From Paris, we took the train to Amboise, on the banks of the Loire, whose valley is home to hundreds of chateaux.
|Part of the chateau at Amboise|
This hall had a real, live fire to heat it. At first this seemed strange to us - an open flame in a historical building? But it does make a fair bit of sense - there have been fires in these buildings for hundreds of years, after all.
While in Amboise, we also visited Clos Luce, a large house and walled garden where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years at the invitation of French king Francis I.
On our second day in the Loire Valley, we took a minibus tour to two of the biggest chateaux in the region. Above was our first stop, Chambord, the largest chateau of them all and the first (or one of the first) to be built purely for hunting parties and, well, entertaining, rather than defense.
One of the highlights was this double helix spiral staircase. There are two different sets of stairs which never meet. Tim and I had fun each taking a side and catching glimpses of each other across the central well from the windows set into the staircase.
The fantastical, fairy tale-ish towers and turrets up on the terrace are also wonderful.
|Chenonceau was next. Looks smallish from the front, right?|
The main chateau was given to a French king's wife for her use, but she was then replaced by the king's mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who had the chateau wing built across the river!
Here is the gallery which runs across the river.
And here is the kitchen, one of the best fitted out we've ever seen in a great house.
Then it was back to Paris in order to get on the TGV to Avignon!