Driving from our flat in London, to our home in Segur is something Kritstoph and I imagine we enjoy, much more than we actually do. We talk about it for a week beforehand, what we need to take, the route we will follow through London, and ponder stopping somewhere fabulous for lunch en route. Without fail the reality is somewhat departed from our road trip ideal.
This time TomTom couldn’t find “a valid GPS signal” and as a result, we couldn’t find our way across the Thames. At 6am we found ourselves stuck circling the city, coming to a sudden halt as we drove into a fish market where delivery vans were busy unloading produce. We got ourselves stuck behind a forklift. We were attempting to beat the traffic we didn’t.
Upon arrival at the Channel Tunnel the check-in office explained politely that we’d missed our designated train at 6.38am and that we’d need to wait five hours for the next available one. We politely replied that we always miss our train, but that our ticket was valid for two hours. Apparently this is subject to availability – and it was Easter Thursday, the Channel Tunnels busiest day. Stunned we prepared to sit in the car for five hours, marvelling at our dumb luck and ignoring our stupidity. Eventually I hatched a revised plan, to break up our stay in the Loire.
I bought a copy of Alistair Sawday’s Go Slow France, and found Chateau de la Motte, at the southern edge of the Loire. And like weary travellers have done for around 600 years, we pulled in for the night, looking for a bed, and a hearty meal. The 15th century building was brought back to life 13 years ago by its gentile owners Marie-Andree and Jean-Marie. They’ve renovated, redecorated, planted gardens and orchards, and continue the small castles long tradition of welcoming guests, under the motto of “Castellum honesto numquan clauditur” (the door of this castle is never closed to an honest man).
During our evening with Marie-Andree and Jean-Marie we strolled around the medieval garden, admired the blossoming cherry trees, enjoyed aperitif in the light-filled salon, cracking home-grown nuts. This was followed by dinner “en famille” with our hosts and three Russian guests, listening with interest to Jean Marie’s potted history of the last 600 years at La Motte. For breakfast we tasted Marie-Andree’s preserves, and admired the gorgeous and ornate limestone fireplace which she carved for four hours a day over one winter, and Jean Marie’s fantastic aromatic wines.
Feeling cheerful and reinvigorated we got back in our car and headed confidently towards Segur... or so we thought. After around an hour we determined I’d been driving quite fast, but in the wrong direction. We turned around and took a slow drive home.