Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chateau de Chenonceau & Wine Caves

Today is a walk down memory lane for both of us. First we headed towards Blere where one of our favorite hotels is located; we stayed at the Le Moulin du Fief Gentil back in 2002 and have fond memories of our candlelight dinner there with our fellow guests around a huge table next to the old paddle wheel for the mill. I’m not sure just why we wanted to see the hotel; but it’s nice to know that they are still in business. Outside of Blere we saw a restored mill complete with sails that I added in the slideshow.

From there we continued down the road towards Chateau de Chenonceau; our favorite Chateau! How do we know? We visit it over and over….I’ve been here six times now and Jim has visited five times. On our very first trip to the Lorie Valley with Jim’s sister Barbara, she chose this as a favorite from a previous trip and it has become our favorite. We pick and choose among the others but always include a visit to Chenonceau.

This 16th century Renaissance palace was the home of both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici; both left their marks on the d├ęcor and gardens. One of the reasons this is my favorite are the beautifully arranged flowers in each of the rooms. No mannequins mar the beauty of the rooms that are fully furnished. The kitchen in the basement has many copper pots along with all the tools necessary to feed a large staff, the household and their guests.

We could see this was going to be a warm day…it was ninety degrees by noon; we decided to do the gardens first. Each of the ladies has a garden named after them. We took lots of photos of the Chateau from the gardens; working hard to not show the scrim that covers the front where they are doing restorative work. After touring the inside of the Chateau we walked to the maze and the farm which neither of us had ever taken the time to see on previous visits. We did pass on the Wax Museum that is housed in the former stables along with a restaurant.

After nearly two hours we ate our lunch in the car and then headed into the village to find a bridge that would take us across the Cher River, the Chateau is actually a bridge across the Cher River; we wanted to look for the path on the far side of the river. Jim located a small dirt road and we started driving down along the river; soon we reached a barricade and had to walk another fifteen minutes before we reached the far end of the Chateau. Diane de Poitiers added the beautifully arched bridge over the river so that she could access the hunting grounds. When Catherine de Medici took the Chateau she added a three story structure on top of the bridge. Her plan was to build a matching chateau on the far side of the river but she died before it was built.

The river was the border between free and Nazi France during WW II and the Chateau was used for prisoner swaps. During WW I it was used for a military hospital. You can actually walk out of the Chateau and stroll along the far banks but we had more fun finding a way to actually take a drive/walk to the far side and view it from several angles.

Three hours after we arrived we were headed back towards Amboise to check out the Cave Homes in the hills above the city. I showed you some photos the other day. Now you can see some more of them up close so you can actually see the details. One newer one had a satellite dish and an air conditioning unit! We also discovered that this road was probably the route that Leonardo da Vinci took from his house to the Chateau d’Amboise to visit his friend the King….his house was located on the corner where we started up and at the top of the road … yes we walked all the way up and down….we discovered gates to the Royal Chateau d’Amboise.

Now it was about 3 pm and we headed back towards Tours looking for a winery that was recommended by Rick Steves called Marc Bredif in Vouvray….about ten miles from Amboise. After several wrong turns because the navigator didn’t read all of the directions first…we found it between the Lorie River and the hill….yes…the caves were built in the tenth century into the tufa hillside.

We walked in and asked about the Cave Tours…half way expecting to be told that we had to wait or that they didn’t have any today! No, we met a very nice young college student who is working here for experience this summer named Matthew. He is majoring in the International Marketing of Wine in school. To complete his studies, he will work for an International Company next summer. He was very knowledgeable and gave us an extensive tour of a section of the several miles of underground storage for their thousand upon thousands of bottles of wine some of which date back as far as 1874. They make white and sparkling wines from their grapes grown in this region. They have one room that has their best wines over the years…the oldest bottles there were from 1874 and he said it is still very good. He also said that one of the best recent years was in 1947…so if you’re looking for a special bottle…you might check that year! We understand you can purchase one for about 350 Euros!

We tasted a few glasses before heading back on the road towards our hotel. Before we stopped we decided to check out a church that we’d seen up the road. It was nearly 5 pm and if we can find a Saturday night Mass it would be great as tomorrow is a travel day. We walked into the church and there was a wedding mass in progress. We took advantage but did get out the door before the bride and groom came down the aisle.

Tomorrow we head east for several hours to the city of Mellun for a few days….August is here and our time grows short….do hope that you are still enjoying our story…..


Anonymous said...

Hi Mom - as usual I enjoyed your pictures. You have a wonderful perspective. My favorite is the one of Dad walking away down the path surrounded by wonderful vibrant greenery.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mom - as usual I enjoyed your pictures. You have a wonderful perspective. My favorite is the one of Dad walking away down the path surrounded by wonderful vibrant greenery.