I had now passed the provinces of Bretagne and Poitou, as they border the Loire; and, in point of beautiful and romantic scenery, this district can scarcely be surpassed. The left bank of the river, running along the country of Le Bocage, from Nantes to Angers, a distance of seventy-two miles, is a continued range of lofty hills, agreeably diversified with corn lands, and studded with vineyards. The opposite bank is a more flat and variegated country, with pleasant eminences and broad plains, watered by branches of the Loire, which in many parts contains small islands covered with trees. The whole course of this fine river, as the eye sweeps and ranges over its banks, presents at almost every bend the view of villas enriched with gardens, orchards, and vineyards; castles, convents, and villages in ruins! bearing innumerable evidences of the desolating war that has destroyed them.
The religious communities, whose love of scenery and retirement in general led them to prefer the most sequestered valleys, have in these provinces chosen the most elevated and picturesque spots for the erection of their monasteries; and these, notwithstanding their deserted and decaying state, prove the good taste of their ancient possessors, and the skill and industry with which they embellished them. No situations could have been selected more abounding in picturesque combinations of magnificent landscapes.
The pleasure of the traveller in surveying such scenes, cannot but be frequently interrupted, by the recollection of the various atrocities which the inhabitants of these fine provinces committed against each other, and of the immense number of innocent victims that were driven from their abode to perish by famine or the sword.
SAUMUR TO TOURS—TOURS—TOURS TO BLOIS—ORLEANS—AND ORLEANS TO PARIS.
I hired a small carriage, called a patache, to convey me to Saumur and Tours; it is driven by a postillion with two horses, and is open in front, giving the traveller a better opportunity of viewing the country than in a close vehicle.
The town of Saumur is built on both banks of the Loire, with a handsome stone bridge over it; an ancient castle, built on a high rock, commands the whole town. The road from Angers to this place is a high raised causeway, paved, and runs parallel to the river, within a few paces of its banks, the whole distance. Here we entered into Touraine from the province of Anjou. From Saumur to Tours, the road is like the former. The river Loire is on the right hand, and a flat level country on the left, covered with orchards, groves, and meadows. The road is every where raised so high, that it forms a very steep declivity, with narrow pathways down to the entrance of the cottages and villages, which are most romantically situated,—some in orchards, some amidst vineyards, some in gardens, and others in recesses peeping from between the trees.