July 9: Chateau Overload

Dan’s friend Jim arrived just as we were going to bed, wild-eyed and tossed about by the storm. He was exhausted and the airline had lost his bicycle, then he’d had to drive five hours to our place, and this morning he had to drive five hours back to see if they’d gotten his bicycle sorted out. This morning the airline called and told him they had his bike, so he took off like a shot and headed back east to Geneva.

We ate breakfast, debated about the weather, and then I ended up hanging our clothes out on the line in spite of the clouds. I felt like it was going to clear up, and as we were driving out of the village, it began to rain again. But later in the day it cleared up perfectly and ended up being another hot gorgeous day. The rain, overnight, was torrential, and this morning I felt much better about the geraniums in pots and the petunias, etc. This afternoon when we returned from our travels our clothes were nice and dry.

Our first stop was Clos Luce, a stone and brick mansion that Francois I had made available to Leonardo da Vinci during the last three years of his life.

Da Vinci came over the alps on a mule at the age of 67 with the Mona Lisa and two other paintings, and set up residence in Amboise, within view of the main chateau where Francois held court. Rumor has it there was a secret tunnel between the two estates – we saw the beginning of it. There are so many caves around – who knows?

We ate lunch at Clos Luce – Benny had saussices avec frites and Sadie had frites, Dan and I had nice paninis and I had a glass of local wine. After toodling around in the gardens for a while playing with the giant models of da Vinci’s contraptions, we went back to the car and drove to Chateau Chambord. More on Clos Luce in another post.

Chambord is the biggest chateau on the Loire and we were pretty amazed by it, in spite of the feeling it couldn't live up to the hype.

The much-discussed double-helix staircase was indeed awesome, and the sheer enormity of the place, as well as the massively ornamented roof, has to make you stand back and say, whoa. This dude has a lot of money. Which is, of course, what it’s meant to make you say:

I particularly liked the little chambers outside the royal bedrooms where there were mini-kitchens, because the kitchens were so far away from the bedrooms that you had to reheat the food right before you served it. We also saw some portraits of Three Musketeers characters, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria:

I also found it endearingly imperfect – there were lots of passageways that were closed off, and if you peeked down those passageways, you say pretty much utter ruin and mess. They had also opened some of the museum of the original roof pieces – very much destroyed by weather wear on soft limestone, and a workshop where stone was being restored and dupliated. The kids had the audio tour in English, which they seemed to enjoy – more on that in another post.

We were so tired and cooked after Chambord that we poured back into the car with a two liter of cold water and headed back down the Loire river toward Amboise, passing the chateaux at Blois and Chaumont – for another time. We have chateaued ourselves sufficiently for this week. We stopped at the market, got cheese, bread, fruit, and Coca-Cola Light (which is nothing like diet Coke!) and LOCAL WINE (which is awesome) and headed home.

For dinner I made tortellini with Provencal sauce, goat cheese with herbs and olive oil smeared on pieces of a baguette, fresh wild strawberries, green salad, and for Benny some ham. Sadie actually ate a LOT and asked if they had food like this in Norfolk. As if I’d been hiding it from her all these long weary years! I had to say that sadly no, we don’t. We can’t buy a carton of strawberries that taste like they grew in the meadow, and we can’t buy deli ham that good, and we can’t buy goat cheese in that abundance, with that freshness, and that bread--- well, let’s not discuss the bread. Then she wanted to know if they would have it in the mountains – and I said, of course! You are in France!

Tonight we are all packed to head for the Alps. Dan and Jim are planning to meet south of Geneva and ride tomorrow’s stage of the Tour de France, while Benny and Sadie and I hang out in one of the villages by the feeding station, try to post our postcards, and eat bread and cheese, waiting for the Tour to roll through so we can scream for Lance and Levi. The kids are wearing their USA flag t-shirts and they’re ready for action. Sounds like a fun day!

No comments:

Post a Comment