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Day 8 - May 5, 2010 - Nantes And Angers, France

By Chris Cutler, Naturalist

Co-ordinates:  47°11’N, 01°34’W
Weather: sunny, then partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 8°C

The day dawned beautifully as we cruised up the Loire River, with fabulous early morning light on green pastures and scattered woodlands. We arrived to the city of Nantes, took to the coaches, and just as Christian Sauleau had promised, the sun was out. Driving through rich agricultural fields of the Loire Valley, we arrived to the small city of Angers and went to explore the famed former fortress and residence of Chateau Angers. Situated above the Maine River and dating back to the 9th century, the fortress was constructed of schist and limestone and its seventeen towers are still imposing today, its waterless moat, as per tradition, a garden. In 1375 Louis I, Duke of Anjou, commissioned the making of a 100-meter long tapestry depicting “The Apocalypse”, as interpreted by St. John in the 1st Century. We got to admire the great work of art with its detailed scenes of various and sundry stories and incredibly still-preserved colors.

Christian graciously welcomed us into a sun-filled garden with refreshing Soupe L’Angevine (crement and cointreau) cocktails, introduced us to members of his family, and then we dined on specialties of the Pays-de-la-Loire region. We then walked through parts of the old town, along narrow cobbled streets and in between well-preserved homes hundreds of years old. The imposing Saint-Maurice Cathedral, variously constructed between the 12th and 16th centuries, rose monolith-like and inside we ogled the spectacular organ, with its huge wooden statues, the many detailed stained glass windows, and red marble altar.

We continued on our tour to the Chateau de Brissac, tallest of its kind in the Loire Valley. Within, local guides shared stories with us of the sumptuously and ornately adorned rooms. Perhaps the most interesting room was the one somewhat hidden, where in 1620 a temporary reconciliation was made between Louis XIII and his mother Marie de Meidici after some intra-familial territorial strife. In the cool basement, we sampled some of the Chateau’s own wines – Rose d’Anjou, Anjou Rouge and Anjou Villages Brissac.

We drove back to Nantes and as we arrived to the Prince Albert II were greeted by local musicians with bagpipes, drums and woodwinds who put on a fantastic impromptu concert for us. We stayed alongside until the tidal flux of the Loire was in our favor. The ship rose along its lines, and by 22:00 we were headed back down France’s longest river (over 1,000 km) to the sea. The day had been a very successful one, the weather fine throughout. Christian Sauleau’s desire to show us some of the highlights of his home region proved to be not only memorable for the incredible sights and tales, but also for the great hospitality we were shown throughout.

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