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Loire Valley

May 6, 2011

While we were in Paris, Jack brought up the option of taking a 2 day side trip out to the Loire Valley with him and Leigh and Katy and Sebastian.  Katy is from Arlington and was a Chi O at A&M who is living in Paris working for Fat Tire and Sebastian (aka: Seb or Bruno) is her boyfriend who she met here in France.  Of course a trip to the French countryside sounded great, so we said ‘yes’.

Château de Chambord

Seb was our fearless leader who planned the whole trip.  He not only planned everything but got the rental car and drove.  It was about a 2.5 hour drive to our first destination – the Chenonceau castle.  The castle was really something to see and quite unique.  The building itself spanned the entire river and served as an easy way to cross from one side to the other.  In fact, during the French Revolution it was not destroyed because it was such an important bridge for commerce and the only one within miles to get across.  At the time, Catherine de’ Medici, who owned the castle, also negotiated to spare the chateau from revolutionaries by removing the ‘x’ from the end of the name.  By doing so, it meant the castle was no longer royal.  Also, side note, this is where the first ever fireworks display was seen in France – Catherine liked to throw spectacular parties.  The entire thing was very interesting to see – my favorite part was the kitchen, of course.

Outside Chenonceau

After walking around the inside of the castle, we wandered through the gardens.  In the typical French style, they were perfectly manicured.  We also headed over to a hedge maze and proceeded to hold a friendly race to the center, each starting from a different entrance.  Leigh was the ultimate victor with Jack in second, so Louis domination, but we all had fun.

Next we drove to a little town to have a picnic lunch.  We had tons of meat, cheese, bread, vegetables and fruit.  And of course, wine – what would a French picnic be without wine?  The goat cheese was pretty strong and no one ate a ton of it so Jack and Seb started defending the cheese.  Somehow that turned into the two of them splitting the block of cheese in half and consuming it all in one bite.  They both claim it was good, however their faces told a different story.  After having a little ice cream to get that taste out of their mouths, we headed on to our hotel for the night.

Our hotel had a nice little pond outside of it so we enjoyed the great afternoon weather, sitting outside with some wine and playing speed scrabble/bananagrams.  We played as individuals for a while and then paired up into couple teams.  It was a ton of fun and I love that game!

Everyone in the middle of the maze

There was a nice French restaurant across the street from where we were staying that we walked over to for dinner.  We all had a three course meal and each course was amazing.  There was everything from escargot to salmon to steak tartar to delicious desserts.  It was a great dinner to end a great day.

The next morning we headed to Château de Chambord.  Steven and I hung out outside and explored while the others toured inside.  The castle was built by King Francois (but never completed) and was massive!  The crazy thing is that the King only spent a total of seven weeks at his chateau which is believed to have been built so he could be closer to a mistress.  The castle has never really been used that much except for now by gawking tourists.  Another crazy fact is that Louis XIV used the castle as a hunting lodge and installed over a hundred horse stables.  Each time he visited they had to bring all of the furniture in a huge caravan.  The castle and all the grounds were very pretty from the outside and hopefully we got some good pictures that do it justice.

Jack and Seb with cheese filled mouths

Then, we had one more stop before we headed back to Paris – a winery.  You would think that wouldn’t be too difficult to find in this wine region but it was!  We went to several that were closed and several that there was no one in sight.  Finally, we stopped at one off the beaten path and a woman appeared.  She said she was open and welcomed us into her winery.  We walked into a room that had a little corner for the wine tasting and the woman started pouring all different wines.  It was a little difficult to get across that I am allergic to white wine so I can’t have that – luckily Seb could translate.  And everyone liked the white wines better!  Turns out the tasting was free, they just expect you to buy some.  It was very different than wine tastings we have had in California and Argentina and definitely a fun experience.  I can’t wait to see what it is like in South Africa!

In the end, we all piled back into the car and headed back to the big city, Paris.  It was a fun two days and we were all exhausted when we got back!


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