After a few pleasant and relaxing days on the outskirts of a Paris, staying with friends and recovering from jet lag, we picked up our lease car at Orly airport, and headed south for the Loire, a relatively short trip on fast roads, starting from the rural South-West side of Paris.
We planned to make our first stop in Chartres, for a morning visit to the cathedral and an unhurried lunch stop, and so it was – though in driving rain, unfortunately. Added to this was the fact that it proved beyond us to figure out how to lock the lease car, nor what was preventing it from doing so, despite it having locked fine overnight in Chevreuse, and furious reading of the user manual in the car park. In the end we opted to trust on leaving it unlocked, in the secure underground council car park.
The cathedral was as magnificent as I had recalled, and we all enjoyed the visit, and the glorious stained glass windows, which do not, however, lend themselves to great photos.
Unfortunately the stained glass museum was closed.
After lunch we were pleased to find the car and our belongings still there (and worked out later that the spare key in the glove box was what had prevented the car locking!)
It was a short two hours’ drive to our gite, in the small village of St Martin le Beau, just 10km from Amboise, and central to many of the Loire’s famous royal chateaux. Ever since visiting the Loire as a child, I had wanted to return, so it was great to be back and to explore some of the sights again. Sadly, you can’t fit many castles in just four days but we did our best.
On the first day we visited Leonardo da Vinci’s chateau. Ollie has written about that separately in his post on Le Clos Luce. It was a fascinating place, and the boys were thrilled with the idea that it has a secret passage, which connected it directly through the cliff with the King’s castle at Amboise, allowing Francis to visit Leonardo at will, and vice versa!
Le Chateau d’Amboise
The second day we visited the grand chateau of Chenonceau, as impressive as ever. Though early in the season, it was already bustling with visitors. The boys enjoyed this one with its impressive construction, highly decorative furnishings, extensive gardens, and hedge labyrinth.
On the final day we visited Azay-le-Rideau – small, but perfectly formed and a favourite of Mum’s. Tom and I toured the interior of the castle while Stephen, Ollie and Nick availed themselves of cafe services in the village. Again, it was raining, so it was not ideal weather for wandering or lingering, unfortunately.
The rest of the castles will have to wait for another time, sans enfants perhaps, so we can fit more in a day!