The main thrust of tourism in the Loire valley seems to focus in and around Tours where the big chateaux are located. Here, an hour and a half west, between Angers and Saumur, life is more gentle and tourism less developed. We sometimes complain a little – restaurants close on a Sunday evening and all day Monday, everything grinds to a halt during August, people don’t speak English. And then we have a perfect day like this when we go out on the river Loire with local boatsman Alain Gillot and afterwards enjoy a cold beer in the café by the church in Le Thoureil and realise that we don’t really want it to change. On the one hand we’d like to see a little more acceptance of tourism here in Anjou. On the other hand we know that we’d hate it if our riverside village was swarming with people. It’s why we love it so much – Le Thoureil is a beautiful place and yes, on Sundays it can have quite a few local people promenading along the riverbank but it remains essentially French, unspoilt, calm and beautiful.
We had a lovely day with returning clients Paul & Jackie who spent a day with us last year and had such a nice time they came back again! This time instead of doing a winery visit in the afternoon we went out on the river with Alain in his old sand dredging boat. The group was mixed with Dutch, Spanish, French and English all ready to help hoist the sail, steer the boat and spend part of our journey sailing as in times gone by.
Things from the river always take on a different perspective. The sand banks in the Loire move and change quickly so it’s important to ‘know’ the river and be ready to pull up the engine to allow the boat to glide over the very shallow waters. Sometimes we need to row for a while and then, if the wind is in the right direction, we can cut the engine and hoist the sail. Everyone has to do their bit, some controlling the direction of the sail while others steer the boat and check the water depth. As there is no commercial traffic on the river these days, it’s a wonderful experience. Calm and beautiful, there’s a peace and tranquility as you sit and watch the egrets paddling and the terns darting around.