We had planned to leave bright and early the next day, but a whole day of driving and stressful navigation had taken its toll on us and we slept in. We finally made it to Tours at 10am. We were glad to see that the market on Boulevard Béranger was still in full swing. There were so many beautiful flowers on sale. The roses especially were lovely. I was so tempted to buy a bouquet to take away with us.
Walking down the street, we came across a crêperie – Chez Jean Mi. We bought ourselves a crêpe citron sucre and a crêpe nutella. The chef was a charming character. His stall was decked out with French flags, he had a chef hat on, and he was singing as he was making the crêpes. He was also very friendly and asked me where we were from, and if we were on holidays. I replied in French and he said my French was very good. I know he was being kind but it was nice to hear that someone appreciated my efforts.
For lunch, we decided to stop by the local supermarket. We bought some bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes and chips. Just past the Hôtel de Ville (townhall), there was a lovely walkway completely shaded by trees on both sides. There were park benches on each side. We decided that would be a lovely spot for lunch and people-watching. It was a lovely lunch.
After lunch, it was time to head out to Vouvray. Our host at Château de La Celle-Guenand had booked us wine tasting at Domaine Huet. Domaine Huet is one of the most famous domaines in Vouvray. Sadly, our GPS failed us again, and we ended up using the app on Brandon’s IPhone to get us to the cellar door. The cellar door itself is a modern-looking building, not unlike the ones we’re familiar with in Barossa Valley & McLaren Vale. Thankfully the guy who was doing the tasting spoke English. I didn’t think my French was at a level for wine-tasting yet.
The Domaine makes their wines from three different plots of land – Le Haut Lieu, Le Clos du Bourg and Le Mont. With Chenin Blanc being the only AOC authorised grape variety used, the difference in the wines comes from the terroir. And this is emphasized by the glass cross-section of each terroir on display in the tasting room. We had a lovely tasting with their sparkling wine being our top preference. We took 3 bottles away with us – 2 bottles of Brut Rosé méthode traditionnelle and a bottle of Cuvée Huet Brut. On our way out after the tasting, our guide showed us the troglodyte caves where the wine is stored. The troglodyte caves are typical of the Vouvray region. A troglodyte cave is a cave that has been carved into the side of a cliff. It can be found throughout the Loire region. There are people who even make a dwelling out of these caves.
Leaving Vouvray, we drove down south to our next stop – Château de La Celle-Guenand. This was to be home for us for the next 2 days. As we got further away from the touristy areas, the charm of quaint, little French towns was quite apparent. Most towns consisted of the main road, which went right through the middle of the town. Most towns had a boulangerie, a boucherie, and always a town church. And then there were houses with planter boxes on the side of their windows, filled with colourful flowers.
Château de La Celle-Guenand was very easy to find. It was off the main road which went through the small town of La Celle-Guenand. It is a classical 15th century château set in park-life gardens, planted with fruit trees and ornamental trees.
Our host Stephen was there to greet us. We had the choice of two rooms, and we picked the one with the view of the town’s skyline from the largest ensuite bathroom I have ever seen in my entire life. The room had a four-poster bed, and was decorated in rich red.
After dropping off our bags, we decided to explore the grounds of the château. The château itself is formidable and medieval-looking, complete with towers. It was hard not to be impressed. Wandering down the winding stairs, it felt like we had been transported back in time to the 15th century. The grounds of the château is massive. Its crowning glory is a 500 year old cedar tree.
For dinner that night, our host had booked us a table at 1-Michelin star restaurant La Promenade in the tiny, neighbouring town of Le Petit-Pressigny. We were one of the first diners to arrive at the restaurant. The restaurant is small but cosy, with a country-like atmosphere. Modern paintings line the walls. After we were shown to our table, we were handed the menu, which was completely in French. I struggled to explain the menu to Brandon. The problem with French menu is the fact that it is so detailed. The menu will list every single ingredient in the dish, including where it comes from. While I knew the words for beef, lamb, duck, etc. I could not tell if a dish is beef, or if its gravy is made from some part of the cow. So we decided to ask our server to translate the dishes to us in English, only to be told that she doesn’t speak English. Turns out the only person who spoke English was the sommelier. He was very friendly and helpful and we were able to decipher the menu in no time. However, when we decided on a bottle of 1998 Chateau La Tour to go with our meal, we were told that they did not have it in stock. This was very disappointing as it was clearly listed on their wine list. We had to settle for another bottle – Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases from Saint Julien 1997 instead.
We went with the 85 euro degustation menu and were impressed by the meal. It was delicious. The flavours were simple but refined, with no unnecessary fuss or pretentiousness. There was a dish in which they cooked crab 3 ways and it was to die for. The service however lacked the finesse and standard one would expect from a 1-Michelin star restaurant. To be fair, we were comparing that to our meal a few days ago at 3-Michelin starred Guy Savoy, where the service was impeccable. We had to refill our own wine glasses and I had to ask for more bread on more than one occasion. Granted it was a Saturday evening, and there were about 5 tables in the restaurant. Still, there were 2 female servers and a sommelier on the floor. One would have expected a better level of service. Still, the food did make up for that disappointment and we enjoyed our meal.