So it’s off to the next chapter as we say au revior to Paris and onto The Loire valley region. The train from Montparnesse to Tours was very fast and easy so we picked up our car at the station and once we got the GPS going we were off and in no time arrived at Montbazon and Chateau D’Artigny, wow what a reveal coming up the drive through the forest to be struck by the spendour of The chateau in all its glory.
Of course we are not staying in the chateau but in the annex… Unbeknown to us when we booked but the room is large and has a nice outlook to the sunrise. John went into Montbazon the local town for some water a few bits and pieces and checked the local castle of course while he was there .We then ate at the fancy Nancy restaurant in the Chateau, the first night on our own for a while before more guests arrived and the meal was good but the 3 course meal was way too much food for us, and we decided that we will make sure we have lighter meals in future !
Up the next day and off on our first Chateau run, with the first stop Chateau Azay-Le-Rideau and with half of it under extreme restoration you could still get a good sense of it all and going up into the roof where the restoration is happening was a revelation on building techniques and the amazement of timber. The interiors were sumptuous and as we got to see along our journey there was always a grand set of rooms set up for the king in case he ever visited ! Many people were there for the day enjoying the beautiful ground and gorgeous weather so we took a walk around the old town that has got very used to its tourist status.
Next stop the incomparable Chateau Usse or Sleeping Beauty’s castle with its raised position and sunken garden it was a real surprise and the tour went through almost the whole chateau.
Up in the attic were all the things stored from before WWII all still sitting there with trunks full of WW1 uniforms and boots etc and household goods of many descriptions ,the chapel and the grounds were a delight and we had a light lunch in a cafe across the road.
Last stop was the Fortress Chateau at Cinon up about the river it was the scene of the final battle of the defeat of the English forces of King John and has seen better days .
But it still commands a good visit with three sections to the castle and a huge tower that we had a bit of fun with, see video.
We came back to Montbazon via Langeais but the chateau was closing so we wandered around town visited a church and had a lovely pizza dinner in town before heading back along the Loire river for some photo opportunity and then an aborted visit to central Tours that was just too difficult to work out, so will try again another night.
The sunset sciences along the Loire river were magical.
Our next day brought us more chateaus to see so we headed east to one of the most unique, Chenenchau , positioned in the middle of a river from bank to bank like a bridge.
It was developed in three stages by three consecutive owners as it changed hands from Royals to peerage and others over the centuries but it has remained intact for the past 400 years and the gardens are a sight to behold.
Good old Catherine Medici has her hand in many elements of the Chateau and gardens and it is virtually set up as a homage to her.
Next stop Amboise and two more Chateaus/ Castles. First was the final home of Leonardo Da Vinci where he spent the final 3 years of his life under the benefactor Francis I who appreciated his intellect and skills.
He had him as the Kingdom of France’s main designer and artist and his influence on both art and military machinery is very evident in the impact he had. The gardens were set up with Leonardos designs and artwork in fascinating aspects and the Chateau was set up as he would have had it with the basement dedicated to working models of his many machine designs.
Final stop for the day was the Royal Chateau at Amboise just 400m from Leo’s place and after a steep climb what was left of a vast fortress was a stunning Chateau.
The beautiful park like grounds and the last resting place of Leonardo in the St Martins chapel looking out over the town and Loire river made it a very special place.
We had a drink at a bar. And wandered the old town before heading back to Montbazon
It was time for a rest day so we cruised the morning and slept in before taking a swim and a sun bake at the pool.
The woods were beckoning so John had a great idea to go walking but it was a bit of a goat track at times and time was ticking on for our first massage booking but we made it with just 10 mins to spare. The massage was relaxing for both and we were then ready to head off into Tours for the Cathedral light show and some dinner.
We parked the car as planned and walked up to the old town to check out the magnificent cathedral before it closed and we were glad we did as it was a stunner inside and out.
We had a drink at a local cafe and then walked to Place d Plumereau and found a nice quite Italian style restaurant just off the crazy busy square where there were wall to wall restaurants and it was alive and kicking.
We then wandered back to the cathedral for the 10pm light show and wow what a show, just as good as vivid with sound track to go with it.
We decided to combine our trip to Chevernay and Chambord with an overnight stay at Chevernay to avoid having to back and forward each day and it was a good decision considering John’s back issues and driving .
The driving so far had been manageable and John was enjoying the fabulous and beautiful countryside and quaint villages but too much had a negative effect so we headed along the Loire river past the Royal Chateau at Amboise to Chateau Chaumont and Jardin and walked up the long path at the front only to find level parking at the rear entry… Oh well good exercise I say.
We’ve been averaging around 8 to 10 kms a day this holiday. The Chateau was amazing and it stood as it was built from the 16th century with some of the best preserved original interiors and plenty of further restoration work going on inside.
The outside was fully restored and it was picture perfect in its design and setting, the gardens were amazing and full of sculpture on permanent exhibition as well as a full garden dedicated to installation art all around shelter/abodes and man interacting with nature, really fascinating and so much to see we could have spent a whole day there and three hours later to had to head off to Chevernay.
Well Chevernay is one of the more recent Chateuas of the valley being built in the 17th century in more of the French classic style that was heavily Influenced by Italian design but with that distinct French roof line design.
The Interiors are in pristine condition and really well set up for history buffs with great detail in how rooms are set up from its heyday in the 18th century.
We stayed the night at a nice Hotel in town and enjoyed a good meal at the restaurant
Our last chateau day was reserved for two big ones. the crown of the Royal Chateau’s Chambord was first and was only a short drive from the hotel and then into the massive grounds, the largest walled park in Europe with 32 km’s of walls surrounding the Chateau.
It is currently under major restoration to both the building and grounds and I imagine there is a good 5 years plus of work to be done after many years of neglect but the results so far are fantastic.
The design is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci as it was created by his patron Francis I and began the year of Leonardos death and it incorporated so many elements of various designs he had undertaken for the perfect city including his double helix staircases and the Greek square patterns of symmetrical design.
Well it was incredible and every turn revealed another extraordinary design both inside and out, it was fairytale on steroids when you got to the roof terraces with Gaudi I imagine eating his heart out with delight at the fun and fantasy going on up there .
Of course when the opportunity Arises for a head in hole shot we have to take it.
Our last stop on our Loire adventure was the Royal Chateau of Blois..pronounced bwahh.. Yeah I know, so we headed over the river again and found a parking station before eating at the town square and then heading up the Giants staircase to the chateau.
Well a great way to finish off the chateaus with a stunning blend of 13th century Gothic through to the Flamboyant 14th century style and onto the Italian Renaissance inspired section and then the final piece of the puzzle with the Classic French 17th century Paris style all 4 periods working together in a strange but effective manner.
It was the same inside with the different periods represented in the design with the fabulous Francis I,Henry II & III apartments my favourites
Our last night at Chateau D’Artingay and we enjoyed a nice meal in the beautiful restaurant again but only ordered one course and explored the 2nd level to reveal the grand salon and it’s fabulous domed ceiling depicting the fun and frivolity of the 1920’s parties at the chateau followed by a drink in the bar.