France Day 1 Part III: Amboise
The day was fraught with frustration, the nature of which was: at every turn, there is simply too much to do. There are too many choices! And we were crossing the Loire Valley in a lightning streak, especially since we lost our first day (thank you United Airlines and Europcar). By backtracking to Chambord, we had given up many other possibilities, so when we left there, we had a terrible choice to make: Amboise or Chenonceau?
Oh man. I left this one to Jim, who ended up deciding on Amboise, which is both a city and a chateau. Alas, one of the things we lost in our haste was the postcard view of town from across the river. You can see that here.
The town wears the castle like a cap and mantle, and it's one of those serene unreal spots (helps htat is was empty when we were there) that one cannot imagine inhabited. By snooty kings and their guests and retinues. What was it like here back in the day? How did they spend days here, in their lofty little perch?
The town is very pretty, but we had no time to linger, having to reach Tours where we were spending the night.
We hurried through Amboise, didn't even have time for Clos Luce, the mansion just up the road where Leonardo da Vinci lived at the end of his life. “ Here you will be free to dream, to think and to work”, he was welcomed by Francois I, and it was here that he finished painting the Mona Lisa, among other works. It is now a museum to him. Want. To. Go. There. ARG.
But straight onward to Tours we went, which is a largish town and common hub for seeing the Loire. It lacked the castley-cozy atmosphere of Blois or Amboise, but was ... um ... fine. We opted for dinner at a place one of guidebooks raved about, and the food was very attractive and not that great. To be honest, overall, meals on the trip were expensive and mediocre, with some notable exceptions. For the next trip, I mean to learn how to eat better in France. I suppose it must require a bit of skill and knowledge? Unlike Italy, where I have traveled a lot more. In Italy you can roll up hungry just about anywhere and know at least that you'll find excellent pizza or pasta. France seems to require a bit more savvy. Thoughts?
We taught Clementine tic tac toe at the table while we waited for our [overpriced/mediocre] food.
Before dessert arrived, she, little trooper, climbed into my lap and conked out. No wonder. She had such a day, tromping around waving her new foam swords! She is a good sleeper in general, but I do not believe she has ever slept better than on this trip, she was so thoroughly exhausted at the end of every day. We didn't bring a stroller, and she pretty walked or trotted (or danced or fenced or sprinted or hopped) all day long.
Also: she drew all day long. Oh, the kid was a maniac with her sketchbook! We have this wonderful picture book called The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle, in which a young girl walks around turn-of-the-century Paris with her photographer father, and she is always sketching fanciful things. Clementine got it in her head she wanted to be like Danielle, walking around drawing, and she did. And at every cafe and restaurant, she and Jim were bent over their sketchbooks, side by side or together, while I mostly took pictures, read the guidebook, or people-watched. I thought I might draw or write, but I didn't much. I mostly just tried to soak up France and this pure distilled time with my family. That's the best part of traveling: being together all day, no other commitments.
Next up: the "real" Sleeping Beauty castle!