Living it up in the Loire
27.03.2013 - 27.03.2013 10 °C
It was a much much better day when only one thing went wrong - we got a parking ticket - and that is fixable! In fact our lovely landlady Marina has offered to take care of it for us and that is problem solved.
We're very conscious of the fact that there is a lot to see in the Loire and we really only had one day to do it - plus the bit we had yesteday when I wasn't having my nails done. We also wanted to give due attention to the what we saw rather than doing the whistle stop tour. As a result, we ended up only seeing one chateau properly and looking at a couple of others from the outside. Which one? There was no competition for me, it had to be Chenonceau!
There may be more attractive chateaux, or there are others with Da Vinci design and history, but since I started reading Jean Plaidy's books about the French royal family when I was a teenager, I've always been a fan of Diane de Poitiers and I've been fascinated - in a vaguely repelled way - by Catherine de Medici so to go to the chateau that symbolised their relationship was a no brainer for me. I have to say that it didn't let us down. For those that don't know, Diane was the mistress of Henri II of France - and Catherine was his queen. The fascinating thing is that Diane was some 19 years older that Henri but was a great beauty and he fell in love with her when he was 18 and continued to love her until his death 25 years later. One of the gifts he gave her was Chenonceau and she added to it. When Henri died and Catherine gained ascendancy, she took the chateau from Diane and added to it. Ironically, in the room believed to have been Diane's bedroom there is portrait of Catherine! Hm, how to cool your ardour!!
It's a delicate building, surprisingly small really as these things go and it spans the River Cher in graceful arches which were gorgeous to photograph. As a by the by, I loved the story from the Second World War. The River was the demarcation line between occuppied and unoccuppied France and the Resistance were able to use the gallery of the chateau's Southern door to help people escape into the unoccuppied territory.
The sunny - if cold (didn't really get into double figures today) - day brought out a few visitors and at times it was daunting - especially when everyone seemed to want to go into the same room at one. There were a couple of small tour groups but I shudder to think what it would be like in peak season. There is no doubt that, while we're suffering from cool weather, we're definitely getting the benefit of the crowds - or lack thereof. The rooms were beautifully pannelled and decorated and, while I decided not to get the audio guide, the visitors' handbook provided lots of information on the history of each room and the art works included. We wandered upstairs and down into the kitchens which were fascinating and seemed almost ready to use as they were. They included some wonderful copper pans and pieces that I'd love in my kitchen.
After viewing the house and gardens, we decided that lunch was in order and went to the up market restaurant at the chateau called L'Orangerie. I think that this is one of the reasons that we only see one chateau as we relaxed over a couple of courses and coffee and left in a very happy frame of mind.
A little excursion into Amboise finished up the day. We weren't brave about parking and picked a spot near the river. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that we needed a ticket - d'oh - so the council kindly gave us a somewhat more expensive one. 17 Euro later - this will be a lesson to me. Because we'd parked where we did, we had a longish walk up to the Chateau and decided not to go in but we did get some great photos outside and of the lovely half timbered buildings in the town. We were trying to find Da Vinci's house but it all got too much and we meandered our way home about 5.
Tonight we're going to a Michelin starred restaurant in Blois that our hosts have recommended. We're happy to back their advice as last night we went to a local Auberge that they'd suggested in the next village. Superb! And our first time with our waiting staff not speaking any English - apparently we can be understood!!!
PS - guess what we found in the car just under Hugh's seat today???? Yep - that bloody toll ticket!!!