This morning we woke up at around 7:45 AM. I won't lie...it was hard to roll out of bed. It seems like we've been having some late nights and very early mornings. But I honestly wouldn't trade it for the world. When we returned to our flat in Paris tonight I looked at Michael and said, "It feels like we were gone for weeks!" It's so funny how amazing vacations can fly by but feel like they've lasted much longer, in a wonderful way!
After getting ready and packing up this morning, we made our way to the car and let it warm up since there was frost on the windows. As we let it warm up, we decided to walk around a little bit. I can't believe how beautiful the grounds of Domaine de La Tortinière are! The trees are magnificent, and the fallen leaves just add to the charm. There is a swing hanging from a low branch on this beautiful oak tree. Its the kind of thing that every child should have in their life growing up. It was just such a peaceful scene. And of course I couldn't help but having Michael taking a picture of me while I was swinging. :) I'm still a kid at heart.
When we got back to the car, the windows were still covered with frost, so I had to improvise. Thank goodness I brought my Safeway Rewards card! ;-)
After checking out we decided that our first stop of the day would be Château de Chenonceau. We made our way through the countryside and into a little town called Athée-sur-Cher where we found a little boulangerie, as well as a little trailer where a woman was selling roasted chickens! So cute! We made our way into the boulangerie, and I said good morning and the woman looked at me like I had 8 heads. So I said, "Bonjour, deaux pains au chocolat et une baguette, se il vous plaît." We paid and went on our way. :)
Driving through these little towns its amazing how narrow the streets are! In the U.S. we have so many large cars that would never fit down most of these streets! It's so crazy! But its also part of the major charm that these little towns hold. The front doors open right onto a narrow sidewalk and the street, the alleyways are cobblestone with the walls full of shuttered windows. I could just walk through these little towns all day...well until it was time to get some food. Then I'd drive...and fight with Timmy some more!
We made our way up to Château de Chenonceau, and walked up the Great Drive towards the château. Michael pulled me off the drive to check out the maze that was designed by Catherine dé Medici. There was still frost on the ground and on the hedges that made up the maze. It was so quiet and so peaceful, we were the only ones at the maze at that time. After walking through it and snapping some pictures we made our way back to the Great Drive and continued on.
When we are walking up these magnificent drives, or on the grounds of any of these châteaus, I can't help but think about what it would be like to live during those times and walking the grounds. They built these places as homes, fortresses and "vacation homes"...you could say. I bet they had no idea that hundreds of years later millions of people would walk the great halls admiring the work that we could never replicate with the tools they had.
I took huge amount of pictures today, and I wish that I could post each one of them in this blog...but it would take too long, so I will post them all on my SmugMug account after we return to Seattle.
Château de Chenonceau was built over Le Cher, and I have no idea how they accomplished this amazing task. In today's world we'd pound pilings into the river and create a wall to divert the water. They didn't have this luxury. The castle was built on the original site of fortified castle. And it was originally just the main "keep" that was built. But Diane de Poitiers had a bridge extended across Le Cher so Henry II could cross it to hunt in the forests on the other side. She's also responsible for creating the gardens on the north east side of the château. She had them raised up to protect them from the flood waters of Le Cher.
After we toured the gardens, we made our way into the château. The people there had fires going throughout and it was quite pleasant inside, unlike in Château de Chambord where I thought my hands were gonna freeze off! :) We again bought the audio tour and made our way through all the rooms. The most impressive were the Galleries. These were built on top of the original bridge that Diane de Poitiers had built. It was Catherine dé Medici who ordered the two great galleries to be built so she could host lavish parties.
|One of the Great Galleries|
The château was all decked out for Christmas...trees in most of the rooms, trees in the alcoves in the galleries. It was so amazing to see. Granted I know that that is a modern touch, but one can only imagine how this château was decorated for parties and every day life. The floors in the Gallery were beautiful! They were a checkerboard pattern with white freestone and black slate...they extended the entire length of the room and made it feel massive...well it was massive...but I digress.
|The Bread Oven|
|This is how they drew water up into the kitchen from Le Cher|
|This will be in my new kitchen hahaha|
|This shows the stages of it being built, renovated|
|This black Christmas tree was gorgeous! It was in Louise de Lourraine's bedroom.|
|Her bedroom was decorated in black because she moved there to mourn her husband King Henri III who was assassinated.|
After touring the entire château we walked through the 16th Century farm yard and through the gardens where they had the green houses. I think Michael had a little garden envy. The massive amount of space they had there for their gardens was impressive, and I can imagine them being tended daily so they could harvest food to feed the kings, queens and their guests.
While Château de Chambord was amazing, Château de Chenonceau was more interesting for us to walk around. Michael said you can tell the difference between when a King creates a château, Chambord...and when a Queen (or the King's favorite lady) creates one. The rooms in the Château de Chenonceau felt like they were meant to be lived in, and it felt welcoming. Château de Chambord seemed like it was all about a man flexing his muscles and his wallet to show others what he could create, and then not ever spend much time there. But that being said, both are exquisite!
After we finished Chenonceau, we made our way to the Château de Villandry. When we arrived there was only one other car that had pulled up, and they walked in so we followed. The tours of the inside of the château were closed but we were still able to walk the grounds and the gardens. We made our way up to the terrace and then onto the lookout over the gardens. Stunning! While we would love to see these full of flowers in the spring or summer, we know that at this time of year we aren't fighting the crowds that come along with those. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves!
We walked through the water gardens, where they had an enormous pond...and it happened to have two swans that were swimming around. We made our way through the gardens, the hedges and around the little fountains that were shut off for the winter. Michael insisted that we do the maze, so I agreed. We made it to the center and I told him we should race to the exit...he would take one route and I would take the other. Without knowing how the maze was laid out...I happened to choose the one that only went through 1/4 of the maze. Michael had to run through 3/4 of it! I was standing at the exit laughing while he kept yelling..."What the heck! How long is this???" I reminded him that the maze was his idea.
|View from the terrace|
|Statue of Le Cooper|
We made our way back to the main part of the château and decided to walk along the moats. There were two other swans swimming so while I took pictures of them, Michael was off doing heaven knows what. I heard a loud creaking sound and Michael had opened up a LARGE door that led into a big rotunda and courtyard. I couldn't believe that he did that! LOL After snapping a picture of the rotunda we decided it was time to head out.
We were making our way back to Tours so we could get dinner and catch our train back to Paris...but Michael wanted to take in one more château. Château d'Azay-le-Rideau sits nestled in the trees built by the notary and secretary of the King, Gilles Berthelot. For some reason the château was open for free, so we gladly took the tickets and went to walk around. We didn't do an audio tour on this château because we just wanted to do a quick walk through so we could get back to Tours before dark.
This felt like a home, you could tell that people truly used this as their residence. We toured through the Great Attic, the aristocrats apartments and the ground floor of the château. The warm tones of the woods used was so welcoming. The carvings done in them was simple yet elegant. I'm happy that we made this little stop on our way back to Tours.
|The drive up to the castle|
|Part of the Great Attic|
|I adore the spiral staircases|
We got into Tours right around the time it was getting dark and I had to make my way down the main streets to get back to where we had to drop off the car. We also needed to put diesel in the car. We found a gas station and the pumps look nothing like those in the U.S. So I walked inside and the cashier didn't speak a lick of English...so we made hand gestures. HAHA. Apparently I needed to pump then pay. So I went out and filled up the tank. And apparently the automatic shut off on the pumps aren't quite like those in the U.S. either. Why do I know that you ask? Because diesel came shooting out from the tank and down the side of the car. I kept picturing the scene in Dumb and Dumber where Harry was filling up his Shaggin Waggin and he was getting gas all over. We looked for towels but there were none, so we wiped up the best we could and made like sheep and got the flock outta there! And don't worry...I did pay! :)
We had dinner at this place that was inside Gare de Tours. I welcomed a LARGE beer as well as a burger and some fries. I know...what the heck...BUT that's what this place served. And it hit the spot. We then made our way out into the streets to walk through their Christmas markets. Such a wonderful evening.
We caught the 7:30 PM train back to Paris, transferred to the Metro then came back to the flat. As we walked in I couldn't help but feel that we had been gone for weeks and I said, "It's so nice to be home." :)
I am currently a day behind in my blog posts...BUT...this will be posted overnight for you to read when you wake up! I just need to get some sleep so I can be bright eyed and bushy tailed for tomorrow! I plan to sleep in! :)
Well thanks for traveling to The Loire River Valley with us! I hope you've enjoyed the tours of the châteaus as much as we have! We are going to spend tomorrow in Paris and then take the train up to the Normandy coast on Tuesday! I'm absolutely loving this trip! And just like yesterday's post, I'm not putting up that many pictures in this post...but I will post all of them on my SmugMug account when we return to Seattle!
Until next time...Keep Cookin'!