First time in the Loire Valley. Beautiful despite the weather.
Drive from Germany to France
Today was our longest driving day of the trip - just over six hours. We stopped for picnic items in Germany. DH worked his tetris magic with trunk packing, and off we went. It poured rain on our drive but we still made decent time on France's expensive toll roads. We were especially excited when we saw the chateau in Amboise. We were even more excited when we saw our apartment with a priceless view of the castle. I saw pictures online but seeing the view in person was remarkable.
The host of our apartment was a friendly and spunky woman who did an excellent job explaining the town of Amboise as well as the features in our apartment. It's such a charming little place! We decided to cross the river to see the old town.
A pharmacy vending machine. That's a first!
We found a grocery store and stocked up on some breakfast items before having a nice pizza dinner. DH and I sneaked next door to Shaker Bar where even our drinks had a great view of the castle.
We were all tired and eager to wake up to our first full day in France.
Chenoncaeux, wine tasting, and a fancy dinner
After a very scenic run and an easy breakfast (French yogurt is so good!), we made a short 20 minute drive to the famous Chenonceau chateau. It's amazing how the castle is built over the river. The kids really enjoyed taking pictures from many different angles. The inside of the castle was beautiful and DD#1 was excited to see real-life examples of the Renaissance, which she'd learned about in school last year.
We spent around two hours wandering the interior, exterior, and gardens surrounding the castle. It is a very unique castle.
We found a nearby boulangerie for lunch. We had simple and tasty baguette sandwiches (mom had a pizza). DH was able to make a reservation at a recommended restaurant, l'Ilôt, for dinner. My mom agreed to stay at the apartment and eat with the kids. We stopped at a large French supermarket, E.Leclerc, for dinner and various things we didn't know we needed. They were making fresh crepes in the bakery and the aisles of cheeses and yogurts sucked me in! It was a much longer (and more expensive) stop than anticipated.
Before heading back to Amboise, we made one final stop at a winery for a quick tasting. The kids groaned but were instantly happy when given fancy sparkling grape juice in a champagne flute.
Leonardo da Vinci retired in Amboise and is buried in the chateaux. We were impressed by his statue which was just down the street from our apartment.
The nearby park wasn't too bad either.
My mom and I decided to do a little more shopping and exploring in the cute town of Amboise. After not really buying a thing, we ended up at a typical little bar for a glass of wine. Although Amboise is touristy, it seems most of the visitors are French.
We made it back in time for DH and I to leave for our 8pm dinner reservations. L'ilot was exceptional! This small French restaurant had its kitchen in the center. We were seated at the bar where we had a great view of the chefs in action. What a treat to eat a slow meal in courses! The seafood starters were exceptional and my pork dish was amazing. The pretty strawberry and chocolate mousse dessert with glass sugar decor was a perfect ending. We were so full! My mom and the kids were good sports and ate a simple meal in the apartment. After a busy day, they really didn't seem to mind.
Amboise Market, Castle and Beauval Zoo
My mom and I started off the day at Amboise's Sunday market. The food section was so colorful and diverse. The non-food items felt more like a flea market with products made far from France. I was hoping there would be more locally produced items.
We decided to split up for much of the day. My mom offered to take the kids to France's largest zoo. Admission prices were steep ($30 per person) so we were more than happy to save a few Euros and find an alternate activity. We drove about 40 minutes on windy and narrow backroads to the somewhat remote zoo. DD#2 was extra excited to see the pandas. Sadly, they only spotted one of the two pandas and he slept the entire time.
When DH and I made it back to Amboise, we decided to keep it simple and tour the castle that we'd been staring at out our window for the last two nights. Although much simpler that Chenonceau, Amboise Chateau was still beautiful.
DH and I wandered the town and were amazed by the homes built into the hillside (troglodyte homes). After a simple snack of cheese and baguette in our apartment, it was already time to pick up the rest of the family at the zoo.
We stopped in a smaller less-touristy town called Montrichard. The kids played at a park and we hoped to find a recommended restaurant for dinner. No luck. On Sundays, most everything is shut down.
We decided to continue eating the groceries we'd already purchased and added a couple more things from the local Carrefour. It felt good to enjoy our apartment and take numerous pictures on our last night in Amboise. The sun was finally out so we enjoyed out last evening views of the castle. We will never forget this place!
Tomorrow, we are off to Spain!