The Loire Valley between Orleans and Tours: Chambord, Blois and Chenonceau

France has many beautiful spots to visit. In the Loire Valley, the density of attractions is so high that I suggest either taking a looot of time or planning carefully what you want to visit in advance.

We had a guide book (left at home?!) and a magazine to guide us through the maze of sights to see. While there are fascinating stories and historical events en masse to study, we opted for the visual tour. Meaning? While each king and queen and aristocrat had a story we could have listened to, we just stared. And stared. And photographed what artists and craftsmen centuries ago had come up with until…well, it rained. (In the here and now, I mean.) Long story short, you won’t read about historical details here, but get impressions and maybe one or the other practical tip.

Chambord: The last book I checked tried to describe it in many words, then called the place indescribable. I can find a word for it alright: Magnificent. It’s also huge, beautiful, and there is a surprise around every corner. Take your time with this one. By the time I reached the first floor, I had already lost my bearings, thanks to an intricate and cleverly built winding double staircase.

Blois: Blois is not only a castle with wildly different styles and a number of notorious residents in its past, it is now a gem of a town and perfect for a lunchtime stop. Well worth visiting, it is a little climb up the hill and a winding tour through the wings of the buildings. This makes one grateful for a choice of restaurants and bars in town to digest the beautiful patterns, architecture and, above all, colourful stories.

Chenonceau: This place, smaller than Chambord et Blois, is built accross a river and offers beautiful shots outside. There was a queuing sign, giving 45 minutes of waiting time from a certain place on, so I’m afraid it’s usually a quite popular place. While its exterior well warrants a visit, the interior is not as impressive, simply because it’s smaller. Still, the hall spanning the river must have been abeautiful place to spend time.

This and that: 

The word “valley” had to be redefined for me. It’s a wee bit flatter around there than I expected.

Transport: While we used a rental car to get from one place to the next, cycling or public transport are real options.

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