Sunday, June 19, 2011

A weekend in Brum

This weekend it was BBC Gardener's World at the NEC in Birmingham. We went to stay with M&N and I volunteered for RHS on Saturday in their Floral Pavilion while the others visited the Gardener's World and the BBC Food shows that were on together. It was a great show and they managed to buy some plants as well as fish cakes for our evening meal.

On Sunday, Father's Day, we had brunch in Kings Heath at the Kitchen Garden Café, which is a great place for food during the day. It has loads on in the evening, too - live music of several kinds, comedy nights and lots more. We had some porridge, a full English, hash browns, black pudding, bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese, coffee, tea, OJ - all absolutely delicious.

So now we had to walk it off, so drove up to Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property with some extensive parkland surrounding their lovely gardens and the Hall itself. We walked up to the church, then across the parkland to eventually enter the Garden via the gate by the Haha. We had time to enjoy the Garden before the second Birds of Prey show that was being held outside the Orangerie. There was some spectacular flying by several birds, with the Griffon vulture ending the show - it is an enormous bird.

And then it was the long drive back, along the A rather than M roads which were pretty clogged on Sunday evening.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A short stay in the Loire Valley

Our last delicious breakfast at Le Pavillon, then we collected our bags and said goodbye, only to have one of the staff come running after us to pay for last night's dinner, which we didn't have. Much apologising for the misunderstanding, then we were off to visit some more châteaux.
Our plan was to go first to Chambord, and we had a good route on our map as well as some marvellous instructions from Thierry, River Loire. As we got nearer there were more cars heading in the same direction and it was going to be busy. Then we started seeing signs: 'Chambord en grève'. Hmmm, didn't that mean 'on strike'? Yes, it did, and when we got there we could walk down to the castle, but there was no going inside. So we took lots of external photos, looked at the strikers, and then decided to visit the little church, which was open. Lots of people were doing the same, but at last the message was getting around and no more buses were arriving, and so fewer people, too. 

Nothing for it but to move on, and we made our way along country roads to Max Vauché, the chocolaterie in Bracieux. They make amazing chocolate sculptures as well as some truffles etc. The smell was fabulous, and we were tempted into buying some nougat and chocolate covered nuts to nibble.

But now we needed to move on to Cheverny, Tintin's castle, and as we thought, they were rather busier than usual with many of the visitors to Chambord finding their way to Cheverny instead. We were very lucky to find a parking space as someone was already leaving, and then we walked down to join the queue to buy entrance tickets. It was a long, hot and slow job, but finally we were in and decided coffee first, castle second. Everywhere was busy so it made no difference. The coffee was good and then we joined the queue to go into the château. It was beautifully presented and we went upstairs, too, taking non-flash photos when it wasn't too busy. After going around thew castle we walked across to the Tintin exhibition in the stables, which was fun, and also visited the hunting hounds and the garden. Cheverny was lovely - it is the middle part of the castle that was Hergé's inspiration for Moulinsart (Marlinspike Hall).

Now we had to head off to Tours, to St Pierre-des-Corps station, where we would leave the car, then took a taxi to the BW Central Hotel. We had the same room as we did at the start of the holiday! Dinner at Le Touron, close to Au Lapin qui Fumé, was excellent, then we strolled back to the hotel for our last night.

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