Europe 2012: Day 34, Loire Valley Part 3 — More Chateaux


The Clock Tower in Amboise, France.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Woke up at 7pm.  Breakfast at 7:30am.  We are meeting our next tour of the chateaux at 8:35am at the Tourist Office.

We are using the same tour company as yesterday so we are hoping to get Pascal again.   Also waiting for the tour van are another American couple from Palm Springs.  This youthful, retired couple were just completing around 60 days in Europe.  “Tired” was the word they used to describe how they were dealing with being away from home so long.

The van arrived and a young energetic brunette hopped out of the van.   Her name was Marina and she was our guide for the day.   Oh well, we can’t have everything we want, can we?

While we made our way to pick up some more tourists in Tours, we talked about the challenges of travel with our friends from Palm Springs.  It was nice to hear that we all faced the same challenges.  It was not that my DH and I were doing anything wrong; that is just how traveling is in France – frustrating, inconvenient, and you have to double-check everything regarding hotels, tours, and trains.

At Tours, we picked up a French-speaking woman and her son.   We also picked up another American couple from Los Angeles — they have been in France for a couple of weeks with a couple of more weeks to go.   They described themselves as “exhausted.”  My DH and I are surprised that these couples are also taking extended European vacations — doesn’t anyone work any more?

Marina was pleasant and competent.  She had all the facts and figures about the chateaux we were visiting today.  But she did not have the interesting stories to tell like Pascal did.

For my DH and me, this is a morning tour and we only have two chateaux to visit.  For the others, it would be a full day of chateaux, most of which we saw yesterday.   Our tour guide will drop us off in Tours at noon.

Chateau Villandry was our first stop of the morning.   This chateau is empty, there are no furnished rooms to see.  This chateau is all about the French gardens!   Perfectly groomed and perfectly symmetrical in design, these garden are jaw-dropping gorgeous!

a view of the ‘Kitchen Garden” at Villandry Chateux — fruit, vegetables, and herbs (France)

The “Formal Gardens” at the Villandry Chateau — just to impress. (France)

The second and last chateau for us for the day was Chateau Azay-le-Rideau.   There is not much to see in the chateau itself, this chateau is all about how it is constructed.   The main attraction here are the rafters in the attic.   I am no architect, but I get the impression that the engineering required to get these steep roofs is pretty clever.

View of the Azay de Rideau Chateau (France)

View of the Azay de Rideau Chateau (France)

Rafter construction allows for the steep roof pitch (Azay de Rideau Chateau, France)

Colorful tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries — most tapestries from this period are faded, but these are perfectly preserved. (Azay de Rideau Chateau, France)

As I mentioned, the tour dropped my DH and me off in Tours – a major government center in France.  The government officials here are responsible for collecting taxes.  We stopped off at the tourist office to get a city map and use the internet.   Next, we went to the train station to book our tickets for the next leg of our trip.   This was frustrating – the ticket person did not offer us the same train schedule we found on the web.   The tickets she offered us would take us four hours longer than we expected.   Apparently, the ticketing system this agent was using only searched for routes with two stops, not necessary the faster routes with the faster trains.   We had to ask her to look for a faster option but she did not appear eager to do so — not that we were asking her to break a sweat or something, she was already sitting at the computer screen.  Eventually, we got the route we wanted.  Once we had the ticket in hand, we walked away and my HD says “Geez, you have to know the train system better than they do!”

We began our walking tour of Tours by buying a ham and cheese sandwich to share.   We stopped in a park by a fountain and ate the sandwich with fruit we brought with us.   We continued the tour going past old churches and a square where they used to execute criminals.  We following a long street lined with shops to the old medieval heart of Tours.

Old buildings in Tours, France.

We stopped for some gelato!

Gelato – chocolate and caramel! (Tours, France)

Trains leave from Tours to Amboise every hour.  Around 4pm, we headed back to the train station.   On with way, we passed a Briocherie where there rose a heavenly smell of buttery bread and a long line of customers.   My HD bought two brioche buns speckled with chocolate chips.  They were good but we both had higher expectations.

A Chocolate-chip Brioche — it smelled better than it tasted. (Tours, France)

The train took off on time.  We arrived back in Amboise around 6pm.   Since it was not raining, we decided to walk off the Brioche.  So, we headed back to the city center on foot (about a mile).   Half way over the bridge, we ran into our Palm Springs friends.   We chatted about the day and bid each other happy travels.   As we continued to walk to the city center, we waved to our Los Angeles friends who were riding in the tour van back to Tours.    What a small world!

It took 20 minutes to get back to the B&B – the internet was working!    My DH verified the travel plans for tomorrow.   I worked on this blog – my first chance in 2 days.

I worked on the blog until I was kicked off the internet around 8:30pm.   My DH and I went out for our last dinner in Amboise.   We went to Bretonia de Anne at the base of Chateau Amboise.   We shared a salad and a crepe stuffed with ham, cheese, mushrooms, and an egg.  We watched people, children, and dogs go by.   There was a little farmer’s market down the street so after dinner we wandered through it.  It was a nice time for our last evening in Amboise.

Best of all, it hadn’t rained at all today!

Quote of the day:   “We’re tired!” — Fellow travelers from Palm Springs after 60 days in Europe.

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3 thoughts on “Europe 2012: Day 34, Loire Valley Part 3 — More Chateaux

  1. Get your rest and continue to enjoy your dream trip … (in fact you should be sleeping right now as it’s 3:57 a.m. your time 7/14/12) … because as one of your readers, I would not want you to get tired out. I am enjoying your trip so much!

  2. The network of railways in Plymouth, Devon, England, was developed by companies affiliated to two competing railways, the Great Western Railway and the London and South Western Railway. At their height two main lines and three branch lines served 28 stations in the Plymouth area, but today just six stations remain in use. The first uses of railway in the area were wooden rails used during the construction of docks facilities. ^

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