Le Mont St. Michel, Charitha Marambe and The Loire Valley

Forgot to include with yesterday’s post: The morning we left Bayeux we stopped at the largest British military cemetery in continental Europe. Like the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, it is the final resting place for British soldiers and sailors killed during and following the invasion. The surrounding area is not as dramatic or beautiful as the American site, but it is every bit as wrenching.

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Friday, May 20 St. Quentin de l’homme-Pontorson by way of Le Mont St. Michel

Although it sprinkled as we left our B & B, the day kept getting brighter and warmer. We first spotted Le Mont St. Michel when we were about 5 miles away.

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It is distinct and beautiful. The views got bigger as we got closer.

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We expected crowds as we approached but were pleasantly surprised. Many of our pictures had few or no people in them.  The monastery is indescribably beautiful. It sits by itself surrounded by water in high tide and mud flats on low tide. One cannot help being awed by the sight. We took the self-guided tour as we did not want to wait more than an hour for the guided  tour in English. The narrow, windy street one takes to get to the abbey is littered with trinket shops and small restaurants and bars, but the Abbey is as it was when built in the 11th century. The engineering is amazing.

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The views of the surrounding countryside breath taking.22-IMG_734121-IMG_7339

The cloister is beautiful. What a place for prayer and contemplation.

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The view up to the top and St. Michael.

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We left the Abbey about 4 p.m. and rode the short distance to Pontorson where we stayed the night.

Saturday, May 21 Pontorson-Azay-le-Rideau

We hopped the train about 9:30 a.m. on our way to Tours in the Loire Valley. We arrived about 4 p.m.and rode 20K to Azay-Le-Redeau and arrived about 6:30 p.m. We were met by our friend Charitha. Marambe. We stayed with Charitha  4 years ago, promised to return and kept in touch via email. 01-IMG_7439 Since our last stay, Charitha has remodeled his B & B and has outdone himself. There are only 2 bedrooms now, instead of a cramped 3. Each has a full, private  bath. The rooms are  decorated and supplied as if you were in your own home. He has thought of everything and done it with style, comfort and convenience. We had dinner together at the crepe place around the corner from his home.

Sunday, May 22 Azay le Rideau

Breakfast at Charitha’s is a work of art.

01-IMG_7366Charitha drove us to the open air market at Langeais where he bought the ingrediants for the night’s meal that he was cooking for us. We took a brief walk through the inside grounds of Longeais castle  as we had toured it the last time we were here.  Charitha then drove us to Villandry Castle where we toured both the chateau and the magnificent gardens.11-IMG_7396 09-IMG_739007-IMG_7384 It takes 10 full time gardeners to keep it up.  Charitha picked us up and drove to Tours for a brief walk around the old town. Then back to Chez Charitha for a wonderful meal for Ed’s birthday dinner ending with  small cakes and candles.   

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Monday, May 24 Azay-Chinon-Azay

We took the 9 a.m. train to Chinon. At the Chinon train station we tried to get Jane’s train ticket for her trip to Paris on the 25th, but had no luck because of the threatened strike for the 25th and 26th. When we got to the castle, Jane spent close to 2 hours with one of the guides trying to get the train tickets. Maggie and Ed toured the fortress, which was quite imposing.

18-IMG_740719-IMG_7409It was extremely frustrating for Jane and the guide who could not understand why there was no information either on the web site or from the numerous telephone calls that the guide made. We returned to Azay on the 2 p.m. train.   Jane and Ed went to the Chateau at Azay-le Rideau

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.Maggie wandered around this lovely, small French town near the Loire River. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant. Charitha joined us for a beer and a slice of Jane’e pizza.

Tuesday, May 25

After another great breakfast 16-IMG_7405

We said our “good-byes” to Charitha

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and rode back to Tours where we took the train to Amboise. At the Amboise train station, Jane purchased her train ticket to Paris for the 25th. The ticket clerk could not have been nicer, more efficient  or more helpful. Not only did he sell Jane the ticket, he explained how she should go to the airport after reaching Paris.  The train strike is still on, but as only the French can do, there is one train a day from this region to Paris. Luckily for Jane, the train accepts bikes without reservations. We left our stuff at the hotel and rode to Chenanceaux, the chateau that spans the Cher River and is loaded with history. Most of the  furnishings are original. It is absolutely beautiful both inside and out.The weather was perfect, and he crowds were not too bad. We were able to get pictures  without many people in the view. It was a very special day.

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Rode back to Amboise for a crepe/galette dinner.

Wednesday, May 25 Amboise-Blois

Took Jane to the train station and helped her get her bike on the train. True to form for the French during a strike, the train cars were of the old variety, so it was 3 steps up a very narrow stair and a right angled turn to the left to get the bike to the proper place. Jane’s luck was holding since the train was direct to Paris with no changes in trains.

We rode to Blois found a hotel with almost no help from the tourist bureau. Then walked around a bit and took a few pictures. We had visited the castle the last time we were here, so did not do it again.

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A nice Italian dinner. Email from Jane that she had arrived at her hotel in Paris and would pick up her bike bag tomorrow and pack.

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