Thursday, April 27, 2017

Monday, April 24 - Driving Tour Day 2

Because we didn't have time to do the whole driving tour on Sunday - after all, we had to go to two wineries to check out their "portes ouvertes" - we are finishing the tour today, taking a more leisurely approach.
This route sorta, kinda shows our route today.

The drive through the countryside is beautiful and peaceful and rarely interrupted by a town. Our first goal is - surprise - another dolmen. It's not on the driving tour, but there is a symbol on our detailed Michelin map of the area. Score! We found it.
This one is called dolmen de l'Etiau and is well marked. Once there, we see why. There are all sorts of stones here - tumbled, giving the impression of what might be left behind by a receding glacier, except they are not worn smooth as they might be if a glacier carried them. We see one stone that looks like potholes we have seen in the states from glaciers.
But the stones are very recti-linear and of course there's a large dolmen.
And there's also a stone that is clearly carved.
No idea what this is, but it looks like it's carved by humans, not glaciers
By whom, when, that is a mystery. Research tells us that the side stones of this dolmen are natural and just the end stones and roof were added. Maybe it's glacial after all. All in all, a lovely spot in the middle of fields and vineyards, with the convenience of picnic tables and trash cans for a potential future lunch.Except only Dave knows how to get there - sitting in the backseat without benefit of gps or map, I haven't a clue where we are driving most of the time. Oh, well.

Onward to St. Remy la Varenne to look at a church and priory.
Only, they're not open yet. We're too early for tourist season. But it looks like a cool place to revisit later this spring.


Chained monkey on entrance gate to the priory - what does it mean?

A carving on the priory wall

We next drive to St. Maur to look at some old abbey buildings, but alas, it's private property.

Next stop, another church in Le Thoureil. And lunch. Not much shade provided by these hacked up trees. We can't understand them, but the whole of France seems to like them pruned this way.
Crazy French Trees
lunch with a view of the river

the church at Le Thoureil

Also not open, but there's a nice spot to sit behind the church overlooking the river. It might seem like we're striking out, but in fact, the drive has been beautiful with views of fields, the Loire River and small towns.
This tractor was working in the fields next to the vineyards that were next to the dolmen.
Le Thoureil used to be a shipping town for local apples so there's a small port on the river bank.
We also see that there is a town festival on the 29th and 30th of April.
We're not sure where you would park as there's just this one road through a very small town. There must be more than we are seeing.

One more try at a church, a priory in a small hamlet. This church is under restoration.
The roof is being completely replaced and before they could even take off the old roof, they had to stabilize the supporting timbers. Since it's fenced and a hard-hat area, we can only look from afar.

We cross the river at Gennes once more and head toward Beaufort-en-Vallée - site of a ruined castle. We arrive and park behind a large church in what seems to be the center of town.

A bakery on this square advertises that it is the 2nd best bakery in France, but it is closed for the day (it's about 2:30 now). We check out the church, but don't go inside (it IS open) because there's a funeral going on.
funeral hearse and mourners at front of church. Poster for a circus coming to town.

The church has lots of interesting features on the outside which is all we are able to take in this time.

We'll have to come back. So Zero for Four as far as seeing churches today.

Back at the square, there's a woman on a tall pedestal the piques my curiosity.

She is Jeanne La Val, wife of René le Bon, Duke of Anjou. After her husband's death, she lived the last 18 years of her life at Beaufort Castle, where she died in 1498. She was apparently loved and important to this city given the prominent pedestal position. And she seems to be a symbol for the walking tour of Beaufort-en-Vallée, which is a charming town, as her symbol appears in the sidewalks along the tourist routes.

The ruined castle is above us on the highest point in town.
Clark and a ruined castle
While Janis, Clark and Dave explore the castle I watch the French firefighters do a practice rescue by extending their hook and ladder to the top of the ruined tower. Very fun and interesting. But no, the castle tower is not on fire.

And finally, I have to be cajoled into joining the last adventure of the day - visiting the Chateau de Montgeoffroy (pronounced monzhefwah).
This is a private chateau in Mazé that is still in private hands. So while there is a guided tour, photos of the interior are not allowed. Which is too bad, as it has pretty interesting rooms. And we were especially lucky that the only folks on the 4 pm tour were us and 4 Italians. So the guide gave the tour in English. It was loaded with juicy details about the lives of the rich and famous who lived and still live here.

The Chateau was purchased in the 17th century and in the 18th century, the old U-shaped castle was razed, except for the towers and chapel. A renaissance style pleasure palace was built in its place.
chapel on left, and tower from original castle

Tower and moat are original, Renaissance palace in back.
The owner was the governor of Alsace and so was rarely at the chateau. According to our guide, he was able to buy the chateau because of the dowry brought by his wife. But he installed his mistress at the chateau and the wife never even saw the chateau her dowry had purchased.  Hmmm.....
The rooms are filled with lovely pieces of family furniture and dishes in part because the chateau and its owner were saved during the Revolution.  The grandson of the mistress was friends with Georges Danton, one of the leaders of the Revolution. This association spared Montgeoffroy and its owner from damage and death during the Revolution. However, in the chaos following the Revolution, called the Reign of Terror, Danton was beheaded and the grandson likewise.

An exhausting day to be sure. After all, we explored a small area near us and checked off a dolmen, multiple churches, a ruined castle and a château. Not a bad day's work.

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