Loire Valley

August 3 to August 6, 2012

We enjoyed a sun-filled drive north to the Loire Valey and thanks to the help of a real paper map, I found the lovely home of Guy and Ghislaine without hardly a false turn. Guy Ducornet is painter, writer and teacher who has been an associate of Gregg’s. They have exhibited together in various places in Europe. Two years ago, we met Guy in Paris at the opening of Gregg’s show.

From the moment we arrived at their home until we left, we were shown the most incredible hospitality. Their place is situated overlooking a vineyard (their vineyard) with a gorgeous view of rolling Loire Valley hills beyond. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the vines. Here are just a few in varying lights.

View over Guy’s vineyard next to his house in the Loire Valley
View from the door of our room at Guy’s
Grapes ripening on the vines
After we arrived and got settled at Guy’s, we joined him and Ghislaine outside to enjoy a bottle of wine from their 17th century cave.
Wine in the garden
In the evening, Ghislaine dished up a lovely meal–smoked salmon, a hearty chicken casserole (fabulous) and dessert along with two or three bottles of Guy’s wine. Guy entertained us with many, many stories about his experiences in France, the United States, and Canada. I also got to practice some French. I so appreciated the opportunity to try out from phrases and then get immediate feedback and correction. Often I’m too self-conscious to even try to speak French beyond the very basics. I just need to practice (and practice). This winter I must find more opportunities to do so. It can’t be totally beyond the bounds of reason that I could still learn how to speak French!
The next morning, Gregg and I set off for Saumur, the closest town on the Loire River that also has a chateau. Saumur is a totally delightful town with a great chateaux high up on a hill overlooking the river. Here are some pictures.
Gregg in the market in Saumur–tiny streets spilling over with delectable vegetables, cheeses, flowers….and crepes
We stop for two crepes made while we watched
Bridge at Saumur
We climbed up to the chateaux to see a very cheesy pageant. The display of horsemanship and jousting was entertaining but the show went on just a bit too long as it attempted with little success to milk the very thinnest of plot lines. Something about pirates and Turks, we think! The three people on horses were the best by far.
The actors and horses take a bow.
View of Saumur from the chateau
Another view of the river from higher up
The chateau at Saumur
We wandered back down to the town and enjoyed yet another awesome lunch at an outdoor cafe in the narrow streets of Saumur. The restaurant specialized in mussels but I wasn’t feeling adventurous and so had an omelette. It was wonderful as was the glass of red Loire wine I washed it down with. On our way back to Guy’s, we drove the scenic route along the Loire. What a gorgeous part of the world!
Thistles against a blonde stone wall in the Loire
Hollyhocks along the Loire
We arrived back at Guy’s for a long afternoon of relaxing in the sun. Here are Guy and Gregg in the garden:
Guy Ducornet and Gregg Simpson – two old surrealists
While Gregg and Guy chatted in the garden, I set off  to find a patisserie to buy dessert for dinner. Alas – I should have stopped at the fine patisseries in Saumur. The tiny village of Puy de Notre Dame no longer even has a boulangerie. I felt badly that I didn’t have the opportunity to contribute more to show our appreciation for the wonderful hospitality shown us. Being on the road can be challenging at times.
After not finding a place to buy a nice dessert, I at least found some marvelous photographic subjects. Here’s a sampling of the back alleys of picturesque Puy de Notre Dame:
Church spire in Puy de Notre Dame–very large church for very small village!
Lovely yellow stone of the Loire valley buildings
Entranceway to an old convent in Puy de Notre Dame
Gardens of the convent
Lovely little street on the way to Guy’s, looking back towards the church
Painfully picturesque!
On my way back to Guy’s, I went crazy taking pictures of the gorgeous Loire Valley sky. I’ve never seen such fluffy clouds.
When I got back to Guy’s I went with him into his cave to pick out wines for dinner. He had discovered the cave after he bought the property. During excavations, he uncovered a date in the 18th century – 17xx – I can’t remember the exact date now but I believe it was before the French Revolution.  The cave contains bottles going back to the 1970’s. He chose one of the oldest ones for dinner and it was very, very smooth!
Entrance to Guy’s cave (wine cellar)
Descending the steps leading into the cave
Guy selecting wine for our dinner
Guy telling me all about his wines
Lots of wine to choose from!
Guy showed me another room on his property that he doesn’t use as much now. I loved the ancient beams and beautiful old stone fireplace.
Lovely old room at Guy’s place
View out the window to the vines
Lovely opportunity for a still life! It looks very 18th Century to me
After a second night of great food and wonderful conversation, we awoke to a rare rainy day. But not to be daunted, we all set out in Guy’s Renault van to explore more of the Loire Valley. First, Guy drove us along the river to a lovely winery and chateau that is built right into the hillside. Many eons ago, the caves were inhabited by neolithic peoples – troglodytes. Very cool.
View over a maze of grape vines
Dwellings once inhabited by our very distant ancestors
Lots and lots of roses in the Loire Valley
Latter day troglodyte
Ghislaine, Gregg and Guy looking up at the chateau in the rain
Inside the chateau–note the plaster giving way to the rock of the caves

We drove on to Chinon, famous for its chateau and overall picturesqueness. I believe Joan of Arc hung out here as well.

Bridge at Chinon
Half-timbered medieval homes in Chinon
Flowers everywhere
Hanging out next to an ancient column in Chinon
Guy, Gregg, Ghislaine
The main drag in Chinon is completely empty on a rainy Sunday – very unusual.
By the river in Chinon
The river on a cloudy rainy day in August
On the way home, we stopped by a pottery run by a friend of Guy’s named Charles Hair. He is an American who has lived and worked in France for many years. His work is just wonderful.  Check out his web site: http://www.charles-hair.com/ We bought a wonderful twisty vase. His work is exhibited and sold all over the world and no wonder.
Charles Hair’s shop
In the garden at Charles Hair’s pottery
Bamboo grove across the street
Charles Hair’s home and pottery in the Loire Valley
We had such a wonderful day with Guy and Ghislaine as they showed us their corner of the Loire Valley. There is such an incredible amount to see in the area. We barely scratched the service of one tiny little region. One of the many things that struck me about the Loire Valley was the wonderful profusion of flowers, particularly roses. Here’s a single rose at Guy’s place.
Here’s a picture of the little cat that Guy and Ghislaine have adopted. It was running wild and so they have started feeding it. I’m no fan of cats but I couldn’t help but be pretty captivated by the antics of this little guy.
On our last morning, we met for breakfast and Guy and Gregg exchanged works. We were thrilled to get one of Guy’s amazing collages and Guy picked out one of the drawings Gregg did during the trip. I believe the one he picked was done in the Dordogne.
Guy’s studio
Guy and Gregg discuss art
Guy choosing one of Gregg’s drawings
The drawing Guy chose
We bid farewell to our friends in the Loire and set off for Paris. We had such an amazing visit and hope to welcome them to Bowen Island one of these days!

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