Saturday, April 8, 2017

Day 7 - Chateau de Chenonceau and Montresor et le Val d'Indrois (Loire)

A short drive to Chateau de Chenonceau. We got up late and I was worried that there would be lots of people waiting to get inside since Chenonceau is the one of the most famous or photographed castles. Luckily not, it's the benefit of visiting France at this time of the year.... right before the season start and the weather has gotten warmer.

The castle really is magnificent. It has a nick name "the ladies' chateau" because it's mainly designed, protected, restored, and used by  different women since 1547. We didn't have the time and patient to have audio guide because of Sophie.   I have to read up after we get home some time.
Kitchen area was big... lots of working space and cook wares. We were having fun pretending cooking in there.

There were three Gardens, maze, carriage gallery, 16th century farm, vegetable and flower garden, and tea room. We certainly took time to walk around and try to see everything. It was really an fairy tale experience.

So much walking and claiming stairs, my legs have been sore for like a week. I guessed that's how people back then to stay fit... no gym was needed.
Big thanks to the strangers who took these two photos for us... they turned out great!

 The tulip season...

 A little music break for Sophie.
Next stop - Montresor. What interested me was the this small village was one of the most beautiful village in France and it's closed by. I was like hmm...really?? From the drive into the village didn't seem special. After we parked, we found a place to eat... pretty good for a simple lunch meal. Forgot to take pictures of the main course. We were too hungry to remember.
After lunch, we found a sign that pointed to a green bell path direction... we used our common sense and guessed we should probably follow it... (or our usual way... just get lost then we'll alway find something interesting) Voila... the beautiful secnic walking path that's alone a small creek with back drop of a Chateau, fortress walls and a church.  A leisure walk after a full tummy was always a good idea... otherwise I don't know how I can fit into the pants I brought with me after wonderful delicious French food everyday... multiple course per meal plus dessert in the afternoon.

The path led us back into the village and up to the Chateau. At the gate, the guard said we had to pay to see inside. I was like... I just saw the most photographed castle in the world... do I really need to see another Chateau on the same day??? Feeling kind of chateau out at the moment! The guard then went on telling us how beautiful this private chateau is, the current owner still lives there, and how it is one of the most decorated and furnished chateaus. Ok ok... you twisted my arm... we'll pay and go inside.

Well, the guard was right and we were glad we went in.

It's so hard for Sophie not to touch anything or sit on the beautiful furnitures specially after a long walk up and down the hilly village and claiming up the spiral staircase in the castle. I told her if she had to sit, she can sit on the floor... so here she was on the floor fixing her new shoes.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Day 6 - Mini Chateau and Tours (Loire)

We can't see all the castles in the time we had but we could go to visit mini chateaus... ah no, it was actually recommended by the host at the Chateau des Arpentis. He suggested that Sophie would enjoy it and it is designed for Children.  Well, he was only half right. Josh loved it too. Sophie loved it right away because it had costumes for kids and adults to wear during the visit for FREE.

Josh was still thinking how to build one and which one he should do it.

Sophie found and read one of the brochure that listed 73 castles in the Loire valley. She said: "mama, did you know there are 73, 73 castles here? That's so many."

And, we got to see 44 of them in one place... not bad for a few hours here and Sophie got to do some kid rides.
Sophie loved riding this tricycle so much. We were glad that they weren't kids waiting because we waited 30 minutes until she had enough of it. So glad it's not travel peak season yet.
Spend a few hours in the city of Tours. We did a little shopping and had a beer before we shopped more.
Hotel de Ville (city hall in English) - (Josh insisted that it's a chan hotel named de Ville)... every city has one. I told him my guess is city hall but he didn't believe me. I finally pull out my phone and google translated for him. Joke of the day!

Dinner again. Sophie just loved all the food here including escargot. She was dipping bread into the garlic butter sauce until there wasn't a drop left. This was the only meal that we had that finished in one hour. All the others took around 2 or more...

Back in Amboise for dinner. This time we made sure we had reservation for the restaurant we wanted to go last night. It was the ticket lady at the mini Chateau who call and made the reservation for us.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Chateau des Arpentis (Loiré)

I usually don't go into details of the places we stayed or restaurant we ate (just the pictures of meals). But this place just exceeded our expectations so much that I had to give it proper introduction. 

When I was planning the trip... it went like this...I found a good deal on the plane ticket... better yet direct flight from Seattle to Paris. Next...which part of France do we want to see?? Hmm... that took a while since we have been to many other regions. We finally (or I should say "I") decided to have a Castle trip for Sophie... figured that would keep her interested and engaged. Then, I mapped out the route and looked for places to stay. I initially just had Mont. St. Michel, Giverny, castles around Amboise area and 2 days for Paris in mind. 

Since it's a castle trip, we should stay in one... 😉 That's what I had hoped.

While I was looking (took me a few days to finally made up my mind), I came across Chateau des Arpentis. It looked nice in photos and had great reviews on the web. It also had family room. It's always uncertain what the room is like, which room we'll actually get, and how or if the pictures might be deceiving. I was uncertain what to expect (and thought we might all stay in the same room with 2 or 3 beds).

It was a long driveway leading up to the Chateau. As the Chateau finally appeared in front of us, our smile slowly got bigger and bigger. Our excitement was through the (car) roof. We quickly checked in...our receptionist was a very young handsome man by the way led us to our room. The key opened to a two twin bed room that has a small toilet room (quickly thinking how our sleeping arrangement would be like). The young man showed us another door led through another small hall way to our room. WOW... that's a surprise... (because I though we might be all sleeping in the same room.) Then from our room...another door to the bathroom. Everything was clean and pretty. We were so happy that we were here for 5 nights. Dropped the bags, we went to check out the kitchen/ laundry room and lounge room for guests to use. Oh my god... everything was like what a castle should be. I was hoping for a good experience and this was better than what I had hoped for and I couldn't ask for more.... oh wait... one thing we could ask for... better internet connection 😄😂😆 From the Chateau de Chantore host, the internet in the country side is not very reliable. The government is planning to put fast fiber-optics in next 5 to 10 years. Guess we won't be moving to the French countryside any time soon. There is no way I can live without internet these days. 😂😂😂

In comparison, the host from Chateau de Chantroe was very personal and friendly. Although Arpentis is nice and friendly as well, it felt a bit less personal. I guessed it's due to it's large scale and many rooms and guests to serve... felt a bit more business. And the breakfast was not as special and grand.

View when driving up to the Chateau after dinner. Our room is on the top right window in the tower. 

Here... let the pictures speak for itself!



Day 5 - Troglodyte Dwellings, Chateau Saumur, Chateau d'Usse, and Amboise (Loiré)

After figuring out the schedule in the country, I readjusted our itinerary to make sure we got to see what I had planned. I found this interesting cave, a living historical site that opened during the lunch hour while we were on our way to Amboise.

The whole cave living arrangement was very interesting to see and a different life style from castle. Cave (or underground) living was basically an affordable way of housing choice for farming people. Because of the natural stone material in this region it made it easy for people to excavate the cave... people used the underground for home, barn, wine cellar, nowadays for hotel and restaurant and wine tasting room. It was a quick detour and fun for Sophie to explore around each cave.

We arrived Saumur just pass 2pm... perfect timing for a Chateau tour. So exciting... finally kicked off the castle hopping trip in Loire Valley.

There was an English guide at 2:30... very informative and interesting. However, between the strong French accent and her limit English, we could only understand half of it. I also don't know much of European history so that made it hard to follow. But after listening to the guide, I definitely am interested to know more of this region's history. Now just need to find a good book or a good TV show 😂. I remembered I got hooked on Tutor and that made it so much more interesting while visiting Windsor castle.

As you can tell that the castle is under-going some serious restoration.
Behind me in the picture was the view from the castle which sits right on the Loire river.
Second castle of the day - Chateau d'Usse which was is also known as Sleeping Beauty's castle. It's fairy tale looking inspired the writer Charles Perrault for his tale of Sleeping Beauty.  And here in the picture our sleeping beauty in daddy's arm...

Not so sleepy after seeing the sign that there were rooms set up for each story scene. Sophie was very engaged every step of the way. I had to said that the castle owner was very smart to engage the kids and parents like this... and this was probably the most expensive ticket we paid for castle visit. I wondered if Disney has a cut of it.

The scene that the Prince woke up the Sleeping Beauty.

After checked in to the Chateau where we would be staying for five nights, we headed to center of Amboise. Our first choice of restaurant was super busy and completely booked. So we settled for second option.

Josh looked so tired here... we had a long day... lots of driving in between and we visited 3 different places... very busy day. The good thing was, we were ahead of my original plan...

Dinner after a long day... rewards for lots of walking today!!