Castlerama in the Loire Valley

Trip Start Dec 12, 2012
Trip End Jan 07, 2013

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Flag of France  , Pays de la Loire,
Sunday, December 30, 2012

Up at 6am. Breakfast at 7:30am. No fire in the kitchen as the staff won’t arrive for another hour.  brrrrrrr

Little bit of cursing of inbuilt GPS and we were off.  Saw the sunrise over the fields. Jet trails glowing pink, orange in morning light. Birds of prey hovering over fields in search of the early worm or field mouse. Orderly rows of poplars and leafless trees silhouetted against the morning sky.  It’s right pretty this French countryside it is! 

Came up against our first GPS error when the road was barred, resulting in an interesting excursion up and subsequent backing down of an embankment. Good job Jeff! Found the road again and continued onto Brissac chateau.  

This is located on Rue Moron - just what we felt like when we couldn't find it even though it was huge and practically waving “Hello stupid tourists, I am here!” at us. Grounds locked and no good vantage points until we trekked across a cow paddock. Putting our faith in the dodgy GPS and crossing our fingers, we drove along to our next destination - Saumur town for a quick gawk at the impressive chateau and a snack from the Boulanger.  

Sooooo much water in the river here. Everywhere rivers have burst their banks. We're constantly amazed by the volume of water.  I’ll probably get a bit repetitive with this.. be warned.

Saw our first Nuclear power plant on the way to D'Usses chateau, that was a bit unexpected to just be able to drive past one. Weird though, as we were driving up and could see this big plant on the banks of a river I had thought to myself “tch, nice place to put a polluting plant – right on the river, but then the Frogs are not that worried about the environment – just look at the atolls in the pacific they like to Nuke”... and then saw it was a Nuclear power plant.  Cue Twilight Zone music....

Found the D'Usses chateau, or the “Sleeping Beauty” castle as it’s otherwise known.  Impressive looking with the chateau, other buildings and a separate large church, but to be honest it’s a bit too castley for my tastes. A few too many turrets and so forth. Also closed - good thing we only planned to see the outside of these ones anyway! Driving, driving, driving, sometimes along the top of levee banks, which requires much concentration to not drive off into either river or top of someone’s house or a field, sometimes detouring down to the river bank to follow some dodgy track that was meant to lead to a scenic view ... hmmm!
Finally arrived at Chennonceau castle (along with every tour bus in France). OK ... can now see what all the hoo haa is about as this is one damn impressive castle!

Long & wide tree lined drive to the castle which is entirely in and across the river!  And the rivers running pretty fast and high at the moment, making it even more impressive. During WWII the lines of demarcation followed the river meaning the front door was in free France and the back door was in Germany occupied France. The French resistance smuggled many, many people through the castle to safety. Risky as German troops had a lookout on the castle and had orders to blow it up if the resistance were using it. 

More driving and we made it to Cheverny chateau about half an hour before closing but about half an hour after all the others had already closed. A much smaller castle but in large grounds with a separate Orangerie and kennels for the hunting dogs.  We could hear them howling for their dinner.  Hound of the Baskervilles sprang to mind. This one had a much more relaxed & friendly feel to it and far less tourists, which was nice but then you probably can't take yourself too seriously when your chateau was the inspiration for Tin Tin's castle that he inherited! Yes, there's even a whole exhibit in its own dedicated building devoted to this.!

After much fighting with and swearing at the shite GPS we eventually found our way to the town of Tours for our late lunch / dinner at about 8pm.  Jeff was starting to look tasty by this point.  

Had a lovely French meal of burger, frites and pizza at a pub.  We really didn’t care by this point, as long as it was warm and palatable and hey, “frites” is French!  Had a quick look at the Christmas trees and lights and at the few market stands that were still open.  Noticed that condom vending machines are common outside pharmacies – seen these in a few places now.  Only in France!

Had to keep Jeff awake during the two hour drive home in the dark & arrived back around 11pm.  Great day roaming the French countryside but two sleepy, sleepy possums now.
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