Apologies for the delay. This post is from Sunday 15 June…
The first night in my tent was great. One advantage of planning this trip for so long has been to accumulate some really good gear and test it out. I really look forward to camping because I am genuinely comfortable, whereas hotels can be a bit hit and miss. I still woke early, as I do always when I’m camping but felt well rested. However, my gas canister was confiscated at the Eurostar check-in and I haven’t been able to find a replacement yet so I am without cooking (especially coffee) when camping so I jumped on the bike and rolled back down the river into town for breakfast. I rode all over the town, but being early on a Sunday, not much was open, so I settled for the brasserie I had passed on the river. After the usual croissant, cafe and orange juice, I climbed the hill again to the Chateau of Blois.
I had learned most of the history of the Chateau of Blois at the sound and light show the night before, but we were only permitted access to the court yard. Now I could explore inside too. The contrasting styles of the four stages of construction were really evident throughout. The one thing that really struck me (almost literally) was the low doorways. I suppose most people were a lot shorter back in the 15th century. A highlight of the display were samples of stone that had been removed for repair, including some really creepy gargoyles in human forms. Also some beautifully ornate fireplaces and a brilliant atrium for the grand entrance to the newest section of the Chateau.
After the Chateau, I packed up camp, said goodbye to Blois, and headed inland to Chambord. The Chateau at Chambord is amazing. It borrows a lot from the Italian style, but is also uniquely French. It is not known exactly who worked on it, Da Vinci is even humoured to have played a part too. The centrepiece is known as the keep, due to it’s style of four towers. Inside there is a central double spiral staircase by which you access the four levels of the building. These staircases, used by the King for parading, were usually positioned outside so people could view from the courtyard, but instead this one is inside and instead there is a great hall for people to gather. Francois I has left his character all over the building with repeated styles of salamanders inlaid in the stone work. I was really just blown away by the style and scale of the whole thing. There was also a massive dog show going on (what the…?)
From Chambord I pedalled through the forest and along quiet country roads to Cheverny. Cheverny is a much smaller Chateau, less grand in its architecture but it is immaculately furnished. Amazing tapestries adorn the walls, beautiful pieces of antique furniture, amour and weapons. It also illustrates how the fashions have change over the centuries. As a bonus, there was a Tintin exhibition at Cheverny too. It seems Hergé was inspired by Cheverny in the creation of Marlinspike Hall. The exhibition was great fun as you followed the footprints of Snowy through different Tintin adventures and interactive displays. There were even items of original sketches. Very cool.
From Cheverny I still a way to go to get to Amboise, the place I had planned to camp that night, and it was already about 6PM. My GPS battery had died, but now I had a SIM card I thought I’d use Google maps to give me a route to Amboise that avoided major roads. It avoided major roads alright! It even found dirt roads. A journey of about 40km, that should have taken about 2 hours ended up taking almost twice as long as Google led me all over countryside. In the end I pulled out the old paper map and heading for the next town as a waypoint. Finally I found my way but it was getting late and I was chasing the sun, which is never a good feeling. What concerned me most was getting some food. I had nothing with me and the last time I ate was at 1PM in Chambord, so you might say I was getting peckish. As I approached Amboise, I was glad to see the sign for the golden arches. Not because I planned to eat there, but it meant they would be some other places to eat, wifi, and a good chance of a supermarket too. I eventually rolled into Amboise at 9:30PM. I locked up my bike and sat down in the closest restaurant I could find, which was crowded with people watching France play at the world cup. A few minutes passed until the waiter approached me and told me they had stop serving food at 9:30PM. It was 9:35PM. I was devastated. He offered me some shallow sympathy and said I might try my luck elsewhere. Lucky I didn’t have to go far to find an Italian restaurant that was still serving meals. I ordered a salad to start, followed by a bowl of pasta, then pizza. The waiter looked at me in disbelief but I assured him I was very hungry. I don’t know for sure, since my GPS died but I reckon I did close to 100km that day and LOTS of stairs so i think i’d earned it.
After dinner I found the campsite in the dark but it was closed, so i jumped the fence and set up anyway. 3 Chateaus in one day is not bad going, but tomorrow I’ll take it a bit easier. Still a long way to go and lots more adventures to be had!