After Lugano-The Loire: Wine, Chateaux, and Roses–to Stormy Cleveland by Night
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~
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, in contrast to the exciting work in Lugano, I was able to have good nights’ sleep in Tours.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.