Accordingly, the Saturday was spent travelling - a morning of motorway, a pause at a roadside restaurant for a passable steak followed by the best chocolate mousse I've ever tasted, and an afternoon of town and country riding.
Only two of us had chosen to spend Saturday and Sunday nights in the Loire, so the next day we waved off our travelling companions and faced a day to ourselves before the arrival of the Cahors group that evening. This was my chance to put in motion a plan I hatched the previous year but didn't have time to carry out.
I was going to Marlinspike Hall.
The château of Cheverny was a hundred miles away. An easy couple of hours, I thought, but factor in a lunch and wandering around stop and we only just arrived in time for the 5PM feeding of the castle's 70-strong pack of hunting dogs (which was a sight to behold).
With the exception of the wings on each side, it really is Marlinspike. Hallowed ground for the Tintinophile. There's also a charming exhibition in which panels from the books have been recreated in three dimensions, so you can stand in the cellar Tintin bust his way out of in The Secret of the Unicorn and take a peek into his hitherto sacrosanct bedroom. Opening panels in the walls reveals props from the books: Captain Haddock's box of spare monocles! Abdullah's tiger mask!
We plotted a route home to include a road marked on the Michelin map as scenic. It looked from the map as though it pottered along the Loire, but in fact the river was only visible occasionally. Scenic highlight: a 'Ville Fleuri' sign at the entrance to a trailer park.
Stopping to admire a rare river view, we realised that a) we were going to be terribly late for dinner and b) it was about to chuck it down with rain. The chucking down began moments later, and when we reached the outskirts of Tours I had to wave Howard through and waive my navigation duties as the water streaming down my visor meant I couldn't read the road signs.
The rain stopped briefly to reveal a fiery sunset in a bruised-looking sky just before we turned off for St Léger de Montbrillais. I excelled myself by lagging behind after a near thing on wet gravel and actually getting lost in the village, whereupon I stopped and beeped my horn pathetically until found and gathered in.
The Cahors party had arrived hours previously and apparently commenced drinking while still half in the saddle. We were greeted uproariously and the resident photographer fired off a few snaps of the drowned rats.
Andy and Maggie, our hosts, were just lovely. They professed not to mind a bit that we were hours late for dinner and dripping all over the flagstones. It's your holiday! Have dinner when you like! Of course you can have a bath first! I was even given an alternative to the starter of stuffed tomatoes, as Maggie had noticed me slipping the previous night's tomatoes to cybersofa.
The next morning it was our turn to get organised and hit the long road for Caen while everyone else swanned around in their dressing-gowns. The journey was uneventful apart from my péage ticket mysteriously vanishing (my explanation at the toll booth that it had absolument disparu was accepted without question) and we made the ferry in good time. During the voyage cider tasting in the shop was announced and a chirpy Brittany Ferries employee told me about kir Breton / Normand, which made my evening.
Disembark 21:45. Blast home. Watch last night's Dr Who.
Plan next holiday.
~ Fin ~