|This view of the castle was taken from our room at the Anne d'Anjou shortly after arrival|
We arrived in Saumur late Saturday afternoon and since the town was buzzing with a street fair, or brocante, we parked at the edge of all the activity and headed for the tourist office on foot so that we could locate our hotel Anne d'Anjou. We passed by all the colorful stalls and finally found ourselves at the Loire river and the Tourist Office. They said we were not far from the hotel, so we walked there along the river.
|Photo of the castle in Saumur taken at dawn from our room at the Hotel Anne d'Anjou|
At the reception we were given the "Children's suite" in the little building next to the garden because I had requested a "calm room" and because there were no children staying at the hotel. That meant we had a lovely suite with a stairway to another bedroom on the floor above. From the upper window we had this stunning view of the chateau on the rampart above the hotel. I crept up the stairs several times that night to view the illuminated chateau in the dark and at dawn.
|The huge terrazzo of our hotel looking down on the beautiful gardens and the valley below|
Leaving Saumur, we headed to Chateau Azay- le- Rideau via the nearby tufa caves and troglodyte dwellings. After chateau viewing and lunch, we were ready for our splurge hotel, Chateau de Rochecotte in tiny St. Patrice. The grounds were amazing and the pool was large and heated
|This is the view from our room: pale hydrangeas in a formal park setting|
Our room was lovely, but the dinner in the gorgeous formal dining room was disappointing. They made up for it with the generous breakfast which included croissants and pastries made by the hotel chef. Those are always the best. The smaller hotels bring in baked goods from nearby bakeries.
Next stop was Montreuil- Bellay, which the DK guidebook described as one of the most attractive towns in Anjou, combining an ancient village and a fascinating feudal chateau.
|A poster in the stairway of our hotel|
On our way, we passed by Fontevraud L'Abbaye and had to stop. I had read about this place, but it wasn't high on my list of sites to visit. Finding ourselves in Fontevraud, we decided to check out the abbey that dominates the town. Founded in 1101 by a hermit, the abbey, for both women and men, is the largest and most extraordinary of its kind. It was run for nearly 700 years by aristocratic abbesses, almost half of them royal. So that allowed the abbey to be funded by royal coffers.
The grounds rest on 35 acres, so was impossible for us to see much, but we were impressed by the history and immensity of the abbey. There were very few tourists, so we had a short private tour by a sweet young docent.
|The beautiful cloisters, said to be the largest in France|
|The cuisine (or kitchen) with 6 fireplaces was closed for renovation|
It was late afternoon by the time we left Fontevraud. We never knew how long it would take to find our next destination and how many times we would get lost. Our GPS was worthless, so I'm glad I came equipped with detailed regional maps. Actually, that afternoon from Fontevraud to Montreul-Bellay was the only time our GPS worked and it guided us right to the driveway of our hotel.
The hotel Relais de Bellay had a lovely heated pool and a manicured lawn and best of all, a stellar view of the castle
We checked into our room and gasped at the perfect view of the medieval castle outside our window. I snapped some photos and headed straight to the pool for a refreshing swim. When I swam on my back I could gaze up at the chateau and neighboring towers. What a life!
|Montreuil-Bellay Chateau at dawn from our hotel room. Could this be Disneyland?|
At dawn I snapped another photo because I wanted to capture the theatrical early morning light. I imagined I was back in the middle ages when the Plantagenets were battling the English for control of this part of Anjou.
Luckily, there was a market on Tuesday morning, so I trudged up the hill next to the castle after breakfast. The market was small but fun, but unfortunately the castle was closed on Tuesday.
|A market flower stand next to the castle|
Our next stop was Savennières, a tiny town in an area which produces an exceptional dry white wine. I'd read that it is one of the world's great whites, with an incredibly rich bouquet and taste, so I wanted to visit and do some tasting. As we entered the area, we stumbled upon a sign for Nicolas Joly and we headed up the dirt road to the small winery. We had a private tasting in French with a Belgian couple and we bought 2 of the 3 wines we tasted. Interestingly, the wines are made biodynamically and the winemaker was in the room above us, but was too nervous about the imminent harvest to talk to visitors.
The wines turned out to be quite expensive, and soon we found out that Joly is the most famous wine maker in the well-respected appellation of Savenièrres, and he makes one of France's "rarest and greatest white wines."
It was difficult to locate a place to stay near Savennières, but deep in the internet I came across Rousselière, a "chambres d'hôtes." The photos on "Booking" showed a charming country estate--just what I was looking for.
Above is the view from the bedroom window at Rousselière. The photo was taken at dawn and Francois, the owner, was just about to arrive from a local boulangerie bearing a large box of breads and croissants for the petit-dejeuner. This was also minutes before I stepped on a giant wasp in the bathroom. My toes were paralyzed, and Dean woke up while I was crawling around the room in agony, unable to walk. Our kind host supplied a bag of ice at breakfast and soon I was better.
Outside our bedroom door at Rousselière, we could cross to the opposite side of the long hall and see the pool and little chapel from the upstairs windows. I swam in that cold unheated pool the afternoon we arrived and walked up to the charming little chapel. We loved this country house. I'm so glad I discovered it.
We had one more chateau opportunity on the way from Possonnière to Angers. That would be Chateau de Serrant, which I had never heard of. Our hosts had mentioned it and we followed the signs on the auto route. I found the chateau to be be heavy and foreboding, but Dean liked it.
|Dean posing in front of Serrant|
|The moat around Chateau de Serrant without the swans we saw earlier|
Entering the larger town of Angers was scary after all the narrow country lanes we had enjoyed. We had to find the train station where we would return our car, so we followed the signs to the center of town and eventually got the car to the underground return area. After settling into the Hotel du Mail we walked to the castle and viewed the grounds and famous tapestries.
|Chateau in Angers|
|Dean on the draw bridge|
It would have been nice to have a view of the castle in Angers but our hotel was situated in a small alley and our room looked out onto the hotel parking lot crammed with cars in the late afternoon, and also onto a small stone patio with a few tables where guests sat and smoked.
|A view of our room on the 2nd floor of the typically French Hotel du Mail in Angers|
The next morning we caught the train back to Paris and returned to our favorite Hôtel de Sêvres. From our room I photographed a woman clipping ivy on her balcony across Rue l'Abbé Gregoire.
|A Parisian trimming ivy on her balcony in the 6th arrondisement|