National Geographic : 1966 Jun
Spirited horses and spirited men of the Armored Corps and Cavalry School at Saumur carry on a proud tradition of horse manship, even though graduates spend more time in tanks than in saddles. The school's crack riding team, the Cadre Noir, wears uniforms of Empire days as it wheels its steeds in intricate mounted drills. Mechanized mounts pass in review during the July Carrousel, an annual show in which Saumur cadets display their skill with hors es, tanks, motorcycles, jeeps, and helicopters. Saumur's heritage of gallantry includes a battle at the town itself. In the summer of 1940, the students and their officers, greatly outnumbered, held a crossing of the Loire against a German division for three days. 862 Hundreds of cadets died in the fight. Restored by my brief sojourn in the pres ent, I plunged again into the past at a place which four centuries of writers have acclaimed the jewel of Touraine. Azay-le Rideau is no clifftopping keep but a sumptu ous little palace of the valley, seated squarely in the quiet water of the Indre (page 860). The original castle, a military emplacement controlling the tributary stream, was burned five centuries ago, when Charles VII passed that way and was insulted by the garrison. Later the present chateau rose out of the Indre, just as Chenonceaux, at the same time, was rising out of the Cher. The resemblance did not end there: Both were the creations of financiers. Gilles Berthe lot, Azay's owner, considered himself in direct competition with Bohier of Chenonceaux. Berthelot's wife, like Bohier's, directed the construction. Both gentlemen dipped too fre quently into the royal till. Francois I got both castles in payment of their debts.