First of all we would like to say Good Luck to Alexa! We hope your first day of clinical was awesome!
Today’s plan was to visit Chateau Chambord, as we weren’t able to get there yesterday. However the bus between Chambord & Blois only runs a couple of time a day and the earliest we could leave for the chateau was 12:35. We had an hour train ride to get to Blois, but that still left us plenty fo time in the morning…especially because we were up earlier as we (or at least Kristin) could not handle two 10 hour nights in a row.
So we set off into the center of Tours in search of breakfast. We ended up grabbing Justine a coffee from McDonalds and hitting a random bakery for some pastry yumminess. As a side note on coffee, the serving size here is maybe half that of home. They just have the tiniest little cup in the morning, as opposed to the extra-large size from Timmys. Justine though she could fit 3 of the cups she got into her regular gigantic mug (because at home she only uses soup bowl sized mugs…according to Kristin… Justine claims they are just tall, & perfect). But back to our food: we each munched on a beignet as they looked delicious. Kristin had an apple one and Justine’s had raspberry filling. Yum!
We also picked up a baguette, broke it in half & shoved it in Kristin’s backpack for later. To accompany that baguette we picked up apples and cookies at a market. What a good lunch we will have! And for the record, we had zero issues at the grocery store this time. We went and got a ticket for our apples like a pro.
We were also interested in finding a post office to send off the Paris postcards we are still carrying around. We found one, but for some reason it was not open…despite it being a Monday & within the hours of operation. But don’t worry, our train to Blois got in 45 minutes before our bus to Chambord was set to leave so we hit up La Poste there 🙂
We munched on our apples during the bus ride. The bus was nice, with comfy seats, so we didn’t mind the half hour ride. As we pulled up to our stop we got our first glimpse of the chateau. Just that quick peek had us excited for more. After purchasing our tickets we rounded the bend and came face to face with this:
Pretty incredible, eh? So incredible it didn’t even look real. As a sign of us being part of a generation raised with technology we immediately decided it looked like it was CGI. But as we got closer and entered the central courtyard we had to admit that it was in fact really there. Chateau de Chambord is the largest and one of the most recognizable chateau in the Loire Valley. It was built for King Francis I to be near his mistress. He used it as a hunting lodge while maintain royal residence at other chateau in the area. It is not your average log house in the woods though. The chateau is composed of a central cross with corner apartments inserted into each of the wholes, creating a central square. It then had 2 wings, one being the royal apartments and the other being the chapel, that are connected around the front with all of the kitchens, servant quarters, etc. Confused? Think of a big open square but with a smaller solid square attached to the back wall. Still confused? Well now you’re on your own…try googling a arial image…
Following the death of Francis I the chateau remained abandoned for 80 years. Louis XIV restored the building and added large stables making it a modern hunting lodge and place to entertain. He used it for a few weeks every year until he left Chambord in favor of the bigger and grander Versailles. The chateau then changed hands several times between lesser nobles until the state bought it in 1930.
Upon entering the Keep (which is the solid smaller square, built around central cross shaped hallways) the first thing you notice is the staircase. It sits right in the center of the Keep where the cross intersects and runs all the way up through the building and out the ceiling to a roof top terrace. It is really stunning, made of carved white stone, but the real highlight is that it is a double helix. This means there are actually two staircases wrapping around each other on the way up. It was built as a way to see & be seen while walking through the chateau, but without ever having to actually meet or talk to anyone. We tested it out and sure enough we started on the same floor, ended on the same floor and saw each other through the window holes every third step, but never did we meet.
The reception rooms & bed chambers set in the Keep were elegantly decorated in much the same style as we have seen in other large houses. There was a wider variety of wall coverings here, not just velvet or silk single-color patterns but also crazy florals with so much going on it made you a little dizzy. Some rooms were set up to mimic what they would have looked like in other eras, while others acted more as museums with collections of artifacts related to past inhabitants. We really liked this style of bed…with the double curtains it was like your bed was completely hidden:
The highlight of the chateau would be climbing to the top of the central staircase and walking around the terrace. The views of the top of the building were even better than the views of the gardens! The roof was filled with towers, turrets and chimneys. These were very intricate, which is probably what gave the chateau that “it can’t be real” look from down below. But from the ground there is no way you could have seen all of the little details, so it’s lucky we were able to go up top for a closer look!
We did eventually pull our eyes away to look at the surrounding grounds. They no longer have the landscaped gardens they once featured, but we got a good look at the estate surrounding it. Chambord is in the center of a large park. In an effort to keep it a private hunting grounds the kings enclosed it in a 32 km wall. This makes it the largest enclosed park in the world.
After a wander though the gift shop in the chateau and through the ones in the small village we made our way to some handy bleachers across the canal and facing the chateau. They don’t like you to step on the grass here so the bleachers were a perfect place to relax and look at Chambord. We laid in the sunshine for awhile as the limited Chambord-Blois bus timetable meant we had time to kill. Kristin read some handy Rick Steves info on our next destination out loud so we would be prepared for tomorrow. Then it was back on the bus to Blois. And then (after a short wait) back on the train to Tours. Once we reached Tours we went to the Info/Tickets area to get our train ride for tomorrow sorted out (we needed to have reservations on one of our trains). The line turned into quite the heated situation! One lady spent forever at one of the counters arguing with the attendant…then 2 more attendants that had joined her. Then everyone in line was complaining and yelling at the lady and yelling at the attendants…. It was craziness! We really wish we could have understood what was going on…
We had supper at a place we had noticed yesterday on our walk home. Justine had a delicious pasta dish topped with ample shrimp & mussels. Mussels seem a big thing here. We each considered having a plate of mussels but decided no for today. We know (from our Rick Steves reading) that mussels are also big in Bruges. Kristin had a omlette as they are a very French thing & a very Kristin thing…it seemed only right to have one before she left France. It was wonderfully cheesy!
Tonight is finishing up with some planning for the next leg of our trip. There are hostels to book, trains to reserve and kinks to iron out. But soon we will be ready to rock & roll off onto our next adventure!
Love, Luck & Laying in the Sun,