Monday, May 19, 2014

France 2014 - Part 4

April 12 – Saturday

After breakfast, we visited the market in Bourges with an assignment to get food for a picnic lunch. We went to the sandwich shop to order sandwiches—in French. I went first and ordered a “sandwich en poulet.” The dear young man behind the counter answered, “Oh, you want a chicken sandwich?” So much for using our French! We ordered our sandwiches and desserts and then returned to the hotel.
Our group boarded the bus to travel through the Loire Valley. Virginie promised a surprise and a wine and goat cheese tasting before our picnic lunch. We finally stopped at the Cháteau de Selles Sur Cher. This small castle was begun in 935 AD as a fortress against the Viking raids. Later, it was captured by Richard the Lionheart. It was enlarged in 1212, still as a fortress. In 1604, a Renaissance castle was built, in part from the stones of the previous buildings, but in the early 19th century, it was partly demolished. Since 2002, a restoration effort was begun to partially save the structure. The efforts continued with the current owner, Nicola.

This was a magical place with gorgeous grounds. Bob would have loved to have painted it. Larry took some photos to show him.
The wine and cheese tastings were fun. The wines were grown and pressed locally using the most efficient and healthy processes available. Nicola was charming and presented his wines with joy and passion. He was also a real history buff which fired his commitment to restore all the property.
We so enjoyed our visit. It became a highlight of the tour.
Later in the afternoon, we visited the famous Cháteau de Chambourd. This huge castle was known as a bouquet of stones. Very impressive, but overwhelming—and crowded with visitors.

We arrived in Amboise and got our rooms in the Hôtel Le Belle-Vue. Then we ate at a gourmet restaurant down the street.
My appetizer was scallops. I had expected a couple of seared ones. Instead, they appeared to be raw, slimy, and chopped atop a green base. None of us could figure out what it was. We were finally told it was peas mashed with mint. Larry’s was so unremarkable, he can’t remember what it was. Nor can either of us remember our entrees.
Dessert was a mango tart with very little mango flavor.
Interesting meal, but not one we would ever order again. Finally, back to the hotel for the night.

April 13 – Sunday

We were awakened at about 1:00 a.m. by loud voices, probably from a party leaving the bar next door. Then, at 4:00 a.m., we heard loud voices arguing on the street below. Needless to say, several of us were tired in the morning!
At breakfast, we were talking about our rooms, and several of the people mentioned having bathtubs. Bathtubs? Our shower was so small (How small was it?) Larry had to turn at an angle so his shoulders would fit inside with the door closed. The room had been beautifully remodeled, and a new pedestal sink with almost no rim had been replaced. Above it, a tiny glass shelf about 3” deep held two glasses and tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner as well as a miniature bar of soap. Above the shelf, a new mirror with fluorescent lighting had obviously just been installed.
The shower doors were obviously new, but in order to make them fit with enough room to actually enter the shower, a three-panel one was used. (A standard set with two doors would not have allowed enough access.)
The toilet abutted the tub. When sitting on the toilet, your knees nearly touched the opposite wall.
It was impossible for two people to share the bathroom.
Mary Jane and Kent had the room next to ours. On the diagram (showing the escape routes) we noticed that where our bathroom was, they had a narrow hallway leading to a much larger bath area.
Mary Jane walked back to the room with us and I showed her our teeny, tiny bathroom.
She laughed. “It’s a trailer bathroom!”
That was our laugh for the day. But the little bitty room met all my requirements:

  1.   It was en suite
  2. The shower had hot water
  3. It was in France!

After we ate, we drove to Cháteau Chenenceau, known as the ladies’ castle because six women contributed to the castle’s history. Built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, it was successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, and several others.









We were the first group to arrive and had most rooms to ourselves for a while. I loved this place. It felt much more like a home than some of the other castles, although over-the-top in elegance.
We had quite a bit of time to explore the house and gardens.
Back in Amboise, we were free for the afternoon. We had crepes for lunch and then went up the hill to Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately, they were renovating the living quarters, but the rest of the house was interesting. The basement had a collection of models of his inventions.

After the house tour, we walked through the gorgeous grounds. Outside, many models of his inventions had been created life-size.
We returned to the little town center, bought a few more gifts, and ordered gelato. While seated in the town plaza, we had a uniquely French experience. A hurdy-gurdy man began to play and sing French folk songs. We sat in the outdoor café eating our cones and enjoying the entertainment.
Then back to our hotel for a rest and to get my journal updated. Although we were supposed to have had wi-fi, it did not work. We talked to several others in our group, and they had issues as well. The only one who was able to get on used Gmail and Google Chrome. I didn’t have it on my computer, and Larry, of course, couldn’t get it on the iPad. So we were offline for a couple of days.

To be continued...


  1. So glad you are sharing. It's hard to imagine living in a castle. What did they do with all that space? And so many people to live there with you to do all that had to be done.

    1. The staff hugely outnumbered the royals. And this one was smaller than many others!