After seeing a bit of the western side of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté – the Yonne while based in Auxerre, the Nièvre while based in Nevers – I wanted to start looking at towns in the region Centre-Val-de-Loire, considered to be central-western France. This trip, I chose to start with the Cher and a bit of the Indre, but I hope to see other départements of the region in March.
I had singled out Bourges, Vierzon (both in Cher), Issoudun and Châteauroux (Indre) as towns to look at. I just needed to pick a base, because transportation in this area – usually by train – is frequent, quick and economical, meaning there’s no reason to move suitcases. I hoped to find a town whose SNCF station would have elevators serving the train platforms, because getting my suitcases up and down all those stairs is risky business. I always feel anxious about finding help from some fellow traveler, in time, but so far, so good; people have been very kind. Still, it’s stressful. I gleaned what info I could from SNCF and other websites, but France is so far behind in making transportation accessible that they will say a station or train is handicapped-accessible because a handicapped person can arrange in advance to have train staff assist them. Doesn’t work for those of us who hope for an elevator to manage our luggage. I read newspaper articles in online archives, announcing accessibility projects, that is, elevator installations! – and as it seemed a project was started years ago in Vierzon, I decided to make that my base.
Um, no. No elevator. Some construction cages indicating that there is a project, but I didn’t see any work any time I went through the station in that week. Just for info, when the train stopped in Bourges, I looked out at the platforms and also asked passengers boarding there if there were elevators, No one was aware of any, and I didn’t spot them that day, but when I visited later I found that Yes! Bourges has elevators. Too late this time.
But how lucky a choice Vierzon turned out to be. I was arriving on Sunday. There was no one else around when I got off the train, except for a woman who’d just put her niece on the train, and was descending the stairs ahead of me. She became aware of me and of my hesitation and offered help. I was concerned that my suitcase would be too heavy for her as well. It’s a flight-ready 20 kg, 44 lbs, but these days that’s a lot for me. Hard to believe I used to like business or first class flights so my suitcase could be 60-70 pounds.
No problem, I was told, and down and back up we went. Then she led me into the station office to ask for a map for me and get directions to my hotel. I already had that info – or so I thought. Google maps. Phone data. And one thing I do when I choose lodging that’s not just right by the station, is check for city bus routes as well as the distance for a possible taxi ride. I knew my hotel was just a few stops along a bus route. What I didn’t know was that there is NO bus service at all on Sunday. And neither person there believed any taxi would be found.
Hard for an ex-New-Yorker to imagine such a possibility, but there you have it. I could get there on foot, taking my time. I was ready to ask for a ride … when, after consulting with the station agent, she exclaimed, oh, I go that direction, I can give you a lift if you like.
Oh did I like. Thank you.
And along the way, she decided to offer me a tour of the area, by car, once I’d checked in and dropped my bags.
We were on the road to a new friendship, which felt quite established by the time she – I’ll call her V here – dropped me back at my hotel well after dark. I had the most delightful day and got a wonderful, personal tour of the neighborhoods in town and the other villages nearby. I did not pull out my phone to take pictures, or ask for photo stops. I just enjoyed looking and chatting.
V showed me how lovely the paths alongside the rivers and canals are, and what lovely neighborhoods of little villas can be found. There were nature spots she’d enjoyed from childhood on, lakes to walk around or fish in, mushroom-rich woods. I got to see family homes, some from outside, mother’s house every nook. V now lives outside Paris, but comes home to look after her mom, whom I also got to meet and spend a little time with. As a last stop, V took me to a cozy cheese-wine-charcuterie shop where we shared a platter and a bottle. There was an outdoor garden that would be wonderful on warm nights.
V is obviously very fond of her childhood home, loving the Sologne‘s natural environment. While we had a gray, chilly day, it’s easy to imagine how beautiful this area is in spring through fall. V also pointed out what were typical Sologne houses and showed some historic sites as well.
While I didn’t take photos outside of town, I can at least show the lovely setting of this rather quiet town. My hotel was close to L’Yèvre as was the restaurant where I had lunch the next day. The Cher is just west and south, and an old canal lies to the east, with lots of walking and biking paths to enjoy.
Vierzon is in the old province of Berry, located where the Yèvre and Cher rivers meet.