France #9: Château de Villandry

Angélique Alexos ’20 describes the groups picturesque bike excursion to the Chateau and Gardens of Villandry.

To end a busy week of school and trips around Tours where we delved into everything from French grammar and culture to stories about historic ruins and the layout of Tours itself, we embarked on a bike ride. Travelling across the French countryside would allow us to be more familiar with our location beyond the bustling city of Tours where we had spent most of our time this week.

To begin our excursion, we traveled to a small town nearby to pick up our bikes and gear for the day. Unlike the activities of the previous days, today we would be experiencing some different aspects of French culture in our gray helmets and slightly suspicious looking bright yellow vests. Don’t worry, no strikes occurred over the course of this day. Perhaps we looked like quite the group biking single file and accompanied by our guide, Odile, who was driving along with us in her car, but rest assured we were not thinking of harming the nature around us. Instead we were in search of other goals.

On the bike ride, there was much to see as we passed lush valleys of poppies, little brick houses, and clusters of cows and horses. Periodically, we stopped to walk by the Loire river and regroup as some of us enjoyed slowly pedaling through the pathway more than others. However, at whatever speed we biked, to say that the scenery around us was beautiful would be an understatement. By the time the first part of our ride was over, we had seen many aspects of the picturesque countryside of France, but we were to experience even more at our destination: Villandry. We stowed our bikes and took a small intermission at a nearby restaurant to eat lunch (which included, of course, lots of French bread) before entering the second chapter of our trip.

At Villandry, we walked among the peace and beauty of the gardens, shadowed by the towering chateau itself. Ironically, though we were not wearing our yellow vests for this part of the trip, we may have caused what could be called a slight disturbance playing in the children’s playground in the gardens. It was probably from all the excitement as we were surrounded by an immense garden containing sweet smelling roses, herbs and medicinal plants, and even cabbage and spinach! It would be pretty easy to picture a life in the chateau with this garden just beneath.

But as all parts of history come to an end at some point, it was soon time for us to head back to the bikes and pedal back to where we had started. Although we stopped once, in a very French manner, to see if a bakery we had spotted on the way was selling bread, our return was one of speed and amusement. The adventure came to a close as we hung up our “gilets jaunes” and had a quick rest at a nearby café before returning to Tours. Afterwards, we each headed to our individual homes to begin an exciting weekend with our families.

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