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Tours, Amboise, Blois, Chateaux/Castles 30-Sep to 1-Oct

FRANCE | Friday, 8 October 2010 | Views [1039]

After Paris we headed southwest towards the region of the Loire Valley, about 1.5hrs by TGV (fast) train (…this is the 1st of many train trips using my 2-month Eurail pass) and based ourselves in the city of Tours. The city was the launching pad for some of our chateaux/castle tours but I was pleasantly surprised about the city itself.

The ‘Old City’ of Tours snugly fits in with the modern city….with its narrow cobbled streets and old ‘patched-up’ buildings. As I was just getting comfortable with the small laneways, I stumbled upon the grand cathedral of Saint Gatien. I’m sure it will be the first of many grand churches, it was so unusual because this impressive 13th century gothic cathedral dwarfed the surrounding low rise renaissance buildings. Funnily enough, had I not turned into this narrow alleyway, I would have missed it. It was a lovely surprise!

We also managed to visit the lovely town of Amboise and passed the town of Blois, both are great examples of 16th century renaissance villages with their own fortified chateaux in the background. (Uncle Leonard da Vinci lived his last 3 years in Amboise). We visited ‘only’ 2 castles, Chateaux Chambord (the grandest, used as a ‘hunting lodge’ by the king Francois 1) and Chenonceau (typical castle with its moats, towers, turrets & beautiful gardens). Both are grand and full of history…I can’t imagine the upkeep of these castles back in those days (even in today’s terms) and the luxury with which the aristocrats are accustomed to live (…no wonder the French people revolted and got rid of them). By the end of the day, I’ve seen enough of castles to last me a lifetime, nonetheless it was great to experience and to imagine an aristocratic life in the 15th –16th century.

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