Whilst Paris has so much to offer during the weekend, sometimes the routine can feel a bit tedious, especially when the sun is shining and the closest you can get to Mother Nature is the wilting pot plant on your windowsill.
Times like these call for a break, a step back from the madding foule. And, with the Loire region less than 2 hours away (train or car), there is really no excuse to go and clear your stuffy head with a recipe of peace, quiet, vineyards, castles and tiny villages.
We took the car down, deciding to stop first in Orléans, where we had already booked a hotel room. The famous Cathédrale Sainte-Croix is very impressive, and the tramway makes everything easily accessible (although I’ve always been a bit suspicious of trams: too quiet and swishy for my liking/sense of personal safety.)
As against my character it is, I was convinced into being spontaneous for the second night and choosing where to go next on a whim. After flicking through a few guide books of the region that night (after rather too many pichets of red, in hindsight) we decided to go to Blois, for a reason that I no longer remember.
En route, there were several mandatory chateau stops. Chambord is enormous, Chenenceau has been sculpted from a fairytale, and Blois is regal; sitting high on a steep slope with the village huddled underneath.
Other highlights of Blois included a giggle round the Musée de la Magie (and the most disturbing magic show I’ve ever seen), getting lost around the hundreds of miniscule passageways in the village, and skimming stones into the Loire before running for shelter as the unbearable humidity finally exploded into a torrential downpour and storm that made me think that perhaps Harold Camping might have missed the date by a fortnight.
Our last day took us to Bourré (easily the best name of the trip) where we went on a tour of the caves, in a champignonniere, to learn how mushrooms are grown and harvested- I am ashamed to say that I had not made the connection between spores and fungi before- and exploring an underground town carved entirely out of the rock (highly recommended.)
I climbed back into the car reluctantly, feeling like a child who’s playtime has ended. There was so much more to see and do. Pressing my face up against the window, I made mental notes of all the picturesque villages and hotels we passed. I will be back.