Tuesday, April 15, 2014

France: Day 2

Day two in France had us up and going pretty early. We woke up, ate a typical French breakfast of bread and cheese and headed to St. Denis for Mass. St. Denis was a beautiful setting for Mass, despite the fact that everything was spoken and sung in French. Adam and I did what we could to keep up!

After Mass, we headed to the Royal Chateau d'Amboise to start our day of chateau hopping. Adam and I both agreed that this chateau was by far the most under-rated. It was exquisite, with some of the most beautiful gardens. 
Beautiful boxwood on the first landing of the ramp to the chateau.
The chateau is located on a hill in Amboise. It is the perfect setting for a royal chateau as it overlooks all of Amboise. In order to get to the entrance, you have to climb a steep cobblestone hill and then, once inside the gate, you keep on climbing until you reach the top!
The view of the chapel as you walk up the path to the chateau.
The grounds and buildings that make up this marvelous chateau are stunning. The little chapel pictured above is the resting place for Leonardo daVinci himself. It is an exquisite little chapel and seems to be the perfect quiet resting place for such an amazing artist.
View of the inside of the chapel.
Another view of the inside of the chapel. The stained glass was absolutely
beautiful and I love the way the light reflected throughout!
The Royal Chateau d'Amboise, like several of the chateaux in France, was only a temporary home for the Royalty of France. During this time, the royals would basically pack up all of their belongings, furniture and all, and travel from castle to chateau to castle throughout the entire year. Because of the constant traveling, the chateaux we visited have very little furniture as it was only fully furnished when the owners were staying there.
A view of the side of the chateau.

A view of the gardens and the bust of Leonardo da Vinci.
Photo-op! Overlooking Amboise

Beautiful view of the Chateau and the city.

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A sea of boxwoods in the garden.
Now you might already know this, but if not, I am a crazy fan of boxwoods. They are, by far, my favorite plant on the planet. I love all varieties and in general I think they are elegant plants. My absolute favorite is the Japanese boxwood...but I digress. The gardens surrounding this chateau were obviously made for me. There were boxwoods EVERYWHERE. They were all perfectly manicured and just stunning. I think that I just might be able to live here based solely on the fact that the boxwoods are awesome.

After our tour and wandering around in boxwood heaven, Adam and I headed back down the hill for lunch. We dined at a great little spot just at the bottom of the hill beneath the chateau. I had French onion soup and beef carpaccio. Adam had smoked salmon ravioli. All of the food was wonderful and enjoyed with a glass of Loire Valley wine...when in Rome, right?
Beef carpaccio topped with basil, Parmesan, tomatoes, and lemon juice.

Smoked salmon ravioli
After a wonderful and relaxing lunch, we made our way to Chenonceaux to tour the Chateau de Chenonceau (and no, I did not leave an 'x' off of the name of the Chateau...just a subtle spelling difference...). This chateau is quite a work of architecture as it is built so that a large portion of it spans the River Cher.

View down the main drive to the chateau.
This chateau was passed down the line by a few ladies whose names you'll recognize, Diane de Poitiers, and Catherine de' Medici. The basic drama is that King Henry II gave the chateau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After Henry's death, his wife, Catherine de' Medici decided she wanted it back and basically forced Diane to trade. 

This chateau was basically fully furnished and had beautiful floral arrangements in each room. The gardens were perfectly manicured. We enjoyed seeing this chateau and walking the grounds, all while listening to the soothing sound of the river rushing under the chateau.

View of the chateau from one of the gardens.

And another...

And another...

This is a view of the hall that spans the River Cher.

The beautiful gardens...if only we had a larger back yard to
accommodate this swimming pool sized fish pond...

And more...
Day two was a perfect day for walking the grounds of these two beautiful chateaux. We ended the day by relaxing at our quaint little hotel, Le Relais Chenonceaux. That night we had a very quiet dinner in the restaurant downstairs...we were literally the only people there all night. France in February is the way to go! Adam and I so enjoyed our time in Loire and Burgundy because in so many cases we were alone. It was a great time to bond and reconnect a little!
Cheers to a successful day two!
Stay tuned for more sight-seeing, wine tasting, and eating!

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