Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 48: Saint Suliac, France
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Day 44: Menton, France
Day 45: Menton, France
Day 46: Menton, France
Day 47: Vierzon, France
Day 48: Saint Suliac, France
Day 49: Saint Suliac, France



La Goelette Bed and Breakfast


Mostly sunny with a high of 22°C


Common Sites

Throughout the day, we saw several things over and over again in the Loire Valley:

•  huge fields of wildflowers

•  bare trees with clumps of green on them

•  giant, feathery "wheat sheaves"

•  fields of very large cornstalks

•   solitary hunters and their dogs walking through fields - sometimes with a young boy

•  crowds of mushroom hunters - especially around Chateau Chambord

Day 48: 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 22°.  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 the River Cher like a bridge. We paid 9€ to tour the grounds and the

Incredible Château Chenonceau

chateau.  Inside 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.

Chenonceau map

For more on Chateau Chenonceau, see http://www.chenonceau.com/media/gb/index_gb.php.

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.

Kathryn standing on the lawn in front of Château de Chambord

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.

Château de Cheverny

As we approached 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.

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

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 instructions
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.

During the 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.

Day 49

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