Cheese sandwiches and pastry

I woke at 8 and went down for a coffee. A grey and gloomy and chilly first day for 2009. In the Loire, anyway.

Bob and Claire had a text from Fiona ALL in French. There was a lot of conjecture concerning how she managed it. And then Claire was trapped in the bathroom by a particularly vicious door. I had a sit down shower in the en-suite which was not much fun but effective.

I need to describe our bedroom. It is huge with a very low ceiling. Actually it’s about 6 foot, which gives me a clearance of 2 inches but it feels lower and so when walking around the room I tend to stoop a bit. In the centre of the room is a staircase leading up to a Mrs Rochester bolt hole complete with single mattress and single sprung base. The ceiling is VERY low so, basically any occupant would have to be about 3 foot tall or have no legs. Or head.

After tiny rye toast and coffee, I went for a short stroll out to the crossroads and back. I was undecided whether to walk to the nearby dolmen but decided against it, not being sure what time we were due to set off. Perhaps tomorrow.

There was a lot of faffing but eventually we managed to get away at about 11 – I should have wandered down to the dolmen – and headed off to Amboise. We finally saw the Loire as we followed it towards the bridge that crossed it at Amboise.

Amboise features large in the French Wars of Religion which happened from 1562 to 1629 when the Catholics were having a bit of argy bargy with the protestants. It wasn’t pleasant. At some stage a creaky peace was declared at Amboise which, as predicted, fell to pieces and resulted in the deaths of a few more religious fools. I guess both sides decided to ignore the commandment about killing people.

Rue Victor Hugo in Amboise, Loire, France

I’m sure during the years of the wars more was open than was true today, for everything was closed. Even the main church! We found a bar and had a morning café crème and then headed into the centre ville.

What a pretty little town! The château at its centre is a good deal (5 times to be exact) smaller than it was at its greatest. Even so, it is mighty impressive. Naturally it wasn’t open. We wandered up and down the main streets until we found some troglodyte houses. For the uninitiated, these are houses built into the rock face, like caves, except they have windows and doors and chimneys protruding from the rocks. All most peculiar.

It was then across town to the church of St Denis. Started in 1107 (they think) by Hugues, 1st Lord of Amboise. It was built on a Gallo-Roman site. It sits majestically at the top of a hill and, from its front door, commands an excellent view of the town and the château within it.

The church is big and dark but has a couple of interesting points (there was no English guide). There is a memorial statue of a young girl who seems to have drowned. She lays, drenched and cold on a stone slab. Very evocative.

At the top of some of the columns are carvings of (I think) biblical stories. Some quite harsh and bloodthirsty, just like the Breton parish closes. They love scaring the poor peasants into subjugation!

Detail of St Denis column, Amboise, Loire, France

We left the church and wandered down to the Chinese restaurant where I ordered frogs legs which no-one else was tempted to try for some obscure reason. The others decided for more traditional Chinese dishes rather than my option of Chinese/French nouveau fusion cuisine. We feasted on Chinese as it was the only restaurant we could find that was open.

Full of food, we left, stopping at the Bigot Patisserie in order for Claire, Bob and Mirinda to buy out the shop. I attempted to visit the main church but was repelled by a large sign which declared that the church was “…not open to the public!” I walked over and waited by the river instead.

A short trip back to the château and our day was done.

The only English TV is the news. After hearing the same news three times, I decided to go and listen to Mirinda play her guitar. Then we went back downstairs to watch the New Years day concert from Vienna…except it wasn’t. It was a New Years day concert from somewhere else and featured bits of opera as well as some well known orchestral pieces. With over 900 TV channels do you think I could find it? Yes, the answer is no, I couldn’t.

We nourished ourselves with cheese sandwiches and pastry before, eventually, retiring for the night. Oh, what hedonists we are! It never stops.

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