Chaumont & Chambord

Amboise, early morning

Amboise, early morning

A blissful night’s sleep was had at our B&B base in Amboise – Les Fleurons. It’s just a little too easy to adjust to the luxury of a ‘sleep-in’ while on holidays! Shame it’s not such a ‘cinch’ when going back the other way! We walked to the Amboise Friday morning markets, gathering provisions for a pre-empted evening in our riverside villa, rather than another meal ‘out and about’. Knowing ourselves, and the full day planned, we knew we would be exhausted after our jaunt around the region visiting more châteaux. We sourced some amazing brie (the taste-test pre-breakfast was out of this world!), buffalo mozzarella (not as easy to come by in Australia), tomatoes and avocados, and stored it all in the kitchen until supper. We still managed to indulge in a round table chat over breakfast with the other guests before embarking for the day (another social perk of staying in a B&B).

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First stop of the morning was Château de Chaumont, perched up high over the river Loire, the perfect vantage point for one of the most impressive terraces I’ve ever seen! This château, only 18km from Amboise, was once a traditional castle with four walls, cornered by towers surrounding a central keep, but in 1739 one of the walls was demolished to improve the views – good choice, actually. The terrace the refurbishment created would be the envy of any monarch…or mogul.

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Catherine de Medici ‘acquired’ the château in the mid 1500s, and entertained many visitors there, including Nostradamus, but she seized the opportunity to ‘trade up’ when she forced Diane de Poitiers to swap it for Chenonceau. Two birds with one stone really – de Medici got the better castle, and in doing so ‘rogered’ her dead husband’s mistress! We had the pleasure of a guide all to ourselves throughout our visit to Chaumont, a very charming young man with outstanding English and a vast knowledge of the château. An absolute pleasure!

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Even the stables at Chaumont were stylish and perfectly formed. It was quite surreal to see the current art installations peeking at us from where horses would’ve once turned their noble heads to inspect the intruders.

We had lunch at a rather posh restaurant in the grounds of Chaumont – we needed sustenance before heading out to the next château, and a cheese baguette just wasn’t going to cut it.…and Le Comptoir Mediterraneen did not disappoint! The only baguette in sight was the one tempting us from the bread basket before our sumptuous array of dishes arrived – trout all dolled up with berry coulis, and ash covered goats cheese with paper thin strips of biscuit!

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We drove just over 100kms after lunch for a late afternoon arrival at Château de Chambord. Walking from the carpark, we had a delightful, serendipitious moment of running into the Canadian family we met on our balloon ride – they were leaving the château after a full day of exploration…tired, but happy. A few more minutes into our walk towards our goal, and we could see the reason for the combination of exhaustion and awe on the faces of our new acquaintances. This is the largest and most iconic of all the Loire châteaux, it certainly left us feeling a tad lightheaded – and we hadn’t even entered the place!

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This ‘hunting lodge’ (seriously, King François I had it built as a hunting lodge….AND he only stayed here 42 DAYS in total!!), has over 440 rooms and 85 staircases. There is a magnificent double helix staircase, glorious in its central position in the keep, said to be designed by Da Vinci – it’s certainly a precise replica of his sketches in the museum (maybe he was simply the victim of a plagiarist…or intellectual property thief!). Hunting lodge or palace, the immensity, the substance, the massiveness of this created world settled with us, lingering…then and now.

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Our unplanned and unguided amblings took us throughout the château and around the gardens, eventually depositing us by the river, with me lying in the grass just staring at the abundant opulence before me, while John scampered about taking photos. Not at all a shabby way to spend an afternoon in France! Any unexpended energy was spent consuming dinner and wine in our private garden, with no company but each other…and the cats!

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We stayed at Les Fleurons B&B in Amboise

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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