Ok, we know it's hot. Like real hot.
And when we've had scorching weather in the UK around the early 30's for weeks, it made complete sense for us to hit the road, jump on a ferry and head to an even hotter bit of Europe. Mad dogs etc.
Our destination this time was the lazy river running through the Loire Valley in the central section of France (down from Paris, across to the left a bit ok?)
With a 10-year-old in tow, a week's worth of vineyard visitations was sadly out of the question, so instead we did what lots of other Brits do - the 'Europcamp thing' - which to the uninitiated is rocking up to a mobile home affair (or for the brave, a tent) on a site with pool, bar, pizza etc. Our home for the week was Camping Château des Marais just outside Chambord.
It's an 8+ hour drive - 2 to Dover from Maidenhead, then another 6 odd from Calais but you can shave a couple of hours off if you want to do toll roads and not be cheap arse like us.
After that mammoth journey, the first day was a potter around one of the local towns - Blois.
Funnily enough, for a town of its type in the Loire, Blois has a Chateau and a Cathedral (sarcasm), plus some lovely streets ripe for photography leading down to the river. Lovely place and we liked it so much, we visited twice!
Château de Chambord.
Day Two. With driving legs sufficiently recovered, we jumped back in the car for the short hop to our rather magnificent local French Renaissance big house - Château de Chambord.
Brimming with a history tied up with Sun King (who didn't stay there much... rich people eh?), it's a pretty magnificent building and beautifully kept up. One of the crowning glories is the stairwells, which depending on who you believe - and it's a bit vague - were designed or inspired by Leonardo da Vinci who lived in the region until his death.
Basically, it's an amazing place and a must see if you're in the vicinity.
Orléans and Vendôme.
Slowing down a tad, the next couple of days were spent popping to two more local towns (well, I say local - both around an hour each way from our base... France is big). The first was Orléans - yes, the Joan of Arc one - which again has a pretty awe-inspiring Cathedral and more excitingly, a branch of C&A just across from a lovely square with children playing in fountains.
Second on the list was the sadly mostly shut town of Vendôme. Well, i say mostly shut: we went on a Sunday which we forgot means everything really is shut as unlike the UK, the French actually do have some sort of day of rest. Still, another lovely town with great views from the castle.
There's a lot of Leo in the Loire, and by that, I don't mean DiCaprio. As previously mentioned, Da Vinci entered French service in 1516, and was given use a rather nice manor house called Clos Lucé where he spent three years until he died. The house is now a reworked museum with not only recreated rooms, but actual working models of his inventions.
I felt the gardens, rather than the house was the main draw - not only are they wonderfully kept but they're peppered with inventions for kids (and adults) to play on, and lovely little touches like steam popping out of the little river flowing along the grounds.
So, château visited, wine drunk, towns walked around, bike rides had and, for one of us, a lot of time spent in the pool, we snaked our way back via Rouen to the coast. We could have easily had another week in the Loire region as there's loads to see and the campsite style is great as a base - especially when it's as hot as it currently is.
Perhaps next year we'll head a bit further south and try out a similar gig in the south of France. Global warming allowing.
The whole gang of Zeiss and Sony lenses from 25mm, through 35/55 to the 85mm got a runout but I really enjoyed playing with the Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2 this time out too. I'll do a full review using all sorts of shots from that soon once i've got some semblance of mastery of it.