Today we set off for the second leg of our trip, waving Normandy goodbye and heading south to the Loire- land of the chateaux, cave dwellings and many riches in terms of gastronomy and wine. We’re accompanied by Marie’s parents and we are all being hosted by her Auntie Rosine and Uncle Emmanuel who have recently moved to the region for their retirement.
We plan our journey a day in advance, discussing various stop off points on the 3 hour trip south. Marie’s guide of the region has told me about villages with troglodytic houses which I’m super excited about so I’m repeatedly suggesting stopping off at Troo, which is well known for them and on our route. I also discover that almost every other chateau and point of interest in the guide is within about 15km of Rosine’s house, making it a completely perfect base for our stay. Marie’s mum is meanwhile suggesting we stop off in a town to see a beautiful cathedral and her father…well… he thinks 3 hours is a long enough drive without any silly stop offs and decides that he’s going to travel direct and meet us there while Francoise comes with us….until he actually quite likes our plan and changes his mind. We all have dinner and head off to bed excited about the day ahead.
Zaza meanwhile has some digestive issues which pretty much keep her and us awake all through the night. This gets us off to a slower start in the morning as Marie has left us to both have a bit of a lay in, which I’m quite grateful for. By 11:00 the car is all packed up and we’re ready to set off- amidst some to and fro-ing to their van with a table; Francoise loads it up as I’ve been using it to stand Zaza’s travel crib on at night, Jean-Marie thinks it’s ridiculous and fetches it back in. And then comes the last minute discussion about route and plans- this is almost a tradition in Marie’s family. As it’s later than we intended, Jean-Marie is now wanting to have lunch at home and then set off in the afternoon and we’re keen to get going. We agree to stop in a nearer, smaller village for lunch and it’s three against one in believing the sat nav that we’ll get there by 1pm, perfect timing for lunch. Jean Marie thinks that we’re all delusional, that we won’t possibly arrive until 2pm, by which time no one will serve us and we’ll all go hungry!
We head south in convoy, us up ahead with the sat nav to guide us. Now…there’s a few things you should know about this situation. 1. Marie finds driving in convoy a little stressful at the best of times 2. The sat nav is already under suspicion and criticism by Jean Marie before we start so the last thing she wants to do is take a wrong turn. 3. As passenger, navigation is my job meaning I need to repeat and clarify any instructions from the aforementioned gadget. 4. I do not understand the map, the French roads and cannot perform this task in any way of a competent fashion.
The result; a small detour around tiny …Marie has just looked over my shoulder and would like to intervene… The result, at least 4 small detours around each tiny village. We’re taking a scenic route so there are many, many villages to pass through. To add to this, as soon as we leave the motorway, a mere 30 minutes or so into our trip, Marie sniffs, looks at me….’do you smell poo?’….’hmmm…..yeah, yeah I do’. That’s not the only one of Zaza’s contributions to our journey. Zaza, who up until this point has loved being in cars, falling asleep almost immediately every time (hence our choice of road trip for this travel) has seemingly changed her mind. She has now decided that aside from an initial sleep of around an hour, it’s lonely and boring in the back so moves between angry shouting, desperately distressed tears and whingey half-crying with a few periods of generally experimenting with her voice in between. Unfortunately the only thing that works is turning your body half round in the passenger seat to perform a full stretch into the back so that your little finger can fit in her mouth for her to contentedly suck on it…while…while your wife asks you what the next direction is on the sat nav- ‘I don’t know I can’t see it!’ [a small communication from the wife here, to explain that we have lost the plinky that the sat nav attaches to the windscreen with, so that it’s tucked behind the gear stick, hence why the wife cannot read the map herself].
So as you can probably imagine, the road trip so far has descended into the kind of hysterical hilarity that leaves us driving in circles around tiny villages while I’m laughing too hard to form a sentence and Zaza is set on making as much noise as possible from the back. Somehow we do make it to the village of Senonches by 1pm anyway, find parking and go immediately into the nearest ‘Auberge’ for their lunch menu. This turns out to be a great find- what is a fancy a la carte restaurant in the evening is open for lunch offering 3 courses cheaper than any of their evening main course dishes. We get luxury dining at a fraction of the price and we all contentedly eat our mains and dessert. Zaza is meanwhile quieter than the other baby in the restaurant, who is 6 months old and far more proficient vocally, so we feel like we’re winning a bit at life. Oh, did I mention, my lunch is rare steak with red wine- a personal favourite!
After lunch and a quick walk around the village, we’re off again, heading further south to Troo, the troglodytic village. The journey continues in much the same fashion as before, with the addition of a breastfeeding stop. Unfortunately, the sky remains grey which makes the landscape one that ‘is probably beautiful later in the year’.
We reach Troo around 4:30pm, the sky clearing on our approach to give us beautiful late afternoon sun. We have a walk around the church and a feudal mound, atop which is a gorgeous view and a map embossed in metal indicating the various chateaux and other points of interest you can see in each direction.
It’s then time for the part I’ve been waiting for; the cave dwellings. We descend some steep steps, Zaza on me in the sling meaning the process is considerably slowed by my fear of heights and fear of hurting her in any way. At the bottom, it feels like I’m in a french hobbit land, with entrances to houses built into the cliff-side, tiny paths to walk along and beautiful green fields and nature beyond. It’s everything I hoped it would be and I’m busy imagining what it would be like to live in such a place.
Our journey continues around the village, taking in some caves previously used for wine making, an old bakery that operated from within the stone and a trip to an underground ‘petrified’ cave, full of small stalactites hanging from the ceiling, formed by water dripping through from above. We notice a hotel with rooms built into the rock and I’m a bit smitten by the idea of eating, drinking or staying…in other words, seeing inside one of the dwellings. Sadly there’s no such opportunity in Troo that we can spot for us on that day and we finish our tour and head off for Rosine’s.
The sun stays out for the remainder of our drive, showing off the beauty of the region, the finale being a pink darkening sky as we drive alongside the river Cher, with twinkling bar and restaurant lights beside us, a chateau up on a hill to the left and a pretty stone bridge over the river to our right.