The Palace of Chambord

Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
Trip End May 09, 2004

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Sunday, May 9, 2004

It's cloudy, drizzly weather again, and it will stay like that all day. We enjoy our usual continental breakfast of crisp French bread, croissants, yoghurt, juice and wonderfully arousing coffee. Accounts are settled and we bid adieu to Amboise.

We drive along byways beside the River Loire. At one point we see an unusual looking sailing boat tacking upriver. It looks like a historical craft, and we stop to take a photo. It's cold and wet, so it must be pretty miserable on the boat. We pass a vivid yellow mustard field. These vibrant fields have delighted us throughout our trip, and on our last drizzly day, we stop beside the road to take our photos deep in the saffron pasture. We understand that mustard cultivation allows the soil to rest temporarily, in order to restore the fertility of the ground and that it is actually a weed. In point of fact the yellow mustard we squirt on our hot dogs comes from another type of mustard plant called Black Mustard which surprisingly is made from the red seeds, not the yellow flowers.

After passing by the medieval town of Blois, we arrive at what is considered the classic Loire Chateau, Chambord. This huge palace is set in lakeside meadow. Building of the château was begun by Francis I in 1519, and was completed in 1547. Artist Leonardo da Vinci paid a short visit to the building during its construction and added a few embellishments. The structure, containing 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 13 great staircases, and stables to accommodate 1200 horses, stands in a park surrounded by a wall of 22 miles in circumference. With no surrounding gardens or trees, it makes the structure quite unique and very photogenic. It is also virtually devoid of furnishings, so we have decided to reserve our Chateau visit today for Fontainebleau. Before we leave we visit the souvenir shops and the little open market, where we purchase some wonderful local bread and goat cheese for our picnic lunch.

The drive to Paris is mostly through rich agricultural countryside. We take the autoroute past Chartres and then drive on minor roads through the beautiful Forest of Fontainebleau, protected for centuries by the French monarchy for deer hunting. We drive through the town of Fontainebleau and on to the palace. It is still raining, so we have given up on the idea of a picnic. We park in the street by the palace and decide to have lunch in a nearby cantina. We are late and there is only one plat du jour left, which I, as the senior member of the group, commandeer. It's duck! The rest enjoy plates of fast food, such as hot dogs and French fries. I sympathize. At least we can wash it all down with some good local wine.
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