When Paul and I were invited to a wedding in France’s Loire Valley our first thought was not “how lovely we get to witness this union of everlasting love” but “excellent, an opportunity to explore a new part of the world” (sorry, Julie and Johnny – the first point was our second thought, honest). Neither of us having ever been to the Loire Valley, nor knowing anything about it, we typed the destination into Google and were presented with images of opulent chateaux, winding rivers and rolling green fields. It looked stunning and we immediately began researching the best way to carry out our trip.
The first part of the wedding was in the bride’s home village Suevres followed by another ceremony and reception in the nearby Candé-sur-Beuvron. Many of the guests at the wedding got there by flying via Paris, two hours north, but we decided to go via Tours, 45 minutes west, as it was cheaper, we had never been, and the bride Julie had studied in the town and told us we would love it.
Getting to Tours took a long time; we flew from Glasgow to Stansted, had a four hour layover in Stansted, flew to Poitiers and three hours in Poitiers before getting the train to Tours (there are directly flights from Edinburgh but not on days that suited us). Poitiers (like everywhere in this region we were to discover) was very pretty, with a cathedral, a large square and narrow winding streets. As Poitiers is a university town there were many young people around. We found a bar in the square to relax in for an hour before our flight to Tours. The only unpleasant thing was the temperature and how inappropriately dressed we were for it; I was still wearing my Glasgow clothes of jeans, trainers and a jumper and the weather was 35 degrees celsius of baking heat. Walking through the streets from the station was very unpleasant and as soon as I got the opportunity, I ripped off my warm clothes and changed into shorts and a t shirt.
From Poitiers we got the train to Tours. As I said, Julie had talked up Tours to us and she was not wrong; it was a seriously beautiful town packed with squares, fountains, narrow thatched buildings and a stunning cathedral. As Tours is also a university town, there are loads of bars and even on a Wednesday night after midnight it was very lively. We were told the best place to hang out in Tours was down by the river so we quickly scoffed a kebab (crepe for me), bought some beers from a shop and went down to the Loire river to drink them. Sitting there with the locals drinking our beer was very pleasant indeed.
The next day, the Thursday, was a big one – France vs Peru in the World Cup in the afternoon and the Fete de la Musique festival at night. For the football we headed down to Place Plumereau, the main square in Tours, early and secured a spot in front of a screen which a bar had placed outside. The square quickly filled up of fans wearing red, white and blue, waving flags and chanting Allez les Bleus. Thankfully France won the match and of course, later, went on to win the entire World Cup! How amazing it would have been to be in France for that! (We actually looked at last minute tickets when France got through the final but didn’t find any cheap ones from the UK).
After the football, the streets began filling up for the Fete de la Musique festival. I knew the festival was going to take place but I didn’t realise quite what a big deal it was – literally every corner of Tours had a band or DJ set up, some people were even performing music from their balconies, and the streets became very very crowded, so much so there were times I was stuck in the middle of a crowd in the middle of the street and it was just too uncomfortable. After making our way through the city taking in all the music, we made our way to the Loire river where we had been the night before. Except this time it was 100 times busier, with crowds of people and a band performing under the tunnel. We sat by the river among the craziness and had a glass of wine before making our way back to the hotel.
The next day, Friday, was the day before the wedding so we got the train to Blois, the town nearest the venue. Julie hadn’t said much about Blois to us so I was surprised by how beautiful it was; situated on the banks of the Loire river, the views of the skyline were truly stunning, featuring the city’s cathedral, an 18th century stone bridge over the river, and a huge chateau and cathedral right in the centre of the town. Is everywhere in France, even the places few have heard of, just incredibly beautiful?
Julie’s sister came to pick us up and take us to the campsite near the wedding. We had a few drinks in the campsite that night before going to the wedding at Suevres Town Hall and the chateau the next day. To protect the bride and groom’s privacy I’ll leave the pictures out, but wow – what a beautiful wedding. I know there are lots of people out there who go crazy over weddings and believe me, you would go crazy over this one. They had hired the entire chateau and the ceremony in the garden outside. Very Pinterest worthy.
The day after the wedding was a garden party in the grounds of the chateau. I had got really into crepes in the previous few days so I was delighted to see they had hired crepe makers to come along and make us fresh crepes with fillings like cheese and Nutella. I was even more delighted to see they had been forward thinking enough to bring along a crate of Irn-Bru from Glasgow, a cold can of which went down very nicely indeed the day after the wedding. Good thinking!
On the Sunday evening we headed back to Blois before leaving for Poitiers airport on the Monday morning to fly back to Glasgow via Stansted. This turned out to be a bit of a palava; to cut a long story short, we had to get a train to Poitiers without a ticket due to inept staff members in the train station refusing to sell us one and telling us the train didn’t exist, despite the fact it was on the screen. We couldn’t even buy the ticket from a machine as, due to a delay, it was later than the train was originally supposed to leave. It was all very ridiculous but thankfully, no ticket inspector came by on the journey. When I got back, a French friend told me the train staff in France are notorious for their ineptitude.
Nevertheless, our trip in the Loire Valley was fantastic and I was constantly surprised by how stunning each place we visited was, even those that are not particularly well known. After our trip in April to Loubressac it has turned out to be a year of French travel and France winning the World Cup on Sunday felt like a fitting end to our explorations of this beautiful country. Vive le France, indeed.