Night Location: Saumur, France
Song of the Day: Beautiful Day - U2
Mumisode of the Day: Sadly, Amber is convinced that France is a sad place and therefore Mum is not as funny. Mum continues to prove this theory wrong. This evening we had our house inspection in order to get the rental bond back. In the time that Gemma had gone to let the landlord in, Mum had convinced Gareth that it would be a good idea to sit next to her with his jacket so as to cover up the chink in the sideboard that Dad had made with his chair. On returning to the room, everything looked natural. There was much talking and laughing and the chink was missed.
Today was a Chateau day. We left early and drove straight to Chambord, the little hunting lodge of Francois I, King of France. If you don't already know about this one, you should check your European/French travel guide. There is a good chance that this will appear on one of them and will definitely feature.
Chambord is a whimsical place. It has been built to look as impressive as it is functional. The key highlight is the double-helical staircase that forms the centre pin of the building. Here it is possible to go up and down the stairs, catching glimpses of people on the other helix but never really meeting. This is the first of 77 staircases. Unfortunately, the majority of them are locked off. Gemma thinks that there should be a special pass that gives you free access to the chateau with a set of keys. That would be a lot more fun.
When we got out of the car this morning, it was only 6 degrees so the fire blazing in the first fireplace inside the keep was a welcome sight. The chateau itself is laid out in the form of a Celtic Cross (4 arms all equal) with a bedroom suite being found in each of the arms, and large spaces looking out to the view complete with massive fireplaces around the staircases. It is likely that a whole forest would need to be demolished every winter to keep the 256 fireplaces going.
Mum and Dad sat in a cafe while the rest of us went exploring. We all got a bit disorientated as to where we were and ended up going in a fairly random order, mostly to try and avoid the swarm of small children who had descended on the chateau for their school excursion. It was like everyone's worst nightmare trying to guide tiny children en masse through 400+ rooms and not lose anyone, to say nothing of preventing them from destroying anything and keeping them entertained. Full marks to those teachers. Amber and Gareth were not overly envious.
Although Chambord took over thirty years to build, sadly Francois I, who started the project at age 24, never saw it completed and he only stayed here for 42 days during his reign.
Climbing to the top of the helical staircase and spilling out onto the roof was fairly exciting. You were able to see close up the various towers, lanterns, turrets and gargoyles that make the roofline so creative. Gareth thinks that this would be a really fun place for 'Capture the Flag'.
We emerged back out into the sunlight after exploring the King's private wing complete with his private gallery to find that the temperature had gone up 10 degrees. Mum and Dad were located in a nearby cafe where we all enjoyed lunch before setting off for another of the big three, Cheverny.
Cheverny is unique in that it is still occupied by people that have inherited it. Unlike so many of the chateaus that we have visited this one feels just that little bit more alive. Once again we walked through beautifully furnished rooms. We have discovered an important fact today. Gemma has been quite concerned that the beds are extremely short. Gareth found out that the reason for this is that during the 16th and 17th centuries, people slept sitting up as the 'lying flat' position was reserved for the dead. Sitting up also helped people avoid swallowing their tongues. Can't have been an overly pleasant night's rest.
A common but rather tenuous link was discovered between the two chateaus: they both claimed to have housed various pieces from the Louvre for safe-keeping during WWII particularly the 'Mona Lisa'. Perhaps the 'Mona Lisa' did the artistic circuit during the war.
The gardens at Cheverny were just gorgeous. We didn't come close to seeing the majority of them as the golf buggies have been put away for the winter at this time of year. Nonetheless, the hound dogs were there in force. The chateau breeds the dogs and there are well over 100. We couldn't miss the kennels for first the loud racket and then the smell. Apparently we had stumbled on one of the exciting tourist events, that of the feeding of the hounds. It was a general free-for-all. Dogs jumping all over each other, snatching a piece of food and then running off as fast as possible to swallow and then returning to hunt some more. The keepers could break up any fights just with their loud verbal commands. It was quite intense. None of us had seen anything like that before.
Gareth has introduced us to the game of 'Ticket to Ride' and so he, Gemma and Amber played on the way home. It is an excellent way to make the car trip go faster. Tonight David is treating us to dinner. As we write, we can smell shepherd's pie.
Everyone has to be up early tomorrow as there is a large transit ahead to Le Puy.