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Chateau Country

Written on: Saturday March 24th, 2007

A journal entry from: Rouen Exchange

Awaking early Friday morning, I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.  Maybe it was because I had recently paid a hefty fine to France's train system and didn't want to 'mess up' again.  Maybe it was because this was my first traveling since mom, dad and Chris had been here and it was leaving me a bit homesick.  It may even had been because I hadn't done much planning beforehand.  This feeling wasn't helped by the officer checking to ensure I'd validated my bus pass when I got off at the train station in Rouen (I had)...or the military personnel at the train station in Paris carrying huge rifles.  Whatever the reason, nothing was going to stop me from seeing the Chateaus of the Loire Valley (just south west of Paris).

I arrived in Blois just before 1pm.  Unfortunately, the mini bus tour I had been planning to take (10 Euros provided transportation to 2 Chateaus in the area) only ran mid-May to September - I read the tour book wrong.  To add to that, any of the regional buses going to either Chateau Chambord or Cheverny were already gone.  I explored the city a bit, found an interesting tree, and peeked at the Chateau right in Blois.  (It didn't look overly interesting though so I saved my money).  When I was done with Blois, I took a 20 min. train ride to Amboise (close to Tours).  I checked in at my hostel and then went to check out the town. It still amazes me how these towns in France with decent sized populations maintain their small town feel.  I was going to go to a wine tasting place but they were closed for the day so I headed back to my hostel to prepare for my fairytales and castles of the next day.

I left early for Chenonceau Chateau.  These people had the right idea - why build a moat around your castle when you can just build it right on a river?  This was the primary residence of Francois I and his mistress, Diane De Poitiers.  Later, the residence of Francois' wife, Catherine Medicis.  The castle is beautifully furnished with stunning gardens and I could have spent more time here but, the bus had a schedule, as did I.  Returning to Amboise, I did the wine tasting.  I sampled 4 wines, all made with Chenin grapes from the area.  After, I walked up the hill to the Chateau Royal D'Amboise.  Although less impressive than Chenonceau, it was still interesting.  In particular, the fact that Leonardo Da Vinci's remains are in the chapel here. On a side note, Da Vinci lived at the Clos Luce in Amboise during the last years of his life.  This castle is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles, primarily occupied by Louis-Philippe I.

Despite the bad weather, I stilled enjoyed learning about this region of France.  After my brief foray into wine tasting, I am looking forward to my trip next weekend to the Champagne region of France.