Wednesday, May 16, 2012
One of my favorite parts of this trip has been today as we visited old friends here in the Loire Valley. Yes, the lovely Chateaux are like old friends to me as we’ve visited them so often; sharing them again with friends who are visiting for the first time as they gaze in awe at the palatial homes built by the wealthy several centuries ago. A few are built for defense but for the most part they were built for pleasure.
Today we stopped first in Blois to snap a photo of the outside staircase on the Chateau that was copied by the Biltmore Family on their palatial home in South Carolina. Now I know why we couldn’t find it by driving by in 2009….it is actually in the courtyard. When we found it we had to get down on our knees to snap a photo through the gates as we didn’t have the time to take the tour. They had banner hung that prevented you from a really good photo standing up…guess we were not the first to take them through the gate!
Then we drove to the largest of the Chateaux in the Loire Valley; Chambord with over four hundred rooms that allow you to get lost easily. Another surprise for us as we didn’t remember so many furnished rooms when we were there in 1999. Maybe we were in a hurry and concentrated on the circular staircases and the “to die for” roof top views. Not so much views of the grounds as of the chimneys’ and other roof top buildings. We really enjoyed this one even though the place was full to the rim! It’s a beautiful sunshine day with nary a black cloud in the sky and the tour buses are rolling full of tourists! And I think they were all in the Loire Valley today!
Our third stop was at Cheverny; a small, intimate and fully furnished home that has been owned by the same family over the years. There are personal photos displayed along with personal items such as the wife’s wedding dress. One definitely feels like they are visiting someone’s home when they enter this elegant Chateau. After we toured the building we walked back to the Orangerie where they have food for sale. This building was used to hide many of the art works from the Louvre during WW II, including the Mona Lisa. We enjoyed a light lunch and then walk through the gardens on our way to see the famous hound dogs. There must be over fifty of them; very large dogs used for fox hunting.
By this time it was mid-afternoon and we decided to visit Chenonceaux since the weather was so great today and tomorrow was questionable…maybe rain? This is my all time favorite Chateau but today is was brimming with student groups and tour buses from many different parts of the world; a potpourri of languages! They have the loveliest of flower arrangements in the Valley combined with fully furnished rooms and a fabulous art collection of very valuable paintings. This is the Chateau with the multi-storied building that stretches across the River Cher and was built in the 16th Century. During both the 2009 and 2010 visits the outside was undergoing restoration work with much scaffolding….it was a joy to view it today with the work finally finished. You’ll enjoy the photos in the slideshow taken from the garden.
It was nearly 4 pm as we walked down the long drive under the arch of trees to our car. After a short drive back to Amboise; we dropped Terry and Linda off at the Clos-Luce Musee so they could visit the final home of Leonardo da Vinci and see the many models of his inventions that are displayed in the home. Terry is a maker of models and was ecstatic later at dinner about what he’d seen on the final tour of his day!
Our dinner this evening was at another restaurant recommended by Rick Steves: L’Epicerie that is located across the street from the Amboise Chateau. Without reservations we were unable to sit inside but did manage to get a table outside. It was a bit chilly by the time we finished our delicious meal but worth the experience. As we walked towards our hotel a multi-colored hot air balloon sailed over our heads in the sky….hopefully an omen for a good day tomorrow as we head for Chinon…