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. ~Katie

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



Distance Walked: 4.73 miles




















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