From Dol –de-Bretagne, we drove cross-country to the Loire valley with a small stopover in the medieval town of Vitre which is supposed to rival Dinan as the best-preserved medieval town in Brittany. It hosts a large number of medieval stone cottages, have timbered homes and twisting streets and another magnificent castle with ramparts. The castle is being renovated.
Our first stop in the Loire Valley was in a small village near Brissac, Ambillou-Chateau. Upon recommendation of our host, we visited the Chateau de Brissac and it became one of our favorite chateaux of the trip. As a private chateau it has been owned by the same family since the 1500 and is still lived in today. From Ambillou-Chateau, we visited Saumur which is known for its fairytale chateau and Military Calvary School. The chateau is closed for renovations, but the view from the top on a sunny day is spectacular. After two nights in Ambillou-Chateau, we continued on to L’Île-Bouchard and visited Azay le Rideau and Langeais on the way. Chateau De Langeais is more of a 15th century fortification. The town is non-touristy and the chateau has well furnished rooms and some great audiovisual illustrations to provide some historical perspective.
Azay-le-Rideau is said to be the most feminine of the chateaux, due to the number of women who were responsible for overseeing the building of who ended up living there. It is set on an island with a bridge. The castle has turrets and a moat and everything else to add to the picturesque setting.
The next day we visited Chinon which has more historical appeal as the chateau is mostly in ruins, although the ramparts are still impressive. Chinon is associated with Jon of Arc as this is where she received permission to rally his army to attack the English. From Chinon we slowly made our way to Tours where we visited the city centre and the Cathedrale St-Gatien which had its origins in the 13th century.
From Tours (two nights), we visited Amboise and Chenonceau. Chateau de Chenonceau was one of my favorites. Everyone who lived there added to its beauty from royal mistresses (Diane Poitiers) to queens (Catherine de Medici), by adding formal garden or galleries. In Amboise, we visited Clos-Luce, the home of Leonardo Da Vinci, whose gardens exhibit models of his inventions.
Another day took us to Chateau de Chambord which is the Loire’s largest residence. It is supposed to be the most impressive. It is extravagant in size, but the rooms are mostly unfurnished and I found it unmanageable and unappealing.
We continued on to Blois and stayed in a small village outside of Blois, Chailles. We visited the appealing Chateau de Blois which dates back to the 15th century and is situated in the middle of the town. The rooms are authentically furnished. Catherine de Medici also put her stamp on this chateau.
And so ended the tour of the chateaux with a night in Blois, which is a small appealing walk able city. The last day took us to the magnificent Cathedral of Chartres which had its origins in the 10th century. The stained glass is original from the rebuilt in the 12th century. I found it more interesting than Notre Dame in Paris.