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Trip Report Five days in Amboise France

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We just returned from our trip to Amboise. We stayed at Manoir les Minimes (named after the Minime Tower in the castle, I imagine). We greatly enjoyed the hotel. It was very nice (an elegant historic building), inexpensive ($125 per night or so), walking distance from the main drag, with a free computer and very nice staff.

When we arrived, my partner was coming down with a respiratory infection. She is immune suppressed, and it was Saturday, so we decided to go to the local hospital in town. We went to the emergency room and waited a while. (My partner is a retired physician's assistant, so this was of some interest to her professionally.) After a few hours we got to see some sort of doctor/ physician's assistant equivalent and were able to communicate somewhat with broken French and english. He was quite helpful. We got a prescription for an antibiotic. the cost was 49 euro for the visit!

We then went to the local stores and bought a baggette, cheese, wine and fruit and had an early dinner.

Next day- to Chenonceau. We had a leisurely schedule, sleeping late and not hurrying in our visits to the castles. So, we visited one per day. Obviously you could do more if in a hurry. Chenonceau is the closest chateau to Amboise (other than Amboise, of course). So off we went, after we had breakfast and a chocolate at Bigot, our preferred spot for petit dejeuner and coffee. Getting to Chenonceau is not difficult form Amboise. It was a very short drive, perhaps 25 minutes. We made an effort to stay on small roads and avoided the freeways at all costs.

Chenonceau is spectacular, of course, and my partner loved it. We got the audio guide. The chateau now has an interesting exhibit about the history of the chateau and the various owners. I did not know, for example, that Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medeci were second cousins. Talk about semi-sibling rivalry. In addition, I learned that regarding the painting of the three favorite mistresses of one of the kings (the three graces?), all three women were sisters. Again, sibling rivalry run amok. . .

The rooms are elegantly decorated. There is a portrait of Louis XIV in the most ornate gold frame I have ever seen. The beds are amazing. There was one very large working fireplace with a warm fire for visitors in the room where you enter the castle.

We returned to Amboise, I was still getting familiar with the roads and the area, and was a little nervous about getting lost. We finally made it back to the hotel Another advantage of the hotel is that it is on the street right on the south side of the Loire, so to find the hotel , you merely needed to find the road on the south side of the river. I went to the book store in town (on Quai Charles de Gaulle) and Purchased a Michelin map for the area. This was very good idea. We went to the main drag (outside the castle entrance) and there was a surprising amount of street life on Sunday (pedestrians, people riding motorcycles, etc.). We went to Anne of Britagne for dinner, and it was surprising good and fun. We both had a crepe- like dish (a Gallette?) with chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce.. To bed early again.

The next day- Chambord. Very thankful for my map. We drove east on the south side of the river (D751?) to blois. There D751 stopped, so I turned right on a city street. WE went a few hundred yards to a roundabout and went east (9 o'clock on the roundabout) to get on another road going east on the south side of the river (D951?). We continued on that road to a turnoff to the chateau (D84?) The drive is very beautiful-very big areas of farms.

The chateau would be a very nice place to bring a picnic. There are tables next to the parking lot, and I imagine you could put down a blanket or towel and eat on the ground. boat rides are apparently possible when it's warmer.

The most amazing thing about Chambord, of course, is the exterior. There was some repair/restoration work being done on part of the exterior, but most was visible. We again purchased the audioguide, which I found hard for both of us to hear. The main entrance door to the property is pretty amazing-gigantic and much wood carving. We entered to main entrance area inside the castle,, I think referred to as the keep, and were greeted by the famous stairway and a working fireplace. The first floor is pretty barren, by chateau standards. We went upstairs to the next level to tour the Francois I wing.. Quite a guy. Very elegant rooms. A interesting display of large keys. Beautiful inlaid furniture. Marvelous beds. We then went up 2 more levels to the roof. You can get a better view of the chimney architecture and the view the surrounding area from the higher level.. The was terrific. One very large chimney has flying buttresses for support and Salamanders carved into it (the emblem of Francois). (We were told that salamanders apparently can breathe fire and survive.) .We then went to the restaurant next to the castle and had a hot chocolate.

I did run into a small group getting a tour in English from a guide. They did seem to be getting some good information. This could be a good idea, particularly if you could split the cost of a guide with a group..

We returned to Amboise on D33-this brought us back to the southern part of Blois. We then went west at a roundabout and this put us on D751 west back to Amboise. Happiness is a good map.

Dinner this evening at Chez Bruno in Amboise -the best meal of the trip. We both had a duck special with dark sauce. (My partner is more the foodie, as you can see.).

The next day-Cheverny. After another nice petit dejeuner at Bigot. My partner wanted to see a more completely furnished chateau. She enjoyed it for that reason. For me, I am more interested in places with more history. I could have easily skipped it. We even missed the dog feeding. Because we had our good map, we were able to drive on small roads through the countryside to get there. Very pretty.

Back to Amboise and another meal at Anne do Bretagne.

the next day-Amboise. this is castle I had never seen before. It was surprisingly moving for me. Most of the castle (80%?) has been destroyed. But even what is left is gorgeous. there is a small chapel standing off by itself. the views from the chateau of the town and river are extensive.

In the main remaining building, you enter and first see a display of the current building compared to what originally existed. and then, to enter the remaining portion of the chateau, you have to go up a small spiral stair. This was a security feature-apparently the only way to get to the royal apartments. So the bodyguards would be stationed at the base of the stair.

This part of Amboise was built by the Charles that married Anne of Brittany in 1491 or so. (Charles VIII?) There are wonderful carvings throughout the castle incorporating the fleur de lys and the emblem of Anne. My favorite room is I think called the state room or something like that. It has a majestic fireplace (burning with massive logs when we visited), a blue high-backed throne, vaulted ceilings and carved pillars. Again, empty of humans (except for us) for long periods when we visited. Many great (I hope) photos. The carvings on the fireplaces were exquisite. For example, there was a recurring motif of ropes. These were intricately carved, showing the ropes going from above the mantel to below the mantel..

We finally forced ourselves to leave.

we had a meal at La Scala-an average italian restaurant on Quai Charles de Gaulle. but the best chocolate mousse I have ever had. My partner even attests to this.

Last day-Chaumont sur Loire Much of this is being restored, so we didn't get to see a lot. the gardens are beautiful and extensive, even in winter. The chateau has s drawbridge and is very pretty from the exterior.

On our way back to the train station, we stopped at an interesting restaurant for lunch in a cave. It was in a town called Mosnes (between Amboise and Chateau sur Loire)-the name was something like "Pieds sur le Plat". It had a salad/appetizer bar, and we had a very good meal for 15 euros (a pork dish, chocolate mousse, a glass of wine, and coffee). A very good way to end our Loire visit.

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