FRANCE – Loire Valley
What’s most impressive about Chartres Cathedral is the approach from Paris. It’s this enormous structure rising up in the distance.
Inside the ornate Gothic walls is the Sancta Camisa, the garment Mary wore when she gave birth to Jesus.
We climb to the top of the spire for an aerial view of the town.
By the way, Chartres is not actually in the Loire Valley, but it’s on your way to all the chateaux from Paris…
“Blois” is a funny word to say. It’s like you have a bad taste on your tongue and you’re trying to spit it out. Bl-wah !
We use the town as our home base and do day trips to Chambord, Cheverny, Chenonceaux, and Amboise. At night, we listen to some recorded jazz at the Velvet Jazz Club, a cool place with vaulted yellow ceilings, funky furniture, and occasionally, live jazz.
The Chateau Royal de Blois is a cool meshing of architecture. Each building surrounding the courtyard is a unique style. So if you’re looking for a crash course on Gothic, Renaissance, and Classic architecture, here you can study them in a real side-by-side-by-side comparison.
The inside’s pretty ornate.
They project a light show on the castle at night, so you can see how the facade looks on acid, without actually doing anything illegal…
The town of Blois is kind of funny. At Maison de la Magie – the House of Magic – golden animatronic dragons pop out the windows every hour like a cuckoo clock.
It’s a liqueur and a chateau, both from the town of Chambord. Legend has it that the raspberry flavored liqueur was actually made for Louis XIV while he was staying at the chateau…
The roofline of the castle is like a miniature village that’s been set upon this massive structure.
You arrive in a little area with tourist shops, pass through the big lawn, and then enter the gravel courtyard around the otherside.
Inside, there’s a double helix staircase that’s like walking up DNA.
We have a picnic by the moat with stuff we pick up from the nearby shops. The strawberries are the best. They’re so tiny compared to the strawberries in the States, yet twice as flavorful. And perfectly sweet like they were dipped in sugar crystals.
A grandiose estate in the town of Cheverny.
I want to adopt one of the hunting dogs.
Château du Clos Lucé is Da Vinci’s old house in Amboise. There’s a park and mock ups of his inventions.
Amboise is a cool town. I almost wish we’d stayed here over Blois. We eat liver pâté with a baguette on the banks of the river. It takes some internal convincing to try the grey spread, but the fact that it came from a chacterurie and not a jar helps. Plus, the tarte tatin with caramelized apples takes care of the aftertaste.
Château de Chenonceau is not by the river. It’s actually on the river.
Our teacher, Dalton, calls it the most romantic place in France. It was a gift for Diane de Poitiers, Henry II’s mistress. Just think if he’d got her chocolates instead.
She’d ride in a carriage down the chestnut tree-lined path.
There’s a maze made of hedges, which would be a little trickier if they allowed the green walls to grow above shoulder height… Perry and I race through it.