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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


France - 9 May, 2004



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Amboise (Hotel Le Chaptal) N47º24.786' E000º59.149' 83 meters .
Château Royal D'Amboise . . . .
Château de Chenonceau . . . .
Cheverny . . .  
Blois . . . .
Chaumont Sur Loire . . . .
Finish Amboise (Hotel Le Chaptal) N47º24.786' E000º59.149' 83 meters 114 km

Total (BMW 330CiC)

1,656 km

Total (other):

455 km


2,111 km


Weather: In the morning overcast, cool and windy with a temperature of around 8°C.  In mid-afternoon, partly cloudy, sunny and warm with a temperature of around 14°C.  In the evening cool.



Today is visiting château day.  We will see how many we can fit in.  We head out into the streets around 9:30 AM and have a quick breakfast - a crepe at one of the many small eateries that line the streets.  Then it is off to the château that dominates the skyline of this town - the Château Royal D'Amboise.  We walk up the steep set of stairs that leads to the main entrance and the ticket office.  After paying our entry fee, we make our way into the château proper up the wide passageway that allowed horse and carriages to arrive in style on the upper terraces.


Once up on the terraces, we can take in the views of the gardens and the Loire valley, with the center piece being the castle's 15th and 16th century buildings.  This is the first château where Italian tastes were introduced into the Loire Valley.


Our first stop is the St. Hubert Chapel, built by Charles VIII, for the royal families private use.  It is a small, but beautiful chapel with some exquisite limestone frieze carvings.  The light shines through the colorful stained glass windows, throwing a rainbow of colors onto the carved, white limestone.


From the chapel, we make our way to the Boy's Tower, along the ramparts where in the past many more buildings used to stand.  Along the way, we note with interest the transition in the main buildings from the French late-Gothic style in the Charles VIII wing to the Italianate Renaissance style in the perpendicular Louis XII-Francois I wing.  After taking a look over the town and river below - one can just imagine what it would have been like to have been a king and go for a stroll up here and look down on your realm - we make our way to the interior of the château.


We then spend the next hour or so wandering through the numerous rooms of the château.  In general, they are furnished quite plainly - but that may just be because not many of the original pieces are left.  One of the more interesting rooms was the Council Chamber, with a fireplace at each end.  Each one is done in a different style, reflecting the change in tastes over the years.  As it was a bit chilly in the buildings, we appreciated the huge fire that was burning in one of the fireplaces.  Upon leaving the buildings, we spend a little more time wandering through the gardens, taking in the bust of Leonardo da Vinci and the monument to the members of Abd El Kader's household, who were prisoners of state following the conquest of Algeria.


After checking out the museum shop, we exited by the second cavalry tower, winding our way down the wide circular ramp contained in the tower. Along the way we were amused by the odd 15th century sculptures, known as culs-de-lampe, or lamp bottoms, that lined the wall all the way down.  This is a nice example of the entertaining late-Gothic style of carving that went out of fashion with the more sober, classical Renaissance style.


After leaving the castle, we wandered the streets for a while and then headed back to our hotel where we picked up our car to head out into the country side.  Our goal is another château - Château de Chenonceau.  It takes us less than 30 minutes drive through the Loire country side to reach the magnificent estate.  But first, before we head into the grounds proper, it is time for a picnic lunch.  Just near the car park and alongside a small duck filled stream, a strip of grass has been set aside for picnics.  A number of groups of people have already set up, but we are able to find a nice spot under s small tree right next to the stream.


We use our sarong as a small blanket and sit down and enjoy our baguette and cheese lunch (along with a bit of left over roast chicken).  It is certainly a very pleasant way to enjoy our lunch.  But it is soon time to enter the estate.  We pay our entrance fee and walk down the long tree lined driveway through the informal gardens to the château proper.  We first make our way to the Diane de Poiters' garden for a view of the exterior of the château, built in a glorious manner across the river Cher.


We enter the château, built in the 16th century, over the mini drawbridge and begin our tour in the Guards' Room.  The walls have 16th century tapestries hanging from them, depicting castle life.  Then it is on to the chapel, which is a small, but elegant tall room.  The queen would attend services from the second storey balcony.


Next is Diane de Poitier's bedroom.  She was King Henry II's favorite, and he donated the estate to her.  However, on his death in 1559, his widow Catherine de Medici forced her to give it up in exchange for Chaumot-sur-Loire.  Not really a fair exchange, but there is nothing like a wife scorned.  The Green Study is the room from which Catherine de Medici ruled France after the death of her husband.  The Library is a cute little room, that has amazing views from small three windows overlooking the Cher river.


The highlight of the château, however, must be the Gallery, which gives this place its distinctive exterior look sitting over the river.  In 1576 Catherine de Medici built this long ballroom on top of an existing bridge.  It is 60 meters long and is lit by 18 tall windows that overlook the river below.


Very fun to visit are the Kitchens, located in the bases of the two huge piers that support the main building of the château, sitting on the bed of the Cher.  The kitchens are filled with old cooking utensils and equipment (installed during the First World War to replace the Renaissance Kitchens that were not suited to the the château being used as a hospital).  The brass pots and pans are wonderful.  There are separate rooms for the butcher and the staff.  There are huge fire places with massive spits for roasting whole animals. The rooms are connected by a bridge linking each pier, where it is possible to see where boats used to draw alongside to bring supplies hoisted up by a pulley system.


We then went from room to room.  There are many and it is hard to describe them all.  It seems like everyone that lived here wanted as different bedroom.  There are also plenty of living rooms.  Up on the second floor, the last room to explore was a very interesting one - the Louise of Lorraine's Bedroom.  Following the assassination of her husband, King Henry III, she retired to the château for meditation and prayer.  She dressed all in white (the traditional Royal mourning clothes) and her room is painted all black with silver mourning objects - tears, widow's cordons, crowns of thorns and her and her husband's initials.


While we have been in the building, the sun has come out and is shining brightly so we head over to the beautiful Catherine de Medici's Garden.  This is an intimate garden with a pool in the center and overlooks the west facade.  It is in bloom and the view to the château is wonderful.  We take a break in the garden and warm up in the sun's rays.


We then spend some time wandering around the estate and the rest of the grounds.  We decide to risk getting lost in the maze made from bushes, but they are cut too low, so there is little risk of that.  It is soon time to head on, so we make our way back to the car park.  With the sun shining, it is now time to put the car roof down and we enjoy our drive to our next destination - Cheverny.


In a bit less than an hour we arrive in the town.  But it is a bit too late to visit the château and it's grounds - we would have less than an an hour to take it all in.  So, after a quick look around the town that sits right under the walls of the estate, we carry on, making our way to the town of Blois that sits on the Loire River.


We are on the opposite side of the river from the castle, but we park our car anyway and decide to go for a walk.  We wander on this side of the river for a while and then make our way on to the bridge and head over to the other side of the river.  Once on the other side of the river, we make our way through the old town up to the château itself.  It is a bit of a walk up to the entrance, but we are soon there.


It has closed for the evening, but we are still able to take in the exterior along with the two large churches (or cathedrals) nearby.  It is a simple, but imposing castle. Nothing special, but certainly dominating the skyline.


After getting our fill of the surrounding buildings, we head down the northern side and get another view of the facade of the building as it hangs over the town below.  We spend the next half hour or so wandering through the winding, narrow streets of the old city and end up at a cafe near the bridge that we had used to enter the city after parking our car.


We sit outside, with a view of the busy round about, and wait on the French cafe service.  At first, it is very slow, and representative of typical local service, but once we put in our order, things were very efficient and good.  We got excellent food (for a street side cafe) and very friendly service.  We had a very good meal at a very good price.


After finishing off our filling meal, we make our way back over the bridge to our car on the other side.  Once back in the car we make our way back to Amboise.  Along the way we make a brief stop along the river to take in the sight of château Chaumont Sur Loire which overlooks the river below.  While it is a very impressive place, it really was not a fair trade for Château de Chenonceau.  We eventually make our way back to Amboise and have a relaxing late evening back in our room in the hotel.


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