Castles, castles......everywhere castles

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Flag of France  , Centre,
Monday, June 18, 2012

The one thing he Loire valley has is castles. It's like a medieval housing estate. Seems every king and his horse needed to built a chateau next to the Loire river. And Ashley and I are going hunting for some of the best.

Due to a dodgy booking in Tours we booked a car at the train station. This proved to be ridiculously easy and made all he difference to our trip. The car place was 30m from the door our of the station. So we walked out, did the paperwork and drove out. We got off the train at 11am and were in our first little town (Bere) at 11:45. After info from tourist agent we discovered the Boulanger ..... French Baker. There was a queue of people buying their fresh baguettes so we lined up. We also were tempted by the cakes and surcombed to an eclair each. Seriously, they were the best eclairs I have ever had, full of flavored custard in light crisp pastry. And I had bitten the top off the baguette before we got back to the car.

Our first castle was Chenonceau ....... A Fairytale castle with a rich history. This was high romance and in the sunlight it was lovely.

Next was chateau royal at amboise. A different type of castle with an impressive view of the river and a nifty indoor ramp for getting the horses up to the top terrace.

We went back to find our dodgy hotel. Turned out it was fine. Clean, nice breakfast, quiet, free wifi ( which everyone pronounces as 'wiffy') and a private room for me to hang up some washing. All this and it was only 49 euro a night (not including breakfast). We spent the evening making bookings for later in the trip. I now feel a bit more confident in our connections.

Next day we were off the chenery castle. This was the castle that Tin Tin's adventure was based on. It even had a pack of real hunting dogs which are used for this purpose.

Next was lunch in the park. Nice lttle park by a lake with our own private ducklings (8) and more stunning food. Fresh baguette, duck liver pate with truffle oil, seasoned mustard, cream cheese, dried figs and apricots and a nice bottle of red. All I wanted to do after was sleep. But we had castles to see.

Chambord was the next castle. A really big castle designed as a hunting lodge and a compromise between the renaissance style and the military fortress style. Best thing was a spiral staircase that went up through the centre of the building. It had two plans (like a double helix) so you could sometimes see people on the stairs but never meet them. It was designed about the time Leonardo di Vinci came to live in the area and they made much of the similarity between the staircase and some of his designs. Whether he had anything to do with actually designing it though is a matter of conjecture. Still it was very ingenious.

After our castle hunting we just drove along e country roads. The Loire valley is very lush, all deep green trees and woods interspersed with large fields of wheat and the occasional vineyard. Very picturesque.
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