Life in the Loire after lock-down. 11th May. Day 1 of déconfinement.

So this is it! We have more freedom as from today. The skies are heavy, it’s cold and it’s raining. Is this nature’s way of telling us to beware?

On the one hand it feels great to have a little more freedom at last. On the other hand, we now have the burden of responsibility ourselves. We can’t get this wrong.

I don’t feel inclined to rush out and start inviting people over to dinner. I think we’ll go gently. Gently put our toe in the water and take it from there.

I am looking forward to walking with my friends again. It’s safe and we can still maintain the required social distance. I’ve not been as motivated as I’d hoped when it came to taking regular exercise during the lock-down.

Officially we can now travel within 100km of our home ‘as the crow flies’ and no longer need an ‘attestation’ when out and about if we stay within that radius. Many shops are reopening from today but it’s hard to imagine people rushing out to buy things when the shopping experience will be so stressful. Masks are compulsary on public transport. Some public monuments and chateaux are due to reopen later in the week but with severely restricted numbers and social distancing in place.

To be honest I don’t think we’ll be participating in any of that any time soon. Why would you? It doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

We’ll probably travel a little further afield to get our provisions (we’ve missed out favourite cheese supplier in Tours) and reconnect with our friends locally which will be lovely.

Boris Johnson’s statement last night to people in the UK has certainly got people talking. “Go back to work if you can, if not, don’t, be alert”. It’s not at all clear. Some things will be eased by early June, some before, some after. Scotland, Ireland and Wales had already distanced themselves from his statement before he even made it.

There is the lovely smell of fresh bread wafting through from the kitchen. I just took a loaf out of the oven. As time has gone on we’ve found we prefer more white flour in the mix as it makes the bread less dense. It looks like a good one.

Time to brace the world. I’ve arranged to meet Louisa at her wine shop in the centre of Amboise this afternoon. Off upstairs for a shower, get out of the lockdown uniform, put on something a bit smarter, apply a bit of make-up, return to normality (whatever that is).

The roads were much busier. I had to give way on the top road which leads to Amboise. Lots of cars were going over the bridge towards the centre.

I parked up by the riverfront and slowly walked down the street towards the wine shop. The Chateau d’Amboise remains closed although there were signs of life. Maybe it’s planning to open again this week. A list of chateaux that are allowed to reopen was published a couple of days ago but the reality of putting that into practice is of course a different matter. Fewer people allowed in at any one time, respecting the social distance, providing hand wash, maintaining adequate hygeine. It’s complicated.

The Chateau overlooks the main street of Amboise. It’s a pretty, cobbled street lined with restaurants and cafés and normally in mid-May it would be teaming with people sat outside watching the world go by, enjoying a glass of wine, lunching outside on the terraces, meeting up with friends for a beer. There’d be the click click clicking of cameras, people leaning over the ramparts high above taking photos of life below. People taking selfies.

My heart lurched as I walked towards the shop. Bigot, the famous tea shop and patisserie was open. I saw one or two people pop in and buy something delicious – a few handmade chocolates, an eclair, a croissant. You can’t have tea at the moment, just buy something to take away.

As I carried on along the road, one restaurant after another, cafés, wine bars. They’re all closed. All with notices in the window explaining why.

It’s dead. There are a few people wandering around. The odd person walking a dog, a Mum with a child in pushchair, an eldery couple getting some fresh air.

Louisa has opened up the shop. It’s good to see her. She’s busy cleaning and sorting, arranging and planning. Our recipe cards for the Montdomaine Guided Tasting Case have arrived and they look fantastic. We should be able to get it online by the end of the week.

A few people stop to say hello, exchange news, ask how things are for Louisa and Fred. What can she say? They have a restaurant that’s closed, staff that are furloughed, a vineyard that needs attending to. But we are excited about our new project, and hopeful for the future.

In Angers, Rosie has a couple of friends over for dinner tonight. They were planning a picnic but the weather is terrible so they’ll eat inside. She and her boyfriend have been cooped up in their apartment with no outside space so she’s very excited to have a bit more freedom. They normally have such a busy social life, the isolation has been hard for them.

For dinner tonight I made a green lentil and spinach curry with ginger and coconut rice and a radish and spring onion raita.

We lit the fire tonight for the first time in a couple of weeks and watched a couple of episodes of After Life on Netflix. Ricky Gervais is just brilliant. He plays a journalist working for a local paper that has lost his wife to cancer and pushes everyone around him away as he struggles to cope with his loss. It’s incredibly dark at times and has us both in tears practically every episode but also makes us laugh out loud. It’s totally politically incorrect and hilarious. Brilliant observational humour.

Our wine tonight was the lovely fruity Cot Cot Codette from Chateau de Nitray. Lovely juicy Malbec fermented using indigenous yeast and bottled unfined and unfiltered. A little gem which was lovely with the curry.