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Jamikins & Bikerscott Pickle Themselves in France (again)

Jamikins & Bikerscott Pickle Themselves in France (again)

Old May 27th, 2011, 01:03 PM
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Great photos. Kerouac is right again -- no people!
Was this the day of the Rapture? weren't you just a little spooked?
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Old May 27th, 2011, 01:09 PM
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Hahaha - no there were people there, I just tried to wait for them to leave my frame before taking a picture! One of my pet peeves, so I try to be patient...as you will see that wasnt always possible in the Loire Valley!

Glad everyone is enjoying! We are currently in Confolens in the Charente region and enjoying a nightcap of, you guessed it, wine before bed! Happy Friday!
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Old May 27th, 2011, 02:42 PM
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At the end of the night, a quick inventory shows we’ve had 6 individual glasses of champagne each, a champagne-based aperitif each before dinner, a bottle of wine shared between us at dinner, and another half bottle of champagne after dinner. Not bad for our first day in France..>>

This seems very abstemious!

loving the report and the glorious detail of your adventures. BTW - what exactly is a "flight" of champagne? - I've never heard the term before.
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Old May 27th, 2011, 09:21 PM
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Very much enjoying following your adventures in anticipation of my own in July - though sort of wish you'd done it before I booked accommodation - Loches looks very appealing.
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Old May 27th, 2011, 10:15 PM
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annhig - a flight is several (in this case 6) glasses of wine or champagne, all different, so you can taste several and compare them. They are usually served all at the same time so you can try and compare. You can usually get varieties - 6 glasses of different types of chardonnay, or champagne, or maybe 6 different types of red wine so you get to sample a bunch. YUM!

eigaski - Loches was AWESOME - highly recommend it!! Where are you staying?

We stayed at Logis du Bief http://www.logisloches.com/ for the 4 nights (which got us a 10% discount). We would HIGHLY recommend this place 5/5 for sure!

We stayed in Agnes Sorel room (€95 a night without the discount) which had a lovely balcony overlooking the canal. The house itself is a beautiful old place with exposed beams and bags of character. There is a lovely terrace overlooking the canal where you can enjoy a glass (or bottle!) of wine in the sun. I believe they serve breakfast out there on warm mornings.

Jean-Claude and Moha, the hosts are lovely and we enjoyed many glasses of wine talking with them (they both speak French and English so we took turns speaking french one day, english the next). We left feeling like old friends and will be sure to keep in touch.

Loches itself is idea - beautiful architecture, several good restaurants in walking distance, a castle and abbey on the hill, and a medieval centre. It has a fantastic market on Wed and Sat and the people were all very friendly. We loved that it wasnt very touristy (we didnt particularly like Amboise because of all the tourist tat around the castle).

The pics from Day 4 are mostly of Loches.

Hope this helps!!
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Old May 28th, 2011, 02:15 AM
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Logis du Bief looks lovely - I'm very tempted to change my booking. I'm staying at Logis la Breche in Amboise which I chose after much dithering mainly because it's central and I can have a non-driving day if I need it. On the day I decided I just had to make a firm booking, that was the place that looked nice, had availability at my price and reasonable reviews.

Guess I'l just have to avoid the tourist tat - worse than Pisa or Edinburgh?
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Old May 28th, 2011, 07:08 AM
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Great shots and continued enjoyable TR. The food sounds super!
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Old May 28th, 2011, 07:48 AM
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We also had a lovely experience driving the back roads through the Loire Valley (going west to east) and having lunch in Loches along the way.

My husband had the bright idea of propping our video camera on the center of the dashboard to film the scenery we were driving by. Later he edited it down to about 45 minutes and added some instrumental music as soundtrack - it's become one of our favourite holiday souvenirs. One tip: if you do this, make sure the windshield is completely clean for best results - make sure you get those bug splats off the glass.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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Guess I'l just have to avoid the tourist tat - worse than Pisa or Edinburgh?>>

no - Amboise is nothing like either of those - at least it wasn't a few years ago when we stayed there for a few days.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:18 PM
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Amboise is nothing like either of those places. Its a lovely village on the river...and you will find lots of places to have a drink and relax. Its just more of a village that caters to tourists, whereas Loches (while it does indeed cater to them) doesnt have the all day eateries, naf pubs, and souvenir shops. Amboise does have the advantage of being a bit more central I think. Everything is a drive from Loches (Chambord and Blois are an hour, Chenonceau/Amboise are about 35 mins...but saying that we loved Loches!

You will have a lovely time no matter what you choose!
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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:26 PM
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Incidentally, the chateau at Amboise isn't much, [IMHO] but the Clos de Luce, [Leonardo's house,] was very interesting.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:43 PM
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Day Five – Chambording It – May 24, 2011

Today we were up at a far more reasonable hour – Le Logis de Bief has breakfast hours between 8am and 10am, which means an extra half hour of sleeping in. Doesn’t sound like much, but very important as it turns out. Breakfast, as usual in France, was the Continental Special, this time with a soft boiled egg added for good measure. No soldiers though, which was too bad.

Our mission for today was a tour of at least one of the Chateaux of the Loire valley, Chambord in particular. We’d passed relatively close to it on the way in yesterday, but we were on a mission to get to Lôches at the time and didn’t stop. Located not too far from Blois, it was a pleasant drive back, with a quick stop in the charming Montrésor for some photos.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Chambord, but it was well worth it. It was once the hunting lodges of the Kings of France, and man did they do the hunting in style. I’m not sure how many rooms the place has, but I can tell you that they didn’t spare any expense on chimneys or windows. Surrounded by a moat/canal, it is absolutely stunning from the outside.

As with so many things, the outside may have been the best part. We wandered around for a while, taking many photos and having a very tasty (if expensive) ice cream before paying the €9 each to go inside. If you’re into large, mostly empty rooms, full of furniture which seems too small, beds which have canopies taller than a two story building, or hordes of unruly and quite frankly bored children, then this is possibly heaven on earth for you. For us, it was a bit boring.

They have quite a nice double helix spiral staircase, and some nice art on the walls, and quite a lot of antlers and skulls on the walls (oddly mostly from Hungary and Romania from the late 50’s and early 60’s – not sure what the deal was with that). Other than that, not much I’d go out of my way to see. You may call us shallow, being more impressed by the exterior beauty and dismissing the interior splendour, but I’m okay with that.

Having had enough with the kids and other assorted hordes of tourists (okay, to be fair it wasn’t that crowded – not anything like Versailles in the summer for example), we got back into the car and set the sat nav for Blois for a quick exploration and possibly a drink. Lunch was also beginning to enter our thoughts.

We made it to Blois in good time, and found some valuable free parking on the Blois Sud side of the bridge. The cost of this was a 10 or 15 minute walk along the river to get to the bridge itself, but this seemed well worth avoiding paying the fees for parking or having to deal with driving into the town itself.

It seems that pretty much everything in Blois that might serve food shuts down after about 3pm. We had made it there at 3:30 and were absolutely starving. The only thing that seemed to offer any promise, after having checked in a few likely looking bars and cafes, was a Subway just over the bridge. I’m ashamed to admit that in our hour of desperation, we succumbed to the siren call of the sandwich made fresh for you, by dedicated and highly trained sandwich artists.

Blood sugar somewhat restored, we felt up to a walk to the Chateau in the middle of Blois. I’m sure it’s quite impressive, but after the glory of Chambord it seemed quite lacklustre. I guess the Count of Blois couldn’t be seen to be outshining the Kings of France.

The bright ray of light in the Blois Chateaux experience was the spectacular display put on by the Magic House of Magic (or with a name similar) directly opposite. To our amazement and wonder, FIVE golden fibreglass dragons with animatronic mouths and one with a giant animatronic foot appeared in the windows (it looked like there should have been six, possibly the last was on his annual leave?). They opened and closed their mouths with only minimal banging of fibreglass bits on the railings, and with extraordinarily mysterious and quite crap spiritual house music being pumped over a loud speaker. Jamie and I were amazed, as were quite a few children. Where they come up with these things, I’ll never know.

The show over, we felt the need for a restorative beverage, so walked back down the stairs to the square below, the sense of mystical wonder not having quite left us. Jamie had a glass of rose, and as I’m valiantly fighting a cold, I wisely and bravely chose a half litre of Badoit.

After restoration, we walked to the little pharmacy across the road. Jamie was quite amused by the prospect of me asking for an expectorant cough medicine from a pharmacist who probably wouldn’t speak much English, if any at all. The prospect for a humorous situation was quite high, if I’m completely honest (I had quite bad pneumonia when I was in my early 20’s, and since then whenever I get a cold I get quite a bit of fluid in my lungs and am paranoid that I’ll get the pneumonia again).

Fortunately, while the pharmacist spoke no English, the sheer quality of my miming the coughing up of chest congestion (not a pleasant miming experience, Marcel Marceau would have been horrified) got the message across and I ended up with what I hope is a bottle of expectorant cough syrup (from what I can understand of the instructions on the bottle, I’m golden). After a quick stop at the 8 A Huit for a bottle of wine and some water for the car, we walked back to Nancy the car and set Gazza the Sat Nav for Lôches.

A quick note: We eventually ended up becoming quite good friends with the owners of Logis de Bief, and feel a bit bad that we engaged in the minor indiscretion which follows (Jean Claude and Moha, if you ever read this please skip over the next few paragraphs. And know we only ever brought up white wine, and were extremely careful not to open it or pour it on or near the carpets – please forgive us.)

A whinge (in the nicest way possible) about our B&B. We’ve specially booked the room with a beautiful balcony, featuring two extremely comfortable chairs and a view over the little canal below. Despite this, and its obvious potential for long and relaxing afternoons drinking cold bottles of local wine while reading or writing etc, the owners would apparently prefer that we not drink any wine in the room at all. We have instead been asked to use the shared and unlit communal terrace below.

This has brought out the rebels in us. We lacked the forethought to bring our own corkscrew, granted an unforgivable oversight given a trip to France, however made the fatal mistake of asking the owners if we could borrow one. This was when we were given the instruction to drink on the shared terrace. We did, grudgingly the first night, but have now devised several devious plans, including buying our own cheap corkscrew and smuggling our own wine up to our rooms, hidden in spare jackets etc.

This may seem completely stupid, and I agree that it is. On the other hand, I’m a grown man who has paid quite a lot of money (okay, not actually that much to be fair) to have a room with a balcony which features the chairs and the view, and I’d like to be able to drink my wine in peace, not to have to feel guilty about it or like I’m a 14 year old who has raided by parents liquor cabinet (not that I would ever have done such a thing, if my parents ever happen to read this).

So we enjoyed half a bottle of quite nice wine (the bottle is currently resting under the sink in the bathroom to avoid detection) while reading and writing on our balcony, before getting somewhat gussied up for our dinner reservations at the restaurant at Le Hotel de France. Despite some vaguely misleading directions, we found it without any problem and had quite a nice and very affordable three course meal. On the other hand, the place was quite formal (waiters with suits, softly piped in Sade music, décor as if someone’s grandmother’s sitting room had exploded with fake plants, birds, hideous wallpaper, dusty rose and peach carpets and paint…you know the type).

Feeling quite stuffed and pleased with the meal, we yet again waddled back to our B&B for a final nightcap (have to finish off the bottle, you see, so we can smuggle it back out again in the morning so that no one will be the wiser). Have I mentioned that I love France?
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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:53 PM
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FrenchMystique approves of those deserted villages and certifies them as being properly evacuated.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:56 PM
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And photos from Day 5:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gir...7626818524304/
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Old May 28th, 2011, 09:14 PM
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Super pics, Jamie, and ever-amusing commentary from Mr. BS. What a team!
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Old May 29th, 2011, 12:30 AM
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I always love your trip reports and beautiful photos. You always make me long to go there next!

This trip we will be only in Paris and Alsace and then move on to Manarola CT and then all parts Italy for 5 weeks. Not that I am complaining..... and it was another of your trip reports that encouraged the CT visit staying Manarola.

I think next time we should just find out where you going and tail you in our car. I'm sure where ever your next destination is many of us will long to be there.

Thank you once again
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Old May 29th, 2011, 08:26 AM
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So glad you are enjoying our report - we are certainly having a fabulous time!

aussie- have a fabulous trip, it sounds amazing, and you are welcome to tag along anytime

Next trip will be Stockholm for a weekend in Aug and the 2 weeks in Greece (Naxos, Nafplio and Athens) in September if anyone is interested hahaha
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Old May 29th, 2011, 08:40 AM
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Day Six – The World’s First Staircase, and Other Wonders - May 25, 2011

Today was market day in Loches, so after breakfast our first mission was to explore. Our overall plan was to wander around the market for a while and pick up some supplies for a picnic lunch at one of the chateaux around. It turns out the market in Loches is actually quite large, given the size of the town, and it took us longer to explore than we’d expected – it seemed to sprawl over most of the pedestrian streets and alleys.

We bought some very strong and smelly local goat cheese, another variety from somewhere else (I really should start writing this sort of thing down as I go, my memory is getting progressively worse as I age), a lovely loaf of bread, some chefs salad (apparently salad consisting of grated carrot, peas, corn, and other assorted veg in a dressing is a chef salad – who knew?), and two chicken legs/thighs from the chicken roaster man (one in every market – absolutely indispensable).

We loaded the aforementioned into Nancy and set of for Chenonceau (incidentally, upon confirming the spelling, I’ve just discovered that Google Maps street view has outdone itself at Chenonceau – it appears they used a handheld device rather than the normal car-mounted jobbie, and you can now take a complete virtual tour of the outside from the comfort of your home). After a relatively short drive, we arrived and found ourselves a free parking space in the parking lot located just outside the chateau.

While it wasn’t quite what I’d expected, it was beautiful. For some reason I had an image in my head of a château which was anchored to the land at one end, and in a lake at the other, if that makes sense. I guess from the angles of the photos I’d seen, they didn’t really show the other side of the château, as it actually ends on the far side of the river. It even includes a door and some stairs down from the far end of the main gallery which spans the main floor. As an interesting side note, we’ve been told this evening that during the Vichy government, the river that Chenonceau girds marked the boundary between French and German France – evidently going into the gallery from one end out the through the other effectively put you in a different country. Having said that, I’ve not actually confirmed this anywhere, so don’t take it as gospel fact.

There was only one fee to get in, which gave us access to the huge gardens and the house itself (well, there were two fees, but the other included access to the wax museum, which I wouldn’t have gone into unless threatened with the pain of death, or quite frankly the pain of pain). In retrospect, I’m quite glad at the pricing scheme, as if it wasn’t for that we probably wouldn’t have gone inside, having been a bit unimpressed with Chambord the previous day.

As it turned out the kitchens in Chenonceau were worth the price of admission, if nothing else. They occupy a massive amount of real estate in what isn’t a huge house really. Incredibly interesting. Also, had we not gone inside, we would have missed the most entertaining conversation, possibly of all time.

The guidebook provided makes mention of an interesting fact about the staircase in Chenonceau. Evidently it was the first straight staircase in Europe. It seemed that some hapless tourists had either misread this, or had fundamentally misunderstood the meaning as they were having an extremely long and involved conversation about what they possibly could have used to move between floors in buildings prior to this.

Evidently, they had thought that the guidebook was saying that this was the first staircase in the world, ever, and instead of questioning this were trying to work out if this could possibly also be the first building in the world with more than one floor, or if ramps had previously been used, or other mechanisms. They were fairly certain that there were castles built before Chenonceau, but weren’t sure where. Jamie and I, on the other hand, were fairly certain that we were witnessing the beginning of the end of the human race.

Both bemused and somewhat appalled, we finished our tour of the inside of the chateaux before going back outside to find the farm and vegetable/flower garden. Both were lovely, although there weren’t as much veg as I would have expected. They did, however, have four donkeys, which is always entertaining.

After exhausting ourselves with the chateau, vegetable patch, and donkey exploration, we spread out our picnic lunch and had what turned out to be one of the best meals so far on this trip. There’s something magical about eating under a clear blue sky on a warm spring day in rural France, next to a beautiful chateau, that just makes food taste better.

After lunch, the nearby town of Amboise was on our agenda. A short 20 km drive later, we found more convenient parking (I’m getting good at that) and then followed the signs towards the chateau on foot. I’m not sure if we missed the interesting bit of town, but even after a fair bit of wandering about all we could find was one street full of naf tourist places. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to back to Amboise. We’d paid for two hours of parking, but only spent an hour before driving back to Loches for an afternoon glass of wine at the B&B.

This time, we had decided to be upfront and have the wine on the terrace. One of the owners sat down to chat with us, and we ended up having a very pleasant two hour conversation, mostly in French to my delight (as I’m trying to practice as much as I can). The owners are absolutely lovely, and have made us feel a bit guilty about smuggling in our contraband wine up to our terrace for our evening enjoyment. Not guilty enough to not do it, as that’s what we’re currently doing, but still.

Having spent the last few days gorging ourselves on rich French food, we decided tonight to go a bit lighter and have a pizza for dinner. There is a pizza place on the Grand Rue which didn’t look too bad, and it turned out not to be. It also turned out to be pretty much the cheapest meal we’ve had here, if you don’t count the picnic lunch. I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend it for a gastronomic feast, but not bad for pizza.

Back home and a final glass (or two) of smuggled wine on the balcony as we clean up our photographs and write down our thoughts for the day. Tomorrow looks like it’s going to be a self-guided bus trip into Tours, to see what the big smoke around here is like. Should be a good day.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 08:47 AM
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And the pics from Day 6:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gir...7626695696233/
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Old May 29th, 2011, 09:58 AM
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Very good idea to keep paring knives out of young children. Hilarious!
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