Europe 2012: Day 33, Loire Valley Part 2 – More Chateaux


Town of Amboise on the Loire River (France)

Monday, July 9, 2012

We woke up at 8:30am for our 9am breakfast.  It is sunny and we are still digesting last night’s dinner.

The internet is still giving us major problems.   We did not realize how spoiled we have become by using the internet – we really need the thing!!!

Today we have our first organized tour in the Loire Valley.   We will be seeing a number of Chateaux  – we are excited!!!  To be driven around all day and not make a single decision that involves train schedules — this is like heaven for my DH right now!

Our tour guide’s name is Pascal – another tall, slim, Frenchman who spoke English with a comic French lilt.  Full of vigor and smiles, we liked him immediately.    On our tour were five other tourists from Australia – we liked them too.

Our first stop was Château de Chenonceau.  This Chateau is known for a couple of things.  First, it was designed by women and is thus, “the most elegant Chateau of the valley” in Pascal’s opinion.   Second, it has quite a history of scandal. This Chateau was once given by the King to his favorite mistress.  “She had boop-boop-be-doop, you know,” said Pascal with a little jig – that just cracked me up!  Another story was about how one of the Queen’s lovers who had an accident at this chateau – “he was pushed off the bridge by the King”, explained Pascal – that cracked me up too.  We both found Pascal to be very entertaining!

View of Chateau Chenonceau (France)

Garden view of Chateau Chenonceau (France)

Our next stop was Château de Cheverny.  Unlike most chateaux that are owned by France as national monuments, this chateau is still privately owned.   It has been in the same family for over 700 years – they live in the right wing;  the public tours the rooms in the left wing.  The most interesting thing about this chateau is that there are around 120 pure-bred hunting dogs on the premises.   Fox hunting was quite the tradition for the Kings of France.   At this chateau, you can arrange fox hunting trips for you and your friends – the horses and dogs are provided but Pascal was not sure about the fox.

Front view of Chateau Cheverny. The owners live in the right wing, tourists visit the left wing. This chateau has been owned by the same family for over 700 years. (France)

What a nice place to cozy up to your DH and a mug of hot chocolate (made with French dark chocolate, of course)! (France)

Look closely — there is a painting under the piano top! (Chateau Cheverny, France)

Here are some of the 120 dogs at the chateau. I wonder what feeding time must be like! (Chateau Cheverny, France)

The last chateau of the day was Château de Chambord, the largest and the most famous chateau in the valley.  Situated on almost 10,000 acres, it was the hunting lodge of King Francis I of France.   During his entire life, the king spent only about 30 days here – “Now you know why there was a revolution,” says Pascal.  Unlike Chateau Chenonceau, this chateau was “poorly designed by a man, “ explained Pascal.   “It has over 400 rooms and one kitchen – your soup will get cold before it makes it half way through the chateau,” explains Pascal.  Did I tell you that Pascal really cracks me up?

Chateau Chambord -- its big and mostly empty. (France)

Chateau Chambord — it’s big and mostly empty. (France)

If I had been smart, I would have taken this picture horizontally. You would see that I am standing on the top terrace of the chateau and my brave DH followed me inspite of his fear of heights. I will love you forever, Sweetie! (Chateau Chambord, France)

One of four spiral staircases. (Chateau Chambord, France)

Double helix staircase at Chateau Chambord (France)

Most of the rooms of this chateau are nothing but big empty stone rooms that allow for plenty of room for tourists.   The most interesting feature of this chateau is the central staircase that is constructed as a double helix – it is possible for people going up the staircase never to meet the people going down the staircase.  Pascal said that this design was done to prevent the King’s mistresses going down the stairway from meeting the Queen who was going up the staircase.   I don’t know if this is true, but I met plenty of people going in the other direction while I was there.

We arrived back in Amboise around 6pm.   We headed back to the B&B to check emails.   The Internet worked for a couple of hours and then we lost connection.   Around 9pm, we were starving!   We found what looked to be a popular restaurant at the base of Chateau Amboise, Via Roma.  We shared a salad and Penne with Chicken.  The salad was fresh and lightly dressed – it was great!   Once they got our pasta order right, the Penne with Chicken was equally tasty and fresh.   Both dishes hit the spot!

We were back at the B&B around 11pm.  The internet connection was still down in our room – “Cannot obtain IP address” was the error.   My DH took the laptop to the main house and was able to work from there.   He was arranging for tours and a taxi at our next stop – a town smaller than Amboise.  It was a long night for him in that the internet connection was slow and the lights in the main house were on timer and left him in the dark.   He used his iPod to light the keyboard as he worked.

Other than a brief light shower in the morning, it really didn’t rain today.

Quote of the day:   “Now you know why there was a revolution!’ — Pascal describing Chateau Chambord.

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