day in the Tours area, we drove to another cave site where the peasants excavated the tufa stone in quarry mines.  These underground quarries were used for the white stone, as mushroom beds and as a winery as the temperature, humidity and location were prime for these endeavors.  We followed a marked path and explored for about two hours, or until our noses were cold and we had seen everything.

The entrance to the cave mining site at Carriere de Vignemont in Loches.  Very cold, but so cool.

The entrance to the cave mining site at Carriere de Vignemont in Loches. Very cold, but so cool.

Unique sound sculptures by Will Menter.

Unique sound sculptures by Will Menter.  They were like pieces of art that made music.

Family pic at the Site Troglodytique

Family pic at the Site Troglodytique

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4 thoughts on “Loire Valley – The Land of Chateaus

  1. so awesome great pics. we are excited to have Ray and Brenda here this weekend for family camping and fishing .

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