28 June, First stop: Château Azay le Rideau
We started our day with a nice breakfast in the hotel courtyard. Sitting in the courtyard was as pleasant this morning as it was the day before. The co-host was very nice and attentive. He put a lot of effort into the morning meal and we really enjoyed it.
With breakfast finished and our bags packed, it was time to start our day. So off we went to the Château. It was only a few minutes by bike and we were there. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t forget anything in the room, and I returned the key – the host asked for it.) As I mentioned in the last post, we decided to pay the entrance fee in order to get some photos. To our surprise, we found out that the outdoor area stayed open later than the Château itself. I could have made some photographs last night! Oh well, we were going to enjoy touring the interior.
It turned out to be an excellent choice. There were quite a few interesting motion-activated “animatronic” displays in various rooms. Dancing mannequins, spinning cakes, and pop-up pictures made for a lively and unique experience in the chateau. I would have thought Disney designed and built this Château!
Onward to Chenonceau
After an enjoyable tour of the castle, we hopped on our bikes for the ride to our next destination, Chenonceau. Yesterday’s blistering heat was with us again, which made for a less than pleasant, enthusiastic experience. We were, once again, grateful to have our e-bikes; without them, the trip would have sucked!
Once we arrived at the Château I was dying of thirst. Kathrin suggested filling an empty bottle from the bathroom sink, but I wanted to have a cold drink. As luck would have it, the vending machines were being restocked and the woman wasn’t interested in stopping so that was not an option, at least not one I was willing to wait for. So I went to the castle with a parched throat.
Chenonceau has an interesting history. King Francis I confiscated it as compensation on unpaid taxes. Upon his death, King Henry II gave it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, who loved it and began expanding it. Among other things, she had the bridge across the river built.
Upon King Henry II’s death, his wife, Catherine de Medici, forced Diane to trade it for another Château, whereupon she put a lot of effort into expanding the gardens. It seems this was the favorite Château of the royal ladies, and it shows in the interior. The rooms are attractively decorated. There are also quite a few interesting paintings on the walls of past kings.
The most interesting part for me was its wartime history. In World War I the gallery which sits on the bridge was used as a hospital ward. In World War 2 the castle was an escape route for those fleeing Nazi-occupied France on one side of the river Cher to free France on the opposite side. The picture below is of the gallery. I tried to imagine someone fighting their way to get here, finally making it, and staring down this hallway knowing that freedom was at the other end.
La Haute Traversière
Our planned itinerary was to spend the night at a hotel called La Maison de Famille. however, two days before we arrived I received an email from the hostess. She had a family emergency and needed to fly to her husband, who was in Houston. She said she had made arrangements for us with a friend who also runs a hotel.
Biking there proved to be a challenge for Kathrin, or more specifically, her bike. It ran out of battery power a kilometer before we reached the hotel. Today’s ride was hillier than yesterday, but it didn’t seem bad enough to drain her battery. What was noticeable was the complete lack of scenery. This leg was just empty kilometers of roads through empty fields and occasionally a farm. In any case, she had a challenging ride the last kilometer on this long, hot ride.
When we arrived at La Haute Traversière the hostess and host, Isabelle and Janick Chambon, came out to greet us. They were both super friendly, and I felt like we were visiting family. Isabelle then showed us to our room. She gave us the only air-conditioned room in the hotel, and let me tell you we appreciated it after the long, hot ride.
Isabelle gave a recommendation for dinner that was just a 10-minute bike ride from the hotel. After Kathrin’s battery had recharged enough, we rode to the restaurant. I wanted to take my camera along so I will be ready to go back to Château Chenonceau to get some evening photos. Once we arrived at the restaurant, I immediately noticed that I didn’t have my camera. Ugh! so back on my bike to go back to the hotel and get it. 20 minutes later I’m back at the restaurant where Kathrin had a beer waiting for me. This restaurant specialized in hamburgers. Do you know what’s special about a hamburger and beer in France? Nothing, really. It was good once it came (they were very busy.) After a relaxing dinner, Kathrin went back to the hotel while I went to Chenonceau for the photos.
Sunset at the river
I had scouted a photo location during our tour of the castle so I knew where to go. Fortunately, the route was easily accessible and I found a suitable location for my photos. It was just a matter of waiting for the sun to set. While waiting for the golden hour I hunted for and found, a geocache. After about a 45-minute wait golden hour arrived and I started shooting.
Satisfied that I had captured the best the evening had to offer I packed up and rode back to the hotel, where Kathrin was already fast asleep. As I laid my head down on the pillow I had no idea what surprises were in store for me in the morning…
You can see more of my pictures from this trip on my Flickr page.