It began with a tomato festival. After our raging success at the Garlic and Basil Festival, we were pretty excited to see posters advertising a tomato festival. I mean, between the two festivals, that's pasta sauce right there. Even better, this one was at a chateau, so we could mark another one off our list. So off we went, camera in hand and raincoat on arm in the event of rain. Thanks to a faulty GPS we went on a dirt road through fields and then onto what we suspect was a bike-only path before crossing the highway at a traffic circle to find the chateau. But we made it, in typical Stevenson fashion.
We bought our tickets, and were given an apple. A good sign - I love any event that comes with snacks. Who doesn't love free food? (although why did we get apples at a tomato festival?) We climbed the hill to the Chateau Bourdaisiere and began peeking at all the vendors. There were many, although most were selling stuff we didn't necessarily need, like sausages, cheese, Adirondack chairs, lawn decorations, and ceramic animals.
We then circled around the chateau. It was different than other chateaux in that we couldn't go in it and see the rooms, furniture, art, etc. It isn't that kind of chateau. You couldn't enter unless you were staying the night there. But the outside was gorgeous, and I'd kill to be able to spend a weekend here, just relaxing in the house and wandering the gardens. Swoon. I couldn't stop taking photos. For some reason, this chateau really spoke to me. I kind of fell in love with it.
We then grabbed beers and a sandwich to split for a snack, which was a little disappointing. The food at the Garlic and Basil festival had been so good (those escargots!), and this was just an okay sandwich. So after our meager nibbles, we wandered through the flower and vegetable garden. It was a pretty little area. They have dozens of varieties of tomatoes in their garden, which is why the festival is held here in the first place. Some of them had hilarious names. We saw Eva's Purple Ball (for my puppy-niece), Wagonwheel (for my mama), Watermelon (which actually looked like a watermelon), and Mortgage Lifter Yellow (I would love to know how that got its name).
We made our way through the flower and vegetable garden into the dahlia garden, where we found, to our delight, the Tomato Bar. A regular fixture at the chateau, the bar offers various flavored tomato juices (mint, etc), tomato salads, an entree of the day, and wine. We got ourselves an heirloom tomato salad and small glass of red wine to split, and it was pretty darn delightful. I have to say, when we came to a tomato festival, that was what I was expecting to eat. It might have been the highlight of our day for me. It's incredible how much flavor non-mass produced tomatoes have. I die.
After a quick walk around the gardens, a last look at the vendors, and the purchase of two packages of heirloom tomato seeds (which we will not be telling the U.S. Customs officer about, thankyouverymuch), we decided that was a wrap on the tomato festival. While not as entertaining as the garlic and basil festival, we did enjoy ourselves.
But our day wasn't done. As we left the tomato festival at 3:00 p.m., B suggested we head to Chateau Cheverney. He tossed me his phone, I plugged it into Google Maps, and away through the Loire Valley we drove. It was a little more than an hour away, but the countryside was lovely.
Once we got there, we first went through the TinTin exhibit. Cheverny is the chateau upon which the castle in the cartoon is based. The exhibit was actually a little boring for us because a) we weren't raised on or familiar with the TinTin cartoons and b) it was all in French. So we couldn't understand it. It would've been really cute if that's your kind of thing.
Next up was the reason we wanted to visit Cheverny in the first place: the feeding of the hounds. The chateau has a large hunting property and keeps between 50-100 hound dogs. They are fed once a day, at 5:00 p.m.. Those dogs are completely loud and howling, derpy and crazy. A worker pinned them all up, then arranged a line of raw chicken/turkey/poultry of some sort, with a HUGE bag of kibble sprinkled on top of it. He then let all the dogs out, but twirled a whip in circles to keep them back from the food (he didn't actually hit the dogs, thank goodness). When he said the magic words...holy crap, those fuzzbutts went crazy fighting over the food. Here are some pictures, plus a video of it.
After watching the feeding frenzy, it was time to check out the actual chateau itself. It's extremely pretty - I can see how it might inspire someone to use it in a cartoon, or any other book.
The inside of the chateau was pretty nice, too. There weren't a lot of rooms to see, but the ones that were available were nicely decorated. They were also mostly very well lit, which I appreciated. It makes it much easier to take pictures to share with you, dear readers, when there is a plethora of natural light. My favorite room by far was the library - it is my life goal to someday have a house with a designated library in it (and a wine cellar, too).
Afterward, we walked around the back of the house and the side of the grounds. You can't actually get around all the grounds without taking a tour on a golf-cart-like thing - it's a hunting lodge, so the property is pretty extensive. Those fuzzbutts need a lot of room to run. But we found this lovely picture frame and decided to have a little fun with it (and a nearby statue), as we often do. Team Stevenson never takes itself too seriously. That would just be boring.
After that, it was close to closing time at the chateau, so we took a quick walk through the vegetable/flower garden, and headed out. This might be one of my favorite chateaux we've visited. So lovely, and very peaceful. Because it's kind of in the middle of nowhere, it tends to deter less determined tourists (or tourists without a car).
But wait - there's more! The day wasn't over yet. As we entered the chateau we noticed some kind of festival going on outside in the town, but we didn't stop to look. On our way out, however, we decided to take a peek, and guess what? It turned out to be a wine festival - our favorite kind of festival (and the reason we met, depending on which one of us you ask). Even better, this wine festival was only 2 euros per person for entry to sample all the wine you wanted AND you got to keep the glass. America seriously needs to take note here. Sippin Safari in Greenville is $50 a person. This was 2 euros. There's just no comparison (not to mention the superior quality of French wines).
We're especially grateful it was only 2 euros, because we had an hour drive home and could not...ahem...fully take advantage of all that was on offer, so we wouldn't have shelled out much more than that. The wine, all from the Cheverny AOC region, was delicious. The whites were especially good, although I was in a red mood. Oh, and we found escargots, and I had barbe a papa (cotton candy) - it really was the perfect end to a perfect, wacky, delightful day. We came home worn out and happy, and excited about whatever festival might be up next. Cheers!
E & B