LAVARDIN AT A GLANCE

France - - Take A Stroll -

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

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