After spending the last few weekends at home, I scratched my itch to escape town and explore more of the Loire Valley. While rolling out of my cozy bed on a dark, cold, Saturday morning was far from idyll, I hopped onto an 8 a.m. train headed for a town locals highly recommended: Chinon.
Despite not making my way into a wine cellar or local tasting (local wine is one of Chinon’s biggest attractions), Chinon’s stellar landscape and medieval charm provides a spectacle for even a sleepy, Saturday meander.
The Vienne River’s tranquility and glass sheen sparkled when sun rays peaked from behind the morning clouds. A beautiful day, kayakers, fishers and ducks (and even goats) dotted the banks and small current down the river, winding around the old town. A slow meander down a tree-lined path and tartine on the river bank was both peaceful and relaxing.
The Forteresse Royal de Chinon, easily a highlight, boasts magnificent views of the valley from the high, 10th-century towers. Although free before noon, I would’ve paid only for the views, regardless of the fortress’ spectacular history, displays, museums and terraces.
I toured the chateau with two other American women, another blogger and the other who moved to France with TAPIF. We chanced upon the opening of a new dress exhibition, les Grand Robes Royales (“Great Royal Gowns”) by Lamyne W. The project displays thirteen gowns, inspired by past queens and princesses, throughout the grand chateau chambers, in addition to the fortress’s signage, displays and multimedia-enhanced visitor’s tools.
Cultural staples of the French, the slow pace and emphasis on food and relationships feature themselves across the village. While weekends in French villages typically reveal themselves as unexciting and quiet, I find the unhurried enjoyment of a Saturday a celebration.
As an American living amid a crowd of French traditionals, I tend to walk faster, wait less and live at a swifter pace. While I haven’t experienced a jarring cultural adjustment (I was ready to abandon my college-paced lifestyle), my day in Chinon was truly French. We walked slower, stopped to enjoy the view and wasted no time eating lunch and drinking locally-made Rosé on a café patio.
Despite an obviously vacant Saturday, walking through the impressive, preserved Cité Médiévale (medieval village) inspired vibrant images and visions swirling in my mind, recreating what I can only imagine occurred through those streets and buildings centuries ago.
The old book store, wine museum, homes and small businesses occupy spaces long inhabited by humankind. Despite technology booms, wars and modern revolutions, the village charm and heritage hasn’t changed.
Walking through the village, I became a part of the town’s history, with my footprint one of millions who have passed through the streets and peered into shop windows; an inspiring and humbling realization.
After spending a full day engaging in conversation and interacting with my surroundings, I hopped on a train set home. A quick change in Tours (there are no direct trains between Saumur and Chinon, therefore I had to backtrack with stops in Tours), I returned home to a two-hour dinner over pumpkin soup and bread with dear friends.