We arrived on the Portsmouth to Caen ferry, coming in to Caen in sight of Sword Beach. It looks so harmless today, doesn’t it? Buckets and spades and shrimping nets. It’s quite sobering to think of it as a landing beach on D Day.
Tim and Julia checked us in to port at Caen; it’s important to have unbiased observers on a ferry, measuring distance from harbour walls, recording every move of the boat.
We had a lucky crossing, only slightly bumpy – we had not had a good feeling about it, since the moment when the charming Brittany Ferries lady looked at us as in Portsmouth and said cheerfully “Well, you should be all right – I felt really sorry for the last crossing that set out though!”
Having had a picnic lunch on the ferry, we arrived in Caen at about 3.30pm and drove straight down to Limeray, on the river Loire, and our hotel for the first two nights, the Auberge de Launay, a 3-chimney / 3-casserole Logis. Tim had stayed here before, so HE IS RESPONSIBLE for our appreciation of it….
The weather as we arrive is a little better than it was in Caen, and we hope it will improve the next day.
We had a very good dinner on our first night (Julia, for example, had entremets de pomme de terre on a sablet subtly flavoured with “Mapuche spices”, followed by poêlée de coquillages with a delicious grilled squid as its centrepiece, followed by mousse au chocolat au gingembre) along with a very nice 2013 Sauvignon from Limeray produced by François Péquin from the Domaine des Bessons as an aperitif, then a red Mesliard also from Limeray.
Next morning, the breakfast buffet produced more than enough for us, with plenty of hot coffee and a good selection of viennoiserie. We were ready to face the day – we knew we had another night here, and would have the day to explore, so we took plenty of advantage of that.
First we decided to explore the wines of Limeray, and with a good experience under our belt from the night before we headed into the village to find firstly M. Péquin and then M. Mesliard. We found both of them, but the former had no more of the very nice 2013, and the 2014 wasn’t quite to our taste, and none of the reds tasted the same in the Cave as they had the previous night at the hotel.
The access to the lovely old Mesliard Cave was via their garden, delightfully shabby and beautifully old, and we were a little afraid that we might have woken the young couple up, but we were welcomed and given all their different wines to taste. We felt a little bad not buying any, but we knew we would be visiting other places where wine would be available and it was not the right moment to fill up the boot willy nilly.
We then drove west along the river Loire, taking the riverbank road; it was a little drizzly, and the Loire was high and fast-flowing, but we had decided to visit the chateau at Langeais so we pressed on. We were glad to have done so because it was an interesting chateau, a mix of mediaeval and 19th century, and I was excited finally to visit the chateau that I had read about so long ago in Balzac’s “La Duchesse de Langeais”.
The entrance door was fabulous, a good one for my collection of interesting doors, and once inside we gradually worked our way up the tower taking in tapestries, wooden chests, an interesting castellated chimney breast and a lovely image of Saint Agnes with (of course) a lamb. There was no-one else going round, we had the place to ourselves and we just enjoyed the eclectic mix.
Outside, somewhat incongruously, there was a profusion of yellow primulas growing up the slope to the mediaeval side of the castle, And beyond the main remaining wall of this part of the castle was some reconstructed mediaeval scaffolding strapped together with ropes to show how the building had been done. We decided that it was more likely to be finished by Easter than Richard’s new house in Canterbury….
Aha, after our wanderings through Langeais and Bourgeuil and back again, we were actually able to sit outside our rooms in the Auberge de Launay and read for a little while (well, some of us were setting up the blog actually….). It is of course interesting to think that while we sit in (admittedly slightly chilly) sunshine, our home in Somerset is being battered by gales and folk are lighting fires to keep warm and cosy. Sigh. Note blue sky behind building. He he.
On our second night, we were given the same DELICIOUS amuse-bouche as the first night, beetroot and raspberry mousse atop mushroom veloute – tiny but absolutely delicious. Then I had the poêlée de crustacés that Julia had had the night before,
followed by brownie with cactus mousse. The Cactus Mousse was what sold it to me, and it was indeed delicious. The brownie was OK, but in all modesty I make a pretty mean brownie myself and it wasn’t quite up to scratch in intensity of cocoa. But that may be because I have become immune to normal levels of cocoa and have become unreasonable….