MAY 08,2017 - MAY 08,2017 (1 DAYS)
Main Attractions: Pont Cessart, Saumur Mairie, Place Saint-Pierre, Château de Saumur, Rue Jean Jaurès (old town), Saumur Theatre.
Start and End: Hotel ibis Styles, 15 Avenue David d'Angers / Gare de Saumur. Distance: 6-7 km. Weather: Bright day. Duration: 6 hours only.
The town of Saumur was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for its resistance and display of French patriotism during the war. In World War II, Saumur was the site of the Battle of Saumur (1940). The town and south bank of the Loire were defended by the teenage cadets of the cavalry school. In June 1944 the town was bombed several times by the Allied planes to stop planned German divisions, travelling to engage the newly landed allied forces in Normandy.
Transportation: Trains from Paris Montparnasse are frequent (though not direct) and take around 2-2.5 hours. Flights run to and from London City to Angers Loire airport, and from London City and Gatwick to Nantes Atlantique airport.
Orientation: Our itinerary is a SHORT-day one. OUR ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE: Musee des Blindes, Le Cadre Noir - the horsemanship show, wine caves, Musee de la Cavalerie and Les Légumes Jardins du Puygirault. Saumur skyline is best seen from the Loire river. It has a marvelous riverside setting, all topped by its grand chateau set on a hill above the town. Look at the two following photos - they remind the skyline of Bratislava from the Danube river:
The architectural character of the town owes much to the fact that it is constructed almost exclusively of the beautiful, but fragile, Tuffeau stone. The most famous monument of Saumur is the great Château de Saumur which stands high above the town. The Place Saint Pierre is particularly attractive with the imposing church of Saint Pierre which dates to the 12 and 13th centuries and contains some lovely stained glass windows. Also on the square are some attractive half-timber buildings from the 15 and 16th centuries. Two other attraction are concerned with horses and military vehicles. It is home to the Cadre Noir, the École Nationale d'Équitation (National School of Horsemanship), known for its annual horse shows. Saumur is home also to the Armoured Branch and Cavalry Training School and to the officers' school for armored forces (tanks). Saumur hosts the national tank museum, the Musée des Blindés, with more than 850 armored vehicles, wheeled or tracked. Saumur has a famous Saturday market with hundreds of stalls open for business in the streets and squares of the old town. Do not come before 09.00. Saumur excels with its wine industry producing white, red, rosé and sparkling wines. Wine cellars cluster the outskirts of town. The annual Grandes Tablées du Saumur-Champigny is a popular annual event held in end of July or early August end of July as the biggest restaurant in the world which is formed using two kilometres of tables set up in Saumur so people can sample the local foods and the local wines.
Our hotel in Saumur: Ibis Styles Saumur Gare Centre, 15 avenue David D Angers: fabulous, clean, QUIET, friendly, efficient, modern, budget price, good breakfast, cheerful decoration and furniture. A few steps from the railway station. 10-15 minutes walk to town centre. A supermarket is nearby. Recommended.
From the IBIS hotel we turn EASTWARD (left, with our back to the hotel)
Graffitti opposite the hotel:
and walk 300 m. east to the Pont des Cadets de Saumur. We cross the Loire from north to south over this bridge.
We continue direct south west along Avenue Charles de Gaulle and cross, again, another branch of the Loire, over Pont Cessart - a bridge that was built from 1756 until 1770 with arches and pillars of stone:
From Pont Cessart we get magnificent views of the Chateau de Saumur and the town:
We turn LEFT (east) along Quai Gautier:
After walk of 120 m., and after passing Rue Corneille on your right - you see the imposing Town Hall or Mairie, on your left, in Rue Molière. Formerly lapped by the Loire, the town hall was part of the surrounding fortifications, hence its fortified appearance. The façade overlooking the courtyard is finely sculpted in the transitional Gothic-Renaissance style. Only the left side of the building (the Papegault tower) remains from the 16th century. It once had a wooden parrot on the top which was there as target practice for the archers. A large wing was added in the 19th century, in neo-gothic style. You can walk around to see the rear of the Town Hall, which is equally impressive. The Town Hall was built from 1856 until 1862:
The 8th of May is WWII Victory Day (la fête de la victoire, le jour de la libération) - an holiday to celebrate the end of World War II and the French people's freedom. It is the anniversary of when Charles de Gaulle announced the end of World War II in France on May 8, 1945. We saw an impressive ceremony opposite the Town Hall with many ex-pats of the French army in WW2:
We walk, now, 260 m. east and south to Place Saint Pierre. Head southeast on Rue Molière toward Place de la République, 60 m. Continue straight onto Place de la République, 60 m. Turn right onto a small road called Rue de la Tonnelle, 120 m. Slight right onto Place Saint-Pierre, 15 m. The Saint Pierre Square is equipped with a Gothic-style (pure white) church (Eglise Saint Pierre) and wooden houses. The main church building was constructed in the12th-13th centuries. The facade of the Saint Pierre Church dates from the 17th century. The church is lit up in various colored lights after dark. The interior has Romanesque elements and is considered Gothic Plantagenêt style. It also has some beautiful stained glass windows and an impressive organ, which is often used for recitals The church is usually open from 09.00 to 18.00. Entry is FREE. Definitely worth a visit:
Timber-framed houses in Place Saint Pierre:
We head , now, to the town’s crowning glory, the chateau. We have to climb for 500 m. Several sections are quite STEEP. Follow the signage in the sloping roads or follow these instructions. From Place Saint-Pierre head southwest toward Montée du Fort, 15 m. Turn left onto Montée du Fort, 110 m. You'll see,a long this narrow road more timber-framed houses. Turn left onto Rue des Remparts, 110 m:
Turn right to stay on Rue des Remparts, 60 m. Turn your head backward to see some splendid views of the Saumur town:
Slight left and continue climbing for 180 m. and you face the Château de Saumur on a bluff overlooking the river:
The castle is closed until 31 MAR 2018. Opening hours: From 31 MAR to 14 JUN: TUE - SUN to Sunday, public holidays Mondays, 30 APR, 7 MAY: 10.00 - 13.00, 14.00 - 17.30. 15 JUN - 30 JUN: daily 10.00 - 18.30. From 1 JUL - 31 AUG: 10.00 -to 18.30. 1 SEP - 15 SEP: daily 10.00 - 18.30. 16 SEP - 11 NOV: September, every day from 10.00 to 18.30. and from September 16th to November 11th: TUE - SUN to Sunday, public holidays Monday: 10.00 - 13.00, 14.00 - 17.30. 22 DEC - 6 JAN 2019: Mondays and Wednesdays to Sundays, from 10.00 - 13.00, 14.00 - 17.30. No visit on: 25 DEC and 1 JAN. Prices: adult: € 6 (€ 7 High season 1 July - 31 AUG), concessions (high school students, students, 7-16 years old): € 4 (€ 5 H/S), Family rate (2 adults and 2 children and more): 18 € (€ 20 H/S) , Adult group rate (from 12 people): 4,5O € (€ 5.50 H/S). Belvedere (open from 15 June to 15 September): 3 € in addition to the entrance fee - with guide / duration: 30 min / groups of 8 people maximum. Pets are not allowed in the castle grounds. There's a little café in the chateau grounds and another café opposite. Allow 1.5 - 2 hours.
It is a wonder it is there at all, having weathered all sorts of bad treatment from its time as a prison under Louis XIV and Napoleon. Within is a mishmash of items bequeathed to the municipal museum, but the location and chance to glean a little of its tumultuous history make a visit worthwhile. Views of the iconic 10th-century Château can be enjoyed from all angles from below (like the rest of the town, it's carved from the region's pale Tuffeau stone, formed when the Loire Valley was a seabed over 90 million years ago). But don't miss the opportunity to climb up to the (well-signposted) viewpoint that takes in the town, the river and the castle from above. The views over the town and Loire are fantastic. The chateau we see today originates from the 14th century but it was in the 15th that it was made into a comfortable residence by Duke Rene d’ Anjou. During its long history it has been the governor’s house, a jail before the town purchased it in 1906 to restore and turn it into the tourist attraction it is today.
Then head over to explore the castle from the inside, reached via a dramatic moat bridge and broad cobbled approach where there's also a café overlooking the town. From its lofty position you have great views of the town and river -- it is worth parking riverside and hiking up the hill to appreciate this as well as the chateau itself. Note: This castle has been long neglected and is only now receiving the attention it needs. Very few of the castles rooms are open to the public and those that are opened contain very little information. It is still under restoration so you cannot see the whole site.
View from the eastern wooden Bridge and Belvedere:
The views of Lorie are spectacular and worth the ticket price. Go and see the Chateau even if it's just for the views !
In the right side of the next photo - Pont Cessart:
The chateau serves as the town of Saumur’s museum. The former royal apartments now house two museums – ‘Musee des Arts Decoratifs’ and Musee du Cheval’. The first houses European china and tapestries. The interior has a nice decorative arts collection, and a few stunning, exceptional tapestries we have ever seen (goats legs on men...):
As you tour the interior, a collection of artefacts points to its history as a battle stronghold, noble's residence and state prison. There is a free tour in English which makes the visit more interesting:
The second museum is located in the attic of the Chateau being dedicated to equestrian pursuits where you are taken into a world of saddlery from across the world – all lovingly worked:
On summer evenings, a light-and-sound show plays out in the Chateau grounds:
Incidentally, the grass by the vineyard beyond the car park is about as fine a place to spread a picnic blanket as you’ll find:
From the Château de Saumur we descended to the old city - heading to Cafe du Coin Rue Saint Jean x Place de la Bilange. We, more or less, retarce our steps. Head north toward Rue des Remparts, 180 m. Slight right onto Rue des Remparts, 60 m. Turn left to stay on Rue des Remparts, 110 m. Turn right onto Montée du Fort, 110 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Pierre, 35 m. Place Saint-Pierre turns slightly left and becomes Rue de la Tonnelle, 20 m. Slight left onto Rue du Puits Neuf, 85 m. Continue onto Rue Saint-Jean, 180 m and you face the Cafe du Coin,13 Place de la Bilange. We paid 18.20 euros for filet bourguignon and fish with boiled vegetables (2 persons). A rare find in Saumur since they are flexible with lunch times. Menu is more casual, tending more to sandiwches and salads. Fast service with simple portions. Do not expect hot, sophisticated portions. Prices are relatively inexpensive for the Loire region (in Bretagne we found cheaper restaurants - mainly, based on Gallettes (buckwheat open-faced crepes). There is a Carrfour supermarket 50 m. west to the cafe. Note: in our itinerary - we'll return to this square:
We continue eastward along the river - walking 800 m. to Place Allain-Targé via Quai Mayaud. Head northeast on Place de la Bilange toward Rue Molière 90 m. Turn right onto Rue Molière, 170 m passing the Town hall on our left. Continue straight onto Place de la République, 60 m. Continue onto Quai Mayaud and go through 1 roundabout, 400 m. Slight right to stay on Quai Mayaud, 60 m. arriving to Place Allain-Targé. The area around is not the best - but you may enjoy the proximity to the Liore river on your left. We turn right (south) to Rue du Général Bontemps in purpose to sample the old sections of Saumur (nothing outstanding...). Turn right (west) to Rue Jean Jaurès and walk along this road to see typical "Saumuric" houses. On your right, upstairs, you see the mighty ridge or cliff where the Chateau is built.
Note the caves below. There are hundreds of miles of caves in and around Saumur, some bored into the hillsides, some under the plains. Most are abandoned. Others have been revamped as troglo hotels, restaurants, museums, artist galleries, wineries, farms for mushrooms, silkworms and snails, a rose water distillery and a disco (Troglos):
Continue walking west along Rue Jean Jaurès. Later it changes to Rue Fourrier. After passing Rue Montesquieu, on your right, you turn left onto Rue des Patenotriers, 170 m. Turn left onto Rue Dacier to see this splendid house:
Head west on Rue Dacier toward Rue Cendrière, 10 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Porte Neuve, 65 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Petite Douve, 170 m. Slight right onto Place Dupetit Thouars, 15 m. In Place Dupetit Thouars you find the Post Office and the monument to Aristide Dupetit-Thouars - a French naval officer of the eighteenth century. Aristide Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, gave up his noble title and status at the time of the Revolution (hence the official name's spelling that is retained). At the end of a life rich in adventures, he commanded the ship "the Thunderer" at the Battle of Aboukir, August 1, 1798. As long as his strength permitted him, he continued to give orders, and he shouted : "Crew of the Thunderer, never bring your flag! ":
The general elections of presidency in France took place, yesterday, in 7 May 2017:
We shall return to the town centre (Place de la Bilange). Head northeast on Place Dupetit Thouars toward Rue du Portail Louis, 35 m. Continue onto Rue du Portail Louis, 170 m. Continue onto Rue Franklin Roosevelt, 110 m. Continue straight onto Place de la Bilange, 55 m. At the Place de la Bilange - you find "The Dome" - Saumur imposing Theatre. The theater, built from 1864 to 1866, is one of the most prestigious monuments of Saumur and one of the masterpieces of the architect Charles Joly-Leterme. The façades are punctuated by Corinthian colonnades inspired by the 18th century French. The interior houses an Italian-style room with a capacity, in the 19th century, of 860 people. The restorations, realized from 2011 to 2014, modernized the monument while respecting its architectural envelope: the stage and the stage cage are modified to propose several configurations with a theater, a circus stage, an orchestra pit, a step for the lyric and the symphonic, an opening at the bottom of the plateau on the Place de la République. This work has made the theater a totally innovative place of national stature:
We continue walking north-east towards the Loire river and Pont Cessart:
The view of the Chateau with the last glowing rays of the sunset, from the stone bridge - is magnificent:
It is 1 km. walk back from the Cessart bridge to our hotel: Ibis Styles, 15 Avenue David d'Angers. Head northeast on Pont Cessart toward Avenue du Général de Gaulle and pass through 3 roundabouts, 650 m. Slight left onto Pont des Cadets de Saumu, 20 m. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Place de la Résistance, 90 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Avenue David d'Angers and the Hotel ibis Styles Saumur is 190 m. further on the right.