Tuesday, 22 April 2014


The last stop on our short trip to the Loire valley was at Amboise. We came here before in 2010 and loved the town so much we've been looking forward to returning ever since. The royal chateau is perched on a cliff overlooking the river above a line of elegant buildings housing restaurants and hotels.
On our previous visit we visited the other chateau here, Clos LucĂ©, which was the home of Leonardo da Vinci for the last 3 years of his life.  I recommend anyone who loves his work as an inventer to come and see the place, it's filled with replicas of his inventions, life sized as well as scale models, all of which are able to work as he intended.  It's fascinating also to see the gardens where he strolled and the rooms he lived in.
This drawing of the chateau was done from a photo after our return in 2010 as it's a very complicated building and this time I didn't really have time to sit on the riverbank as it would have taken ages to get it right!
We were allocated a nice sunny pitch on the site which is rather like a park with the trees spaced out to give shade to the campers in the heat of summer.  At this time of year we were glad to be in the sun as it was quite chilly in the shade.
Having been to Amboise before we were very relaxed about sightseeing and didn't wear ourselves out trying to see it all again! We found a lovely restaurant on a first floor above the shops just away from the busy tourist centre of town for a tasty lunch and were well entertained by the charming proprietress. The decor was typical Italian with the ochre colours and a quirky touch of a line of washing hanging above our heads! 
We try to purchase the local produce while in an area and this is one of our favourite cheeses, bought only a few miles from where it was made and we really could taste the difference.  Of course we went home with a large supply of the other local speciality from our favourite vineyard!
Before our lunch we sat in the sun just next to the steps to the chateau to soak up some atmosphere and to do a little sketching.  The buildings are quite varied with very old timbered ones mixed with later stone and rendered ones.
This last sketch is one I did in 2010 of the line of trees we sat underneath to draw the sketch of the buildings on the other side of the street.
 In all we had a lovely relaxing holiday revisiting a few of our favourite places, it was so nice to just be able to pack up the camper and go after seeing a favourable weather forecast. 

Monday, 21 April 2014


The last time we came to Chinon was in 2006 and of course I sat and sketched the chateau from our plot on the campsite.  As you can see it looked a complete ruin at the time and although we toured the castle and found some of the rooms complete most of it was pretty derelict. 
Imagine our surprise to come here 8 years later to find a beautiful renovation had taken place.  All the buildings in the central part have been rebuilt and roofed over and look fantastic.  The town council has also installed a lift to take visitors to the top of the cliff as the walk up is quite difficult along sloping cobbled paths and old worn steps.  However we did walk back down to see the views and back gardens as we always like to get a feel for a town by strolling around.
This is the western end of the castle with the 'Moulin tower' at the end of the walls watching over the approaches from the top of the cliff down to the River Vienne which is a tributary of the Loire.
The eastern end has the belfry which is called 'Le tour de l'Horloge' and dates from the 14th century.  In fact the bell has been ringing the hours since 1399!  It also houses an interesting museum devoted to Joan of Arc.  I climbed to the top and walked around the balcony you can see around the outside when we came in 2006 and was rewarded with fabulous views over the countryside.
The campsite at Chinon is run by the town council and has plenty of open space right down to the river although we were advised not to park too close to the water as it was rather damp and we could have got bogged down.  We chose a sunny spot next to a small sycamore tree, just beginning to open it's gold and green leaves which looked fabulous against the clear blue sky.
We stayed here for 3 days revisiting the town and relaxing in the sun as well as cycling along the lovely quiet lanes along the river.  On the Sunday we had a delicious meal out in a simple restaurant with a pretty terrace where the home cooked food was delicious.   The friendly proprietor was happy to give me his recipes and let me photograph the dishes unlike some celebrity chefs we've heard about recently!

Sunday, 20 April 2014


A couple of weeks ago we decided to take a week's break in the Loire valley.  The weather forecast was good and we wanted to use the camper car, having not been able to use it for the last nine months due to other commitments and having to wait 6 months for the French beaurocracy to supply our new driving licences.  We set off with a few ideas in mind, but as we neared the motorway turning for Saumur I found a previously undiscovered campsite there in my camping guidebook so we turned off and found ourselves in a haven of peace on an island in the river.
The camp was not very busy and we chose a pitch not too far from the facilities with plenty of space around us.  The grass had not been cut recently and was filled with daisies in full flower as were the flowering shrubs that divided the spaces between the pitches.  We even had a rabbit hole next to us although we didn't see any rabbits during the day.  We were however entertained by the antics of a pair of courting pigeons and woken up early every morning by their calls.
As the sun went down and we took our aperitifs we watched the birds settling in the branches of the trees nearby.  We were so lucky with the weather, having sunshine every day although the nights were very cold.  I made the mistake of bringing the same duvets that we had been using at home: a winter one for Bob and a summer one for me as I hate getting too hot at night.  The temperature dropped to about 6°C inside the camper overnight and I shivered so Bob had the job of warming me up every morning while we waited for the heating to take effect! 
This is the view from our pitch through the trees towards the other bank of the river Loire.  It is a church just along the bank from the chateau, lit by the late afternoon sun with the river flowing peacefully out of sight between it and the trees of the camp.
We have visited Saumur several times over the last 35 years and I've made several attempts at drawing it.  This is the best, copied from a photo for Bob's 60th birthdy in 2006.  The one at the top of the post was drawn from life and added to later with ink and waterbrush.  It's a very elaborate chateau with all those pointy turrets and quite hard to get the perspective correct.  We stayed here for 3 days before setting off to our next stop at Chinon.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


I've had a lot of fun recently drawing members of my family.  This is Kirsty, my eldest granddaughter, studying classics at university.  She has a fabulous mane of pre-raphaelite red hair and loves to show it off.  Every year for her birthday I try to find a suitable red-headed subject to copy for her card but you'll have to wait till May to see what I drew this year!
This is the picture for Jo's card this year with James her partner and Jimmy my youngest grandchild. I drew it several weeks ago and kept it in the kitchen so I could look at it every day before I sent it off.
My darling Mummy drawn from a photo taken in 1985 at the 40th wedding anniversary party of Bob's parents.  I sometimes wonder if she's thinking of her own marriage which only lasted 19 years before my Dad died of a heart attack aged 59.  She was such a brave person to carry on with 4 teenage children, one of whom (me) shocked the family by getting pregnant at 17 and having to get married in a rush!