The few days after the night of terrorism were spent very low key hanging out with our hosts in St.Cloud and taking just a bit of a walk around the neighbourhood.
But even the big natural park we wanted to visit was closed.
We had already planned a short trip out of Paris to have a look at some of the wonderful places to be found in the regions. After the night of terrorism, the closures, lock down, the declaration of Marital Law; the news broadcasts of the manhunt, the Daesh; and of the tide of grief engulfing Paris, France, and for Beirut, and for so much of the world and from so much of the world 😦 it felt like a good time to go. Our wonderful couch-surfing host, Florent, was happy for us to leave most of our luggage there so we left for two days – taking his front door key, instructions and best wishes – and stayed away for ten.
It was a busy Monday morning (16th) and we first had to successfully navigate the Parisian morning peak hour catching a 7.30 am bus from Florent’s place. We were headed for the Loire Valley. We had to change buses and then get dropped “after the bridge and in front of the church” at Porte de St Cloud and there wait for our Bla Bla lift.
Aureliene drives to Paris to see his girlfriend but works in Tours and lives in Chinon. He likes to share his car and he gets paid from us through Bla Bla about twelve euro from each person in the car when he and we are validated to Bla Bla via text. This trip took about three hours.
With Bla Bla we learnt that you have to phone when you arrive at the meeting place. We also learnt that you really need to make an effort to speak to other passengers. The guy next to me was asleep quite a bit and we missed out on a conversation with someone whom we found out -right at the end of the trip- has made a film for the BBS on Joan of Arc in Chinon – where we were heading.
Then we wandered around Tours for several hours marvelling at the old village, the vibe, all the students and how picturesque the whole place was.
Margi got to see inside the cathedral renowned for its amazing stained glass. I sat at a cafe in the station hooked up to wifi and did some work on the Introduction I’m working on to be included in the “Climate Rescue – Action Tools” USBs I’ve brought over. We had dragged our bags all around because the train station had no capacity to look after them for us. French people have been endlessly friendly to us. One woman stopped us in the street concerned that we were pulling suitcases and might need assistance to find where we were going. We assured her we were just enjoying a walk around Tours – suitcases trailing behind us. Don’t know how many times I proclaimed how glad I was to be ‘travelling light’ having left the bulk of our luggage with Florent.
By then feeling tired, we caught the train to Chinon, arriving at night we purchased a few provisions from the handy organic (ie “bio”) supermarket nearby and caught a taxi to our accommodation for the next two night, the chateau – Manoir de la Giraudière. Exhausted by this time we skipped dinner and got an early night after watching some French news on the TV about all the responses to the terrorism and the State of Emergency imposed. The next morning (17th) we worked on our computers dealing with messages, sharing things on multi media, writing, planning and solving problems. Finally pulling ourselves away from the news and discourse – so much of it depressing – we headed off for a walk around the local area.
It was amazing. Autumn, quiet, rural, woods and farm lands, very old stone houses, vegetable gardens, a few cows and chickens. We were amazed at how neat the wood was stacked, at how many flowers were in bloom, at how mild the air felt. We were questioned by a suspicious man when we took photos of a wood yard – we must’ve looked very out of place wandering down that deserted country lane.
Taking photos all the way of patterns in the trees, of fungi, leaves, light on the water, a snail, anything that caught the eye and there was much that did. It was lovely.
We found the river, the Vienne, and walked along the course of the river back to the quiet road that led back to the manor.
The next day we caught a taxi back into Chinon. Seeing it in daylight was a complete surprise.
Firstly the cave houses – the famous Trogladites – and then the castle. The women at the info desk decided we were not terrorists and kindly offered to let us leave our bags tucked behind their desk. We then spent a couple of hours immersing ourselves in this castle and the rich history of Henry the second, Elinore of Aquitane and their sons – one of whom was Richard the Lion-heart and the other was Robin Hood’s nemesis, King John. The castle was also the location for the famous story of Joan of Arc who came to Chinon to find the king of France, who although disguised as a courtier mingling in the crowd, was identified by Joan and from there the story goes on ….
We had lunch -a picnic- and some wine inside the castle in the very room of that event. It was amazing. There were few people around that day. It’s the off season anyway but we had the place to ourselves. Being in those rooms and staircases in the castle, looking through the lead-light windows and out over the town below of Chinon and the ramparts and watching the video clips screened onto the old walls telling the story of seiges, treachery, death and heroinism was pretty amazing.
I have new admiration for the young Joan. She led an army, liberated Orleans, urged Charles to become King of France and was burnt at the stake at the tender age of nineteen. In the end she was a young woman who had become too powerful to be allowed to live.
From there we walked around Chinon for an hour and then caught a bus to Port de Boulet and a train to Saunur.
It sounds easy but in fact there was a lot of luck, just-in-time management and maybe a bit of starting to know the system involved. Buying the train tickets from a machine with only minutes to spare was intense. We nearly bought extra tickets for children and nearly went first class and nearly went to the wrong platform and really nearly didn’t catch that train at all – but we did. And it rained that day – il pleut!!
Half an hour later we were in Saumur and then taxi to our very reasonably priced and pretty nice accommodation, at the Kyriad. We had a room with a skylight and old beams set in the walls and just around the corner from a lovely street with cafes, boulangeries, patisseries, bars and restaurants. We went to Auberge des Ecruyers (The House of Horse-riders) and devoured the local speciality – galipettes (somersaulted) mushrooms – filled with different delicacies.
Over our two days there we did heaps of work and felt a lot better prepared for the COP21 and PlaceToBe and other climate-related activities coming up back in Paris.