Monday, January 20, 2014

Day Trippin'

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: Thursday, May 2, 2013

We were up early again to catch another train. This time, our day trip would take us past Blois to Amboise, where we would visit Château du Clos Lucé. Leonardo da Vinci resided at Clos Lucé during the last few years of his remarkable life. Darcy had visited before and knew this would be something that both Craig and I would enjoy. The weather was cool and overcast as we arrived, but we had hopes of sunny weather later in the day.

The village of Amboise is absolutely beautiful. We admired the lovely architecture as we ambled along in search of a patisserie for a belated breakfast. We soon found a charming little shop near the river that offered lots of pastries and many different kinds of baguettes and rustic breads. Some of the loaves had been baked with a large hole on one end, and they were hanging from wooden pegs at the counter. I wish I had thought to take a picture. 

After our delightful breakfast, we set off across the bridge spanning the Loire, heading toward Clos Lucé. The view of Château Royal d'Amboise was wonderful, even in the grey light of morning. It looked like a mighty stronghold, towering above the village and the river. We had decided to forgo a visit to the castle in order to spend more time at the residence of Leonardo da Vinci. As we walked the cobblestone streets of the town, we passed many charming shops and enticing restaurants. It was a pleasant stroll along pathways lined with trees and flowers in bloom.

Amboise Castle in on a grey morning in May.

It wasn't long before we reached Clos Lucé. The line for entry was not a long one, and soon we were touring the buildings in awe of the man who had dwelt there, and at the beauty of the grounds. The house itself was well furnished and seemed almost homey. The areas in which da Vinci's fascinating inventions are displayed were well-lit and provided information in several languages. It literally gave me goosebumps to see the incredible works this man had created. He invented and/or perfected many of the items we still use today. 

Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci.

Yes, even the lowly pipe wrench was created by da Vinci.

The expansive grounds are beautifully landscaped and feature many interactive displays with life-sized inventions that are actually operational. The tank, pumps, cannon, flying machine, and everything else was fascinating. There is a lovely stream flowing quietly through the property and there are many groves of moss-covered trees lending shade to scene. The sun had finally made an appearance as we wandered toward the dovecote. The stone structure was a large one which had housed over a thousand doves in their nesting cubbies. A large half-timbered building nearby was once the priory, but had been turned into a restaurant where the staff all wear medieval costume. 

Darcy and I give the flying machine a whirl.

The Priory, which is now a restaurant at Clos Lucé.

We wandered the grounds and toured the buildings for hours. This is a place I could definitely return to. It is simply fascinating. We made our way down to town by a different route, which afforded us some wonderful views of the ancient village below. By the time we had descended, we were more than ready for lunch. We found a table outside at one of the restaurants which faces Amboise Castle and were treated to a stunning view as we dined. We all chose the plat du jour, which happened to be lasagna.  But first, we began with a starter. I selected a salad of shredded carrot topped with a delicious orange vinaigrette. Craig and Darcy asked for the pate, which was served with tiny dill pickles and crusty bread. Our lasagna arrived shortly, and it was fabulous!  

Amboise Castle, a lovely view to accompany lunch.

After that delicious lunch, we wandered the streets for a while, poking around in the shops and finding some nice souvenirs before heading back toward the train station. Once there, we discovered that we had just over an hour to wait before the next train. We walked across the street to a bakery where we indulged in pastries and coffee. Back at the station, we spoke briefly with a very nice couple from Canada who have one daughter living in Lyon, France and another residing in Miami, Florida! And we thought our kids were scattered! 

The weather had turned out to be beautifully sunny and warm. We decided to go for ice cream after returning to Orléans, at one of Darcy's favorite places. I could not believe the variety! Beer ice cream, fois gras ice cream - you name it, they probably made it! I chose something a bit tame - a scoop of lemon and one of dark chocolate. Both flavors were decadent! Craig felt like going back to the apartment for a rest, so Darcy and I continued on together, talking about our day as we explored some more shops. I found a couple of lovely scarves and other small items. 

That evening, instead of a meal at a restaurant, we chose to go to a bar that is frequented by Darcy and Mathieu. We ordered a "planche" to go along with our drinks.  A large plank of wood soon arrived at our table, with our "snack" laid out upon it. The food was beautifully arranged and consisted of no less than five different cheeses, ham, dry sausage, blood sausage, apple and orange slices, raisins, pickled onions, dill pickles, pate, and a basket of toast on the side! Wow! It was quite enough for the four of us, though we barely touched the blood sausage. We had such fun, sitting outside in the warm evening air, talking and laughing as we enjoyed our snack. To go with it, Darcy had suggested that I try the Kriek, a cherry beer. It had just the right amount of sweetness and really hit the spot. It's things like this - just a fun, casual meal with our loved ones - that I remember the most.

A planche, which we enjoyed at a bar in Orléans.

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