Yesterday we began our tour and it only took a few minutes to get into the routine of leaving bags outside the hotel door, being counted onto the bus and on the road by 8.30 am. No rest for the wicked, but this is hardly very strenuous. We have 25 people on our tour; most from Australia with couples from both New Zealand and England. Our bus is from Italy and while there is not much legroom for tall people like me, there are enough seats to be able to- have two to myself and stretch out sideways with my feet in the aisle.
We were on the road for nearly four hours to our destination of Tours. I know that we are on a tour but this day was a tour to Tours.
Our first destination was Chateau at Villandry, a privately owned chateau with a very formal garden laid out in symmetrical format. One garden had large squares of interesting shaped box hedges interspersed with annuals. Apparently, the garden displayed the four stages of love. I only thought there were only two stages of love – in love and out of love – but the French seem to have many more types of love. Even the vegetable garden (potagerie) was laid out in symmetrical squares with box hedges. What a waste having vegetables for decoration rather than for eating! This garden was fantastic, but not a style that I prefer. It was far too formal and rigid in its style for for my taste.
Our second destination was the famous chateau at Chenonceau winch is built over the river Cher on an arched bridge. It was a beautiful place and we had a lot of- tome in which to look around. The grounds were very beautiful – old buildings draped in Wisteria and gardens with fountains. The old tower of the original castle has been turned into a charming gift shop with the part that extends over the river is a series of extensions that have been added by owners over the years.
We finished the day with a nice dinner at the hotel.
This morning, we left Tours just after 8.00 am and spent all morning travelling east, skirting Orleans (of Joan of Arc fame) and the city of Dijon, until we reached the city of Beane in the area of Burgundy. At first, the scenery was very flat but by early afternoon it was beginning to become more undulating. We passed large fields of Canola which appeared as bright swathes of yellow across the entire landscape. Every now and then we passed a little village, each with a church and steeple. Occasionally, we passed a large chateau on a hill. For all the time that we were travelling it never became boring.
Apart from the scenery, another factor that kept our attention was the knowledge that our botanical guide, Simon Rickard, provided. He is associated with the Diggers Garden Group in Melbourne and is now the head gardener at St Erth at Blackwood. He has a fantastic knowledge about plants and is always patient enough to answer even the simplest of questions with a great degree of detail. He does get a bit pedantic (all in good fun) about using the botanical names of plants and insists that they are referred to as ‘Floribunda Magnifica’ or ‘Plantus Domestica’. I expect that we will all learn a lot from him during the course of this trip.
In Beane, we had time for a short walk around the town which still has its original mediaeval city walls. We found the church which was dated 1446 and some lovely old streetscapes of buildings with crooked windows, towers and stone walls.
After our walk, we spent some time at the cellars of a wine company and had the opportunity to taste some local wines. I was a bit surprised to find that all the reds grown in the Burgundy area were Pinot Noirs. I’m not sure why;; I just thought that wine in the Burgundy style was a heavier type of red than this. By Australian standards, the vineyards here are tiny – 6 or 7 hectares.The wines vary according to the location of the vineyard itself. The lowest level (I reckon it is an equivalent to Australian cask wine is the wine of the general area). Slightly better, is the Appelation de Village (Wine from a particular village) and then two levels of quality from specific vineyards in sunny areas or those further up the hill. Good vintages of these wines, sell for many thousands of Euros.
All in all, I have to say that my taste preference is for the heavier and more flavour-full wines of Australia and New Zealand.