Monday, August 3, 2015

Fascinating The Loire Valley

Up again at 6am just a day after returning from my Grecian cruise. Crazy friend was awesome enough to book us train tickets and a one night stay in the Loire Valley. This was mostly due to the fact that she has been to Paris several times already and never had quite the romantic relationship with the city that I have. When we came here together on spring break during our study abroad in London, we were mistaken for prostitutes and her visit last year began with a nice round of pickpocketing en route to my apartment. While I think I have achieved at least shaking the hostility between them, I fear she and Paris will never have much more than a fair weather friendship.

So off to the Loire Valley we went! An area south of Paris known for myriad châteaux and vineyards. I can't pretend I wasn't ridiculously exhausted, but the beauty of trains is that I can fall asleep much more easily than planes and only once in a blue moon have nightmarish fantasies about spontaneous disaster. Our destination was Tours, one of the largest cities in the valley and less than two hours away. It was an easy stroll over to the hotel, and while we arrived very early in the morning, the concierge slash probable owner was more than happy to accommodate our bags while we frolicked off to explore. He also gave us fantastic advice on a town not very far away where we could find a lovely castle and various caves (caves meaning wine cellars, not the home of bears), the two main reasons we wanted to navigate through this region in the first place. The name of the village is Chenonceau and it is home to a stunning chatêau. Our original plan was to rent bikes and pedal through the town, perhaps rolling off in an unforeseen adventure. We did not know, however, that the castle grounds are literally about 10 feet from the train stop, making a bicycle entirely unnecessary.

The hotel guy had specifically said it was a ladies castle and I frankly didn't know quite what that meant until we arrived. In essence, it basically fulfilled my fairy tale imagination, fully equipped with spiraling towers, a crystalline lake, and endless gardens galore. We took our time walking around the grounds, through the interior, and of course taking endless snapshots of the clear, sunny day. Once we had had our fill of the princess life (though can one ever really have their fill?), we sallied forth to a family owned vineyard a mere 20 minute walk from the magical kingdom. It actually makes for the perfect day trip for those who can't take an extended car or a bike excursion through the valley. This particular spot is called Caves du Pere Auguste and is a beautiful little place. We were invited in for a short tour of the caves and of course the requisite wine tasting. Because I am entirely incapable of not trying to be the center of attention when cute boys are afoot, I of course started flirting with the young Frenchman giving us the information. I frankly also wanted to taste ALL of the wines, not just one or two. There is no charge for any of it, but of course they hope and perhaps expect you to buy some wine as a result. My friend and I walked away with three bottles: one for the evening, another for her last night in Paris, and a third that I oh so begrudgingly (as if!) had to keep since she couldn't take it on the plane with her.

At long last, we made our way back to Tours and the hotel. So as not to fall asleep after such a busy day, we decided to shower and primp before heading out onto the town, which left us very little time to really see the city. However, we did manage to pop into a few shops before we went to Chenonceau in the morning, resulting in two very dashing fascinators to wear atop our heads. Now, Tours is not a massive metropolis and even in Paris, Monday nights are not always hopping. So the fact that we didn't even get out of the room to see the cathedral and find some dinner until after 8pm made it inevitable that our queenly facades would stand out like a rockstar on the streets. Pretty much every French person seated at sidewalk cafes either stared, clapped, or made loud comments about the queen of England. No joke, we were the talk of the town, though I am not sure if they truly classified us as regal or more in tune with the jesters at court. I, however, thought we were very fetching indeed and even if we weren't both trained performers, I relish in any and all opportunity to don costumes and props. We ended the evening with some traditional French fare, a lovely glass of wine, and a real satisfaction in our day of princesses, castles, queens and wine.

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