Monday, May 11, 2009

Loire Valley road trip

Michael and I planned a trip to the Loire Valley, which was this past weekend. I use the term “planned” loosely. We picked a weekend, found a hotel, rented a car and agreed on Friday night to leave Saturday morning at 9. That was as far as our preparations went. Luckily, this was a non-issue except that we both forgot to bring CDs for the car. And a map.

Chartres was our first stop. We strolled through the famed gothic Cathedral (read all about its interesting history here), but it was the town market that wowed me.

I just can’t get enough of the beautiful fruits, vegetables, cheeses and honey around here.

We then stopped at this chateau, but it was closed.

The French don’t kid around. They just close from 1 to 2 for lunch. It was 1:15 when we arrived and we weren’t inclined to wait 45 minutes so we missed out on that one.

Next, a pit-stop in the largish town of Blois, where we grabbed sandwiches, saw the exterior of the huge and impressive Blois Chateau and, most importantly, went to the office of tourism where we got a map of the area and some tips on which chateaux were must-sees. Finally, we were armed with info and a game plan.

By late afternoon, we made it to our first chateau: Chambord. Spectacular in its scale and history.

I liked this hall filled with antlers of deer, which were all apparently taken down by a woman. But it’s a systematic hunting thing where she was removing the old and deformed so the strong could procreate and thrive.

The sun peeped through for about seven minutes in the afternoon.

It’s too bad: the estate covers about the same area as Paris and it would have been nice to walk through some of the 5440 hectares.

My favorite chateau of the weekend was our hotel: Chateau de Reignac. It was so gorgeous and cute—if a sprawling historic chateau can be called cute.

This was the view from our room, way up “under the roof” as the owner put it (Michael and I shared a room, but it was a buddy-trip, no romancin’).

The grounds were lovely and the rooms were giant but warm and comfortable. Before a solid dinner at the chateau’s subterranean restaurant, we enjoyed Vouvray in the drawing room. The owner told us this sparkling wine, which we loved, could be found cheap at the caveaux in the town of Vouvray. So we made the town a priority on our itinerary the next day, but in the end, we couldn’t find the same vintage we drank at the hotel.

But, we did see another grand chateau: Chenonceau.

This photo doesn’t do it justice. That back part of it is built across a river. It was actually quite spectacular.

But these places are sort of crazy: Throngs of people, like Disney World.

Other highlights of the trip included lunch at an old-timey “restaurant de poissons” in the town of Tour called La Chope and another pit-stop in the evening in the city of Orleans. Apparently we just missed the finale of the town’s Joan of Arc festival, but we did see a bunch of Frenchies dressed up in Renaissance Fair-like garb, grunting and dancing.

1 comment:

  1. Loire Valley is a fantastic place. I know what you mean about a photo not doing justice to Chateau Chenonceau. Everyone should visit, it's amazing. We visited at the beginning of sept, so less people and you will enjoy the chateau much much more.