Les grottes de Savonnière et le Château Villandry

I loved our mailbox. I loved it so much that the first time I learned to ride a bike, I would make sure to give it a hug every time I ventured past our driveway. Not only did I love that mailbox, and my ninja turtles bike helmet that made me look part amphibious, part superhero, I loved how it felt to be rid of training wheels and coastin’ on two’s. Biking and running have always been the two things that I go to to decompress, and today, I had one of the best rides.

REI features Loire Valley cycling in its adventures section, with good reason. Today I biked the 10km from Joué-les-Tours to Villandry, and I had to restrain myself at every turn to not reach for my camera. “Save it for the castle,” I told myself, but there were some shots that had to be taken. I passed an older couple from Amsterdam who were kind enough to take my picture atop a jolie (beautiful) hay bale. It reminded me too much of the Montana that I grew to love. French country homes lined the path that transported me to depictions of WWI and II that I have only seen in movies. There were also a number of people in tents lining Le Cher’s banks, fishing, cooking breakfast, sitting and watching the river flow. A “bonjour” here, a “salut” there. It was that kind of ride–accommodating.

I arrived in Savonnière and paid a visit to the caves at the suggestion of my host mom, Sandrine. They are known as the Petrifying Caves if you translate it to English, so called because of the petrification process that takes place there. How the process works is this:

Parents send unwanted children forth into the caverns wearing either sunglasses, holding mirrors, or sporting cameras if they can ensure that their child’s eye will not leave the viewing window; they don’t want any deaths on their hands. Once there, the tour guide commands the basilisk in parseltongue… Objects are placed beneath the small streams within the caverns. Over time, 6 months to a year for objects, and 2-3 years for rubber molds, 3-4cm thick calcite deposits collect on the items, transforming them into the objects below.

Finally, there were two passages the tour guide informed us of–one that leads to Château Villandry 2km away, and another more impressive passage leading to a smaller castle 7km away constructed during WWII as a place to hide members of the French Resistance. That is at least what I heard, but then again, I catch maybe 70% of what people are saying.

Arriving in Villandry, a mere 2km farther along the trail, I stopped at a delicious boulangerie named La Pétrie. There I indulged in spinach quiche and coconut and pineapple crumble.

I will let the castle speak for itself.

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