On Monday 5 August we said goodbye to Pontorson and took a bus, bus, train, train and bus combination to our accommodation in Tours.
Tours is the heart of the Loire Valley and was once the capital of France. It fell out of favour with the royals and they moved the capital to Paris but Tours remains a large city of about 140,000 people.
Over the two days in Tours we visited two chateaus, both with exquisite gardens and a rich history.
Chateau de Chenonceau
Chateau de Villandry
We did the garden mazes at both but concluded that mazes are one thing the French don’t do well as they were both conquered in under a minute with only a few dead ends.
On Wednesday we travelled down to a town called Saumur which is still part of the Loire Valley and it is here that we got to know the Loire for its wines.
We did a winery tour at Langlois-Chateau which has been running since the 19th century and were schooled in a classroom about the wine making process for whites and reds. We were then shown around the factory and taken down to the caves to be taught how sparkling wine is made. This was the most interesting part of the tour.
The sparkling wine is aged in the caves (which are actually mines) of Saumur to maintain a cool temperature. There are over 50km of mine shafts in the area and this winery had 4km. The process is time consuming and I mused to Kate that it is hard to imagine how Passion Pop is sold for a profit. I later found out that the process for putting bubbles into cheap sparkling is much less time consuming – it is essentially soda steam.
We finished the tour by tasting 10 wines and one dessert wine. Not bad value seeing as we had free tour vouchers from our hotel.
We left the Loire Valley on Friday and enjoyed views of the town on our way to the train station.