In the spring of the year 2000, Walt and I decided we wanted to go to France and stay not in Paris, but in some other region. We had already seen a lot of Provence, Normandy, and Brittany. We seriously considered renting a house or apartment in Alsace, in a village not far from Strasbourg. Neither of us had ever been there before. At the last minute, before reserving a vacation rental (un gîte rural), we changed out minds and decided to go spend some time in the Loire Valley. We found an attractive house near Tours that we could rent for a week at a very affordable price.
We asked an old friend of ours, Sue, if she wanted to go to France with us in October. She said yes, and we decided to spend a week in this house in the wine village of Vouvray. Then Sue went off on her own for a week in the Pyrenees and Basque country. Walt and I drove to Champagne and on to Rouen in Normandy for the week. Finally, we met up with Sue in Paris and spent the last week of our vacation in an apartment in the Marais neighborhood. It was a great trip.
Walt and I had spent a week driving through the Loire Valley back in January 1992. I caught a very bad cold and I was pretty miserable. The weather was gray, chilly, and damp — typical weather for the season. This time, in early October, we had plenty of sunny days, and we stayed very busy driving from village to village and château to château — Chenonceau, Chambord, Cheverny, Azay-le-Rideau, Amboise... Sue had never been to the Loire Valley before. We all wanted to see as much as possible.
An anecdote: when we decided to rent the house in Vouvray, Sue bought a couple of guidebooks for the Loire Valley. In one of them, she read that Vouvray was a famous wine village but there wasn't really an awful lot to see there. She wasn't convinced we had made a good decision. She asked me why I hadn't decided to rent a place in a more picturesque town or village. I was a little nervous that she might be disappointed.
On a Friday in early October, the three of us flew to Paris, picked up a rental car at the airport, and drove down to Vouvray, arriving on Saturday afternoon. We settled into the gîte and over dinner decided it would be a good idea to spend our first day just walking around the town and through the vineyards that were just steps from the gîte. The weather was beautiful. That Sunday, Sue, using a film camera, was taking a lot of photos. We had a good time out in the sunshine and fresh air. We walked for what I'm sure was several miles. It was a good way to stretch our legs and shake off jet lag after a 10-hour flight and a three-hour drive.
On Monday, we decided to go see the Château de Chenonceau. Sue continued taking a lot of photos in villages and towns all along the way. At some point, she apologized and said that she was going to need to find somewhere to buy more film, because she had already gone through most the rolls she'd brought with her. I expressed surprise. You said you had brought plenty of film for the whole trip, I said. "Yes, I thought so," she said, "but you didn't tell me that everything would be so beautiful."