France - - Take A Stroll -

Of­ten re­ferred to as the Pays de Ron­sard, the valley of the Loir has been cel­e­brated by writ­ers through the ages for the gen­tle char­ac­ter of its land­scape. To im­merse your­self in the coun­try­side of Ron­sard’s na­tive land, take one of the three sug­gested cir­cu­lar walks around Lavardin or walk part of the GR35 along the river.

The vil­lages dot­ted along the valley are en­twined with the land­scape, and no more so than at Trôo which is al­most com­pletely made up of troglodytic dwellings.

Lavardin is closely linked to its near­est town – Mon­toire-surle-loir – which has its own ru­ined château over­look­ing the town and a tiny chapel ded­i­cated to Saint Gilles. Legend has it that he lived in a wood sub­sist­ing on milk from a deer. He is re­puted to heal ner­vous dis­eases in chil­dren (in­clud­ing bed-wet­ting). The chapel, whose walls are cov­ered in me­dieval fres­coes, was once part of a pri­ory un­der Pierre de Ron­sard’s juris­dic­tion. It is now pri­vately owned but if you want to visit, col­lect the keys from the Café de la Paix in the main square.

But Mon­toire is most fa­mous, or in­fa­mous, for the hand­shake that sealed the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Hitler and Pé­tain which took place on a train at Mon­toire sta­tion. To­day you can take a train touris­tique from Thoré-la-ro­chette to Trôo, stop­ping at Mon­toire to ex­plore the mu­seum ded­i­cated to the events of World War II. Be­fore board­ing at Thoré, sam­ple a lo­cal wine or two at the mai­son du vin (at the sta­tion) or visit one of the wine pro­duc­ers in the vil­lage. Vin gris is a light rosé wine pro­duced from the rare Pineau d’au­nis cé­page (tast­ings avail­able at Do­maine Pa­trice Colin in Thoré, tel: (Fr) 2 54 72 80 73).

A few kilo­me­tres from Lavardin is the Jardin du Plessis Sas­nières (jardin-plessis-sas­ which I can highly rec­om­mend. Cre­ated en­tirely by Rosamée Hen­rion, it is much in­spired by English gar­dens such as Hid­cote. “I also pinched the idea of a tea room and bou­tique from my vis­its to English gar­dens,” she con­fided. The idea of ‘let­ting na­ture do its thing’ works ex­cep­tion­ally well here, given the na­ture of the site with its steep wooded hill as a back­drop to the peace­ful lake and walled gar­den. Rosamée ad­mits that she is more in­ter­ested in shrubs and trees than flow­ers per se but there is plenty of va­ri­ety of colour here as well as struc­ture.

ABOVE: The house and gar­dens at Plessis Sas­nières;

RIGHT: Me­dieval fres­coes in Mon­toire chapel

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