There was never a question that vacationing in France isn’t fantastic. The country is big, people are nice when you speak their language, it has lots to see, and the food is amazing. The problem was always: Where to go? So during these long pandemic induced lock downs, while drinking champagne with a friend to make it all a bit more bearable, I got her hooked on my favorite author. Sharon K. Penman. She was an extraordinary gifted writer and all of her books are worth your time. But it’s her series about the Angevins (the family of the Plantagenets) that made us hash a plan to go to France together.
I see myself rambling here, however I do think it’s important to explain the backstory of our trip. Because we went to a lot of places where you don’t find many tourists. Places that we wanted to visit, just because the Angevins had once set foot there. Some of you might be wondering who these people were and why anyone would trace their footsteps. Maybe once you realize that Richard I., also known as Richard Lionhart, was a member of this family, our fascination makes more sense. But even if not, you might enjoy our travels.
We also challenged ourselves by using only public transportation on this trip (besides taking the plane going to Paris), and we almost succeeded. From Paris the TGV goes directly to Le Mans, a city you might have heard of from the 24 hour race. Besides being an important place for motor sport, Le Mans also has a large medieval city called Cité Plantagenêt. Most people thought us weird to visit Le Mans, because ‘it is so ugly’ (I am quoting here). I guess none of them had ever been, since Le Mans was the best surprise ever. Berengeria of Navarre, the wife of Richard Lionhart, lived here after his death.
From Le Mans we took the train to Saumur, a stop which was necessary to reach the Abbey of Fontevraud. The abbey is the final resting place for Henri II., his wife Eleanor (if you don’t know her, do yourself a favor), Richard Lionhart, and weirdly Isabella, the second wife of king John (that’s the awful prince in Robin Hood). The whole trip was built around this abbey visit. In the end we decided to stay in the hotel on the grounds. Best decision ever, in the evening you have the whole place to yourself.
Our next overnight stop was Poitiers, a city almost completely devoid of tourists. At least in my opinion. We met the same six other tourists at all attractions. That was kind of funny. Poitiers still boasts a large hall in the Palace of the Aquitaine Dukes in which Eleanor of Aquitaine once sat. So how could we not come to see it? The cathedral Saint-Pierre of Poitiers still has the original stained windows, which have been commissioned by Henri II. and his wife Eleanor. Since she lived until 1204, she saw these windows with her own eyes. Kind of magical, no?
The last stop on our trip was Tours, the starting point for many Loire valley cruises. Therefore the city was crowded and super busy! So it was a totally different experience from all the other places we had seen on our trip. Quite a shock to be honest, after being lulled into feeling that it was a rather exclusive trip.
Tours happened less because it was part of the Angevins empire and more because it has another beautiful medieval old town. Furthermore I wanted to see the Basilica of Saint Martin. Who doesn’t want to see the tomb of the saint to whom we owe thanks for a month long of goose eating in November? Yours, Pollybert