July 7, 2004 -- Bonjour, and I must refrain from further written use of my newly adopted language at the risk of going completely overboard. This lovely country embraces you and makes you want to be a part of it.
The Loire Valley region of France is essentially an unspoiled part of the world with which anyone would be enchanted. Its nature of being unspoiled extends far beyond the expansive fields and forests which have yet to bare even the smallest piece of litter. The very essence of the French people I am meeting is warm and hospitable beyond common courtesy. The gentility without stuffiness and the deep respect they display for each other is very touching for me to observe.
This morning the Count of the Chateau de La Verriere generously offered to give us a personal tour of the chateau. (Here I must digress and let you in on a little secret the French have not yet discovered. Please do not tell them about store-bought food and fast food restaurants. Once again we were served freshly cooked croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice.)
He briefly told us the history of the chateau, which was built in the 1400s, and how his family came to own it. He walked us from one mammoth room to the next, pointing out important paintings and artifacts of historical interest. The library housed paintings of his ancestors, whose histories he kindly shared. He spoke with a soft reverence of the many accomplishments of his forbearers. We saw his family's chapel, which was restored after it was damaged by a bomb in World War II.
After thanking our generous host, we saddled up and rode off under gathering thunderclouds to the next stop on our riding vacation.
Much to our delight and excitement, we were soon engulfed in a torrential thunderstorm that tested everyone's rain gear. In addition to the normal thunder and lightning, we encountered hail. We took it all in good humor even when Patrick started trotting and cantering under low-lying branches which were saturated with rain. I plan to have a word with Outback upon my return to the States.
Lunch was at a non-tourist little French restaurant, and we all agreed that real French fries are the best! After lunch we were fortunate to be able to tour the Chateau de la Chapelle D' Angillon. The owner Comte Jean d' Ogny provided us with a delightful tour of magnificent paintings and collections of antiques dating back to the 15th century. There was an amazing collection of gold-engraved guns from ancient Armenia and many, many more treasures from around the world.
The last leg of our tour today proved to be a sunny and aggressive one as Patrick cantered us through forests along wide alleys that would be called grass roads at home.
We settled the horses at a local farm and arrived at our evening destination -- another chateau!
I am beginning to think that everyone in France lives in an elegant chateau. We were treated to a cocktail reception by the owners of the Chateau d' Ivoy le Pré, Monsieur and Madame Goueffon de Vaivre. During the reception Monsieur Vaivre told us the history of the area and the grand history of the chateau that includes the rumor of buried treasure on the grounds. The legend dates back to 1658 when Charles IX plundered the areas sympathetic to the Catholics and returned with the treasures to this chateau. They were never found and rumor has it that they are still there.
Au Revoir for now! Tomorrow is another adventure, and I will describe the charming Chateau d' Ivoy le Pré, and its exciting history in full detail in my next postcard.