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Thursday
May312018

Le Grand Voyage — Day 26

We started the day by searching for canoe outfitters, attempting to rent a canoe to float the Loire. Regrettably, they were full for the day. But the search was an interesting walk to an island in the river, and we met an interesting character who only spoke French and whose every third word was "Voila!”, always made with an elaborate gesture.

After breakfast we walked to Château du Clos Lucé. This was a small château in town with one claim to fame- for the last years of his life, it was home to Leonardo de Vinci. Once you get past a few bedrooms and the like, the rest of the place is a Leonardo museum. 

The displays, some interactive, describe the many inventions he came up with in his lifetime. There's the famous wingsuit of course, but also a tank, bridges, weapons, and devices to move water. It was all very impressive. The gardens were even better, with life-size models scattered around the wooded grounds. Also mixed in was playground equipment, which Nate quite enjoyed. Although very hot, it was a fun low-key day.

Dinner at the Terrace restaurant was delightful. It was a shaded outdoor terrace on the roof of a building next to the castle. I started with giant prawns before moving on to steak. 

I had two courses at the end, a cheese plate of local cheeses, and my best crème brûlée in France. And of course, all of it was washed down with a local vintage. 

 

Sunday
Apr292018

Nate's Grand Voyage Journal — Day 25

 

Thursday
Apr262018

Le Grand Voyage — Day 25

This was my favorite day in France.

We rented bicycles from the friendly man at the bike rental / wine store. He spoke fragmented English, but he drew some scribbles on a comically bad map and sent us on our way.

(As an aside, someone could make a killing selling bike maps in France. There are routes marked everywhere, but no maps to speak of. Needless to say, this frustrated me.)

Dorinna pulled Nate in a tag-a-long, and we both had baskets and panniers for carrying things. We started out of town, heading down the Loire river on a bike path. We had a little confusion before we found our turn. Up, up, up the river valley. We eventually left the town and the route turned into a bike path through Forêt d'Amboise (Amboise Forest). 

We crested a hill and the trail became mostly downhill, finally coming out through vineyards and farms. 

We continued up the Cher river valley, mostly on bike paths, but with a few roads thrown in as well. We generally tracked upstream, crossing to the south bank at one point. We passed through another forest, now on a dirt path, arriving at Château de Chenonceau.

Château de Chenonceau has an unusual design. The main castle lay on the north bank of the Cher river. But a great hall extends over the river to the south bank. We couldn't enter from our side so we continued upstream to the next bridge crossing and looped back. We grabbed sandwiches and then headed into the castle.

The château had a rich history, involving kings, queens, mistresses, and various other intrigues. The castle felt eminently livable, more so than any other we've seen. The rooms were nicely furnished, and the audioguide that described it all was the best yet. We walked a bit through the gardens and played in the hedge labyrinth before heading back to the bikes.

Our route back was a bit confused as we tried to avoid backtracking upstream and crossing to the south bank. We found ourselves climbing steeply out of the valley, which clued us in to the fact that we were on a different marked route back to Amboise. We decided to give it a shot and we were glad we did. We climbed steeply through a series of tiny villages, each one cuter than the one before. "This is disgustedly cute" I exclaimed. Farms and small copses were interspersed between the villages. When we made it out of the valley we stopped for a snack of bread and nutella to recharge. The bike route signs had disappeared, and we kind of felt our way home from there.

As we traveled back through the Forêt Amboise, Dorinna was getting tired of pulling Nate, so we switched bikes. Dorinna hadn't realized that my bike was a noisy, rusty, clunky, wholly-inadequate, barely-ridable piece of trash, and we quickly switched back. It was easier to pull Nate than to ride my bike, so my disparagement was no exaggeration. We found our way back into town and down the main strip.

A wonderful, magical day exploring the french countryside. Doing it on bicycles made it that much better!

Thursday
Mar292018

Nate's Grand Voyage Journal — Day 24

The big highlight of Nate's day was the augmented-reality app that they provided on an iPad.  He would use it to learn about the different rooms in the castle and collect virtual coins.  When all of the coins were collected he got a prize, which was an extra movie.

 

"We went to Chambord. It had a Histo-Map on iPad- every room there was a coin box.  We put it over & you get to see stuff & look around. You get these coins. It's pretty cool."

 

"Once you get the coins, you get a prize."

 

Nate's best photographs of the day are below:

 

Thursday
Mar292018

Le Grand Voyage — Day 24

This was our first night in a hotel.  In the morning, we were faced with our first €15 breakfast (each).  In the past we might have just paid this.  By now, we knew we could get better croissants for 1/4 of the price half a block away.  And we were right.  We started by scoping out the town a little, and then heading off for our first castle.


My first big realization of the day was remembering how much I missed driving a standard.  Zipping around on tiny country and city roads, constantly shifting, surging forward, braking. What fun.  Hard to believe I was driving a diesel.


We zipped our way through several small towns to Chateâu de Chambord.  Chambord is a magnificant castle, originally built as a hunting lodge.  





Numerous conical towers sprout up fantastically from the central keep, inside a large courtyard inside an outside wall.  The rooms felt small- not cramped small, but I-could-live-in-a-room-like-this small.  Dozens of fireplaces were needed to keep the rooms warm in the winter.  The central keep had four main towers, joined in the middle by a beautiful double-helix circular staircase.  




From the top of the castle, one had spectacular views of the fantastic spires, as well of the extensive grounds.






After seeing our fill, we took a scenic route home, tricking our GPS into keeping us away from the major towns.  We had a little bit of a hard time finding a restaurant we were in the mood for, falling back on a creperie.  I had a gallette with... hamburger?  Desert was a crepe with a Grand Marnier flambé.  Interesting.