Saturday, July 07, 2012
Up at 8AM. The sun is shining but it began to rain a couple of hours later.
Since this is our last morning in Chartres, we walked around a bit more. Chartres is a small town and we got to know our way around it fairly quicky. When we bought sandwiches for the trip, we found the Saturday Market. Thinking that there was nothing more to see, I didn’t bring my camera. I guess that makes me a bad photographer. But at the same time, I get tired of seeing the world through a camera lens. Next time I will just give the camera to my DH.
My DH wanted to take one last look at the stained glass windows of the cathedral. We got there just as one of the highest rated tours settled into their chairs for a lecture by a scholar of the cathedral. Yesterday the tourist office told us he was sick and his tours of the cathedral canceled for the next few days. But there he was, a 70+ year old man addressing a group of about 30 people. The participants of the tour each paid 10 Euros and all wore special hearing aids so that the scholar could whisper his commentary, it was too late for us to join in. My DH was bummed! He really loves these windows.
We checked out of our hotel at noon from the Mercure Hotel (a modern boutique hotel with comfy beds and quiet rooms and mediocre food, or so the receptionist told us). We got to the bus station an hour before our bus was to leave. This was fortuitous as there was confusion as to what gate our bus would be at and about the use of our EuroRail pass and, in fact,the bus left a little early.
Long story short, travel in Europe is not what it used to be a decade ago. Once you could just show your EuroRail pass and get on the bus. Now, reservations must be made days in advance and only so many seats on each train/bus are dedicated to EuroRail users – so much for spontaneous travel!
We boarded our bus at to Orleans at 1:31pm without a problem and the ride was pleasant. It rained, the sun came out, it rained again. The weather changes fast. I watched the clouds go like bright and dark waves.
At the Orleans Bus Station we saw two signs for the Orleans Train Station, each pointing in opposite directions. A couple of locals pointed us into the right direction. We caught our train with 10 minutes to spare. We arrived in Amboise on time at around 4pm.
First, Amboise is small. Unfortunately, we did not know just how small. This situation illustrates how poor customer service can be in France and how gracious the French people can be with out-of-town visitors. When the ladies at the Information/Ticket Desk could not understand my broken French and could not sell me a phone card, a tall, slim, and well-dressed Frenchman with short hair and fashionable glasses came to my rescue! He offered to call the taxi on his cell phone for me. A couple of minutes later, he had a taxi ordered for us – it would be black and arrive in 10 minutes. Emmanuel offered to sit with my DH and me as we waited for the taxi and he waited for his train.
Emmanuel apologized for his English but believe me – he sounded great to us! He asked about our trip and he made recommendations to us on things and places to see. He told us that he also has trouble with the French train system. “The system is not good,” he said.
When the taxi arrived we thanked Emmanuel for his kindness and he wished us “bonne journee” (Good Journey). The lady taxi driver was equally nice and gave us a brief tour of the city as she drove us to our hotel.
We are staying at the Au Charme Rabelaisien. This is the first place I booked on this trip. I liked the fact that it is a bed and breakfast and away from the crowds. It was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. I can’t begin to describe how nice this place is! You will just have to go to the website.
Our hostess, Sylvie, is a lovely energetic French woman. Within an hour of our arrival she had showed us our room, booked us dinner reservations at a nice French restaurant, made recommendations for this evening’s entertainment, made recommendations for tomorrow’s activities (on Sundays most things are closed), AND booked us chateaux tours for Monday and Tuesday.
Only problem – the internet is not working. Storms in the area have played havoc with satellite services, rendering cell phones and internet servers barely functional throughout the region. Add to that the fact that we were only be one night in Chartres means that you, my dear and faithful readers, have not been getting daily postings. Sorry about that.
Once we were settled and while the sun was still shining, we decided to take a walk to the town city, visit the Tourist Office and get tickets for the night’s entertainment – Amboise Grand Spectacle Noctorne.
As I said, Amboise is a small town in the middle of the Loire Valley known for lots and lots of medieval chateaux and good white wine. It is touristy but not the crowds we saw at Mont St-Michel. The streets are narrow and lined with up-scale tourist kitsch.
Dinner was at Restaurant Le Lion d’Or at 7:30pm. This would be our first truly French meal. The restaurant is very upscale but they still allowed us in, even with my DH’s flannel shirt. Since foie-gras is soon to be outlawed in California, I ordered it and I loved it – think of liver pate, but better! My DH ordered snails. We both ordered a light white fish as our main dish.
During the summer, the locals of Amboise put on a little show in front of the Chateau Royal d’Amboise called the Amboise Grand Spectacle Noctorne. This show tells of the story of the town of Amboise and the history of the chateau and features dancers and royality in medieval costumes, acrobats, and dancing/prancing horses.
It was a late night for us as the show ended after midnight, but a good day — the rain held off until we made it back to our room!
Quote of the day: “Where are the taxis?” — DH at arrival at the train station in Amboise, France.