As I drove from Chateau de Touffou, I had my first moment of questioning whether the typical French diet works for me.  The days when I’m more active, that morning pastry sure doesn’t seem to last and I do find that I’m EXTREMELY hungry by lunch time . . . which I don’t like as it tends to mean I eat lunch too quickly.  I also noticed today, for the first time, that the lack of protein in the mornings seems to be an issue on active days as I was really dragging.

Having failed to find a local restaurant open, I did experience my first “thank goodness there’s a McDonald’s!” moment in France.  However, I did not feel that way long!  I should have known when I saw the masses of people standing around that there was going to be a problem, but I was expecting a typical US McDonald’s experience – you order, each person gets their food about 30 seconds after ordering and you’re out of there in 30 minutes!

So . . . after ordering, I headed up to the pick up counter since I hadn’t indicated a seating section for my food to be brought out to.  My number was 97, so I listened for the next number to be called out.  “Soixante trois!”  SIXTY THREE!!!  And it isn’t like you can cancel your order at McDonald’s after placing it at the machine and paying.  Speaking of – in France, most people select their food using automated machines to select the items they want.  You can also select table delivery of your food!

Considering I had a Medieval City and three chateaus on my list to see for the day, the last place I would have expected to lose more time than expected was lunch at McDonald’s, but it was an HOUR later before I received my food.  Finally, I was on the road again and headed toward the Loire Valley and the city of Amboise.

Chateau d’AmboiseWhile I didn’t get a distance shot on my way there, I conveniently drove past Amboise on my way back home and stopped for this lovely photo of Chateau d’Amboise towering over the town below it.  The first parts of the chateau were apparently built before 987!!

Out of the extensive number of chateaus available to visit in the Loire Valley, I selected this one because Leonardo da Vinci is buried here!  The chateau plays that up by placing easels and fancy painting frames around the grounds.  I particularly liked the one in the front of the lodge!  And, while I mostly got very lucky and was inside while it rained, then it cleared up before I was back outside, it started raining and everyone headed indoors just in time for me to get this photo with no people!

The chateau was seized by the crown in 1434 for treason and became a favorite of the French kings through when da Vinci was here in 1516.  Given da Vinci was a big reason for coming, I headed to the St Hubert Chapel, which I found PACKED with people.  Apparently, seeing da Vinci’s tomb is hot property.  I still managed to get a few shots of the inside.

Of course, da Vinci wasn’t the chateau’s only famous resident – Catherine de Medici (a name that came up often throughout the chateaus) raised her sons here and Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed with her here as a child!  Having said that, the first series of rooms (Gothic Lodge) were very sparsely furnished.  The Renaissance apartments had more furniture, including King Henri II’s room (Medici’s husband), but the most impressive rooms to me were the Orleans apartments!  This era was after the French Revolution and only a 5th of the original chateau buildings were left; however, they were beautifully decorated.  I’ve decided my future dream home also needs a sleigh bed – perhaps not the canopy & bright pink though.  The music room was similarly stunning!  As an interesting tie-in to my MuCEM visit, there was a small display about the 1848 imprisonment of Abd Al-Qadir at d’Amboise due to his resistance to the colonization of Algeria.

Wrapping up the interior part of the visit, you get to see the Minimes Tower, which has an amazng view of the Loire River.  My favorite part of the view was the old bridge supports that are still standing.  I ended up seeing this several more times in the area, including ones where the supports stood in the river, there was a big gap for the road I was driving on, and then you could see the old arched supports and part of a bridge marching across a farmer’s field still!  

The Minimes Tower also housed a ramp large enough for a horse and carriage to ride up to the top (same with the Heurtault Tower that you exit through).

After exiting the chateau, I headed out through the grounds to the back view of the chateau.  Here is where I found one of the golden “portrait frames” and a lovely French lady took my picture.

While I’m glad they’ve restored the chateaus for viewing, I also like the old crumbling bits, like this medieval section of ramparts:

The view from the other side of the chateau grounds wasn’t too bad either.  The homes retain enough “ancient” charm that you can almost imagine yourself French Royalty looking out over your domain below . . . ah, it’s good to be queen! 😉

And while the photo of the chateau over the town gives some idea of the size, here’s a picture of the wall rising above the teeny, tiny cars below – incredible to think of structures like this being built back when they were.

After wandering the grounds, I was ready for more da Vinci!  Good thing because I was off to Clos Luce, the chateau that was given to da Vinci to live in for the last 3 years of his life.  While walking along, I was looking at the sections of wall still standing that appear to have once supported the majority (4/5s) of the buildings that are now gone.  I was rather surprised to see a sign indicating that a special house was private property, one that was totally trashed . . . and then this one that I could get a good photo of.  It appears the French don’t only use an existing wall to form the wall of a newer building, but will also build a house directly INSIDE a former castle wall.  There was one with a sign that seemed to indicate you could stay in it like a hotel!  Wish I’d seen that online – I would have stayed in it just for the experience!  In case you’re thinking this can’t possibly be lived in, note the SATELLITE DISH to the left side of the photo – people live in them alright!

As a side note, my American co-worker and I have discussed the fact that the exterior appearance of the old homes in the area doesn’t seem to be a concern for rural French folks, but the interiors are an entirely different story!

PROS: one of the best views of all the chateaus (definitely built the highest of those I saw), da Vinci is buried there, very good & detailed English visitor guide, Orleans apartments were stunning!

CONS: only 8 rooms had much in the way of furnishings, parking was a few small lots of paid city parking only (or scouting for a free spot on the sidewalk . . . yes, they PARK on sidewalks here)

Overall, I spent about 2 hours here and felt it was time well-spent.  It was the 2nd least expensive of the Loire Valley chateaus that I saw (in keeping with the smaller number of furnished rooms); however, I would say that if you’re not a da Vinci fan, you could probably skip this one and not really miss much.  The only room that really stood out as unique from rooms I saw in other chateaus was the Orleans music room.