At last! A rain free morning to explore. Chris has been out for an early reconnaissance and returns with a plan if not a baugette – the village’s only boulangerie is temporarily closed. I’m surprised they have one at all with a population of less than 300.
Lavardin sits on a branch of the Loire River, a favourite. Its wild beauty is spectacular – those French aristocratics knew what they were doing when they nestled their chateau along it.
This section of the river is relatively modest, still though requiring a Gothic stone, eight arched bridge to span it. An ancient lavrie (laundry) sits on its banks, essentially a stone hut with a complex system of wooden platforms and pulleys designed to lower you and your washing to the water level. Quite ingenious really.
Our next stop is the fortress on the hill, famous for withstanding Richard the Lionheart’s attack in 1118. I can see why. You’d have to be part mountain goat just to walk around it, not to mention the steep incline it sits atop.
Just to prove my theory, as we approach we see the team hired as gardeners. Three goats with jobs – impossibility perched on a vertical slope, grazing without a care in the world. Meanwhile, my palms are slick with sweat, just looking at the open air stairs that lead up to the peak.
Teeth gritted, the climb proves worth it, with 360 views over the village. Having survived Richard’s attack, the fortress fell to Henry IV in a battle over conversion to Protestantism and has remained in ruins since. The climb down is beyond terrifying and can only be done with eyes firmly focused on Chris back as he descends one step below. Thank goodness he’s there: without his reassuring back I might have had to stay there, making friends with the goats.
Village explored, we head to our next stop, Chrissay-sur-Manse which boasts the ruins of a 9th century castle, a 15th century chateau and similarly dated houses.
On arrival though, history is not today’s focus. There’s an art festival in full swing in the main street – graffiti artists on makeshift cardboard canvases are completing large scale works accompanied by music and general merriment.
The village is busy, busy, busy from one end to the other. We do a quick tour and visit the chateau but it’s too busy to stay – we’ll move on.
Our drive takes us along the Loire, into vine country, past Tours and Chinon. We spend late afternoon playing Goldilocks with spots to spend the night and finally settle near a parkland just off the Loire past Chinon.