After fully roadtripping down the west coast of northern France we cut over to make our way east and head to Loire Valley. Situated between northern and southern France, this locale was favored by the nobel. Vast fields of sunflowers and castle peaks make the drive there all the more breathtaking. Even better, we got hooked on the podcast “Up and Vanished” which actually made us look forward to the long drive (I know, right?). If you haven’t started this one up yet, DO IT. Like most of France, Loire Valley is made up smaller charming villages. We opted to stay in Amboise, a quaint village on the bank of the Loire River.
Now a market town, there’s artifacts of its rich history on every corner. The French Royal Court oversees the cobbled streets and the castle towers can be seen from nearly every alleyway. Since accommodations were limited here, we opted to splurge and spend the night in a stunning manor, right below the castle walls. Decorated in intricate French design, we quickly set our stuff down and then headed on to the day’s main event!
Châteaus aka Fancy Houses I Can’t Afford
Châteaus are the sought after destination for this region. Large, elaborate castles situated on acres of gardens makes it an awe-inspiring view. Since there were numerous châteaus to choose from, we decided to just choose one and explore it to the fullest. We settled on Château de Chenonceau, mostly because it was only 11 miles away from or hotel and seemed to have the most gorgeous landscape. Plus, we could grab a delicious baguette sandwich at the entrance. We arrived midday and immediately knew we were not the only ones who had this idea for a gorgeous 80 degree day. Although it was jampacked with tourists, we were able to get tickets quickly and head into the home. Spanning the cher River, Château de Chenonceau is not only a glorious building, but in one of the most stunning locations.
While the towering walls and ornate decorations were well worth the visit, we could only deal with the masses of people for so long. We opted to forgo the audio tour and leisurely walked through the magnificent rooms, making up our own stories along the way and reading through the plaques. When we’d had enough of the crowds, we headed out to walk long the river. We explored the maze carved into the garden and had a good time talking to the donkeys on the lawn. While this is a ‘must see’ in Amboise, we’ve come to realize house tours aren’t totally our jam, but that’s really just our personal preference. We decided we would make time for Châteaus only if they served wine. To each their own! We’ll get to that when we head to Burgundy.
Château du Clos Lucé
After a long afternoon in the hot sun, we headed back to our hotel to regroup. Per usual, us Americans were way too early for dinner. How do people eat at 8pm?! So we had some time to wander up to Château du Clos Lucé, Leonardo Da Vinci’s home, located on the top of the hill from the city. Although a short walk, it’s steepness counted as cardio in my book. It was the official residence of Da Vinci from 1516 until 1519, when he died. Since we arrived later in the day near closing, the crowds has dispersed and we could enjoy this site more peacefully.
We made the walk back down into the city and enjoyed wandering in and out of the shops and reading about the history of the local businesses. When it was *finally* an acceptable dinner hour, we grabbed some delicious burgers and fries (veggie for me) and planned out our next road trip. Dinner was on point but I made sure to save room for the bakery I’d had my eye on since we arrived. Patisserie Bigot, a intricate shop dedicated solely to the love of dessert was a place dreams are made of. Sweet dreams, that is (ha). We indulged in an ice cream sundae and enjoyed the sun sinking over the castle walls.
By the time we had finished, the sun was setting over the Loire River and we enjoyed the cotton candy skies as we headed back to our mansion turned hotel. The concierge gave us glasses of wine to enjoy on the front patio so we could enjoy the evening like true French people.
Is it even morning if there’s not a croissant?
Although we strived for an early wake up time, that just wasn’t in the cards. I blame the wine…or the fact that we hadn’t slowed down in days! Luckily, our hotel offered a delicious selection of breakfast items we could enjoy before getting back on the road. Plus, an entire basket full of croissants (!!). Might have taken a couple for the road..It was one of our longer treks yet which meant ample Up and Vanished listening time. We weren’t particularly excited for the next stop so we didn’t mind our late timeline, it was planned as more of a place to sleep as we headed to the French Alps the following day. But oh boy, were we wrong. Turns out, Lyon is my favorite city in northern France, topping out above Paris! Find out more next week about all the little secrets hidden in this magnificent metropolitan.