It can be hard to reconcile an entire wasted day when you only have so much time. While on the train to Saumur, I tried to stay positive about the evening ahead but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit angry. I had completely missed both castles I wanted to see but I was bound and determined to enjoy the rest of my night.
The train station for Saumur lies across the Loire from the city center. Seeing as the Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site (as well as the area that my favorite wines are grown), I was excited to see it in person. The walk to the hotel took about 20 to 30 minutes, most of which was over the river. The bridge is bisected by an island that contains a cluster of businesses and homes, which could almost be its own village. The view crossing the second half of the bridge was absolutely stunning. The castle sits on a hill overlooking the town and the river. It was at that moment that I realized I had made the right choice in stopping here.
The hotel I stayed in was quite possibly my favorite one of the whole trip. The Le Londres hotel was beautiful. The owners, François and Charlotte Chovet, were friendly, welcoming, and extremely helpful when it came to suggestions on things to do around town. The hotel itself is stylish and comfortable. I enjoyed the thoroughly French style, including the balcony looking over the street. Le Londres is easily one of my favorite hotels.
After checking in to my hotel, I meandered through the streets to the plaza in front of the Church of Saint Peter (Église Saint-Pierre). Finding a restaurant proved to be a bit tougher than I expected due to the soccer match that night as well as the fact that many restaurants don’t allow single diners to eat at the outdoor tables, especially when it’s busy. I always enjoy eating in plazas like this one because you really get to absorb the culture and watch the people around you.
I made my way up the hill to the castle slowly, enjoying the quiet. I knew the castle would be closed but wanted to try and see it anyway. To my surprise, the courtyard surrounding the castle was still open to visitors so of course, I took my time to walk the ramparts. There were no other people within the walls while I was there added an eerily quiet but wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. What I didn’t know until after my trip was that this castle was at one time owned by the Counts of Anjou, including the predecessors and up through the first few generations of the Plantagenet dynasty.
When I got to the ramparts along the river I decided to stop for a photo shoot. This was the first (and I think only) time that I was able to set up my tripod and take pictures of myself from a distance without disturbing or including other people in the photos. Having the entire castle to myself really allowed me to stop for a few moments and enjoy myself. I ended up getting some fantastic photos looking out over the river. A small hill in the courtyard allowed me to look out over the town and to get some great pictures of the sun setting behind a distant hill.
With the sun setting, I made my way back down to the riverside to find somewhere to enjoy a glass of wine. There’s a fantastic wine bar that overlooks the river where I sat and enjoyed a glass of sparkling rosé. I was graced by a visit from a cute, well-behaved dog friend who watched me drink my wine.
Saumur was unique to me because there is an almost coastal feel to it. I felt like I was looking out over the ocean rather than the Loire. Everyone was so relaxed and it was such a peaceful way to spend an evening. Over the course of the entire trip, I slowly learned to take my time a little more and not always be rushing off to what came next. The whole day was also a very important lesson for me, and I hope it can be for everyone reading as well. The majority of my day was spent either on trains or waiting for trains, and I missed the opportunities to see the things that I had planned. However, those hours after everything but restaurants and bars had closed forced me to find a way to move past that feeling of anger and restlessness and to enjoy myself. As someone who tends to hold on to anger, spending my night in Saumur was a lesson I hope to carry not only through future travels but in daily life as well.
That’s the beauty of travel… you never know what lessons you’ll learn, but you always come back having learned something. Glad you enjoyed your time. We spent four wonderful days in the Loire Valley but that was not enough time to see everything, including Saumur. Hopefully next time.