This morning we trekked up the 527 steps to the Abbey at the top of Mont-Saint-Michel. I certainly can’t complain, not when our Local Guide Helene (67 years old) makes the climb 3 times a day with different groups! Helene shared her vast knowledge of this majestic piece of historic architecture in a way that was educational and informative, but with her own personal flair. She escorted our group right to the front of the line. As we walk ever onward and upward, I’m amazed that the beginnings of this island date back to 708! I was awestruck, and found it quite possible that only with God’s hand could such a place have been erected on such an unforgiving piece of stone.
Although nothing could top or even match the morning, we took a more leisurely pace in the afternoon and visited a Vineyard for wine pairing and sampling. We were greeted by two sisters, Natalie and Murielle, who invited us to sample some of their own sparkling wines, paired with local cheeses and pate. All of this was delicious, of course. The whole experience seemed to bring our little group even closer and bonded us in a way that was wonderful to experience. The sisters’ generosity was astounding, proving you can never be too generous when it comes to wine and friends!
Our first stop today is the ’Chateau du Clos Luce’ which was the final and only real home of Leonardo DaVinci. I can hardly wait to get there. I have long admired his talents as an artist and as I look at the chair near the fireplace, I can only imagine the conversations he may have had over a cup of tea or wine. As I stare at the bed where he slept I wonder what the dreams of such an amazing mind would have produced. The chateau and gardens were beautiful, but it was the basement that sent this visit over the top. Here, I knew even my husband, Merrick, who doesn’t share my appreciation of art, would appreciate the mind of the great DaVinci.
We were left in total awe as we viewed hundreds of Leonardo’s inventions brought to life. I marvelled at the mind of a man who could be both artist and scientist while Merrick examined each and every piece and marvelled at the dynamics and abilities of someone born over 500 years ago. We probably could have spent a whole day here but we were off to see ’Chenonceau’ a beautiful castle on the river Cher. This was one of the most beautiful castles, and it was clear that the building and landscape was influenced by ladies. To me, the most interesting thing about this chateau was that the king lived here with both his wife and his mistress. Building such a beautiful sanctuary is nothing compared to keeping two women happy at the same time, in the same home!
Tonight’s Be My Guest dinner was the most amazing dinner of all. Throughout this whole region are caves, left behind after the stone masons excavated into the cliffs to source the stones for all the beautiful construction in this part of the country. Tonight we dine in one. Of course this conjures up visions of huddling around a fire and roasting hot dogs or slouched at low tables in a cold dark cave, but we are pleasantly surprised as we step inside the door.
We are greeted by a mother and daughter, the owners of ‘La Cave’, and soon learn that the father and son run the family winery and vineyards. I love the fact that we are supporting local entrepreneurs and family run businesses. I immediately feel an attraction to this place even before we see the large fireplace in the center and see the domed ceilings of the cave. We start our meal with white wine and assorted breads, followed by main course and of course, more wine. The wine here is excellent, and it just keeps coming! Next is a plate of delicious local cheeses, then a dessert of their trademark Baked Alaska! We were having such a fabulous time, talking constantly and laughing continually. It is evident that there is some real truth to the magic that good food and wine have in bringing people together. We finish the evening with a cup of espresso, followed by a few songs on the coach on the way back to our hotel, where we collapse exhausted and completely satisfied.
Denise McCall, Canada