It’s the summer solstice – 21st June – which in Europe is officially the first day of summer. We get up very late and have a full breakfast, including tostadas, which we were introduced to in Grenada in January. By the time we’re finished, it’s after twelve and we are due at the local wine-tasting day for lunch.
Our neighbourhood, Les Grouets, used to be a wine-producing area and our house, Closerie Falaiseau, was once a vineyard. Today we have a red gamay vine at the front of hte house that’s looking very hopeful and we intend to add a white variety, maybe my favourite chasselas, after the work has been finished on the barn. Considering that it isn’t even started yet, we might not be eating any of our own green grapes for some time.
We arrive at the wine-tasting venue at the same time as our friend Françoise and her American friend Jin who speaks excellent French. Jin has been running a 3-week summer programme for her university students for over 10 years now and Françoise has hosted several students, ranging in age from 20 to 80!
The wine-tasting is being held in a very large private garden which is the perfect setting. There are three local wine growers and a retailer from Blois, Les Forges du Château, which is also a wonderful morning tea, lunchtime and afternoon tea venue.
Eric Bacon, a caterer who lives in Les Grouets, is also present and has concocted some excellent chicken kebabs and a French-toast type dessert that he calls Grouettine.
We taste the wine at the different stalls then line up to buy our kebabs and Grouettines. We find a table that we move into the shade (it’s summer after all and it’s quite sunny for once) and are soon joined by some other friends and neighbours from our street.
When we leave around 2 pm, there is still no music (it’s also the national Fête de la Musique) and not a lot of people, mainly due, in my opinion, to the fact that it’s Father’s Day which probably means a lot of people are with their families. We’re a bit disappointed after the huge success of Bread Baking Day but it is still fun to participate in a local event.
After the wine-tasting, we’re off cycling. We choose itinerary n° 9 on our Châteaux au Vélo map and park at Vineuil which is a suburb of Blois, on the other side of the Loire from us. We’ve done this itinerary before but in a different direction which means it doesn’t seem the same.
In fact, it all looks new to me but Jean Michel regularly predicts what we are about to see. “Around the next corner”, for example, “we’ll see a gypsy caravan”, he says. I remember the caravan but had absolutely no idea where it was.
As we approach Huisseau-sur-Cosson we come to a small château with a very picturesque old mill that I remember once I get there as well. We go a little further up the path and see a dovecote.
Jean Michel also remembers a tiny village full of flowers and a very cute little well with teacups on it.
By then, we’re about halfway around our 36 km loop and château de Chambord comes into view – one of our favourite ice-cream stops. As we sit in full view of the château, I realise that it is the only castle in the Loire with free access to the grounds all year round.
We go home via Sainte Claude de Diray and admire its church once again. This time, the little store where we borrowed the key is closed so we have a biscuit rest on the bench opposite instead.
By the time we get back to the car, I’m ready for an apéritif in the garden. If the weather continues this way, we’re in for a great summer. Maybe we’ll see you here some time!