⚜️People & Places that make the Loire Valley legendary
🌞Personnes et lieux qui font la légende du Val de Loire ⬇️GUIDING🌻

 
Beyond my back yard…
Highlights of a 🌸🌿Gardens & Gastronomy of Normandy and Brittany 🥮🦪 trip I designed and guided for @gg2theworld earlier this month.  Had the pleasure of introducing 6 delightful women to the coastal marvels of two remarkable regions. *Featured in photos are Cliffs of Étretat, Honfleur’s historic port, the walled potager of Château de Miromesnil (Guy de Maupassant’s birthplace), gardens of Château de Boutemont, Saint Malo harbor, Mont-Saint-Michel and the mannerist gardens of, Château de la Ballue. The group met as strangers and separated as friends. The alchemy of Doni Belau’s formula for inspiring women-only small-group tours is a winner. I am a teeny bit apprehensive at the start of each adventure - as the responsibility for delivering on dreams of an ideal holiday is humbling but people are a store of unexpected treasure. As we explored the natural and cultural bounty of France, we tapped into a wealth of human capital - sharing insights, stories and an abundance of joy. 
Come along July 1-8 in 2024!
🌿A lovely day guiding at  Villandry & Chenonceaux with Bridget & Henrietta of @thelandgardeners - over from the UK leading a botanical immersion trip for a group of astute women from the US, New Zealand & UK - with impressive horticultural chops and command of French 🌸 Nick Tomlan @ntomlan treated us to a tour of his beloved Russell Page walled garden, where a stunning collection of climbing roses stole the show. As the crowds melted away near closing, we met up with floral design wizard Jean François @jfbflowermof as he transported his gorgeous arrangements into the chateau on a stretcher with the assist of a security guard!  Perfect ending to a plant-packed journée.
My room with quite the view 🌞 Gazing up at Château de Saumur at Anne d’Anjou hotel on the south quai of the Loire River.  Stayed while leading a @girlsguidetoparis Loire Valley tour.  We visited the lively Saturday morning market around historic Place St Pierre. Chickens for your coop and Saint Jacques scallops cut fresh from their shells! 
Highly recommend @lessentielsaumur restaurant (timbered building at rear of courtyard in photo). The three meals I’ve enjoyed there over past year were consistently delicious.  Visit @fontevraud and their new Modern Art Museum - featuring the collection of Martine & Leon Cligman. Don’t miss a hilarious self portrait by Toulouse Lautrec that was the couple’s first acquisition in 1957.
🏰 Checked in on a few old friends this week. All in peak fall form 🍁

#loirevalley 
#villandry 
#azaylerideau 
#touraineloirevalley 
#montrichard 
#jardinremarquable 
#loirelegends
🌻The Loire’s best flea market - LES PUCES DE MONTSOREAU – convenes the 2nd Sunday of each month along the quay of one of Frances’s “Plus Beaux Villages”. The 30-year institution draws 80 dealers and throngs of “chineurs” to browse their treasures.
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The popularity of resale and vintage as an ethical and ecological alternative to unsustainable consumerism amplified by fast-fashion and cheap imports, is good news for brocanteurs. 
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Unlike a pop-up “vide-grenier” (empty the attic) event, where anyone can unload unwanted stuff, Montsoreau features specialist dealers who are experts within a niche – whether early 20th C toys, hand-forged wrought-iron fittings, Gien faïence, or fine jewelry.
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I wavered over an elegant mid-century bamboo side table spotted within minutes… then regretted it was snapped up by a more decisive soul. This morning, glancing at the spot it would have made an ideal bedside table – there it was! Wonderful to live with someone who still stages a surprise after all these years! ♥️ @jeffreyblondes
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Montsoreau is a gorgeous historic village situated at the juncture of Anjou and Touraine, where the Loire and Vienne rivers meet. A narrow settlement along the banks of the Loire, set against a backdrop of creamy limestone cliffs punctuated with troglodytic dwellings bordered by paths that meander up to vineyards along the valley. 
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Allow time to wander narrow streets leading to the 15th C chateau that appears to rise up from the river - made famous by Alexandre Dumas’ novel “La dame de Montsoreau”.
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Recommend lunch at VERVERT @ververt_montsoreau for terrific farm-to-table regional produce and natural wine selection. Hélène and Romain offer a monthly 5-course “La Degust’ des Puces” menu with optional wine sampling accompaniment. 
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9 Saumur and Anjou varietals, including Saumur-Champigny are cultivated around the village. If you arrive in the afternoon, consider booking a sunset wine-tasting cruise on a traditional boat with Loire Vins Adventure.
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Lovely boutique hotel & spa @lamarinedeloire is an annex to the event. Owner Caroline Chagnaud has a sure eye for style.
🪷IDEAL GARDEN is the theme for Chaumont’s 30th INTERNATIONAL GARDEN FESTIVAL. The 2022 season kicked off with a packed inaugural event hosted by the Domaine’s indefatigable director, Chantal Colleu-Dumond. With a bit of patience I captured some unpeopled angles of gardens that caught my fancy.

There is something for every predilection - a pot-pourri of 25 Jardin Idéal interpretations - from visionary, to romantic, ecological, educational, practical, ironic, playful and philosophical… created by landscape designers and architects from around the the world 🌍

🌿Open through November 06, 2022
♥️PALAIS JACQUES CŒUR in Bourges, built (1443-1451) by the wealthiest Frenchman of his time, is a superb example of medieval domestic architecture.  Located near magnificent St Etienne Cathedral (future post alert), it confirms why Bourges merits a stop on your Loire itinerary. 
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Some historic context…
At the height of the 100 Years War, before Joan of Arc kicked the future Charles VII’s royal butt into action, he was derisively called “the King of Bourges”. Paris and Reims were then territories of Henri VI of England and renegade Duke of Burgundy.
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Charles dithered between Bourges, Chinon, and Loches on the frontier of his territory south of the Loire until Joan and her army routed the English in Orleans. Fired up by his 1429 coronation in Reims, the army progressively pushed the English up to Calais. “Le Roi de Bourges” became “Charles the Victorious” for the history books.
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Jacques Coeur is Bourges’ infamous native son.  The hugely ambitious merchant parlayed a fleet of 12 ships into an advanced eastern Mediterranean trade network, domestic commerce monopoly, and pawn brokerage.  He married up, hustled for titles, diplomatic posts, and a job running the French mint.  As Charles VII’s financial guru, Coeur created a taxation system to fund the war. 
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Rich, powerful upstarts can make enemies of envious nobles.  Indebted courtiers framed Coeur for embezzlement of the crown and poisoning of the king’s mistress Agnes Sorel.  The wily Jacques escaped prison, fled to Rome and offered his services to the Pope. 
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Coeur’s holdings were seized but the palace returned to his family in 1457.  Colbert was its last private owner.  Used as Town hall, then law courts, it was purchased by the state in 1923 and restored as a national monument.  The vast, rambling, mostly unfurnished gothic-flamboyant complex is built around a central courtyard.  It is notable for quirky sculptural details that reflect the life and taste of its remarkable creator.
🏛I recently visited the Assemblée nationale @assembleenationale in Paris at the invitation of Sophie Métadier, our Indre et Loire department’s newly minted “députée” to the lower house of French Parliament. 33 years after moving to France and 17 years after becoming a naturalized French citizen, it was about time! 
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As the principal legislative body of the French Republic, the National Assembly passes laws, monitors government action and evaluates public policies. 
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I mentioned Sophie @sophiemetadier in an earlier post about the historic town of Beaulieu-les-Loches, where she was mayor for ten years – a job she resigned in June after winning a whirlwind by-election for national office.
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Metadier is member of UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents), a centrist, liberal, pro-European parliamentary group. UDI is not a party but a team of ideologically allied deputies. With just 18 members, they form a minor faction within the 577 member assembly.
Macron’s majority LREM (La République en Marche) group number 268.
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Like tectonic plates, there are frequent shifts in alliance and occasionally a major quake that reconfigures the makeup of the chamber, as with the 2017 Presidential election won by Emmanuel Macron at head of a ‘big tent’ party he founded in 2016. 
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Touring with a small group of Sophie’s Touraine family and friends was a treat. An official guide painted the broad strokes while Sophie chimed in with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. The assembly was out of session, which allowed us to thoroughly poke around. The décor is a formal hybrid of period styles heavy on Empire, 19th Century neo-classical motifs and symbolism. An exception is the rotunda decorated with abstract frescos created in 1992 by Pierre Alechinsky.
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The experience was a reminder that democracy is dependent on our participation and the importance of voting in local and regional elections. My motivation for becoming a French citizen was to have that right. It is something I never take for granted.
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