Sunday, October 22 Saint Suliac, France
Chasing through Chateau Country;
Lost in Rennes
This day without a doubt was the busiest day of our entire
holiday. We got up early and had a huge, tasty complementary
breakfast in our hotel. The day started out cool but warmed to
We drove west on smaller country roads along the River Cher in
the direction of Tours and arrived at the magnificent Chateau Chenonceau, le Chateau des Dames.
Achingly beautiful, the Château de Chenonceau has long been
considered the "most romantic" of all the Loire châteaux, thanks in
part to its showpiece -- a breathtaking 'galerie de bal' that spans
River Cher like a bridge. We paid
9€ to tour the
grounds and the
the château are splendid ceilings, colossal fireplaces,
scattered furnishings, and paintings by Rubens, Murillo, and Correggio. The curatorial staff have
delightfully dispensed with velvet ropes and adorned some of the
rooms with bouquets designed in 17th-century style. The estate
features two gardens, one by Catherine de Medici, the wife of
Henry II and other by Diane de Poitiers, his mistress.
on Chateau Chenonceau, see
We then drove to the Renaissance town of Amboise,
which is on the Loire river in the center of Touraine-Amboise
vineyards. We had a look at the Chateau d'Amboise and then
found the tourist information office. We purchased a phone
card and Kathryn booked a bed and breakfast in St. Suliac that
sounded good in the information booklet we had picked up in Vierzon
the previous night. She had already booked a room at the Best
Western hotel in Ducey for Monday night, so she had to phone them
and cancel. She could only get recorded messages en Francais,
so she eventually phoned back to the B and B and asked the owner
Peter to call Best Western and cancel for us. We then followed
the Loire in a northeasterly direction toward Chambord.
Loire's largest châteaux, the Château de Chambord is often
referred to as the Versailles of the 16th century. It's such a vast
marble pile that it seems more a city than a palace. Variously
dubbed "megalomaniacal" and "an enormous film-set extravaganza,"
this is one of the most extraordinary structures in Europe, set in
the middle of a royal game forest, with just a cluster of buildings
-- barely a village -- across the road. As you travel the gigantic
highways that converge on the building, you first spot Chambord's
incredible towers -- 19th-century novelist Henry James said they
were "more like the spires of a city than the salient points of
a single building" -- rising above the forest.
standing on the lawn in front of Château
When the entire chateau
breaks into view, it is an unforgettable sight. With 440 rooms
and 365 chimneys, a wall 32 km long to
enclose a 13,000-acre forest, this is one of the greatest buildings
in France. Under Francois I, building began in 1519, a job that took
12 years and required 1,800 workers. The most famous architects of the beginning of the
16th century took part in its construction. Leonardo da Vinci
himself took part in the design of some of the castle's decorations.
We had lunch at an outdoor cafe
across the road from the chateau. We still had lots to do
on this day so we decided not to join the crowds doing the tour
of the inside. We then headed south to see the Château
de Cheverny but it
had closed early, so we only got
the photo at left taken through the trees. We then headed
back west toward Tours and Azay-le-Rideau.
Azay-le-Rideau, Kathryn saw signs that said "Boar Chaussée"
(Boar Roadway). Just as she
said it would be cool if we saw a boar, we abruptly came across
several vehicles stopped on the road with flashing lights.
Three beagles were attacking a boar in the middle of the road.
The car in front of us screeched to a halt, two guys jumped out
and grabbed the boars legs and through it into the ditch.
Wild boar hunting is a big sport in the Loire valley.
Everything happened so fast we did not get a picture.
We soon arrived at
the Renaissance jewel of Azay-le-Rideau. Surrounded by a sylvan dell on
the banks of the River Indre, this pleasant town is famed for its
white-walled Renaissance pleasure palace. The 16th-century Château
d'Azay-le-Rideau was created as a literal fairy-tale castle, built
from 1518 to 1527 and one of the earliest French Renaissance
châteaux. Built on an island in the Indre River, its foundations
rise straight out of the water. Unfortunately we arrived a
few minutes after the 5:30 pm closing and I was only able to
take this photo of the exterior walls.
We took the back
roads for awhile and then got on the motorway at Angers.
It was now 6:00 pm and we had 350 km yet to go. It was
soon dark and we took the Rennes exit by mistake at a
roundabout which took us off the freeway. Shades of Pisa,
Italy we drove all over northwestern France in the dark before
finally arriving at the Rennes ring road. We took the
St. Malo exit which is what we wanted but suddenly there was
a sign that said Angers. Ken panicked, thinking we were
heading back to were we started and grabbed the next exit.
This took us into an industrial area of Rennes. Rennes is
the capital of Brittany and is a very large city with a
metropolitan population of 500,000. We spent the next 30
minutes driving in circles all over the city trying to find our
way out - it was dark and hard to see, a Sunday night and no one
around, and, of course, all the signs were in French, and Ken
was close to a nervous breakdown. We finally stumbled on a
sign for St. Malo and were on our way. Following the
provided by the B and B owner over
the phone that
Kathryn had written down, we took
the exit for Châteneuf
We were to go through this small town and then a short distance
through the countryside to
Saint Suliac - a chocolate box village
on a hill that slopes down to the River Rance. Of course,
we got lost and had to go back to Châteneuf.
We found Le Pub and Kathryn got better directions and we
eventually found our B and B at 10:15 pm. I think our
landlord was relieved that we finally showed up. Peter
(you can see him peeking out the door in the photo in the left
margin) helped carry our luggage up to the second floor and we
crawled into bed for a much needed rest.
remainder of our time in France, we were to see road signs for
Rennes quite often. Whenever this happened, Ken's left eye
developed a serious nervous tic.
Click here for a slide
show of Day 48 photos.