What do you think can make so many people get up early on a sunday morning and walk 10, 12 or 18 kilometers accross woods, fields and vineyards ?
Many villages of the Loire (and France) have found out how to gather in one day more people than the official count of inhabitants (450 for this particular village) for the sole (well, quite the sole...) purpose of doing some healthy exercise...Welcome to the "marche avec ravitaillement" (walk with buffets), a yearly ritual where you can treat yourself with good food and drink wine all the while exercising and visiting the hidden sides of backcountry villages. If you stay long enough in the Loire in spring and ask, for example to the nearest Mairie (city hall), there is a chance that you may find a village in the region where a "marche" is organized.
Many rural communities, with the help of the local chapter of a non-profit health group named UFOLEP, organize once a year such nature walks. Here is as it goes : village employees and volunteers of the local "Comité des Fêtes" are in charge of all the details, marking of the itineraries, cutting the grass on the grass roads and preparing the food and drinks. It seems easy at the first glance but this is a lot of work and these people are doing a great job for their community.
Back to the village : after having passed the local medieval castle and walked the full circle back to the stadium facility , everyone is offered (again!) a "vin d'honneur" (a glass of wine) at about noon, and different prize cups are distributed, like to "the oldest person having made the walk, to the youngest, to the biggest village-group or family, to the person coming from the farthest city (could have been you, reader!). I already brought some Japanese friends and they got a prize cup ! 2 or 3 dozens of cups were awarded this weekend.
Near the stadium, a vide-grenier (garage sale) is taking place the whole day (I made several bargains, including _believe it or not_ a lens-less SLR camera from the 70s' in perfect condition for 0,5 Euro : a Minolta SRT100X). B. needed another film camera as she lost recently her venerable Asahi Pentax, this will be my gift. The camera body was in a big cardboard box with a sign "every thing at 0,5 Euro". From this box, I also bought a mask and tuba and a portable tungsten light for photography from the 80s'.
In addition to the vide-grenier, there were a few stands including a few winery stands where people could have a glass or buy wine. One of these winery stands was Domaine des Champieux', a 17-hectare estate making Touraine and Valençay wines (white, rosé and red) at about 4 Euro a bottle. I tasted several of the wines (when will it stop?) and liked the crisp and fresh white Valençay (100% Sauvignon, which is rare as usually white Valençay is a Chard-Sauv blend), and also the rosé, a nice balanced dry pink with fruit aromas. This sun-glasses man above is a happy Brit : this retired expat just bought a 5-liter bib of rosé for 12 Euro...
What a walk ! In such conditions, I feel I could walk all the way to Compostella...
The UFOLEP doen't give a list for the walks in the main Loire "departements" like Loir et Cher (Prefecture : Blois) or Indre et Loire (Prefecture : Tours), but I could find the list for the Indre Departement (Prefecture : Chateauroux). Here are a few dates and locations (I'll add some more later).
Use www.viamichelin.fr to locate the villages (village-name and zip codes are needed, you must type them both in the "code postal-ville" box) The phones may be useful to find the starting point in the village :