Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Sleeping Beauty's Chateau


The term 'fairytale castle' is often used but rarely can it be literally applied. The Chateau of Ussé was the inspiration for Charles Perrault's story of the Sleeping Beauty, so it can truly be called a 'fairytale castle'. It's also a dream castle for anyone interested in the history of architecture because it transitions from the medieval to the renaissance, and then into the classical. We can start at one end of the chateau and finish at the other in chronological order. As an added bonus we will get up into the 'visible storage' (otherwise known as the attic). It's amazing what people will keep if they have the space!

Chateau of Ussé. Touraine Loire Valley. France. Photograph by Susan Walter.
Chateau of Ussé.

To enquire about our private guided tours of chateaux, wineries, markets and more email us or use our contact form. More tour ideas can be found on the Loire Valley Time Travel website.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Fougeres sur Bievre Castle, Empty But Atmospheric


You may think that visiting an empty castle isn't much fun. But, believe me, Fougeres sur Bievre has a lot to offer. With no furniture to get in the way you can see all the details of construction. You get to look down the lavatory chute, up into the workings of the ancient clock and, if you are not worried about a bit of dust, you can lie where the medieval archers would have lain to shoot intruders. No one will stop you, and it is quite likely no one but us will be around. The chateau doesn't get many visitors and that's great for people who like to get away from the crowds and see something authentic. This is a late medieval chateau hovering between being a defensive fortress and a luxury country residence. Luckily none of the owners after about 1500 changed anything very much. And it is small enough that you can imagine yourself as a resident all those years ago. Get us to add it to your itinerary and try it! You will love it!

Chateau of Fougeres sur Bievre. Loir et Cher. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

To enquire about our private guided tours of chateaux, wineries, markets and more email us or use our contact form. More tour ideas can be found on the Loire Valley Time Travel website.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Bling is Not Our Thing in the Loire Valley


At Loire Valley Time Travel we are all about giving travellers that authentic experience, where they can feel as if they are locals. So we encourage our travellers to visit sites they've never heard of. There are lots of lesser known chateaux that receive very few visitors -- just because they aren't full of bling and household names. These smaller chateaux are just as fascinating and have their own unique history. In some of them you will get a much better idea of how ordinary people lived rather than a curated glimpse of power and royalty.

Chateau de Rivau.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
A fairytale but little known chateau in the Loire Valley.
Likewise we don't use fancy restaurants with big name chefs. We use workers restaurants who serve simple generous traditional food. Our dining companions are locals, not tourists, and wherever possible we take a table on the terrace to enjoy the fresh air and view.

Restaurant terrace.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
The charming terrace of a simple local restaurant.
To enquire about our private guided tours of chateaux, wineries, markets and more email us or use our contact form. More tour ideas can be found on the Loire Valley Time Travel website.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Market Shopping in the Loire Valley

The term ‘market’ means slightly different things in different countries, but here in France, the term ‘marché’ (‘market’) used on its own means an open air general street market held weekly in a market place. Almost all of them are morning only affairs. Their main focus is fresh local produce, but there will be produce from further afield too, and other household items. Most locals will shop at them regularly and they are held everywhere from the largest cities to the smallest villages. My own village, population 1004, has this type of market twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays. A slightly different array of stallholders set up on the two different market days, and it is a small market of fewer than ten stalls. Nevertheless, I buy all my fresh vegetables and poultry at my village market. I can also buy fish, dry goods, honey, locally grown fruit in season and goats cheese at my village market.


Loches market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Loches market.

I am also lucky enough to live near Loches (population 7000), which has one of the best markets in the Loire Valley, with about 200 stalls twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If I want a bigger range of products I will go to Loches, where I can get a full range of French cheeses, meats (including horse and goat), different speciality pastries and breads, exotic fruits brought in by greengrocers, and seasonal produce like asparagus and strawberries at their peak. At this bigger market I can also shop for market baskets, handwoven rugs and throws, soaps and artisanal skin care products, and good quality good value clothing.


Loches market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Vegetables at Loches market. These are grown just the other side of the river to where they are sold, so they travel a couple of kilometres.

These markets go ahead come rain or shine (the stallholders tell me that snow puts fewer customers off than rain) and no matter if the market day falls on a holiday (with the exception of Christmas and New Years Day). Traditonally the customer does not touch the produce or serve themselves, but allows the stallholder to choose each item. Producers are always eager to tell customers all about what they have for sale and give you advice on how to prepare it. They don’t want their super fresh fruit and vegetables handled multiple times by strangers when on the farm they’ve taken so much care. Customers are often asked when they plan to use a product and how. Once the producer knows this they will take care to choose just the right fruit or vegetables for you. In these Covid19 ridden days, these open air markets are seen as a safer way to shop, and the supermarket is reserved for purchasing household cleaners and soft drinks. 

Old gardener with his produce at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
My aged neighbour Louis, who sells the excess produce from his extensive veggie patch at our village market. He is completely anti-pesticides for anything that is destined to be food, and worked all his life as an agricultural labourer.

Chef buying strawberries at a regional market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
My chef friend Stéphane choosing strawberries at Amboise market.

Shopping at a butchers stall in a regional market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Me buying goat meat at Loches market. Considering how many goats there are in the Loire Valley it seems odd that there is no tradition of eating goats meat here, and this is one of the few butchers who supplies it.

Specialist local groceries stall at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
My friend Sylvain, who runs a small specialist grocery home delivery and market service. All his products are locally sourced and produced.

Fresh vegetables from the market being delivered to a restaurant, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Veggies being delivered to a restaurant from Loches market.

Vintage fruit boxes at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Old fruit boxes lovingly cared for and kept in use by the current generation of orchardists in my village.

Goose eggs for sale at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Goose eggs for sale in my village market.


Regional market during Covid19 restrictions, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Loches market. This photo was taken just before mask wearing became mandatory at the market.

Organic vegetables at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Organic veg from the market garden on the edge of my village, at the market in the village.

Organic vegetables at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Organic veg from the market garden on the edge of my village, at the market in the village.

Melon stall at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The melons and onions stall at my village market. The reason he only sells melons and onions is because that is all he grows, alternating the crops to maintain soil and crop health.

Oyster stall at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This oyster producer comes up from the Atlantic coast once a week to the Saturday market in my village.

Cherry tomatoes at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Cherry tomatoes grown in greenhouses heated by the waste water from the nuclear power station near Chinon for sale at my village market. They are expensive but delicious.

Radishes at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
My friend Fabrice, who has a market garden across the road from the famous gardens of Villandry, selling radishes at Loches market. This was a Wednesday, and when I remarked upon the size of the pile he informed me that on Saturdays he sold twice that many.

Label Rouge salmon at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Salmon at my village market. It is tagged as being Label Rouge certification, which means it has been farmed under a very strict set of guidelines.

Saucissons (dry cured sausages) at a market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Saucissons (dry cured sausages) at Loches market. These are not a local product because there is not a strong tradition in the Loire Valley of salt cured meat.

Organic apples at a village market, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Tony, my local organic orchardist, at my village market. The apples in the basket on the right are an old unknown variety.

 

To enquire about our private guided tours of chateaux, wineries, markets and more email us or use our contact form. More tour ideas can be found on the Loire Valley Time Travel website.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Guided Visit to the Royal Citadel of Loches in the Loire Valley


Travellers these days are looking for the less visited sites and the more authentic experiences. It's not all about checking off those big well known sites that everybody has photos of. Thoughtful travellers seek out somewhere they've never even heard of, small, intimate but punching above its weight in terms of impact, richness of experience and memories. We have been advocating Loches as one such place for more than a decade now. Visitor numbers are low, and very few outside of France know about it. It can offer everything from great food experiences to intriguing medieval history, glorious views and romantic histories. If this is your sort of experience, then let us know and we will include Loches in your itinerary. You won't regret it.

The Logis Royal (Royal Apartments), Loches.
Logis royal, Loches.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

To enquire about our private guided tours of chateaux, wineries, markets and more email us or use our contact form. More tour ideas can be found on the Loire Valley Time Travel website.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

A Prisoner in the Tower


It's not just us who've been confined to our homes in the Touraine Loire Valley. Over the centuries there have been plenty of people kept in varying states of restriction here.

Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, was held at Loches, as was Jean de Poitiers, the father of Diane.

Ludovico is an iconic figure of the Italian Renaissance, and a key player in the Italian Wars. He was accused of inciting Charles VIII to take the kingdom of Naples and even encouraged the invasion of his own duchy.

The Donjon (castle keep) on the Royal Citadel in Loches. Donjon (castle keep) de Loches.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.
At the death of Charles VIII, his successor Louis XII continued the Italian Wars and pressed his claim to be the legitimate heir to the Duchy of Milan through his grandmother Valentina Visconti. Ludovico Sforza was taken prisoner by the French in April 1500 and sent to France. He died in the keep of the Royal Citadel of Loches in 1508 after four years of imprisonment there.

If you would like to visit this atmospheric and historic castle, just let us know. We will gladly include it in your tour as it is one of our favourites. To enquire about our private guided tours of chateaux, wineries, markets and more email us or use our contact form. More tour ideas can be found on the Loire Valley Time Travel website.