Candes St Martin (Indre et Loire)



Candes St Martin, a small village not far from Chinon in Touraine, (https://www.touraineloirevalley.co.uk/candes-saint-martin-most-beautiful-villages-france/) is on the left bank of the Loire on the road to Saumur. At the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers, it is said to be one of the oldest Gallo-Roman villages in the area and still retains its mediaeval street layout. The best panoramic view of the village is from the "Pointe du Véron" on the North bank of the Vienne, facing the village from the South bank of the Loire (see photo). Houses in the village run down to the Loire in narrow, attractive streets (see photos) where a few of the old river boats still moor up in the port and now offer river tours. 



What struck us when we first arrived in the village was it’s huge 12th-13th century collegial church, built on the site where St Martin, Bishop of Tours and 'Apostle to the Gauls', died in 397. Its interior is as striking as its exterior (see photos). Its porch, which faces on to a small town square, has a wonderful acoustic as we discovered one evening. We were part-way through dinner at the delightful local restaurant – see below - in the square, when three people walked into the porch with hunting (natural) horns who proceeded to give us an impromptu concert. Wonderful! The Road on the North side of the square forms part of one of the old pilgrim routes to St Jaques de Compostella in northern Spain.


We had two meals at the Auberge Route d’Or in the square, just before they closed in the Autumn. The chef only used local produce but created very tasty food. One dish was mixed fish on pasta with green and red capsicum sauce in stripes like an Italian flag. Another was pigeon breast in a sauce, as smooth and tender as could be. The service was equally good and most kindly: when it started to rain we were offered a table inside, even though our outside seat was well protected from the rain by awnings.



There are several enjoyable walks around the village. The most impressive is from the eastern end of the village near the bridge over the Vienne, where there is a convenient car park. Going steeply uphill on a field track it brought us to a lookout point over the confluence of the Loire and Vienne from where, we understand, in mediaeval times tax collectors watched the river traffic and extracted tolls from passing boats. From here, we walked West onto an old road that sloped steepily down towards a cross roads with an old quarry beside it. From the crossroads we  walked back to the village square, but could have walked to Fontevraud, or to Montsoreau via a web of minor country roads.


Another is a gentle walk from the square up the hill under a bridge past the church towards the Bishop's Palace which crowns the hill. From near the palace we got splendid views over the valley of the Loire, looking East towards Tour … and the nuclear power station!


A third goes along the Loire westwards on its South bank towards the next village, Montsoreau, and eventually to Saumur. Some of the time this walk is beside the road, but it gives beautiful views along the Loire.

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