Chapter Ten: da Vinci, Dueling Gardens & More da Vinci

P1030649Chapter Ten: da Vinci, Dueling Gardens & More da Vinci

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

Just a little after 8:15, four people, with an appetite larger than Annick’s horses, waddled into the breakfast room at Manoir de la Maison Blanche.  She might as well have put a trough in front of my face as I filled up on brioche and croissants slathered in her homemade jam. I just couldn’t say “neigh” to anything.

FD10K06The other three thought about rolling my butterball body down to Château du Clos Lucé/Parc Leonardi da Vinci, but instead we hopped in the car and drove the short distance, since we had other stops afterward.

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In a Blazing Saddles moment, similar to one in 2008 while visiting Croatia, Governor Lepetomane briefly confused us with a toll-booth at the parking lot.    We have lucky wives, don’t you think?

FD10K08We opted to go for an 18.50€ apiece ticket that included a “Special Exhibit” that turned pout to be a royal bust.

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Clos Lucé was a summer home for French kings and a royal residence for a couple of hundred years, and in 1516 it became the home of Leonardo da Vinci thanks to an invitation from King François I.

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François made Leonardo “First Painter, Architect and Engineer of The King,” and the great da Vinci lived here for the last few years of his life.

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The self-guided tour takes you through the Gallery, da Vinci’s bedroom, another bedroom, an Oratory, some salons, the Renaissance Great Hall and the Kitchen.

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Downstairs, in the basement, are numerous replicas of da Vinci’s inventions, some of them thought of centuries before their time such as flying machines, tanks, automobiles and machine guns (which would have come in handy dealing with some of the tour buses on this trip).

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We also saw the stairs that led to the secret passage that led to the Royal Château d’Amboise; a secret passage fit for a King.

FD10K28The only thing missing at Clos Lucé was Nat King Cole singing Mona Lisa.

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Stepping outside we entered a little garden area.  When Tracy and visited here in the late 90s, we got sidetracked by a lovely (but heavy) rug at the adjacent gift store. We proceeded to lug the rug throughout France for the rest of the trip, but it still lies in our entry hall, so we have gotten our money’s worth out of it and my back stopped being sore in 2002.

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This time we headed in the other direction (quickly) and enjoyed the Parc Leonardo da Vinci, where more of his inventions are on display in a tranquil setting.

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If you are a serious photographer, you could spend the entire day here.

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As it was, we spent a very relaxing morning strolling around the lush surroundings…

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…interspersed with da Vinci’s inventions.

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After a while, we came upon the “Special Exhibition,” which really did not add to our experience.

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Overall the trip to Clos Lucé was informative, fun and, dare I say, relaxing.

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Back in the car, we next traveled to the place where a wife and mistress both lived (but not at the same time), Château de Chenonceau (11€).

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This was the residence of King Henri II’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers.

P1030686Unfortunately for Diane, Henri liked to joust, and one day a piece of his opponent’s lance pierced Henri’s eye, and as soon as Henri bit the dust, his vengeful wife, Catherine de’ Medici, gave Diane the boot (although she just packed her bags …well, I’m sure someone packed them for her…and traveled the short distance to Chaumont-sur-Loire, so it wasn’t too bad a deal).

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The walk from the parking lot is even gorgeous here!

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This is another of the most recognizable chateaus of the Loire. It stretches across the River Cher, so it was apropos that it was Sonny outside (ouch).

P1030660This chateau has always had the feminine touch, so maybe that is why there are gorgeous fresh floral arrangements in virtually every room….

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…no kidding, every room…

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…and even some nice food arrangements that people fought over to photograph.

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When people ask which chateaus you should not miss, this is certainly one of them you shouldn’t bypass.  We spent a good deal of time here.

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One of the stories that is interesting is the story of The Gallery, which Catherine built upon the bridge designed by Diane de Poitiers. In World War II, the chateau’s entrance was in occupied Germany, while the door on the other side (the south side) provided an escape to the Free Zone. This made it possible for Resistance fighters to pass along a number of people to the Free Zone, which is probably why the Germans had an artillery unit nearby that could destroy the chateau.

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There are also dueling gardens; the Diane de Poiiters Garden that has a very lovely fountain and the Catherine de’ Medici Garden, which has a central pool. Those two can battle it out for eternity.

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After our chateau tour, we hit a little place in town for a quick bite to eat, and we dropped Kim and Mary back at Manoir de la Maison Blanche for a little r&r.  I think they were “chateau’d out” for the day.

P1030718 Tracy and I got back in the car, parked in Amboise without killing any pedestrians (it was close) and started our tour of the Royal Château d’Amboise.

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Entrance was a fairly steep 14€ (with audio guide) per person (these chateaus start adding up over time), and we started our tour.

P1030701With a perch over the River Loire, Royal Château d’Amboise certainly is interesting enough, and we first visited St. Hubert Chapel, where we learned that Leonardi da Vinci is buried on the property…somewhere…maybe here…maybe outside.

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We toured the rooms with the audio guide giving brief (that’s a good thing) of each room.  This is the chateau where King Charles VIII, on his way to watch a game of jeu de paume (tennis), conked his head on a door lintel in 1498 and succumbed from his injury (at least he was able to watch the match before slipping into a coma), so we walked carefully through the interior.

P1030708It only took about an hour to tour the chateau.

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There were some nice views out onto the town and the River Loire.

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As a guest of King François I, Leonardo da Vinci came to Château Amboise in December 1515 and lived and worked in the nearby Clos Lucé, connected to the château by that underground passage.  We walked around the grounds where we found the grave site of Mr. da Vinci (although others contend he’s buried inside St. Hubert Chapel…so he’s around here somewhere).  François I said of him, “No man ever lived who had learned as much about sculpture, painting, and architecture, but still more that he was a very great philosopher.”

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Although the price was a little high, we still enjoyed our visit.

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Tracy even found more flowers she could admire.  Now she wasn’t feeling blue, but looking at blue.

P1030693Then we walked around town, scarfed down some delicious ice cream (Mr. Bottomless Pit strikes again) at the unfortunately named Glacier shop called Bigot.

P1030720We also made a quick stop at Église Saint-Florentin.

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I probably should have called Al Roker before this trip, because I had expected warmer weather and packed accordingly.  Those shorts and some short-sleeved shirts never saw the light of day or the dark of night.  To provide a little warmth, I bought a new sweater in Amboise and we walked some more so I could get warm.

P1030721Back at the homestead (aka Manoir de la Maison Blanche), the sun was out again, which could only mean one thing…it was time for wine and cheese.  The four of us were kibitzing when Annick came over, and we asked her to join us.  This happened to be a day where we were the only guests, so she pulled up a chair and the five of us chatted for the next couple of hours.

FD8K50She formally introduced us to her Great Dane, Taylor, named after Elizabeth Taylor because of the pooch’s blue eyes (not because of her many marriages).  She is also very adept at opening doors.



We chatted on a number of topics ranging from the French economy, her history of owning the b&b and even a little bit of her love life (I am sworn to secrecy). When we ran out of wine, she brought out some more vin rouge from her stock and also some cold cuts to go along with it.

P1030728A little after 7 p.m. we told Annick that we had made reservations at Chez Bruno (we did that right after dinner the first night because we enjoyed it so much). We asked her if she’d like to join us, and since she had no plans, she said, “Oui.”

Walking to Chez Bruno, I think even Annick realized this walk was a little longer than she had believed, so she called the restaurant to say we would be a little late for those 7:30 reservations (total distance was 1.25 miles that Tracy and I calculated on our drive back from Amboise earlier in the day).  On our walk we noticed a rather oddly placed soft drink machine that we had not noticed before.

P1030730Dinner was once again fantastic, chatting with Annick was a blast (this is what trips to Europe…or anywhere for that matter…are all about) and even the walk back didn’t seem very long.

On the stroll to Manoir de la Maison Blanche, I started to pull up the rear (10 desserts in 11 days will do that to a man) and was joined by a couple of very amorous kitties that didn’t want to leave my side.  As we walked down the driveway, we told them we could not pack them in our suitcase and take them home, so please go back from wherever they came.

Back in our room, after about 15 minutes, Tracy and I were serenaded at our windowsill by the same two cats.  It was just like home, except that the cats weren’t standing on my head.

  Manoir de la Maison Blanche is a terrific place to stay, and Annick is the consummate host.  Price per night was 90€ (cash only) and included Annick’s delicious breakfast.  I can’t think of a better or more relaxing place to stay.

Tomorrow, however, the road warriors would hit the pavement again as we would head toward the western Loire.  We would have time to visit a chateau, a castle and an abbey on the way to a city where I wish we could have spent more time.  Who knew?

Next: Day Twelve – Boar Wars, A Chateau That Floats, Traveling In Joan Of Arc’s Footsteps (Without The Fire), Eleanor Really, Don’t Look Back In Angers, Get Me To The Church On Time and A Ferme Decision For Dinner

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