Saturday, August 27, 2016

1 hundred dogs, 1 hundred dogs... 1 hundred dogs!

(Does anyone else remember 2 Stupid Dogs, or just me?)

2016 was my 7th trip to the Vitiloire wine festival in Tours and Jules's 3rd. Every year since the first, I've managed to forestall a trip to Chenonceau by promising "maybe next year". This year, I couldn't get out of it any more, so we duly made a detour to the château on our way to Tours.

Don't get me wrong, Chenonceau is one of the fabled châteaux of the Loire that people dream their whole lives of visiting. It's just this was my fourth visit (trip one, two and three), so you can fairly count it crossed off the old bucket list. But Jules had never been, so finally we went along to tick it off his list too.

They have actually opened up a new part of the château since my last trip - the second story of the bridge across the Loire that you can see in the photo above. It had quite a lot more information on the history of the château through the ages, so trip not wasted. My favourite sign in the new exhibition:

"Hey, fish! Your mum smells like cabbage!"

Other than that, it's fair to say we did a relatively whirlwind tour, trying to dodge the inevitable coach-loads of Russian and Chinese tourists.

From Chenonceau, it was on to the main event in Tours. Our group this year was a little smaller, with my sister and my friend Caroline having moved to New Zealand (in separate incidents), but my sisters' friends have got such a taste for it that several of them came along anyway! I didn't go quite as crazy as the year before (since we still had a few bottles left over), but we acquitted ourselves pretty well. 

Ready for wine

Me and the British (slash Kiwi) contingent

Mel very proud of her wine purchases and her wine boy who had to run around after her carrying them

As you can see, the weather for the festival was pretty good, but by Sunday evening, the heavens had opened, and on Monday it rained solidly the entire way home across France and Belgium. I don't know if it registered with people outside France, but that week saw flooding across big areas of the country. We were lucky to get home, because the next day I saw friends on facebook posting pictures of some of the motorways we travelled home on completely washed out.

So it wasn't the greatest weather to go and do a partially outdoor activity, but we forged ahead with our plans to visit another of the dwindling list of major châteaux of the Loire I haven't yet been to. Namely, Cheverny, the inspiration behind Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin comics.

Walking in the footsteps of Tintin (and Snowy!)

Hergé lopped off the wings on the sides to make it a bit less grand
I promptly forgot pretty much everything about the inside of the château, but looking back through my photos, it has some pretty sumptuous rooms. It's not huge, but I'd rather a small but pretty château than a huge empty one, (looking at you, Palais des Papes). 

The hall was covered in vignettes from Don Quixote

Apart from the Tintin collection (assiduously promoted in the gift shop and also in an exhibition that we didn't visit since you had to pay extra), the big attraction of Cheverny is seeing the feeding of the more than one hundred hunting dogs which live there. We got in position fairly early, but even with the rain we had to stand way over on one side, so I imagine it gets really crowded on a nice day in the middle of summer. As it was, I got constantly dripped on by the umbrella of the woman next to me, but at least we got a reasonable view of the dogs.

There was a lot of waiting around, and then more time spent herding the dogs out of the yard to clean it, spreading the food, and then the master made them all line up patiently for a while before they were allowed to eat. The dogs were pretty well-behaved up to that point, and then when they got the signal to go eat, it was a total scrum. They all climbed over each other to get to the food, some even doing a comical handstand over the backs of the other dogs to make sure they got some. Which was just as well, since in under a minute, all the meat was gone. There was at least one thin and presumably timid dog who got fed separately to fatten her up, but otherwise, you snooze you lose.

The dogs and their master before feeding time

My wet sleeve and I go in for a pat

Waiting to get fed (video doesn't work on mobile, sadly)

 As usual, it was a great blend of visiting new and familiar tourist attractions, catching up with friends, and - of course - drinking a lot of wine. I especially like the new little tradition we've had the last couple of years of stopping off somewhere on the way to/from Tours. It really turns a long weekend into a proper mini holiday.


  1. It's reassuring to learn that the 2nd floor of Chenonceau is new, as I was surprised by it on my last visit there and assumed I just had a really terrible memory for the insides of castles.

    1. Don't worry, as I said I had already forgotten everything about Cheverny within a couple of months.

  2. It's "Milou", not "Snowy"! I insist!

    1. I was so confused when I lived with a French host family as an undergrad and the kids talked about "Milou"... I said, you mean Snowy?

    2. Intellectually, I know Tintin was translated from French, but it still seems super English to me!

  3. I remember 2 Stupid Dogs!

    That must be a great festival if you’ve been 7 times...

    Haha are wine boys a thing?

    The dogs… OH MY GOODNESS! I definitely did not see that when I was there. I did enjoy seeing Tintin and Captain Haddock peeking out of a window, though.

    1. It's a lot of fun! The first four times were when I lived there though, to be fair. And yes, you can get a wine boy to carry your purchases ;)

      You missed the dogs?! I get the impression they're the main attraction!

  4. Me being me, when I visited Cheverny a few years ago, I spent more time with the dogs and taking pictures of the dogs than anything else. This was before we had our dogs (I hadn't even moved to Valenciennes or Lille yet), and I hadn't seen my mom's dogs in like a year. So I think my thought process was just "PUPPIES!!!".

    1. Were they actual puppies? That would be cute!

  5. Just for Jules - it's Captaine Poisson!

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