Friday 13 June 2008

Saumur, Vallee de la Loire

Standing haughtily on a hill on the south bank of a very broad stretch of the Loire, the pointed turrets of Saumur's chateau make this well-heeled town a beacon for tourists. It is quite a steep climb through Saumur's lanes up to the grassy dry moat surrounding the chateau, which looks disappointingly worn and weather-beaten up close. Cross a couple of drawbridges for a view over the vineyards and handsome town houses lining both sides of the river. Below the chateau, are some attractive streets and small cobbled squares with fountains, smart shops, cafes and excellent boulangeries selling particularly delicious baguette sandwiches and extravagant cakes. Home of the refined École Nationale d'Équitation and a large tank museum reflecting its longstanding connections with the French cavalry, Saumur is a swish, yet smug, town. 7/10