I'm So Tired Of Waking Up Tired

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
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Trip End Oct 10, 2008


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Flag of France  , Centre,
Monday, October 6, 2008

A short drive day today from Mont St Michel down to the Loire Valley, making a slight detour so Matt could drive past the famous Le Mans 24 hour race track. Matt wasn't sure whether to be excited or disappointed when we arrived at the track to find cars parked on the roadside for miles surrounding the track. Despite being a Sunday, we hadn't factored in that there may actually be a race on. Unable to get near the track, even to snap a quick photo, we drove around the outside of the track, saw nothing but a huge fence and made our way back out onto the motorway again. I'm sure it held a little more significance for Matt than it did for me, as he seemed pleased to just have been there even though he didn't get to watch any racing.
 
Today we were headed for the Loire Valley and chateaux country. Our first stop was Chateau Chenonceau which is quite unique as it is built out over the Cher River. It was built in the 16th century by a wealthy family but eventually became a residence of the French royal family. The chateau has undergone multiple extensions through the years as each of its owners has added their own touches. It looks magnificent in all the photos in the books, but was a little disappointing in real life as it was quite dirty and a large part of the main building was covered in scaffolding. You are able to wander through the palace and see some of the original furniture in the rooms. The most impressive is the huge ballroom that extends out over the river. Apparently during WW2 the Cher River marked the border of German occupied France, and this ballroom became a secret way of transporting people across the river without the Germans knowledge.
 
Despite the huge crowds of people crammed into tiny rooms, it was well worth a look. Probably the most amusing part for me was overhearing an Aussie fellow trying to explain to his 4 year old daughter the history of the chateaux. It went something like this. King Henry II was married to a lady called Catherine but he also had a very good lady friend called Dianne. He gave Chenonceau to Dianne for her to live in, but when Henry died, his wife decided she didn't want Dianne to live there anymore. To which the 4 year old asked, "Why?" Dad was really opening quite a can of worms to which we had a good chuckle. How does one explain the concept of a mistress to a 4 year old? We wandered through the enormous grounds, including a maze and despite rain and those damn Scaffoldi Brothers it was still definitely worth a look.
 
Our lack of sleep and the pace of our "holiday" was really starting to catch up with us as we neared the end of our month of travel. Exhausted, we headed to our Novatel Hotel in Amboise for an afternoon nap. It was lovely to get to the hotel and find that it was one of the nicest we had stayed in on the whole trip.
 
Our next burst of energy wasn't far away and by late afternoon we were headed into Amboise to explore the town. Like most of the towns in the Loire Valley, Amboise has a huge chateau on the hill overlooking the town and the Loire River. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we got there so we had to be content with wandering around outside the walls and taking some photos. Amboise is a cute little town with cobbled streets and plenty of old houses. You would think we would have had our fill of these little towns after a month, but we haven't. We still find ourselves walking down the street, looking at houses built hundreds of years ago, that people still live in today. I know they have all the mod cons like broadband and plasma TVs inside, but it is just so far removed from what we are used to at home we find it quite amazing.
 
We were more amazed as we walked further into town as we discovered the form of housing known as troglodytes, which are unique to the Loire Valley. As the hills here are all made of chalk, people have built houses by drilling into the chalk to create rooms inside the hills. Apparently they were initially made to provide chalk for the building of chateaux and for storing wine and growing mushrooms, but eventually people started to build them just as homes. We walked down whole streets where the houses extend back into the hillside and all you could see was the front door, a few windows and a chimney. They really are quite incredible. We so badly wanted to be able to go inside one and look around but had to make do with staring through curtained windows when we thought no one was home.
 
Dinner was at a little restaurant in town which looked great from the street but was a little disappointing once we got our food. We haven't had too many misses with meals on this trip but we were both so tired we didn't really care and headed home to bed. We did realise a little too late when we got the bill that the duck liver pate that we had ordered as an entrée, which was very disappointing, was actually pork liver pate and hence about half the price on the bill. Although we weren't ripped off financially, we did feel a little uneasy about having consumed liver of pork. No wonder it was so chunky and disgusting...
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