Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Through the misplaced middle

Sully-sur-Loire, where we stayed last night, is in France's Centre region. This is something of a misnomer. The regional capital is Orléan; a quick glance at any map will reveal that 'Centre' is too far north to be the geographical centre of the country. In fact, administrative convenience and geographical accuracy rarely coincide. Our hometown of Buxton is located in the East Midlands, but is directly north of Birmingham, capital of the West Midlands. Similarly the geographical middle of France lies to the south of the Centre region, where it, and the adjoining regions of Burgundy and the Auvergne meet. Somehow, in all our meanderings through France over the past four decades we have inadvertently passed by the middle bit. Today's plan was to make amends.

The Loire between Sully and Sancerre seems to be a hotspot for 'the nuclear  power industry
The section of the Loire upstream from Orléans is not quite so famous as the part between Anger and Blois renowned for its Chateaux and wines. Consequently the riverside roads were almost traffic free all the way to Sancerre and beyond. It is a rich looking landscape, a broad wooded valley, interspersed with vineyards, lush meadows with plump Charolais cattle, and brown fallow fields.

Empty roads south - the sort we moho drivers dream about.
At Nevers we left the Loire and followed the valley of its tributary, l'Allier. The villages near Moulins seem a little less affluent, more remote and a tad ramshackle at times. However, our final destination, St. Pourçain-sur-Sioule, seemed to be an exception to this. It is a neat looking town with an ancient centre gathered around a typical Burgundian Romansesque church. This has been adapted over time and merges into the surrounding buildings forming a pleasing hotchpotch of shapes and styles.

Unusually for an area on the edge of the Auvergne, St. Pourçain is famed for a unique wine which mixes the local Tresselier grape variety with the more ubiquitous Chardonnay associated with nearby Burgundy.

Title?  'I drink therefore I am...'
Despite most of the town being closed for business due to the VE day public holiday, we did find a delicatessen open that had a range of local wines for sale. The terroir is hardly renowned, but rarerity affects price as well as fame; we paid up, agreeing to put the bottle aside to consume later at some special occasion in the future, such as a spectacular Corsican sunset, the moment I test my new snorkel, the sacking of Boris Johnson or Klopp's triumph in Kiev.

Meanwhile, the motorhome aire at St. Pourçain is crammed tonight. The town may be relatively unknown for its viticulture, but seems to have developed as a major tribal gathering place for Europe's grey-haired motorhomers. There are almost 80 vans parked for the night at the free aire de camping car that runs along the bank of the Sioule.

 It will be interesting to see if the Cevennes and Ardeche are as busy; hopefully Corsica will be quieter

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