The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley….the home of either my inner princess or my inner child.  Seriously, this area of France is filled with castles and ‘hunting lodges’ of the kings and queens of the past. For those who aren’t aware, a royal hunting lodge is actually a code word for a gorgeous castle. When I heard the term, I always thought of a cabin in the woods. But no, that is not what I’m referring to when I use the term ‘hunting lodge’ in this post.

So last weekend, I went to the region of the Loire with my study abroad program–ISA.  Early on Saturday morning, a group of 70 students climbed into two large buses and headed off to visit three castles.  The Loire Valley is about two to four hours away from Paris–depending on traffic and which city you’re visiting. As we drove through it, I noticed what a beautiful region it was–filled with fields of flowers and plenty of purple wisteria climbing over the houses. It’s no wonder that the kings and queens of France chose this spot to build their vacation homes.

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Saturday. It was a beautiful day–probably around 75 degrees. I had brought my winter coat on this excursion because I thought that the castles would be too cold for just my leather jacket. But on Saturday, I was fine with just a short sleeved tee-shirt. We visited two castles on this gorgeous day.

The first castle we visited was the Château d’Amboise. Compared to the other castles I’ve visited in Paris, this castle was a bit of a letdown. However, Leonardo daVinci was buried in the chapel of this castle. I actually forget the entire story–I think he was moved for some reason, but there’s still a plaque there. The Château d’Amboise used to be far more impressive (I assume), but the majority of it was destroyed at some point in history so only a small portion remains there today.

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The next castle we visited definitely made up for the slight disappointment at Amboise.  Le château de Chenonceau.  This was my favorite castle I’ve ever seen in Europe so far!  The castle looked like it was the set for a Disney fairy tale movie. It had several beautiful gardens with perfectly arranged flowers. The interior was spectacularly decorated. This castle was the place where the queens and other ladies of the king would go to have a nice little vacation; it was the ‘hunting lodge’ for the ladies. One last fun fact: this castle is currently owned by Nestle.

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In addition to these castle visits, we also went to a winery to see the wine making process and visit a small museum of wine making equipment. After that, there was also a wine tasting provided, which was accompanied by bread, cheese, and a type of pâté. After that, we headed to our hotel in the city of Tours.

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Sunday, the sun wasn’t shining, and it wasn’t as warm, but it wasn’t raining most of the time (just a light sprinkle as we were headed back to Paris). This day we went to the château de Chambord. This castle was actually the inspiration for the castle in Beauty and the Beast. It was built by Francis I for political reasons (apparently when you’re crowned king, you’re supposed to build something), but was never actually finished. Francis I was credited with the design of the double staircases found in this castle. They were created so that two people (cough cough, his mistress and his wife) could go up and down the same staircase without crossing one another.

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