We have had a wonderful 5 days based in Tours which has enabled us to visit some of the glorious chateaux here in the Loire Valley.
Carcassonne was just a whistle stop for us on our way to the Loire Valley. Carcassonne is one of those rare, magical places that just happen. It rises up before you looking like some fairy tale castle and with its witches hat towers, you can just imagine Sleeping Beauty asleep in one of the towers and Harry Potter flying around on his broomstick. We spent hours just wandering its cobbled streets looking at the shops that sell everything from nougat to nightwear and of course there are all the cafes and restaurants too. Carcassonne today is just a pretty face but way back in medieval times it was an incredibly fortified castle. With a moat, two complete castle walls, two portcullis at each entry with drawbridge of course, this castle intended to defend itself against the Spaniards just down to the road and of course the nasty English. Time moved on, the castle was no longer required, a new city was built on the other side of the river and the castle fell into disrepair. Then in the mid 1800's one man decided to bring it back from the brink of ruin and thanks to him we have this amazing place.
Our first day in Tours was spent in the city itself. They have a really nifty tram system here which got us into town in no time at all. We spent time in the medieval square, visited the Basilique St Martin, the Cathedrale St Gatien, an amazing cathedral with twin towers and flying buttresses and we did have time for a stroll along the banks of the Loire as well.
Next day we were up and out bright and early. The Chateau de Chambord was to be the first of two we planned to visit that day but we ended up spending all day at the Chateau de Chambord. What an amazing place. Built by King Francois 1 as a hunting lodge (a weekender) this chateau can only be described as being perfection. It is in your face beautiful, defies description. Inside there are over 400 rooms, the centre piece though is a double helix staircase designed by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. We wandered inside for at least 3 hours, never entering the same room twice, did lunch, then spent another few hours out in the grounds. Just mind blowing.
Next day we visited Chateau de Cheverny. This was a welcome revisit for me but first time for Mike. This chateau is graceful and elegant and spans the River Cher. It is not huge like Chambord and is set in beautiful gardens. We wandered around the chateau for quite some time then left at lunch time to go and visit Leonardos place at Le Clos Luce. It is called a chateau but really is just a big house. Leonardo lived here for the last three years of his life and it was in the gardens and environs here that he came up with many of his ideas of flight and movement in general and his continued study of human anatomy.
Today we visited Villandry. No visit to the Loire is complete without spending time in the beautiful gardens of Villandry, which are one of the top gardens in France. Ten gardeners are employed full time keeping the hedges trimmed, the vegies planted and the flowers pruned. Villandry is superb.
Tomorrow we choof off over to the Atlantic coast to spend time visiting Brittany and Normandy. St Malo, Mont St Michel, Honfleur and the Normandy beaches are on the itinerary for us.
Till next time.
Starting off in Sydney we head over to the US for a few days in Los Angeles, then Las Vegas and finally over to the Big Apple. Then off again, down to Cuba for about 18 days for some old cars, cigars and Baccardi. After that we head north, this time to Toronto in Canada for a whistle stop before crossing the Atlantic to the UK. One of the highlights there will be a week down on the Isle of Wight. Jetting off again we will then spend approximately the next two months driving around Italy and France. After all that hard work we journey over to Greece where we will island hop using the local ferry systems, with 3 nights on Santorini, 3 nights of Mykonos and 3 nights on Paros. Yep, we love doing the tourist stuff! Finally we begin the long haul home stopping off on the way in Honkers for a little retail therapy.