Palaces and Chateaux, in The Beautiful Loire

Enjoying a cafe in the beautiful gardens at Le Clos d’Amboise

We decided to have a sleep in day, and I had a nice quiet morning drinking my french cafe in the beautiful gardens of Le Clos d’Amboise.  This also gave me time to go through our to do list of Palaces and Chateaux that we wanted to visit in our 2 full days here. On our list was Chambord, Chenonceau, and Cheverny, which had the added bonus of watching La Soupe Des Chiens- feeding of the dogs, which was something I was really looking forward to as a result of my research. Plus I wanted to explore Amboise.

Breakfast at Le Clos d’Amboise

Soft Boiled Egg Boiler

Before starting our day, we had a beautiful breakfast at our Chateau. The variety of offerings were quite extensive, and even included a soft boiled egg bar; something I have never seen before. It took me back to my childhood as this was something my Mom made for my sister and I regularly, and we even had our own special soft boiled egg cups.There are many great reasons to travel, but one of my top reasons is to meet and speak with different people. At breakfast we sat next to a lovely family- Mother (Mary), daughter (Lilia) and Lilia’s Grandmother. I had conversed briefly with Lilia the day before at the pool, and in my broken french had commented to her that she was a fish like my daughter was when she was little. Lilia did not really understand, but her Mother smiled as she got the gist of what I was saying.  We ended up having a nice, long conversation with Mary and Lilia at breakfast, explaining where we were from, where we had traveled to so far, and where we were going. Kalyna also explained why her french was so good, and they were kind to me when I tried to speak french. They were a lovely family from a city close to Amboise and were on a mini vacation to one of their favourite places- Le Clos d’Amboise. It was a highlight for both Kalyna and I to have met this family, and I am still in contact with Mary via Instagram.

It was now late morning, and we were off to start our day and driving through the Loire Valley to Chambord.  The country side in the Loire in beautiful. The roads are windy, and vary in speeds, but not as fast as the major highways. We followed the river for most of each trip, which was nice. The Loire has many towns, and many of them have a Chateau in them, so if you are an enthusiast of Chateaux, you will have MANY to visit.

Many sights to see driving in the Loire Valley

We arrived at the entrance to The Estate of Chambord, a huge forest that surrounds the Palace of Chambord; it “is the largest walled and enclosed park in Europe, with the same area (about 13500 acres) as Paris proper.”

They say that “It is a magical atmosphere as soon as you arrive”, and they weren’t kidding!

The Magical Chambord

The architecture is extraordinary, as is its size. Then as you get closer, we then saw the meticulously manicured French Gardens, which were even more impressive to view from the balconies a top of the palace.

We wanted to explore the inside of this palace and it was instantly confirmed as we got closer, that it is “radically unique”, and that it is “perhaps the equivalent in architecture of Mona Lisa in painting.” At least from the outside.

Rick Steves had recommended to rent the audio guide and skip the “useless” HistoPad, but when I went to the counter to rent the audio guide, it was not available anymore, and only the L’HistoPad was available. Hmmm. Kalyna wasn’t interested, so I just rented 1, and it was immediately frustrating figuring out how to use this. It was designed to be interactive, which is great if that is what you want, but what I really wanted was an explanation of what I was looking at. It also used GPS, so the rooms it had information on, it would automatically start and stop the room description as you entered and exited each room that it had information on.

Inside Chambord with my L’Histopad

The spiral staircase in the center was the most impressive part to this palace as it was no small feat to be able to build this masterpiece! Here are some highlight pictures of our self guided tour. There aren’t a tonne of pictures as honestly, the inside was a bit lack luster. It was hardly furnished, and had a contemporary art showing going on, which I had appreciation for, BUT was a bit confusing in this setting. Also there were very few plaques with explanations which was disappointing, and caused our tour to be WAY faster than we thought it would be.

The Spiral Staircase is in the center of the Palace

Ceramic stove (1749)

Chamber room

My obsession of antique chamber pots continues…

Modern Art installation inside Chambord

There was one room that was fully furnished and was quite evident it was a tribute to the hunting that was done on these grounds many years ago. It was very unique and showed the great respect that we see for dogs in this area.

Hunting room artwork and trophies

As there was very little to read, and in english, and the lack of furnishings, we ventured outside to explore the extensive balconies, and take in the views of the beautiful grounds.

Architecture is Magnificent!

Courtyard

The architecture is Amazing, with yet another spiral staircase

One thing that was disgusting to me was all of the graffiti that we saw in all of the stone outside. It is disgusting to think that so many people thought they needed to leave their insignificant, and ego filled mark on this beautiful structure! It was everywhere!

Graffiti on Chambord

As our tour of the Palace did not take long, this left us time to have lunch, which we were surprised to see was very affordable on the grounds, which would be rare in Canada or the U.S. to find delicious food at a low price at any tourist place. I had an AMAZING salad, which is one of the things I really miss about France- their salads!  And it was rare that any of the salad choices contained Gluten, unless you needed to ask for no croutons, which they did not use a lot of. They have an art of mixing, fresh, seasonal produce, with proteins and potatoes! And the lettuce is both sweet and tender, as it was grown on the grounds!

A fresh, salad with vin blanc that was SO delicious!

We had accomplished so much today, and we still had more time for another Chateau, so we ventured off to what I would discover to be my favourite- Chenonceau.

 

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Rental Cars, Toll Roads, and a Chateau in Amboise

Next stop-  The Loire Valley

We bid adieu to the noisy seagulls of Le Mont St. Michel with my $9 coffee in hand, and found our way to the bus stop.  We arrived in Rennes from Mont St. Michel on the bus, and picked up our rental car at EuropCar, which I had arranged through my CAA membership at home. I was guaranteed a Fiat 500L or something similar, and we ended up with a manual Hyundai – fully loaded including navigation! The 1 thing I was nervous about was navigating, as when we last drove in France was in 2012, and we used paper maps and it was a HUGE challenge. I had pre-loaded maps of Amboise, and the Loire Valley on my CityMaps2Go by Ulmon maps and Google maps, but to have voice navigation was going to be a very nice bonus, especially because Kalyna informed me that she was going to watch Netflix on her tablet and NOT be my navigator….. Guess what my response was!

While we were trying to figure out the car navigation, I inputted the Amboise address in my google map on my phone, and found out quickly that they had added the voice guidance feature to their offline maps!  So off we went to the Loire Valley with 2 voices guiding us.

Some advice when driving in France:

  • Have small bills for the Toll Roads- we were on a toll road for a distance, and the amount to pay at the end of it was €19.20 and all I had was a €50, and as the signs at each line are not clear as to which ones take credit card and which are cash, so as I was in the cash only line, the change I was given was all in €1 &2 coins! It was like I won big in Vegas, the sound the machine made as it dispensed all of my change.

    Which lane do we go to, to pay?

  • Also try to get food before you get onto the toll highways. The nice part to taking a toll highway is that there are regular rest stops, but if you want food, you need to stop at a rest stop with food, and the one we stopped at was CRAZY BUSY! The parking lot was huge, yet there was nowhere to park, so we ended up blocking in a semi truck in their parking lot, like many others, while we ran in and got food as quickly as we could then ate in our car.

    Where do we park?

  • Load Google maps on your phone before you leave for your trip. Now that voice guidance is available on offline maps, there is almost no need for navigation in your rental vehicle.

We arrived safely in Amboise and with only 1 hiccup when our 2 navigating voices had an arguement as  to which way to go, which cost us an extra trip on a toll road, a few loops around, and a side track on a remote- narrow and windy country road.  All things said, it was a successful journey, and Kalyna ended up helping to navigate and she surviced not getting to watch a movie on the way- something that this generation is clueless how to live without!

We checked in at our Chateau, Le Clos D’Amboise, which was a splurge for us on this trip. It was a chateau from Renaissance times, and was beautifully decorated. It also had a pool, which we were looking forward to being able to use after a nice day of driving in the country exploring the chateaux and castles. The weather was beautiful when we arrived, so we decided to have a much deserved pool break. To feel the sun and heat was such a nice feeling after so many days of clouds, cool temperatures and rain.

We arranged to meet up with Heather and Roger, whom we met in Mont St. Michel for dinner and enjoyed each others company as we got to know each other more. I especially liked eating with Heather as she is a fellow Sans Gluten traveler, as she is Celiac, so to feel not so ‘alone’ was a nice treat for me! It was also nice to drink wine with someone as Kalyna was not a wine drinker and had no desire to become one with me….

Look closely and you will see that the Galettes flaming with Grand Marnier

Amboise is a nice, small city with a lot to offer in a condensed area- hotels, shopping, eating, wine stores, a Chateau in the city center and is central to drive to many, many other Chateaux and wineries. I will tell you more about Amboise and its Chateau in another post, but here are some photos of our first impressions of this pretty city!

Great restaurants and shops on Rue Victor Hugo

Aerial view of Rue Victor Hugo and Amboise

Tomorrow we start to explore the Loire Valley and a few of its Chateaux!