Friday, September 19, 2014

France Road Trip: Day Four

Typically, today would be a Photo Friday, but because every post for the last two weeks has featured plenty of photos from my family's vacation, I'm dropping the prefix. We all know it's Friday: here are more pictures.

Tuesday morning, I awoke from my third night of camping, feeling I had rested well but that my neck had taken a beating. The muscles on the right side were stiff and sore, and it hurt to turn my head to the left. And I still had four more nights to endure in a tent.

We had a breakfast of cereal and yogurt, eaten out of plastic beer cups that we bought at an Intermarché, along with cold meats, cheese, and a baguette that we would have for lunch. We also bought a four-pack of pistachio pudding that came in glass cups, which would serve as wine glasses when we were done.

Because we weren't changing camp grounds—although, we did move our tent closer to the comfort station—we didn't have to pack up. After eating, we simply hopped in the car to move to our next exploration site.

The Loire Valley (it's kind of funny, calling it a valley, when there aren't steep-sloping hills on either side: the banks are largely flat) is famous for its vineyards and orchards, but more than anything, it's known for its many extravagant châteaux. While I have already said I'm not one for fancy castles, I acknowledge the historical significance of these estates and feel that no trip to France should be without them. We picked four potential châteaux to visit and decided to go to two of them.

The first one on our list was the daddy of them all, Chambord.

Built by King Francois I, starting in 1519, Château de Chambord is one of the most-recognized of the châteaux of the French Renaissance, with its intricate roofline and its double-helix staircase—designed by, if not inspired by, Leonardo da Vinci, who had been invited by King Francois to live in the area. Though Francois never saw the completion of his hunting lodge (he, himself, stayed in Chambord for only seven weeks over the 28 years of construction, and only for a couple of days at a time), the château saw many changes over the centuries that followed.

We spent a couple of hours examining the various floors and rooms, but the rooftop was the main attraction.

We were back at our camp site for lunch, and Lori and I stopped in Amboise to pick up another bottle of the rosé that we enjoyed from the previous night's dinner. We ate our pudding, rinsed out our cups, and savoured the wine.

The kids needed some down time after three-and-a-half days in the car, so we let them relax, nap, read, and play at the camp site while we used the laundry facilities. There was also WiFi access, so I took the opportunity to check in.

Unfortunately, the WiFi was unreliable, and my connection never lasted more than a couple of minutes, so I had to content myself with enjoying the wine and taking it easy. After all, driving is tough work.

In the late afternoon, with clean laundry freshly folded and packed away, we headed out to our second château, Chenonceau.

While this château is considerably smaller than Chambord, I found it visually unique: long and narrow, with the majority of it spanning the Cher River, it appeared more like an elaborate bridge than a Renaissance castle.

I was more fascinated with the outward appearance and spent only a brief amount of time looking inside, viewing the main bedroom and the gallery over the river on the second floor.

In hindsight, it would have been nice to see one more château, possibly Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, but once you've seen one fancy estate, you've seen them all.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at an upscale restaurant before calling it quits for the day. We were set to leave the Loire Valley the next day and head to what was to become my favourite region for camping.

Stay tuned.


  1. I'm really enjoying your France posts Ross. We were in Paris last year and loved it, but didn't venture outside of the city other than Versailles. Now I want to explore more.

    Also, this is a great line: "We ate our pudding, rinsed out our cups, and savoured the wine."

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Finola! France will go down as one of the great Brownfoot adventures.

      While the pudding was delicious, we really got a lot of use out of the containers, which made excellent wine glasses. We were sad when we finally put them in the recycle bin at the farmhouse we ended up in, in Provence (oops... I hope I'm not spoiling anything!).