9-20-08 Amboise and the Loire Valley, by Jodi
We eat breakfast 8am and greeted by not only Max but also Luna, his female counter part who was not friendly and very prissy & hissy. The drive to Amboise took us on some pretty small, one-lane country roads. They are big enough for one car with no centerlines. If another car approaches, you both pull over into the gravel and grass to pass each other. We kept seeing McDonalds signs but never saw one, they boast WIFI, so we were tempted to pull into one just for that, we may still do that in the future if we continue to have access problems. The drive was pleasant and about 4 hours long, but we were not in a big hurry. We enjoyed the scenery on our drive south trying to stay off the main toll highways.
We stopped at a large grocery called Super U, which I suppose is their version of a Walmart, but looking very 7-11ish. Sold some furniture, appliances, clothing, food, toys and soaps in very limited quantities. Bought more fruit and the much-coveted milk to guzzle.
We checked in to the B&B, meeting Ginette a most gracious hostess. I wish I could say the same about her fox terrier, Ollie, he looked at me sideways, snarled and nipped at me but seemed to take to Terry just fine. Between Ginette’s little English, our little French and our trusty dictionary, we get along just fine. We unload and head into town to eat some lunch. It is now about 3pm, little did we realize that ALL restaurants are only open from noon-2:30 and then don’t reopen until 7pm for dinner. We finally found a little sandwich shop, and had a doner kebab and fries. A kebab is lamb, shaved very thin and piled on a large, heavy bun type bread with sauce of your choice. Not what we really wanted, but it was good and filled us nonetheless. We found the Laundromat, today being one of our 4 wash days, relaxed and visited with 2 other Americans one from Sacramento and the other from Seattle that were traveling together. After our drying was complete we bid bon voyage and head back to the room for some much needed rest and to settle in. Asking Ginette about internet access she gave us an Ethernet adapter that works through the power outlets, and is similar to dial up. We try to send some emails but are having problems. I was able to post the first few days of the blog though, so go figure.
The next 3 days will be jamb packed running around the valley seeing all the aristocratic chateaus and castles.
9-21-08 Chateau hopping day, Loire Valley, by Jodi
We have a delicious breakfast of baguettes with butter and homemade jams, yogurt with cereal mixed in, coffee and hot chocolate for Terry, which he loved. That is a pretty standard French breakfast only we notice the French dip their bread in hot tea.
We leave around 9am for Chenonceau, just 19 km from here. This stately hunting chateau was built by King Francois 1 and as a home for his mistress, Diane. His coat of arms are plastered everywhere you look, a fire breathing salamander and the letter F with a crown on top. Quite the egotist, if you ask me. His wife, Catherine found out about the mistress and kicked her out. She remodeled the chateau with a huge, 3 story entertaining hall that crosses the river, a unique feature of Chenonceau.
The fascinating kitchens were nothing but the best for the time including a butchery to carve all the animals after being killed, a huge pantry room to store supplies for the winter months, a servant dining room and lastly the gigantic kitchen with ovens and stoves. Just awesome, especially decorated with time period copper pots and pans, unusual utensils, and unknown to us type tools and contraptions, I guess used for carving. There was even a large copper pot with a snout protrusion to roast pigs.
The bedchambers oozed of gold and wealth as do most palaces. The cornices, crown moldings, and full wall tapestries were extremely ornate showing animals and hunting scenes.
The surrounding gardens next to the river were gorgeous and perfectly symmetrical as were all gardens from that time period. Our walk back to the car took us through a tunnel of shaded trees. We bought a baguette sandwich from the vendor at the entrance and had a picnic with other goodies we had stashed in our snack bag at the car.
The next stop is a feudal castle and town called Fougers. We arrive about 1:00, to find it closed for lunch until 3, hmmmm, a tourist sight closed for lunch? We take some outside photos and move on to Cheverny, about ½ hour away. Again, we only take outside photos and walk the cute town, knowing we need lots of time to see our last stop, the grandest of all chateaus in our opinion, Chambord.
Again, seeing Chambord for the first time, with its shear size and varied rooftop turrets, unusual chimneys and rooflines is overwhelming. We walk around the chateau as Terry clicks photo after photo. The place is mind boggling huge. We enter the courtyard, to find a rather plain, gravel filled entrance, we then enter the chateau through the massive stone arch doors to see a double helix spiral staircase, most likely designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. The historians are not real clear, but it has his earmark all over the design.
Francois 1 was also behind the beginning building of Chambord, and wanted to have an even more stately hunting lodge than Chenenceoux. His trademark salamander and F crown grace this chateau as well. Building stopped and started on Chambord for a century because of wars, deaths of kings, and then sat empty and abandoned for 70 years! It was finally restored, bought by the French govt. and is now a historical monument.
We walked up each flight of stairs, seeing all the royal bed chambers, drawing rooms, salons and all the other rooms the royalty just had to have for this reason or another. They really knew how to be self-indulgent, which never ceases to amaze me even as many palaces all over Europe that we’ve seen. We finally climb the last bit of helix stairs to the rooftop, Terry’s photo heaven. We descend back down, going in circles that seems like forever, making me somewhat nauseated.
We leave Chambord and head back to Amboise just knowing we NEED a decent dinner tonight. We’ve been running on empty and grabbing food when we can. We find a small restaurant that opened at 6:30, so we waited the few minutes until we could be seated. Terry got the Lasagna salad special and I got a chicken, mushroom, artichoke, and gorgonzola pizza with a salad on top, a very unusual combination but so good. We were famished and ate like we had not eaten in days. We also had a glass of Amboise rose wine, which was very good.
Full and happy we went back to the B&B, turned on the French TV to see some 1960s show called Cosmos 99 with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, French dubbed in – hilarious! We literally flopped into bed at 9pm.