Sunday, 16 March 2014

The chateaux of the Loire valley

It is school holidays here in the south of France. James was busy with a delivery for the first week of the holidays so we decided that for the second week we would head to the Loire valley. There are still so many places we have not been to in France yet and our time here is running out so it is good to make the most of every opportunity to get away. We headed north to the town of Blois on Sunday morning. Our accommodation was on the outskirts of town and was fairly basic but comfortable enough for one night. We unloaded the car and drove into the township. We decided not to go into the castle which was just as well as it was closing but we got a pretty good look at the outside.

The beautiful chateau of Blois

Spring gardens

We walked over the bridge and this is the view back over to the town. Hannah was not having a happy moment!

The chapel of St Nicolas

The reflections of the stain glass windows.

We had no kitchen at our hotel so decided to go out for dinner but beng France restaurants didn't open till quite late. We spotted a Chinese restaurant that opened at 6.45 so decided to fill in a bit of time and then come back. We wandered across the river to the playground and explored a bit more then decided it was time to eat. We had a great meal!
At the playground.

The weather in France is stunning at the moment and we awoke to yet another beautiful Spring day. We packed up and headed to the first chateau of the day Chambord. We had decided not to pay for breakfast but instead just have coco pops in our room. I hadn't brought breakfast for myself and thought I would just stop at a boulangier and grab a couple of croissants,but we couldn't find any - a bit of a surprise for France!

Chateau Chambord must be use to big crowds as there was a huge car parking area at the end of the tree lined road. The chateau was stunning even with the gardeners hard at work planting new flower beds.

Standing by the moat of Chateau Chambord.

Princess Hannah twirling on the tower - happier today.

The view down into the gardens and forest surrounding Chateau Chambord.

The Kings apartments.

Amazing to think that this beautiful building was just intended as a hunting lodge and that King Francis I who initiated the build only spent 72 days here over his 32 year reign. It was his son Henry II and then Louis XIV who were responsible for making Chambord look the way it does today.

We took a scenic route to the town of Amboise, stopping briefly at Chateau Cheverny on the way but decided not to go in.

Chateau Amboise

There are so many amazing chateaus to look at that we decided to just choose three a day to go to. Even this was a bit of a push really as each chateau is worthy of a whole day to do it properly.

After a quick lunch of MacDonalds we drove into Amboise and went to Chateau du Clos Luce which is where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last few years of his life. Like several of the chateaus it was undergoing restoration so we couldn't go upstairs and see where he had lived and slept but we did get to go into his reception room and see some of his paintings.

Another Mona Lisa!

In the basement we got to see some of da Vinci's inventions including models of the tank, swing bridge, helicopter and parachute. Amazing to think that he invented these machines 500 years ago.

The gardens to this chateau were definitely a highlight as they were full of life size, interactive models of some of his inventions - the children loved it!!

The helicopter.

Machine gun

A tank

The faces of Mona Lisa.

The beautiful gardens of Clos Luce.

On our walk back to the car we spotted these house built into the side of the hill!

We were starting to run out of time as we had learned that the chateaus stop entry half an hour before closing time and for a lot of the chateaus this is 5pm! We really wanted to go to Chateau Chenonceau and even though it was now 4.15 decided to give it a go! We arrived at 4.35 but decided to check it out just in case and thankfully it didn't close till 6pm so we had just enough time. To say that Chenonceau is breathtaking is an understatement. It ticks all the boxes and then some - beautiful castle, rooms to explore, moat, gardens, a maze, archways - definitely the highlight. It is built on the river Cher and the the fortified castle and mill was demolished in the 16th century in order to build it but the Marques tower and well were left standing.

The forecourt and well.

The Marques tower.

The beautiful gallery that spans the river.

The chapel.

The kitchen.

The kids and James had gone off to run Around the labyrinth so here is me trying my hand at a selfie!

The labyrinth with Penelope ready to run off into it.

There she goes!

I think we were the last ones out and they were closing the gates behind us. We headed on to our accommodation for the next so nights. I had booked the guest house through and didn't really know where this place was but turns out it was in the middle of nowhere. James was very good at remaining calm as it got later and later and we were driving down tiny French lanes through the open countryside. Eventually we arrived at the lovely guest house which was just perfect. We hadn't passed a supermarket so instead I managed to rustle up some dinner out of salami, pasta sauce and some gluten free pasta - perfect.

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