A Travellerspoint blog

The Loire valley

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.

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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!

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View from the balcony looking out to town.

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View from the other side where you can enter.

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The grounds and my favorite tree!

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Some details and art from inside

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Pic from the town and some really unique brick designs

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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.

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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.

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Quinn saw this beautiful rooster (he claims the most beautiful he has ever seen) and it reminded him of Grandma Doris.

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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.

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We also thought of Cole with this chair. It seems like something that he would like.

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Chambord is super unique because it has a double helix staircase.

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Furniture and more staircases.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Inside view of the gallery spanning the river. This Chateau had a requirement that dogs are held in arms or in a bag.

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More gardens around the Chateau. I found these to be exceptional.

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A little friend in the bushes.

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The grounds also had a 16th century farm!

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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.

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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.

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Cool bridge along the way. It is a little blurry because we took it from the car window.

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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.

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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.

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These represent.....well never mind.

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The Chateau with an edible garden in front. All of the plants are different colored lettuce.

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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.

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Representing for our cousins Mark, Kelley, Kaylyn, and Morgan on this trip! We love you!

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This car was parked outside in the parking lot.....so super cool

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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.

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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.

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Posted by trackers 00:43 Archived in France Comments (0)

Hiking in the forest

overcast

This is a little out of order because we did this hike before we went back to the States for our trip to Seattle but I wanted to share these neat pics that Quinn took. We had a surprise sunny day so we took advantage of it and went for a little hike in Devil's Canyon which is on the border of Germany and Luxembourg.

We followed the Devil's eight path, depicted with this symbol.

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It was a very leisurely hike that also gave the dogs time to run and sniff. We hiked along with our friends Megan and Ian. Here they are.

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Near the trail head we passed a bee house. You can find these around Germany every so often. These houses are for wild solitary bees that live in these individual holes rather than making a nest.

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The terrain in this area is very interesting with a lot of little canyons and craggy rock.

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We liked how nature was taking over this sign.

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Quinn captured a really cool spooky tree shot.

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The sign called this a waterfall but I am going with rapids under a covered bridge.

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I like this picture of Quinn because it embodies his German style hiking boots, Wisconsin hat, and Hawaiian gesture. The only thing missing is something from Japan.

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Fun day in the woods.

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Dog tired......obviously, I really loved dogs because, really, who does this?!

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Posted by trackers 14:28 Archived in Luxembourg Comments (0)

Tucson

Two weeks ago we lost a wonderful person in our family, my Dad's wife Cheryl. She was a very warm and caring person who made my dad super happy. She smiled at all of our jokes even when they were not funny and always had a way to smooth over any disagreement. Quinn and I attended their wedding in Tucson in 2010 and they also came out to visit us in Hawaii in 2012. Here are a few pictures that captured those moments.

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It is of course very difficult to lose someone in your family and I am not so good with words to have some profound statement or reflection but I wanted to share with everyone what a special person Cheryl was and how much we all loved her. We miss her.

Posted by trackers 10:58 Comments (3)

Seattle/Tacoma and Vancouver

Part two! It was a 10 day trip so there are a lot of pictures.

After my girls left, I got to meet up with a friend, Jochen, that I know from Germany. What a small world to have a German friend that I met in a tiny town in the Eifel who now lives in Tacoma. So weird. He picked me up from Seattle and toured me around his new "hometown" of Tacoma. It is so beautiful with a nice bay and houses built into the hillside. We were even lucky enough to see a seal swimming in the bay. Can you see him in the picture?

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If not, they have a little caricature of him on the bench.

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Here is Jochen and I trying to take a picture on the timer when I realize it is taking 3 pics.

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He showed me some cool houses in his neighborhood and led me on a little hike through their municipal park. It was really gorgeous with beautiful views.

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We were back in Seattle in time to see Quinn after work. Jochen brought him a surprise all the way from Wisconsin. These Spotted Cows made 4 flights from Wisconsin to Seattle for all of us to enjoy. Prost!!! Thanks Jochen. What a thoughtful friend to bring Quinn a little taste from home!

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Jochen was also apparently reading Quinn a bedtime story or something! See you again in Germany Jochen.

The next day I was on my own and I went to the Chihuly exhibit down by the Space Needle. Dale Chihuly is a famous glass blower who has done some massive exhibits in Israel, Venice, Scandinavia, and even one at the desert botanical gardens in Phoenix, Arizona. This a permanent installation and garden and is absolutely stunning. I really could not capture the scale, colors or drama of it all. To give you some idea, most all of these exhibits are at least as tall as me and taller.

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Not sure if I have shared this on the blog before, but many of you already know that Quinn is working on his master's degree in Transportation Engineering at the University of Washington-Seattle. So this trip also served the purpose of connecting with some of his professors and classmates that he has only been able to "meet" online. That was very cool for him. We also got to tour around the campus and Quinn got his student ID card, AKA "Husky Card." He was pretty stoked.

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We did a little collegiate photo shoot. Why not?!

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It truly is a gorgeous campus. Now we know where all of our tuition money is going.....landscaping!! Just kidding.

The next day we packed up and drove up to Vancouver to visit some friends of ours that we know from Arizona, Erin and Stephen. They relocated to Vancouver and we haven't seen them in 7 years! Now they are a family of 4 with two year old Ellis and 2 month old Finn.

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Erin was so cute to make little activity lists for us. And when I say little, I mean tiny!!

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It was really fun to catch up with them, meet their kiddos and see their new digs. Vancouver is such a sleek, clean, modern city that really takes advantage of its waterfront and bays. I hate to say it, but Seattle should be looking to their neighbors in the north for some inspiration. I don't mean to sound harsh but Seattle does not take advantage of its waterfront as it could and the park systems along the water in Vancouver are really great. We also got to check out Stanley park which is Vancouver's "central park."

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They live right in the center of Vancouver so we walked along the water to Granville Island to check out the art scene, fancy food market and operating cement mill. Interesting mix of industrial and commercial but it works! I really enjoyed this area.

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They also have a brewery. Don't mind if I do try a sampler flight. We also had the traditional Canadian dish of French fries with gravy and cheese aka "poutine."

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We also went on a little hike in Lynn Canyon. The old growth redwoods are so amazing and I just loved seeing everything coming alive for spring.

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Yet another sushi fix. Erin and Stephen even got a babysitter so we all could have a little evening on the town. There are soooooo many Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. This one was delicious.

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We also were treated to a swanky breakfast place that had a new take on just about everything they served, including the Bloody Mary.

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It was so fun to see old friends and get to experience a piece of their life adventure. Thank you for hosting us Erin and Stephen and hopefully it won't be another 7 before we meet again!

Posted by trackers 10:14 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Seattle and Catching up

It has been a while since I have written anything. So here is a little catch up. Over the last two months here are some of the events we have been up to:

2 birthday parties
2 wine tastings (one French, one German)
2 hockey games
1 live production of Rocky Horror Show
1 half marathon (Quinn) (first one since broken leg)
half a dozen hikes with the dog

We have been waiting and waiting for Spring and some sunshine and we finally got a little bit but we were really hoping for some more so we went to Seattle. Just kidding, we went to Seattle for a work thing for Quinn. You know you live in an overcast cold place when you go to Seattle for sunshine....didn't I say that about London too? I never thought I would live in such a climate being that I grew up in Florida and Arizona, yet here I am. I own more winter coats than bathing suits at this point.

When Quinn told me that he was going to Seattle for a work trip I decided to tag along and convince two of my best buds to meet us there. Andrea and Sarah obliged and we had a blast.

Andrea arrived! Reunions:

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We stayed in a very funky airbnb with an assortment of decorations

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View from our living room window

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The three of us headed out to get our sushi fix. This place had a very authentic feel, including AMAZING service.

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Cruising around Volunteer park and enjoying the spring blossoms. I wish I knew the name of these purples flowers....anyone know?

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View from the water tower

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Swanky neighborhood around the park

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Afternoon cocktail in the sun followed up by gourmet ice cream. Is this a pacific northwest thing or is hipster ice cream sweeping across America? They had flavors such as Earl Grey tea, Balsamic Strawberry, Honey Lavender. It was so rich, I could hardly eat dinner, but it was delicious.

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We love graffitti

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Then Sarah arrived....More reunions

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Sarah's reaction to viewing our unique apartment

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Quinn teasing us about being on our phones....We were planning our attack for the evening, okay?

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Unfortunately, the next day Quinn had to attend to his work commitments so he missed out on some of the fun. We had a great girls weekend. We mostly just walked around the city, ate food, drank Starbucks, and enjoyed catching up. These two girls haven't seen each other in 10 years!

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Tourist stuff, Pike's market and the Ferris wheel.

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Famous skyline

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We miss you Quinn.

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He's back afterwork.

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Group shot

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Being silly, night on the town, and Andrea and Quinn get a crazy sweet tooth and buy half a dozen cupcakes.

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Negotiating over choices and yelling at me for documenting this event.

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Luckily the next morning, there was one cupcake left and I got to try it......I can see why they were so excited.

This is the premier swanky Starbucks reserve that we met at every morning. I don't get it.

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Here are some pics near Pioneer Square which is an area they they appear to be trying to revitalize with art shops and renovations of historic buildings. One square block of it is very nice and has a neat urban vibe but unfortunately the economy around it is quite depressed and there were many homeless gathered around the outskirts of the area. It was really sad to see so many people in need.

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It is tough to say bye to friends. I wish we lived closer to both of these ladies. THANK YOU both so much for meeting up with us. It really means a lot. (Sarah insisted that we see this disgusting gum wall so I am putting this as a tribute to her!)

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Posted by trackers 11:03 Comments (0)

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