We woke to rain this morning. Clearly the sun is only over the Dordogne. Still, unperturbed, we set off (after a yummy French breakfast at the hotel) for the Old Town bit of Saumur followed by the chateau at the top of the hill.
A strange air of emptiness was all around us as we walked up the Rue d’Orleans towards the Old Town. Shops which one would expect to be open and streets which one would expect to be crammed with excited and happy shoppers were all deserted. Tumbleweeds moved morosely along the footpaths.
Later, back at the hotel, we discovered that it was a holiday in France. I have since discovered it is Ascension Day (the day that Jesus ascended into heaven having been crucified) and France stops. Ascension day is, apparently, always a Thursday although it’s always wandering all over the place because of Easter. What it means for the casual tourist from another country is that virtually everything is closed. That’s a bit annoying.
What wasn’t closed was the chateau. Except that a lot of the chateau is actually closed because they’re still renovating it. It used to house the towns museum and we thought this would be nice to visit…but that’s now closed for renovations.
But you can walk around the chateau and admire the outside, the ramparts and the workmen busily trying to reproduce exquisite and intricate stone work on the walls. At least you can walk around it if you don’t mind the hurricane force winds and lashing rain which decided to inundate us. The umbrella was pointless and I was even forced to carry my hat against the onslaught.
We managed to get to a small tower in a corner of the battlements where I could quickly pop out and take a photo.
Eventually the wind died down to a mild tornado and the rain stopped (occasionally) so we could have a better, more visually interesting, wander around rather than just looking at the ground with our heads being buffeted.
We also went down to the subterranean section of the chateau, the only bit you can see. It was a very, very big cellar with nothing in it. It was impressive given it’s size and being situated so far down but, really, it’s hardly what you’d call satisfying given what we’ve seen at other chateaux.
Not that I’m complaining (really). It didn’t cost much and the building is very grand. It has had a turbulent past, being destroyed on numerous occasions by various religious, political and familial squabbles. I’m very glad I walked up yesterday and managed to get a photograph in the sunshine though.
There is also, in the chateau grounds and included in the cost of your entrance fee, a small horse riding museum. It was sort of interesting although I think a lot of the dressage type tricks they want the horses to do look a bit unnatural and uncomfortable for the horses. But what do I know? I’m no horse.
After seeing everything in this little museum (it took about ten minutes) we popped into the Salon de The for a couple of coffees before starting back down to the town when disaster struck.
We were having a jolly chat about Eleanor of Aquitaine and how she celebrated Christmas 1188 in the chateau when a raised gutter appeared out of nowhere, causing Mirinda to pitch forward. Her little friend went flying into the road, as did her umbrella, as did she. Right onto her knee.
We managed to manhandle her back to the relative safety of the footpath and a low stone wall and rescued her various hand items and discovered she’d grazed her knee quite badly. And this is where the fact that it was Ascension Day in France really hits home.
Virtually nothing is open. We staggered passed three locked and bolted chemists on our way back towards the hotel. The whole ghost town thing was in full force. The hotel bed was very pleased to welcome Mirinda back into it’s restful embrace.
After a good solid couple of hours lying down, Mirinda was ready to walk to lunch. We had our fingers crossed that one, something would be open and two that her knee would hold up. As it turned out, both things were true.
The restaurant we ate in had a very odd, very brusque waiter who wore his glasses fixed firmly to his head. I’m pretty sure they were stuck there as a result of some silly waiter prank and he’d been waiting for them to work themselves loose. I also think this may explain why he was so brusque.
He had no time for the niceties of Ascension Day pleasantries. It was all a bit of a rush to get our orders. At first we thought they were about to close and just wanted us got rid of so they could be off to their family celebrations of Jesus going home but that was not the case at all. He was just brusque.
Anyway, the food was quite nice. Though I should mention the bread rock we were given. Mirinda tried to slice it but that just snapped the teeth off her serrated knife. A light sabre may have made a bit of dent on it but we’d forgotten to bring one.
It was odd because we had three rolls (that’s odd between two people to start with) and the first two were fine…crisp but otherwise fine. The third roll took crisp to a whole new level. I’d say somewhere around granite.
And it wasn’t stale, either! Somehow we managed to get it open and the bread inside was all fluffy and fresh. Maybe they sprinkled the top with concrete rather than flour.
Still, the food was fine and, because there may be nothing open later, our main meal of the day. As we sat there, a group of what I thought were hardy Germans, decided to sit outside and drink beer and coffee. They looked like a group of approaching geriatric aged walkers.
As they sat, the sun came out and bathed everything in a happier shade of blue. They were all smiling and happy so I figured they’d been responsible for the change in weather.
It made us realise how the Germans are the heroes of Europe now. They seem to be the only nation with any stability, decent political governance and money at the moment. Everyone goes to Angela Merkel for assistance. I mentioned this to Mirinda, suggesting that they decided trying to rule Europe by declaring war, which hadn’t worked twice, so this time they were just going to buy the defunct countries following the financial collapse. Their first target is Greece. Remember, you read it here first. And I’m not saying it would be a bad thing!
After our repast we strolled along the river (sort of) and then around the unchartered back streets of Saumur until we found this huge horse riding area. An inside, an outside and a giant car park all watched over by the beautiful buildings of the Cavalry School. It all looked gorgeous in the sunshine. I felt happy and tried to cheer Mirinda up by having my leg run over by a tank.
We then strolled back to the hotel as Mirinda’s knee was feeling the effects a bit. And that was about it for the rest of the day. At least it was nice and restful. Back to St Malo tomorrow.