LAVARDIN AT A GLANCE
Stop for lunch at…
At La Terasse du Château which has doubled up with pâtisserie, Ô Saveurs Créatives (tel: (Fr) 2 54 67 00 12), selling home-made macarons and other pastries, as well as drinks and light meals. Easy to assemble a picnic to eat on the banks of the river or have a simple lunch on the terrace (€13 for a main dish).
Stay the night at…
So Troglo (rooms from €75, breakfast €8, dinner €23, tel: (Fr) 6 12 31 50 43). This quirky troglodytic B&B, with a swimming pool and sauna, is a great place to stay for a few days. The house has a long history and has had many incarnations from a source for local stone, to champonnière (ideal growing place for mushrooms) to B&B. There are four bedrooms, some with their own terraces and sitting areas. The bedrooms are in the rock but claustrophobics need not fear, as all have windows to the outside and have a light and airy feel. Isabelle is an excellent cook, so be prepared for some culinary treats. The glace à la tomate et basilique was a delight.
WHAT TO SEE
The 11th-century château (open May to end of September, adults €4; by appointment at other times). Steeped in history, the castle is an inspiring sight. Close up, the details such as the fireplace still visible on the third storey, the arrow slits and coats of arms carved into the stone fire the imagination. In keeping with its troglodytic setting, the castle has a tunnel running from one side to another and cave- like rooms on the ground floor. Église Saint-genest offers some of the best examples of Romanesque wall paintings in France. There are some unusual representations such as The Tree of Jesse, the pelican feeding its young (symbol of Christ) and the phoenix (symbol of the Resurrection). Along the Loir and Braye valleys there are 20 churches with wall paintings to discover on la Route des Fresques. Les Journées Troglos takes place on the last weekend of September (the weekend following les Journées du Patrimoine). Private troglodytic dwellings are open to the public. Invest in a Pass’ Découverte en Pays Vendômois. When you buy an entrance ticket to the château, ask for the Pass’,
which gives reduced entry to 16 historic sites, 11 leisure activities and a reduction on certain local products – reduced entries include the train touristique and the Jardin du Plessis Sasnières.
GETTING THERE Lavardin is a three-hour drive from the port of Ouistreham in Calvados. Alison travelled from Portsmouth to Ouistreham with Brittany Ferries (tel: 0871 244 1400 brittany-ferries. co.uk). Alternative, catch a flight with Ryanair to Tours, a 45-minute drive from the village. If you prefer to travel by rail, Le Mans is an hour from Paris by TGV (Lavardin is less than an hour’s drive from Le Mans). TOURIST INFORMATION: Val-de-loire Tourist Board, tel: (Fr) 2 54 57 00 41, val-de-loire-41.com