Chapter Nine: Blitzing Through The Loire

P1030566Chapter Nine:  Blitzing Through The Loire

Day Ten – Breakfast Of Champions, The Answer My Friend Is Blois-ing In The Wind, Chateau Liqueur Drive-By, Chiens Gone Wild, A Unique Chateau Garden Festival, There’s No Place Like Gnome, The Wild Goose Chase To A Winery, A Chat With Kim and No Reserves At Reserve

Even though we had a long day ahead of us, I must admit it was difficult to leave Manoir de la Maison Blanche on a slightly drizzly Thursday morning.

P1030735That’s because our gracious hostess, Annick, prepares a breakfast spread fit for a King (or even a lowly Knight like Sir Bleed-A-Lot) and it is served in a lovely room overlooking the spacious grounds.

P1030737There were breads from a local merchant (she goes out every morning to purchase fresh bread and pastries), yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, cheese, tea and café. Coupled with Annick’s homemade jams (pear/apricot, strawberry/rhubarb and peach), this feast, served in a beautiful breakfast room adjacent to the meadow between 8:15 and 10, was the perfect way to start the day.

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With all my eating, it was no wonder that by this juncture of our trip my “nice” pants I had brought along no longer fit. It was hard to believe that it was just two short years ago that I had no butt (see Death Trip Report) and weighed about 137 pounds. I think I ate about 137 pounds of croissants alone on this vacation.

P1030727No matter how much we wanted to stay and talk with Annick along with other guests, plus stuff our faces full of food, we had some chateaus to see. So, after saying good-bye to the chevaux playing in the meadow, the deux chiens and the deux chats, our foursome took off for our four-chateau circle tour of the Loire Valley.

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First stop would be the Château Royal de Blois, a residence where the Archbishop of Reims blessed Joan Of Arc, and the Duke of Guise met his ultimate demise at the hands of some 20 assassins.  History, baby, nothing but history!

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The rain had stopped, and the winds had picked up as we drove into a parking lot in Blois, which was underneath the chateau. I hadn’t read too much about this particular chateau, but I must say we were quite impressed by Château Royal de Blois.  Admission was 11€, and the rooms are well described in both French and English.

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In 1498, Blois became the capital of the kingdom, and Louix XII took the crown. The King stamped his emblem, a porcupine, on many of the stones. Look closely, and the porcupine is seemingly following you around.

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The Château of Blois was really cooking in the first half of the 16th century under the reigns of Louis XII and François Ier, who rebuilt the château in the Renaissance taste and style.

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Château Royal de Blois was the first historical residence to be restored and added to the historical register (in 1841, under the direction of King Louis-Philippe, the Château Royal de Blois was classified as an historic monument). They really have done a fantastic job preserving it.

P1030517 When you reach the room where King Henry III had his henchmen kill his archenemy in 1588, there is a silent film that depicts the deed (sadly the assassination plotting plot took far too long, so we never got to witness the actual murder).

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We then made our way through the Oratoire where the King and Queen would celebrate a daily mass.

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The chateau is said to have 564 rooms (including 100 bedrooms) and more than 70 staircases. Luckily, we didn’t get to see all of it, or we would still be in France. Wait,I would rather be in France.

FD9K09At the end of our self-guided tour, we ended up in a grand hall where Kim and I each sat in a king’s chair, draped a regal cloth over myself and had Kim take a silly photo of me. Sadly, we looked more like weary, nearly dead FDR look-alikes at Yalta than a King.

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Blois looked like a cool city, and I think it would make a good base to see the area.  However, this was no time to dally, there were more chateaux awaiting us.

FD9K18Our next chateau stop was about a half hour drive away.

P1030536Tracy and I had visited it back in the 90s, and we thought this was the perfect drive-by chateau (being from Southern California we feel right at home with drive-bys and these didn’t even involve gunfire), where the photos from the outside are actually better than within. FD9K13 Soon we were walking toward the massive Château de Chambord, a chateau that’s exterior is probably as famous as any chateau in the world.

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Château de Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley, and the views of it are spectacular from virtually any vantage point.  When we had gone inside in the 90s, we had seen the famed double-helix staircase designed by Da Vinci, but we were going to spend a lot of time with Leonardo on the following day, so we took about a million photos of Chambord with billowing white clouds juxtaposed against a blue sky in the background.  The walk back to the parking lot was even pretty with leaves scattered about as if they were placed there for us to take a photo.

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The weather was so nice, we could have stayed at Château de Chambord for hours, but we had some doggies to go visit.

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So, after a short drive plus a brief respite and snack (and photo op with Pinocchio), we walked across the street to Château de Cheverny.

FD9M29Of all the chateaus, this one seems to have the most impressive furnishings.

P1030550That could be do to the fact that the residence has stayed in the same family for six centuries, and they still live there.

P1030556Château de Cheverny has been open to the public for 100 years (opened in 1914) and has only been closed on three occasions according to its literature: when the Queen Mom visited in 1963, the funeral of Marquis de Vibraye in 1976 and the wedding of its current owner in 1994.

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The Salle à Manger (dining room) is beautiful as are the Grand Salon and Petit Salon.  The stone staircase dates from 1634.

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Climbing up the stairs, we saw a huge pair of antlers that are 6,000 years old and are hung at the same height at which the animal would have been standing.  Judging from his height, this animal would have given Godzilla a run for his money.

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The rooms are all perfectly maintained, and the pamphlet they give you describes each room. From the tapestries to the furniture to a library containing 2,000 ancient books, Cheverny was as good the second time as it was when we visited back in 1998.

FD9K48 Going back outside (the day was now even more gorgeous), we walked back toward the restaurant (Orangery) through an ornamental pleasure garden.

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It’s called Jardin d’Apprentice. It was beautiful. The entire grounds of Cheverny are immaculate.

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The day was so gorgeous that Tracy and Kim were sad we weren’t going for a balloon ride over the Loire. Since Mary and I like to err on the side of non-accidental death, we stayed on the ground.

 

One of my friends back home would have liked this place because Cheverny is the chateau that the Tintin comics were patterned after. However, at this moment I was more interested in walking through the park-like setting to get to something that more resembled Rin Tin Tin.

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Since the residents of Château de Cheverny (I think they live on the third floor of the chateau, but don’t hold me to that) still like to hunt, they keep 70 or so hound dogs on the premises.

P1030850Let me tell you, there Ain’t Nothing Like A Hound Dog barking all the time, especially when they start bringing out the food (I can’t show my corgis the photo above..they get jealous).  I mean these hounds were All Shook Up because to them It’s Now Or Never when it came to dinnertime. Thank you very much.

P1030566As the food started to be laid out on the ground, the hounds were all locked together behind a gate, and they started barking and howling even louder, and climbing on other dogs’ backs as they jockeyed for position. It reminded me of Black Friday at Walmart without the big screens.

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We knew they weren’t going to be fed for awhile, so we walked over to the nearby Kitchen Garden, where Tracy spied some blue plants that have been her quest to find back home ever since.

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But it was time to leave these gardens, because I had planned a special Chateau Jardin Tour stop that awaited Tracy at our last chateau of the day.  We even bypassed a small wine tasting room. Yes…bypassed!  Really!  Miracles do occur!

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Madame Bleu sent us on a scenic, but rather curious route to our next destination, Château de Chaumont-Sur-Loire.  When we had visited 14 years ago, I promised Tracy a wonderful garden experience. I remember walking up the steep (really steep) trail to the chateau only to see a sign that the gardens would not be open until the next day (unfortunately we were leaving the next day).

P1030580Well this year, I was very excited because we would be visiting during its Domaine De Chaumont-Sur-Loire Festival International Des Jardins (roughly translated, I believe it means “Tom Is Finally Off The Hook”).  With its theme of “Jardins Des Délices, Jardins des Délires,” this festival runs from late April though mid-October.

P1030609We parked by the river, walked a couple of blocks to the ticket window, paid our 11€ and started on the climb up to the chateau and its gardens, which afforded great views over the Loire Valley.

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As we got closer to the chateau, near the top, there is a long wooden promenade that gave us an even better view.  It’s called The Promenade sous les arbres. Nearby, others lounged in unique chair huts. In the distance we saw some rocks in the trees. We knew this would be a unique experience.

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After we walked the plank, it was now time for Tracy to see her gardens, and this jardin festival was definitely out of the ordinary.  The Ministry Of Culture declared the gardens “jardin remarquable” in 2009. On display were 25 different gardens, which were the “creations of landscape architects, artists, botanists and gardeners.” The 25 gardens we would visit were selected as winning entries.

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Among other displays, we saw a garden of trees all painted in a reddish color (they would have been perfect at Collonges-la-Rouge), gardens with water features, one that had painted blue butterflies and my personal weird favorite, the Gnome Garden, which had dozens of gnomes painted gold and armed with rakes.

P1030588It would have been an even better exhibit with a little Liqueur de Noix.

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Tracy enjoyed it and said the festival gave her plenty of ideas for our garden at home, although I don’t think we have room for an army of Gnomes.  Tracy and also met a friendly cow.

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Yes, we milked this festival for everything we could.

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For a lot of color, a bit of whimsy, not to mention a nice hike, the Domaine De Chaumont-Sur-Loire Festival International Des Jardins at Château de Chaumont-Sur-Loir should be on the agenda should you be here at the right time of year.

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As we drove back to Amboise, it was late in the afternoon on a relatively exhausting day, so I thought we would go back to our b&b to relax. However, Mary had other ideas, and as I have stated, I serve at the pleasure of my traveling companions (sometimes). Mary said she wanted to find the winery that was owned by the proprietor of Chez Bruno, where we had dined the previous evening. She even had a map, which coupled with Madame Bleu’s directions and four tired travelers could only mean one thing…big trouble.

We knew this winery (Closerie Chanteloup) was near something called The Chanteloup Pagoda. By the time we were finished driving, it would have been easier to drive to a pagoda in Japan.

P1030613One thing I will say for our crew, however, once we make up our mind to find or do something, we never give up, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t finally find this little winery, participated in a little wine tasting, and bought a few bottles of wine. Mission accomplished!!

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Annick had attempted to get us reservations at a restaurant she liked, but when we got back she had left us a note saying it was completely booked for the night.

P1030615We all relaxed for an hour and a half. It was nice outside, so the four of us decided to share a bottle of wine. As we sat there, one of Annick’s cats jumped up on Kim’s lap and stayed there for the duration. It wouldn’t mean much except that Kim and cats are not usually used in the same sentence, at least not with nice adjectives. See what a vacation can do.

P1030614At about 7:30 we headed back for that 10 (I mean 25) minute walk to town. We had seen how crowded Amboise was the previous night, so we hoped for the best. 

 A couple of other places we wanted to go were completely full, so we tried a place called La Reserve. They asked if we had reservations.  I wanted to say only that we heard their food wasn’t the best, but felt they wouldn’t get the joke.

But even with no reserves at La Reserve, there was one, last empty table with our name on it, which we happily (and wearily) plopped down into for the evening.

The food was fine, if not great. I enjoyed my very good pork tenderloin with frites, Tracy had a white fish with pasta; Kim opted for the smoked salmon with pasta and Mary had a faux-filet with frites (I have no idea what that means).

P1030616The bill for the four of us totaled 100€, and the walk back to Manoir de la Maison Blanche seemed a little longer on this night with our tired legs, but we all admitted the walk did us good.

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As we walked past Mr. Da Vinci’s home, Château du Clos Lucé, we all decided that this museum would be our first stop of the day tomorrow.  One thing we knew for sure, we’d be seeing it on a full stomach thanks to Annick.

Next: Day Eleven – Casa de Leonardo, A Walk In The Park, We’ll Cross That River When We Come To It, Belles Fleurs, Da Vinci’s Final Resting Place, Is That Liz Taylor, In The Annick Of Time, Bruno Redux And How Much Is That Little Kitten In The Window

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