After Lugano-The Loire: Wine, Chateaux, and Roses–to Stormy Cleveland by Night

Vineyards stretched in peaceful fields across the horizon

Vineyards stretched in peaceful fields across the horizon, with wildflowers between

From Lugano to Tours in the heart of the Garden of France in Tours–wine country, a journey to see chateaux, cooking feasts, cool summer evenings, and a journey back to Cleveland to see the tall ships. Although my Lugano project blog finished with the Martha Argerich Project, there were so many people who requested more photos and tales of my travels, that this photo-post from France came about. The dream-like experience and lushness of central France is unlike anything elsewhere~

A map of the area showing the local wine growers, including the famous Vouvray region

A map of the area showing the local wine growers, including the famous Vouvray region

Arrival from Paris to Tours was very speedy in the TGV

Arrival from Paris to Tours was very speedy in the TGV

Departure from Lugano to Milano and then to Paris via airplane. Not a full flight and no excessive announcements, so I was able to sleep. SNCF and its horrendous disorganization should be sued for incompetency, but the train itself went like a dream, topping 300km/h. My teacher and I spent most of the ride in the dining car over espresso and old-recipe butter cookies.

Wildflowers are everywhere in this region of Touraine

Wildflowers are everywhere in this region of Touraine

 

A lineup of white wines from Vouvray--some dry, some bright, some bubbly... all magnificent

A lineup of white wines from Vouvray–some dry, some bright, some bubbly… all magnificent

I had arrived to Tours first in 1999 on July 4, exactly 14 years to the day before my arrival this time. The city had an other-worldly, sequestered feel to it–almost as though quietude and removal were hallmarks of the locale.

The city of Tours along the Loire

The medieval city of Tours along the Loire in the late evening

For the next few days I was in the company of some of my closest friends as we celebrated the successes in Lugano with nonstop country-style French cooking, Champagne, wines, music, and spectacular weather that almost always seemed to be in a nostalgic, golden light. I felt spoiled to the high heavens and was able to regain much energy. We stayed in a friend’s beautiful country estate that was full of concert memorabilia and photos of Sergei Babayan all the way from very early years. I had some cooking lessons from my teacher and his wife–both veritable virtuosi in the kitchen; what struck me here is the abundant fragrance of all the vegetation and produce here. Unlike in America, one can walk into a market here and smell the vegetables.

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A familiar face on a poster in front of a private residence

Meals outdoors were perfect in the splendor of late July evenings; the melodies of birdsongs and frog calls surrounded the scene

Meals outdoors were perfect in the splendor of late July evenings; the melodies of birdsongs and frog calls surrounded the scene, with the smells of rosemary, coriander, and thyme floating from dinner in the midst of a cool evening

I noticed here that the noisy frogs singing at night respond to human voices; even more so to singing. For some reason I was compelled to sing the “Trololo” song at the top of my lungs at midnight, and as such we demonstrated five times that this particular song made the frogs sing with delight.

Rose gardens beyond the terrace

Rose gardens beyond the terrace and a tranquil reading spot

Finally, in contrast to the exciting work in Lugano, I was able to have good nights’ sleep in Tours.

A view to the pasture from the bedroom seemed to open to a garden of Eden

A view to the pasture from the bedroom seemed to open to a garden of Eden

An evening journey along the Loire to Amboise--note that this is 930pm

An evening journey along the Loire to Amboise–note that this is 930pm and the golden light is still bright

We began an evening road-trip to Amboise and Chenonceau, and I had no idea at the time what those were. In fact they were incomparable Medieval splendors.

We passed Chateau Moncontour and its famous vineyards

We passed Chateau Moncontour and its famous vineyards

Almost everything one sees here seems to have an authentic feel

Almost everything one sees here seems to have an authentic feel–from the source of tradition

This region of Touraine was very popular with French Kings, and old castles were transformed into Renaissance chateaux; the traditions and quality of the region also became the heart of wine country.

Headed towards Chenonceau, we passed Chateau d'Amboise, behind which Leonardo Da Vinci lived in late life

Headed towards Chenonceau, we passed Chateau d’Amboise, behind which Leonardo Da Vinci lived in late life

The gardens and chateaux everywhere had the feeling that the lush fruits of Mother Earth were in full bloom

The gardens and chateaux everywhere had the feeling that the lush fruits of Mother Earth were in full bloom

Sunset over the vineyards

Sunset over the vineyards

Arrival at Chenonceau was coordinated with a night-walk with baroque music and changing light shows over manicured gardens and fountains

Arrival at Chenonceau was coordinated with a night-walk with baroque music and changing light shows over manicured gardens and ancient fountains

Chenonceau at night evoked the immediacy of an evening in the French countryside in the Middle Ages

Chenonceau at night evoked the immediacy of an evening in the French countryside in the Middle Ages

In several places, there was little in the landscape to discourage one’s imagination that this was not in fact in the Middle Ages. It felt like time travel~

A tree-lined illumated approach to Chenonceau was majestic and surreal

A tree-lined illumated approach to Chenonceau was majestic and surreal

Night life, cafés, and restaurants in the old center of Tours at the Medieval Place Plumereau and its half-timbered buildings

Night life, cafés, and restaurants in the old center of Tours at the Medieval Place Plumereau and its half-timbered buildings

A train ride from Tours to Charles de Gaulle Airport was claustrophobic and over-crowded. The man behind me spoke to himself the whole time. A three-quarters mile run from one end of the terminal to the gate seemed endless. Waiting in line for coffee, I met a senior American Airlines pilot of 37 years who with calm, collected, yet engaged cool, described his conjecture on the previous day’s crash in San Francisco. A brief flight brought me to reading some memoirs of William M. Milliken and a viewing of one of my favorite movies, “Stand By Me” with a very young and charismatic River Phoenix. Then I found myself in Montreal before proceeding to Cleveland.

Arrival to Cleveland by night with terrific thunderstorms, seen from the Port

Arrival to Cleveland by night with terrific thunderstorms, seen from the Port

Sleepy upon arrival to Cleveland, but an urgent need to see the tall ships, even in the dramatic thunderstorm. Lake Erie seemed to stretch out as a vast and mysterious expanse. I drifted into the type of satisfying sleep that only two days of travel and jetlag can bring.

I wanted to see the Tall Ships and found a forest of them; the seen was majestically deserted

I wanted to see the Tall Ships and found a forest of them; the seen was majestically deserted

A row of tall ships in the light of a stormy night--it appeared majestic and almost like a painting

A row of tall ships in the light of a stormy night–it appeared majestic and almost like a painting

 

 

 

 

6 comments


  • Jodi

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!!! I want to visit that part of France ASAP!!! Thank you for sharing!

    July 09, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thanks for this comment, Jodi–when we meet next, we’ll have to compare stories of France.

      July 25, 2013
  • Annemarie

    Thank you for helping bring back my own memories of the castle visits and my stay in Tours. It reads like a dream.

    July 09, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thanks so much for the feedback and for following, Annemarie–miss you and send my best wishes!

      July 25, 2013
  • Fabulous travel commentary! I love the photography and descriptive/thoughtful writing. Wish I was dining alfresco, hearing the birds, and smelling fresh produce!

    July 10, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thanks for the feedback on the France entry, Jonathan–hope you get to experience that part of the world soon, too!

      July 25, 2013

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