Saumur, Then and Now

In the face of weather forecasts of wind and rain, thity-three brave members and friends met at the Hôtel St. Paul, in Vivy, north of Saumur, to enjoy a meal together and to listen to a talk by Susi Calvert entitled “Saumur, Then and Now”.

Originally from East Germany, Susi has lived for many years in the Loire Valley and has developed a passion for the area she has adopted as her own. A local tour guide, she speaks fluent French, English and German. A vivacious, enthusiastic speaker, she is eager to share her love of local history, art and architecture with everyone who crosses her path.

Susi had created for us a presentation of photos and drawings from yesteryear as well as modern photographs to illustrate the town as it was and is now. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her energy boundless.

No doubt she could have continued to entertain us throughout the afternoon and evening. We saw the huge dolmen that gives evidence of settlement in Bagneux in the neolithic age. We saw maps showing Roman settlements in the area, we learned that the Vikings pillaged the town and that the château was built towards the end of the tenth century by Tibaut le Tricheur. The town embraced Protestantism in the 16th century and became very wealthy in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Susi talked of the arrival in the town of the Ecole d’Equitation, the military, railways, steam boats, various producers of ‘boulles’ before talking about the twentieth century, and in particular the effects of the bombing in World War II. Today it is a sleepy town: the perfect centre for tourists who flock here to enjoy the atmosphere, visit the museums and taste the local wines.

Everyone present complemented the restaurant on the excellent meal we were served by two very attentive waitresses and it was agreed that we should return for a future visit.

Our thanks to Susi for her enlightening talk and inspiration. Her recall of detail, of names and dates, was simply amazing. No doubt we shall meet again on a tour of Saumur to be swept up in her enthusiasm and to bring to life the images she has left us with.