We set out on our trip to the Loire Valley on Saturday at 6.a.m. I was all ready and packed to go when B. and J.L. arrived on my doorstep. They had left their home at 5.40 a.m. and had had an easy drive, traffic being really rare at this ungodly hour of the day. Ungodly on a Saturday, that is. During the week it would have taken them over an hour to cover the same distance.
J.L. immediately ‘warned’ me that we wouldn’t be taking the same route as we did in 2010 when I introduced them to La Touraine. In the past, we always took the motorway A1 to the ‘Porte de la Chapelle’, north of Paris. We then followed the ‘Périphérique Ouest’ to the Porte d’Orléans, and the gateway to ‘L’Aquitaine’, the motorway towards Orléans, Blois, Amboise, Tours …. On a Sunday morning (we used to leave on a Sunday at 5 a.m.) this itinerary of 550 km saw us in Amboise between 10.30 and 11 a.m. … well in time to visit the Amboise market, followed by an aperitif at le Café du Château at the foot of the castle.
The A1 motorway north of Senlis.
This time, however, we were to take the scenic route. Before leaving the motorway at Senlis, way north of Paris, we stopped at a service station for a sanitary stop and a quick breakfast of croissants, pain au chocolat and coffee and orange juice. At the first exit after the service station we turned towards the east, following some meandering routes ‘nationales’ et ‘départementales, till we reached ‘La Francilienne’. South of Paris we took the route nationale towards Orléans.
My standard service station breakfast: 'pain au chocolat' and orange juice.
Just for the record, in Belgium a' pain au chocolat' is called 'une couque au chocolat'.
Leaving the motorway really slowed us down, because we passed through several villages with a speed limit of 50 km/h and sometimes even 30 km/h, an obligation that was enforced by the may ‘casses-vitesses’ and traffic lights. In Cercotte, a village north of Orléans, I shot this photo of the Mairie, while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Apparently, the Mairie also hosted or still hosts the primary school. A common phenomenon in France where public buildings seem to have multiple functions.
The village hall and primary school in Cercotte.
After Cercotte it was time to tackle the slow yet fluid crossing of Orléans. It was there that I caught a first glimpse of La Loire after a long, cold, snowy winter in Belgium …
... at last! It almost felt like coming home!
P.S. I would like to apologize for the poor quality of the photos, which were all shot (except for the breakfast) from the moving car.