After a day of incredible beauty, I feel drained.
It’s hard to imagine that one could ever become accustomed to the breathtaking sights we saw today.
Three very different yet very beautiful French towns were visited, and after 8 hours of oohing and aahing, I can’t wait to sit back, relax, and process the wonderful day I’ve had.
Katie and I slept in today- luckily not as late as yesterday. While she showered, I ate breakfast and planned the driving route we would take.
As I showered, she ate and recorded the driving directions in writing. We’re a good team like that.
The offline android navigation system Sebastian lovingly prepared for us unfortunately has yet to work, so Katie and I are back to written directions, following maps and learning from our wrong turns.
We’ve actually been doing very well considering that most of the roads we’ve been driving are unmarked tiny French country roads; known by the local farmers but unfamiliar and baffling to the American tourists.
The first stop of the day was to visit Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, a small village located in the valley straddled by the Normandy and Western Loire borders.
Popular for outdoor activities, this village boasts hiking paths, canoeing routes, mountain biking trails and rock climbing.
Katie and I wandered around the center of the village and hiked up a very steep path in hopes of obtaining a panoramic view of the village below.
We were unsuccessful in our sight seeing, but got our hearts beating along the way.
Once back down the hill, we took in the remaining sights of the bridged river.
On the road again, we navigated our way to the second stop of the day, my favorite village, Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei.
Situated almost as an island surrounded by the river Sarthe, this village has not surprisingly attracted artists since the 19th century.
If any little village will inspire creativity, this is certainly it.
The natural colors of the stone houses surrounded by woodlands and bursts of blossoming color made me want to set up an easel and attempt to capture the beauty around me.
Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei felt oh so very French.
Our oh so French lunch fit right in to this village.
Baguette with goat cheese, arugula, tomatoes and fresh cracked pepper- packed this morning. We also had chips and brownies.
Katie and I enjoyed our very French picnic along the banks of the river Sarthe.
A more pleasanter spot for a relaxing picnic, I could not imagine.
We ate on the large rock overlooking the bridge to the right and the church to the left.
Rightfully named as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France "The most beautiful villages of France," the town was not only beautiful, but tranquil, reverent and calming.
I could easily move to this village and spend my days painting amongst the natural world around me.
We had a good long wander about.
We looked into the church, walked around the chapel and even watched a group of school children play a game of ball from canoes.
After pulling ourselves away from the picturesque French village, Katie and I found our way to the town of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe.
Actually, it was the second time we’d found our way to Fresnay; the original arrival unbeknownst to us, as we turned around after our first and worse misnavigation of the day.
Sadly, my camera battery died just as we entered our third and final town, so the remainder of my day was captured using the camera from my phone.
Although it was no Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Fresnay-sur-Sarthe was a small town with big character.
Complete with medieval walls, a dungeon, stunning bridges and stone houses that have become jagged and crooked with time, Fresnay was unlike the other two villages we had visited today.
We spent a bit of time in the beautiful Church of Notre-Dame where three very friendly old ladies were eager to share their English booklets explaining the history and symbolism of the church.
The next moment of awe occurred as we viewed the town below from the medieval walls. The Sarthe river laid the way for yet another round of beautiful photographs.
Once we’d seen all that we thought we could see for the day, we decided to drive back ‘home’ to the gite.
As luck would have it, the most inviting sunflower fields lined our way back.
We couldn’t help but park the car and capture the brilliantly cheerful sunflowers.
Driving away, we agreed that this was the way a vacation should be.
Back at the gite, I prepared dinner while Katie wrote in her journal. We had roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary. Katie ate chicken nuggets with avocado and I had patties made with lentils and mixed vegetables over arugula.
Attempting to take in as much beauty as possible in a day can drain a person.
After enjoying a glass of red wine, I feel like it’s time for bed. I’d better be off- we have another full day planned for tomorrow.