I found a really awesome biking itinerary online and we attempted to recreate it ourselves on a trip to the Loire valley. It was a successful trip although we didn't get to bike as much as I had hoped due to my terrible allergies. First of all, I must talk about the little cottage where we stayed. It is definitely in the top 3 airbnbs we have ever stayed in and might be my number one. Here is a link to it. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5388508
Its a little remodeled farm cottage with all the amenities plus old world charm. I just loved the old stove and the amazing garden. We spent every afternoon out there in the hammock sipping French wine and enjoying a meat and cheese tray...yum. Here was our breakfast spot and typical morning spread.
The Loire valley is know for its many chateaus. Oh my goodness, they are not kidding. It seems like every town has an amazing chateau as its centerpiece. Quinn and I joked that if you grew up in the Loire valley the rest of the world would be a let down. Chateaus in the Loire valley are as ubiquitous as Walmart in America. I cannot believe I just made that comparison.
Day one: we rode from our little town of Noizay to Amboise Chateau. This one has amazing grounds that had a really great view of the city. The parts of the chateau that you could actually tour were quite small but seeing all the typical furniture was really interesting.
This is the view you get when approaching the town. Imagine riding up to this bad boy on a horse and carriage!
View from the balcony looking out to town.
View from the other side where you can enter.
The grounds and my favorite tree!
Some details and art from inside
Pic from the town and some really unique brick designs
Just down the block (literally) is the Chateau du Close Luce. This is the Chateau where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. We didn't go inside of this Chateau but we did tour the unique gardens. Throughout the gardens are models and exhibits related to Da Vinci's work. I knew he was famous for painting and architecture but I had no idea he was a famous city planner and also inventor of military equipment. He was such an amazing inventor! I really loved the way they featured his inventions and built replicas and incorporated them into the garden. They had replicas of movable bridges, ideas for the first tank that shot from all sides as well as cannons that had a fan type effect with shooting from multiple angles.
This is where they raised thousands of pigeons. Two would roost in each hole. Pigeons were important for food, communication, and displaying one's wealth. The outside is a cylinder but the inside is an octagon to house more pigeons and also to ensure air flow between the inner and outer walls. A lip on the outside wall ensured little critters couldn't climb up and kill them.
Quinn saw this beautiful rooster (he claims the most beautiful he has ever seen) and it reminded him of Grandma Doris.
Day two: We rode bikes to Chambord Chateau and then Cheverny. We went into the Chambord but not Cheverny. We just got a peek a boo view. It was a really gorgeous bike ride. The whole time we were at Chambord I kept thinking of our friends "Big and Rich" because she is a huge fan of Chambord in her drinks. Unfortunately, I did not see any Chambord while we were there.
We also thought of Cole with this chair. It seems like something that he would like.
Chambord is super unique because it has a double helix staircase.
Furniture and more staircases.
We stopped at a little cafe and observed a little market underneath of this super cool building. I have no idea the purpose of the building but I like it.
We enjoyed a peek a boo view of Cheverny. We were enjoying such a nice bike ride that we decided to just keep on riding and enjoy the day.
Day three: we drove to Chenonceau which was a mega chateau. Here are the gardens leading up to the chateau, complete with a garden maze.
Chenonceau is unique because it spans a river. Not only did it span a river but the part that spanned the river had 3 stories. During World War II the Nazis stood ready to destroy the chateau because the allies were using the bridge to sneak people out of occupied France. One side of the River Cher was occupied by the Nazis while the other was not. What a lucky circumstance for the allies. You can see the long hallway to the left of us in the picture.
Inside view of the gallery spanning the river. This Chateau had a requirement that dogs are held in arms or in a bag.
More gardens around the Chateau. I found these to be exceptional.
A little friend in the bushes.
The grounds also had a 16th century farm!
Afterward we went to Rigney Usse. This privately owned chateau was the inspiration for sleeping beauty. We ate lunch at the base of this one and got some pictures in front but didn't go inside. At some point you just get "chateaued out" and need to skip a few.
The Loire valley is also known for its troglodytes or cave homes. Some of these are extremely fancy and occupied only by the upper class but there are also areas without running water or electricity that are occupied by people living off the grid or as some websites put it, on the fringe of society. I don't know how fringe that is as there seems to be a mainstream push for this kind of environmentally friendly living.
Cool bridge along the way. It is a little blurry because we took it from the car window.
Proof that Quinn eats McDonald's shakes even though he poo poo's on everyone for eating their food. Apparently, ice cream doesn't count as food in Quinn's book. You can just barely make out his hand in this picture. He had a certain finger raised during his walk to the McDonald's so I could not post the evidence on this blog.
Day 4: the chateau Villandry is known for its gardens and rightfully so. They are incredible and have meaning behind the designs. The hearts represent tender love and in the center you can see shapes that are masks worn at balls. The triangles are passionate love and the triangles looks kind of like people dancing. One looks like butterfly wings, fans and love letters evoking the flightiness of feelings. The last one represents blades of daggers and swords used in duels caused by the rivalry of love and the flowers are red symbolizing blood shed for tragic love. Full disclosure: I copied this information from the booklet. I am not that creative.
These represent.....well never mind.
The Chateau with an edible garden in front. All of the plants are different colored lettuce.
They also had a maze and I learned something about mazes. They have a religious underpinning. The maze represents the path of life and the center is finding God. I never knew that. More garden photos.
Representing for our cousins Mark, Kelley, Kaylyn, and Morgan on this trip! We love you!
This car was parked outside in the parking lot.....so super cool
After Villandry we went to Chateau Azay Le rideau but it was completely covered due to renovation. Luckily we found an amazing French restaurant complete with multiple courses. Yummy! All for 18 euro a person. It was mostly a tourist town but just a block off the beaten path we were able to find this gem. Seems to me even the "regular" houses in this region look like amazing Chateaus.
All worn out on the 7 hour drive home. Yikes! That was a long one. I have to say that I REALLY enjoyed the Loire Region and highly recommend a trip there if you enjoy beautiful architecture, gardens, adorable French towns and quaint restaurants.