The weather was still dry- just- when we visited Sancerre, the famous wine producing area of the Loire. The town is situated at the top of a very steep hill about 3km from the canal port at Saint Satur. I know from previous hill climbs that I'd rather walk than push a cycle uphill so I leant my bike to the skipper ( his bike being' hors de combat' and requiring a new tyre. You would think that in cycle mad France there would be the occasional bike shop...)
The first part of our climb took us over a most impressive viaduct.
The climb became steeper and steeper and the last few hundred yards were a killer making me wonder what it would be like in the depths of winter. The view from the top over the Loire valley and vineyards all the way to the Morvern mountains was worth the effort despite the threatening rainclouds. I may have been first to the top but it took me some little while to recover!
|Loire Valley from Sancerre|
Sancerre itself is a lovely little town of cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Nearly every shop is a wine business where you can taste and buy. We confined ourselves to a beer for him and a sauvignon blanc for me at the bar in the square. For the wine afficianado there is very informative visitor centre in a beautiful old building restored and run by the local viticulturalists which will tell you all you ever wanted to know and more about the region's wines. I know some people are not fond of sauvignon blancs and I am no expert but the Sancerre blanc does taste rather good. 20% of the wine produced is pinot noir - I haven't tried that but I am sure it is delicious as well.
The other delicacy of the region is the goat cheese - crottin de chauvignol. These are small rounds of hard cheese matured for up to 4 months. (crottin means horse droppings incidentally - an accurate description). I have only tried one bought from a tiny old fashioned epicerie in a small village. The owner chose one for me from a counter display full of them. I'm not sure if he was choosing me the best, the oldest or the worst but goodness it was ripe and strong. Too ripe for me anyway. More research is required for a balanced verdict.
Lastly on the food and wine theme I have to mention the lock keepers' produce. As I've mentioned before sometimes lock keepers will have produce from their gardens for sale. 'Would you like a cucumber?' asks one keeper. 'Yes please.' He brings a cucmber. 'I have courgettes as well'. I'm not that fussed about courgettes but to be polite I say ok I'll have some. 'One or two?' he asks. I think of Australian courgettes and to say just one seems a little mean so I ask for two. He goes off to pick them straight from the garden. Here they are. We've eaten them every night for the past week and we're still only on the first. What did that cost? All of 1 euro 50.
We are now moored in the port de plaisance of Nevers. The city centre is about 1.5km away across the other side of the river Loire. This past weekend was the annual Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine when lots of historic buildings open their doors and have presentations so when the rain abated for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon we took the opportunity to stroll with the crowds around the old ramparts and then visit a few.
There are many ancient houses from the 14th to the 17th centuries along the narrow winding streets leading from the river quayside up to the cathedral some of which still house manufacturers of the famous(and expensive) blue and white pottery - faience- for which Nevers has been famous for hundreds of years.
The cathedral itself was bombed by mistake during the second world war- they meant to bomb the railyards - and consequently all of its stained glass windows were destroyed. However they have been replaced by beautiful contemporary stained glass which fills the upper reaches of the cathedral with a softly coloured glow.
In the time it has taken me to write this blue skies have begun to make an appearnce. Time to go and find a supermarket. Our next destination will be Decize which is where we will turn around and make our way back to where we hopefully have a berth for winter....