Believe it or not, the weather in Florida today has sent us to the closet for sweaters and jackets; but there’s nothing like warm memories to take the chill from a winter day.
A few years back, we were tucked away in a vacation rental near Amboise, when we decided to visit Pontlevoy. itDuring a visit from Parisian friends, we had trekked up the hill in Amboise to visit Clos de Lucé. We visited the fabulous Chambord Château, wandered the streets of Blois, relished the Amboise open-air market and picnicked by the Loire.
One day we piled into the Peugeot and headed for Pontlevoy. A family member recommended we visit The Abbey, where Americans had founded a Study Abroad Program.
As it turns out, that prior relationship earned us a neighborly welcome with a friendly tour of the grounds and building, use of the school’s Wi-Fi (not easy to come by in those traveling days) and a generous invitation to feel at home and to return again.
The roots of the Abbey and the town of Pontlevoy spread through the centuries from its founding in 1034, through its destruction during the Hundred Years’ War, rebuilding and transformation to a seminary for the sons of wealthy bourgeoisie and later to a royal military academy.
The huge cedar of Lebanon in the courtyard was planted in honor of Louis XVI’s accession to the throne in the late 18th century. While the history is fascinating, on this day and on another that followed; our idle visits felt like trips to the oasis for a respite from the glaring sun.
After our tour, we sat beneath Louis’ tree, simply taking in the peace of our surroundings. Our friend’s dog, Sam, was quite content, as we heard the sweet sounds of a student violinist drift through the courtyard.
Just across Rue Colonel Filloux, we sat beneath plane trees to enjoy lunch at Café Commerce, the name as straightforward as the menu, the service as hospitable as friend’s. Next to us, a local gazed over the Abbey and enjoyed his Kronenbourg.
We still wrap all of those experiences around us like a favorite old coat in the heart of winter. The Abbey, the tree, the friendship and convivial meal and the sight of a gentleman enjoying his cold beer on a warm day were as grand as a royal procession at Versailles.
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