Our last day in the Loire Valley was another one filled with gorgeous architecture, excellent food and simply oodles of joy. The one regret? Not having more time to spend in Amboise itself – we haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s on offer for food and shopping and general ambience. This is one truly delightful town!
Lengthy goodbyes were exchanged with our lovely hosts, Tim and Carolyn Knowlman (and the cats!), at Les Fleurons B&B. Recommendations were swapped on future travel adventures, and we gained some restaurant tips for our next jaunt to Melbourne.
We drove West beyond Tours to visit the château with the reputation of having the most magnificent gardens in the valley – Château de Villandry. And, yes, this standing is utterly deserved – they were truly spectacular! While the original building and gardens were built in the Renaissance, it was Joachim Carvallo (a doctor) who bought the château in 1906 who we can thank for faithfully restoring the gardens to their original splendour. Carvallo left a promising field in science (working with a Nobel prize winner) when his passion for the restoration of Villandry overrode his other pursuits. And, as a humble tourist and Francophile, I thank him.
Not that the finely manicured gardens are the only attraction at the Renaissance château – the interiors are up to the usual high standard of the castles of the region, with a few unique highlights, such as the ornate ceilings, gilt table settings and marble mantlepieces, as well as the now anticipated bulging vases of flora.
We paused in our tour of all this gorgeousness for a ‘pass out’ of the château to pop into the restaurant next door – we were in dire need of provisions to keep up our cracking sightseeing pace! ‘La Doulce Terrasse’ (affiliated with Villandry) was exactly what we were looking for: we began with a tomato gazpacho with cheese “ice cream” (frozen cheesy, marscapone type yumminess), followed by a quinoa-stuffed fat courgette, with green leaves and an asparagus cream sauce. Finally! – tasty, inventive vegetables minus a big serve of eggs and cheese in France (I’m not including the little scoop of frozen marscapone in my judgement!).
Sated and refuelled, we launched ourselves back into Villandry; our penchant for early lunches making us grateful on two counts – a table and prompt service at what was soon to be a crowded restaurant, and the subsequent relative desertion at Villandry while the other tourists went to lunch! Good job!
Even before our food break, plans of attempting a second tourist spot before our TGV trip back to Paris was abandoned, and instead we basked in the outdoor delights that Villandry had to offer: wandering through the shaded wood, which provided pleasant relief from the afternoon sun; indulging in some rest time by the geometric pond under one of the hundreds of plane trees standing sentry throughout the gardens; and finally stretching our legs again, strolling through the fascinating authentic Renaissance ‘potager’ (kitchen garden), of a much larger scale than any horticulturist’s imaginings!
But the constraints of a train timetable dictated we draw our Villandry visit to an end, so we returned to Tours, dropped off our hire car at the train station, and boarded the TGV to Paris. The next leg of the journey begins…
We stayed at Les Fleurons B&B in Amboise