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The Loire Valley

Tavant is a tiny ancient town near Chinon in the Loire region of France. We spent a week at an 18th century ruin that was renovated 4 years ago. It was clean and charming and a convenient drive to all the major chateaus the Loire is famous for.

I’ve been told the French are very private people. This is one reason so many continue to live with large stone walls or hedges surrounding their properties. Here are some pics of our Homeaway rental

Our first morning we woke to a huge flea market! It’s held once a year and is called a brocante. It’s like a big neighborhood garage sale and a market with vendors who came from all over France to sell things….. used clothing, old ceramics, knives, sewing machines…. anything they want to get rid of or resell or sell.

Dave loved the food! He enjoyed a grilled duck breast sandwich with lots of butter on a baguette

The church in Tavant is called St Nickolas and is famous for frescoes from the 11th century that are in beautiful condition. We had a special tour from an art historian. More extensive frescoes are in the crypt, but could not be photographed.

The Loire is a river that runs east to west and divides France into north and south. This flat bottom style boat is the traditional Loire River boat.

In the 16th century the rich royalty built over 1000 chateaus/castles over the ruins of medieval castles and fortresses. We visited a few: Villandry, Azay-de-Rideau, Chateau Royal d’Amboise, Chateau du Clos-Lucé, Ussé, Fortresse Royale de Chinon, Chaumont-sur-Loire and Chenonceaux

Monday we visited 2 chateaus. Villandry and Azay-de-Rideau. These chateaus have beautiful gardens, but it was April 2 and the spring was cold and rainy. So not much was blooming, but there were no crowds and the basic gardens were there to enjoy!

Villandry is family owned! The gardens are massive and multi leveled. A gorgeous place to see!

Azay-de-Rideau is a fairy castle with a beautiful reflecting pool. It’s owned by France. The gardens are much less extensive and more of a relaxed English garden style. This is the back of the castle with the classic view and pond.

Tuesday we drove to the city of Amboise where we saw 2 chateaus that were a smaller size. The owner of them at the time enjoyed Leonardo di Vinci and invited him to live there with his students his last 3 years of life.

Royal Chateau of Amboise

Leonardo di Vinci is buried in this chapel

Clos Luce is where Leonardo di Vinci lived his last 3 years of life

Leonardo di Vinci worked on the Mona Lisa here

We shared a lunch of an omelette and a quiche at the Clos Lucé cafe.

Wednesday we visited Ussé, the chateau Disney’s Magic Kingdom castle is based on. It also inspired the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

We then went to Saumur and walked about the pretty town and had lunch. A delicious mixture of mushroom and strips of meat were encrusted in puff pastry and served in a sauce. Dessert was a chocolate and cookie crust pretty presentation.

The Church in Saumur

Thursday we visited the city of Chinon which has a fortress.

Beautiful view from the fortress

Chinon life

We had a beautiful lunch at l’Oceanic, probably the best meal of our entire trip. And it was only 18 euros each including a delicious glass of wine!

My 1st course or entree was hake fish with whole grain mustard spread on top and baked in the oven. It was served with small amounts of a variety of vegetables. Chinese cabbage bed, seasoned lightly, spread of puréed pumpkin with cumin, 1 asparagus spear, 3 flavorful mushrooms, a spoonful of rich creamed fennel/fenueek, and a crisp wafer of black squid ink on top. Beautiful presentation and so innovative!

Dave had puréed mullet served with the same vegetables and a spicy sauce. His dried wafer was tasty

My dessert was so fun! It was a snowball size of beaten egg white and sugar and maybe a tiny bit of flour, baked quickly and covered with toasted coconut. Served with mascarpone ice cream, a smear of berry glaze, crushed cookie meringues, and 2 candied cherries.

Dave’s dessert was a tube of phyllo baked with apples served with raspberry sorbet, crushed meringue cookies and beery purée.

Friday we visited 2 chateaus near the city of Amboise: Chaumont and Chenonceaux

Chaumont-sur-Loire, located on the Loire River, has beautiful English style gardens and garden exhibitions later in the spring. This was my favorite castle because the rooms that were not renovated were used for modern art exhibits. It was also filled with natural light. It’s said that Leonardo di Vinci helped design this castle.

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Chenonceaux was beautiful and had many more tourists. Part of the castle was built over the Cher River. It’s renovation and furnishings are elegant including flower arrangements in each room.

France has a long history of fine food and elaborate entertaining. Here are some fancy cakes on display at Azay-le-Rideau. Enjoy!