Sunday, October 11, 2015

We see three castles

Day 9: Blois, Chambord, Cheverny


It's castle time!  The weather was overcast and cool.  We asked for breakfast at 9am, which got us off to a bit of a late start.  No matter, we planned to hit three, maybe four castles today.  There were many more people around than we'd seen in the Dordogne. 


We started with Blois.  We got turned around trying to find it and wasted a few minutes running around the town below.  We parked and walked up to the entrance.  There was some kind of old car festival going on and husband was hooked immediately (me, not so much).  Dragged him away to tour the castle.





After paying for the entrance, we walked into the courtyard where the buildings are from markedly different periods (13C-17C) but still seem harmonious in a funky kind of way.  Really pretty.  We quickly walked through some rooms on the bottom floor with close up displays of the statues, gargoyles, etc. that were left from the restorations.  Then up the staircase (so beautiful) to the rooms.  It was a royal palace so these rooms were sumptuous and gilded and over the top.   The guide was well done as were the displays in each room.  I loved all the fleur de lis stuff, the colorful tiles, the fabulous ceilings and the history.  Some rooms were closed off for a conference but that didn't detract from what we were able to see.


Possibly my favorite thing was the special exhibition (which didn't cost more) of Francois I's library.  It was room after room after room of priceless illuminated manuscripts.  We stumbled into the exhibit and were awed. 


Afterwards, we took in the views over Blois from the terrace, popped into the chapel, took a few more pictures of the gorgeous courtyard buildings and left.


Our next stop would be Chambord.  Before touring this palace, we munched on sandwiches and drinks from one of the vendors as you walk up.  It was fine and helped us keep on track.


Chambord is out in the countryside, unlike Blois, so it sits there in massive isolated splendor. It's surrounded by a moat which seemed puny and insignificant compared to the size of the place.  Did I say it's massive?!?  I'm grateful that husband could make heads and tails of the guide because I found it impossible to follow.  There were tons of rooms to see all off the gorgeous (how the heck did DaVinci do it?) double spiral staircase.  The rooms were sparse and needed work but I'm sure they're doing the best they can to maintain the place since it's so huge.  We saw all that we could, including the lovely special exhibit of photographs by a Korean artist, and made it up to the roof which is not.to.be.missed!  The day was pretty so we lingered taking lots of pictures and admiring everything.  Back down the amazing staircase to the exit.  Chateau #2 was fantastic!


Checking our time, it looked like we had at least 2 hours until Cheverny closed.  This was actually the one I most wanted to see so we rushed there.  It's close to Chambord but on tiny roads so it took a good while.  The countryside is lovely.


Cheverny is also on large acreage so it too sits alone in splendor.  It's not massive, rather (to me) perfectly proportioned.  There was a special installation of butterflies that at first looked weird but were actually beautiful.  Cheverny has been in the same hands for-ever so it was well maintained and each room was beautifully appointed.  The current rich dude and his wife live on premises. Her wedding dress and  pictures of the wedding were in one room and family pictures in others.  Nice touch.  We took our time touring the rooms.  It was easy to follow the informative guide which had pictures of each room on it so you knew you were in the right place (loved that).  The ceilings in some rooms were crazy gorgeous. The interior was really something special. 


We exited and headed to L'Orangerie for drinks.  The grounds and flowers were beautiful so I detoured to take pictures while husband grabbed us drinks and a table.  He was the last customer of the night...  We sat out in this beautiful setting for awhile just basking in the beauty all around us.  We reluctantly left our idyllic spot and went looking for the hounds.  We saw more of the gorgeous grounds, said hello to the doggies, took some more pictures and left.

Back to the B&B in Amboise we headed on the pretty roads.  It was very easy to drive in this area.  We parked the car and refreshed before heading out to the main strip by the castle.


No reservations for dinner tonight so we took our chances with the pizza place on the main drag in front of the castle.  We had a pretty good green salad but the pizza was mediocre.  It was one of those overly complicated pizzas that I don't enjoy.  Give me a simple pizza margherita and I'm happy.  The service was good and the place was attractive.  As we sat there two men and a woman with a baby in a stroller passed into the back door (I guess to a courtyard leading to an apartment) and we were amused because they were Bill and Ted, total dudes, but married with kids!  Even talked like Bill and Ted. Funny.  We finished up and strolled back to the B&B to crash.


Takeaways:
1. With an early start, three or four castles are quite possible in a day, if they're relatively close together.
2. Walking around the following day we noticed there was another pizzeria farther down the strip, past Chez Bruno, that looked less touristy and we wished we'd tried that one instead.


Next: More castles, of course.







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