Waking to our coldest day yet, foggy and raining and barely 6 degrees, we walked to the town centre (adding a few skips to get the blood pumping) and arrived at our pick up spot for the days tour we had booked to another three of the Loire Valley's most beautiful châteaus.
A driver promptly found us, and advised us that the group would only comprise of the three of us today, and that he would escort us to our first château, Château Blois. On the way we discovered our private chauffeur for the day was Monsieur Simmon, a local Frenchman who spoke English, Spanish and French and the first Frenchman to admit that it was bloody cold.
Blois was an interesting architectural building, with the first part being built in the Gothic era, the next king to the throne then built some extensions in the Renaissance period and finally a third extension was added by the next king, in Roman classic style. An interesting piece of history rolled in to one building.
Our next stop was to a modern winery, in the Cheverny region of the Loire Valley. An interesting set up, where you are given a wine glass with a micro-chip in the bottom of the stem, its programmed to let you have a certain number of tastings to which you place under a nozzle that corresponds to a wine you are interested in tasting. The sensor then acknowledges the chip, and automatically pours you the wine out of a little spout. You then trace the walls, finding your next spout, place your glass under it, and the automatic pouring begins again... and again...and again.
After numerous tastings of some really good (and bad) wines, we were taken to a local restaurant for the days lunch. Simmon had organised a surprise serving of white asparagus with a vinaigrette dressing due to a conversation we had on the way into the Loire Valley. Following the asparagus we were each served a plate with 5 different unpasteurised goats cheese, a simple dressed green salad and a delicious serve of red wine poached egg with bacon and mushrooms, rinsed down with a bottle of white wine from our winery visit and some baguette. Just when we felt like we would have to undo our buttons, an amazing traditional apple tartan with fresh cream was served. To Die For.
We waddled out of the restaurant and headed off to see the Castle Cheverny. A private residence which is open to the public. The estate has been in the same family for more than 6 centuries, and once hid portraits such as the Mona Lisa from the Germans when they invaded the country.
We then moved on to the most impressive, and not to mention biggest castle of them all, a part of the French national heritage and a site still used by the French President for hunting and parties, Chambord Castle. The castle has 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms! A place originally built by the king as a hunting site, was only visited for 72days in the kings lifetime, part of the reason being that it was just too cold inside the château, a point well proven today!
An exhausting walk up Chambords 4 flights of spiral stairs, saw us well and truly ready to hit the sack at the end of a long day! A pleasant return drive with Simmon through the Loire countryside amongst apple trees, strawberry farms and canola fields was a relaxing way to end the day.
Ros, Kate and Kim xxx