16 PICTURE ALBUM
Wednesday, July 16
We spent the day exploring the Loire Valley and its many castles.
Although we only toured two of the chateaus, we saw several others during
our drive though the valley. There were small towns every 5-10 miles and between
each town were fields of corn, vineyards and sunflowers. I expected the valley
to be hilly but actually the terrain was relatively flat and reminded us in
some ways of the Midwest at home. The roads were narrow with the businesses
and homes coming right up to the road-we actually worried about what would
happen if someone opened their front door as we were squeezing by. We stopped
at one "cave" (French for "cellar") for tasting wine in
Montlouis-Sur-Loire. The kids were interested to learn about the process for
the aging of the wine, and have enjoyed tasting the local Amboise
wine during our dinners here. One of the fun things we learned about the gargoyles
(that we see on all the castles and churches) is that they not only were designed
to scare away evil spirits but also had a utilitarian function-water drained
from the terraces, into the gargoyles and out their mouths-literally spitting
water down on the streets (and people) below. ~Paula
Today we went to an enormous castle called the Amboise Chateau (it is visible
from our hotel). It was built in the 15th and 16th centuries and occupied
by numerous kings and queens of France. The outside of the castle was amazing
with flags lining the towers and frightening gargoyles on the walls. When
we got to the top I felt like I was a real knight back in medieval times!
The feeling of looking down on the people crowding the streets below, seeing
the evil gargoyles around us, and staring down the River Cher was incredible!
On top of the castle we also went into a chapel that held Leonardo da Vinci's
tomb. We then went inside to view the many different rooms and furnishings
that held rich history from medieval France. Each part of the castle entrance,
rooms and furniture were designs from a certain period of time. We saw many
examples of Gothic and Renaissance styles. As we walked through the rooms
we noticed how architectural styles changed across various periods of time.
David: After visiting Amboise Castle and having lunch, we drove to a castle
in Chenonceaux called the Chateau de Chenonceau. This was a spectacular castle.
Not only was it huge, but it acted as a bridge and a royal palace. It is built
over the River Cher, and was completed during the 16th century. As you walk
to the drawbridge and the entrance of the castle,
two large island gardens lie to the east and west. The eastern garden was
planted by Diane de Piotiers, mistress of King Henry II. After Henry's death,
his widow, Catherine de Medici, laid out the western garden. This castle seemed
to be out in the middle of nowhere. To get there we traveled on small and
meandering one-way streets, through vineyards, sunflower fields and open meadows.
The fortress was surrounded by many deep moats and forests. It seemed impossible
for anyone to capture this castle, considering you had to travel by foot and
by horse in the 16th Century. The castle was everything a fairy-tale castle
could be, with gargoyles, large gothic style towers, and beautiful gardens.
The inside of the castle had many large rooms fit for kings and queens. The
outside appearance of the castle was far better than the inside. My two favorite
things about this castle were how it was built on a river, and a maze on the
grounds. Near the end of our visit, we raced in and out of the maze, and hid
from one another. This was my favorite castle so far, and I hope to visit
more like it in the future! ~David
MORE TO COME ON OUR VISIT TO LEONARDO'S HOME IN AMBOISE....
Distance Walked: 4.73 miles