Anoraks and umbrellas were certainly rule of the day for the group of around 40 members and guests who assembled on the Quai Lucien Gautier in Saumur on the morning of Saturday 7th July. Fortunately the rain held off for the group photographs and exactly on time the "Saumur Loire" appeared under the Cessart Bridge to transport those assembled on a short cruise. Our tour guide spoke excellent English and gave an interesting insight into the lives of the sailors and those living and working along the Loire trade route, from the Atlantic to Orleans and onward to Paris.
Despite the heavens opening, the group was protected from the rain and was able to appreciate a new perspective of the riverside buildings such as the Hotel de Ville, the Chateau, and Notre Dame des Ardilliers. The boat then turned to pass under the two bridges, the Cessart and the Cadre Noir, and entered the peaceful backwater of the river Thouet where we enjoyed a sparkling white wine from Bouvet Ladubay, strawberry cordial from Combier, and speciality biscuits called "Vinailloux" from les Rosiers-sur-Loire.
An hour after departure we arrived back at the quayside and had a short dash in the rain to the historic town house of Edith and Jean Prunier. The main house was built in 1775 as an extension to the architect's family home, parts of which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The architect, Michel Francois Drapeau, was the illustrious descendant of a family of architects responsible for several important local and national buildings. His initials are proudly displayed over the main entrance and his portrait hangs in the imposing hallway.
The President welcomed those present and introduced Colin McCorquodale, recently appointed ambassador for the ESU worldwide, before inviting everyone to partake in a splendid cold buffet of cold meats and salads. Plans to set tables in the courtyard garden had been scuppered by the weather which was disappointing for plant lovers as this sheltered area is filled with unusual varieties of trees and shrubs, some of which date back centuries. However the heady scent of their blossoms drifted indoors and the garden fountain could sometimes be heard over the chatter around the lunch tables.
A big 'thank you' to the "Croisieres Saumur Loire" and to Edith and Jean for such an enjoyable day.