Seven Panthers met in Plymouth to take the over-night ferry to Roscoff. The south west contingency for this trip consisted of, Andy and Mary, Dawn and Brian, John and Wendy, Terry and Chris, Garry and Sue, Brian and Margaret and our selves Ray and Sue. Sunday night seemed perfect for the crossing to Roscoff it was warm dry and calm, the sea was as flat as a pancake, but that still didn't help some of us sleep (anticipation I think). The run down to the Loire was very pleasant getting warmer as we drove south, we stopped for le petit dejeuner quite quickly after clearing the ferry traffic, then journeyed on to meet up with Terry and Sue, John and Trisha and Jim and Lyn at Chateaubriant, they had sailed from Portsmouth to St Malo. As the group was now ten strong we split into 2 groups of 5 cars for the rest of the journey, those that had opted for a light lunch set of first, while the others opted for a more leisurely lunch before completing the trip south.

On our arrival to the hotel we found the first group had also just arrived having had a break down on route unfortunately this was to cost Brian and Margaret, who's brakes had failed, some of the first part of the holiday, whilst their Kallista was being repaired they hired a eurobox and were able to join in some of the trips. The Hotel Le Bellevue was well situated on the banks of the Cher a tributary of the Loire River, in the small picturesque town of Montrichard with the wonderful stone bridge in full view. This was to prove very useful as we found a rather nice restaurant directly opposite the Hotel and a wonderful pub built on the bridge, (it was probably a gatehouse originally) halfway, entre les deux, affording us a stop off point on the several journeys made to the other side. We explored the town on the first day, which included marauding all over the castle ruins a bit like Wisigoths.
Ray had worn a bright yellow T shirt on the first day and found it a real attraction for the local flies which were landing on him in their hundreds, giving him the nickname Buttercup. This was to become our handle for the walkie-talkies. While in this part of the Loire valley we visited Chateau Chenoceau which built on a series of arches, spans the river Cher with stunning formal gardens and 16th century farm. We also visited Chateau Du Clos Luce at Amboise last home of Leonardo da Vinci, full of his art and models (some working), we visited two caves, having been mined for the stone which was used in the wonderful château's and houses, they now use the caves either for storing wine, there was 4 million bottles in the cave we visited (1 or 2 bottles less when we left) or to grow mushrooms in, there was 1 or 2 less mushrooms also when we left as we were encouraged to taste them too. For the second half of the holiday we traveled northwest to Domaine St Hilliare about 5 miles outside Saumur. Some of us had been before as Andy had used this Hotel as an overnight stop on the trip to the Gorges da Tarn 2 years before. The Hotel had started life as a prison for juveniles, the well sized very pleasant bedrooms being in the wardens houses that flank the typical French avenue leading to the prison which has been turned into the club house. Now all set within a 18-hole golf course. It has a swimming pool which as the weather just got hotter and hotter proved to be a godsend and we could be found in or around the pool for the hour or two before dinner.
From this part of the valley our trips included driving to Saumur for a boat ride on the river Loire. The visit to a Troglodyte (cave dwellers) village near Breze proved a great hit with everyone especially John R who reckoned he could happily have lived there but we managed to persuade him out with talk of lunch and a very large Panache. On the second Sunday Ray and I decided to drive the Panther to Le Mans whilst others decided to go by train (air conditioned I believe) and the Ladies decided a leisurely day by the pool was more to their taste as the weather was just getting hotter and hotter. So donning new Panther centenary T shirts we set off, the run up was very clear, and spookily, as if they knew we were coming we were guided straight into a private club car park, with its own security guards, some 2 minutes walk from the entrance. We met up with the rest at the famous Dunlop Bridge and after watching for a while headed for a bar.

Le Mans was a wonderful experience not to be missed, the noise, the heat, the smell, lots of people, all sorts of cars old and new, helicopters flying in and out every couple of minutes small private jets coming and going. We had a walk around the village and saw the main stands and the pit area, after our own pit stop for refreshments we left wearing our new 24 heurers T-shirts. As this was the hottest day of the holiday over 36 degrees, the pool when we returned was a most welcoming sight. That evening on the way to the restaurant in Fontevraud-l`Abbeye we past a temperate gauge and at 9 o clock it was still showing 32 degrees. On our last evening in the Loire we surprised Andy and Mary with gifts to show every-ones appreciation for organizing the trip, John I gave the presentation to his loyal subjects as he bore an uncanny resemblance to Francois the 1st, King of France and friend to Leonardo da Vinci, John had been playing the part well all week and we were quite use to calling him `My liege`.

On the last morning after breakfast we said our farewells and bon voyage. Once again we split into two groups to make our separate ways home. Andy as usual found us a nice place for lunch and back on the road Brian's car started to play up, we limped along for a while eventually finding a garage where we could stop and St Andy (patron saint of Panther cars) laid his hand on the car and low and behold the car started and off we went again towards the ferry. Stopping very briefly to pack the cars even tighter with more bottles of wine at a warehouse just out side the port. Whilst the other group made it home safely once john had turned off `Doris` his navigation system who was obviously objecting to planning a route out of France, they sailed from Caen with only a slight delay in sailing times.

We wish to thank our fellow travelers for making this trip a most memorable holiday and what will stay in our memory most of all will be the amount of fun and laughs we had, we couldn't have wished for better company.

Sue and Ray

Here are a few more photos of the trip, kindly supplied by Terry Price.

Photo call for the gang at Domaine St Hilliare about 5 miles outside Saumur.

Refreshment was taken on more than one occasion at this lovely little Cafe' in Montrichard.

All hands to the pumps, It's a good job we had Andy G with us or Bryan and Margaret could have been looking for a hire car!!

Evening meals, eat, drink, and be merry. Oh and don't forget chat, it's the perfect time to catch up with everyone and talk about the days adventures.