Tours is France's 23rd largest city, but one that is visited by 2 million visitors a year. Why? Because of the Loire Valley Chaeaux. Just close enough to Paris for the nobility to not have to travel far to visit their "country" estates. The Loire river has been important for military, transportation, and recreation for centuries. It was the edge of the "hundred year war" (you know the one that lasted 200 years?) on the French side and being that the court traveled endlessly from one castle to another on the Loire and River Cher. With the court, comes beautiful castles, one outdoing the others. Louis XI rebuilt his kingdom and established French power.
We are staying right by the train station at the Grand Hotel. Very nice, built in 1927. Kind of old world charm.
|Tub is AMAZING!|
|Train station from our window|
|Penne with Gorgonzola and Walnuts|
|Late night Pizza Seth - Not Papa John's|
|City Hall at night|
Enough history. Needless to say, there are a lot of really big shacks here. We toyed with the idea of renting our own car, but fortunately sense outweighed independence and we found another mini-van tour. Lasted from 9:30 to 6:30 PM and I can truthfully say, I have seen all that I need to of Chateaux. We went with a small company called Acco-Dispo and our guide Pascal was great!
|after a whole day of touring. Our smiles could not be brighter!|
We had 2 other young ladies with us and that was it. They are professional women (sisters) from Australia, touring Europe like us. We had a lot to talk about, as we have been in many of the same places.
|Franka, Amanda, Jean and Jerry|
|Girls havin' fun! Such delightful travel companions|
The trip started out with Chenonceau. Built in 1512 , given to Diane de Poitiers in 1547 by King Henri II, her lover. She created the gardens and the famous bridge over the River Cher. When Henri died, Diane got kicked out by his rightful wife, Catherine de'Medici. She made the gardens more magnificent and raised the height of the two-floored gallery to have bigger parties.
|The castle actually goes over the River Cher|
The gardens in this place are amazing and they hire a full time flower arranger so there are gorgeous arrangements throughout the castle of fresh flowers. This castle is privately owned by a family who made their fortune in Chocolate. They do not live there, they have another little shack about the same size somewhere else. It is beautifully maintained.
Inside: Here are lots of pictures with little comments. We took about 600 photos on Monday and we won't bore you with them all, but just to give you a feel for the place.
|Yes, those are Stelladora Lilies About 3 feet in diameter.|
|Looks like our copper pots, only cleaner|
Ok, so then we get into the van again and go to Amboise. We had 2 choices, the royal palace, or DaVinci's last home, but it was an easy choice because DaVinci's home was under construction.
Francois the first developed a taste for the Italian Renaissance following an occupation of Naples, and decided to bring back literary men and artists from Italy to help with remodeling France. One of these was Leonardo DaVinci, who Francois thought was just great. When Francois gave Leonardo a house to retire in in France DaVinci gave him a gift. Something small. The Mona Lisa. And that is why the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre in Paris and not in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
|I know I take a lot of pictures of flowers, but they are so GORGEOUS!|
|Way up on hill. Combination show palace and fortress.|
|Town of Amboise from the ramparts.|
OK, so this place is where Francois ruled France a lot, so it is really a nicely preserved piece of history.
|This is for the boys: Liam, Finn, Cooper, Parker, and Duncan|
|Leonardo - Francois' main man|
|Yup...that's right. Da Vinci was buried here in 1519|
Time for some lunch! The town of Amboise is there to serve tourists. We found a creperie on the corner and had some lunch.
|Wouldn't fit in the suitcase, but it would be fun to own.|
|Jerry: shrimp and smoked salmon salad and Coke Zero|
|Jean: Croque Monsieur and salad and wine|
Back in the Van. Now we went to Cherverny. If you are going to live in one of these places, this is the one. It is beautiful. It has had the same ownership for 700 years. It has been remodeled and rebuilt but it is gorgeous.. The present Marquis lives in some of it and you can tour the rest. They also rent out hunting parties and have over 100 dogs for hunting. And you can have wedding receptions there. Too bad both of my kids are married already. What a venue.
|troimphe l'oil paintings on the wall|
|This goes into the private quarters, but all of these tulips are fresh!|
|You can see the evolution of guns and weapons|
|close up of chain mail|
Now for more interior photos.
|all set up for tea|
|maid's sewing room|
|Thank you note from George Washington for helping with the American Revolution|
|I thought this was wallpaper, but it is silk fabric on the walls|
Now we go out to the hounds. Bark bark bark. They were ready to be fed. Gross!
|Dogs up top.|
|Disgusting smell. We did not wait around for the feeding frenzy.|
|Cutting Garden. The pathways are colored glass shards.|
Last stop the largest Chateaux except Versailles in France: Chambord. It is state owned. 426 rooms. Built in 1515 as a hunting lodge by Francois the first. It is huge and very poorly laid out. It really is an impressive building. He stayed in this place only 29 nights in his whole life of many years. The coolest thing is the double staircase in the center designed by Francois' good buddy DaVinci. 2 sets of stairs in one, so you can go up one and down another without seeing who else is on the steps. Very good for night time liaisons.
There are 282 fireplaces, 77 marble staircases, 5,000 hectares all enclosed by a stone wall that is 33 kilometers long.
The outside is very impressive. There is very little furniture inside because during the French Revolution it was sacked and furnishings were stolen. Also, when the court traveled it brought furniture with them.
|All the fireplace chimneys were decorated to look like a village on the roof.|
|one of several royal coaches|
|White silk upholstery|
We were pooped. Drove back to Tours, rested and then went out to a great restaurant around the block.
|To start: Oysters|
|Pate du fois gras with figs|
|Pork Tenderloin with mushrooms and cream|
|Apple dumpling wanna be|
|For those of you who had the fortitude to read this far, the quiz question for today is:|
What is in these trees? They are all over Europe? Prize to follow.
Au Revoir mes amies. Thanks for following. Tomorrow off to Paris.