May 23 – Spent a lovely weekend here in the valley of the Kings, fine wines and gourmet fare. This time, we sojourned in a small chateau that Globe Bleu uses on its luxury breaks. More like an old Bentley than a gleaming new Rolls Royce, the place is a step back in time.
Our suite was lovely. However, in the adjoining turret, the offspring of two lovebirds made a tremendous racket. We finally located them – they looked like something out of Alien – and decided to leave them in peace only to move to another room.
We found ourselves lodging in a troglodyte cave-home, quite to Bob’s liking and typical of the area. Dario, whose birthday we were celebrating, was initially a bit put-off. “You promised me Cinderella’s castle and here I am staying in a bat-cave…”. I told him “Me Batman, you Robin”. He warmed up soon enough once candles were lit, champagne was opened, a birthday cake arrived with flares and we both awed at the eerie flickering reflections all over the cave.
The last home of Leonardo da Vinci, nearby Amboise is a charming river town with historical significance. The highlight is the chateau, which dominates the town and river from on high and has a small chapel where da Vinci’s remains are buried. A number of French kings were raised there, including Charles VIII, Francois I, and the children of Henri II and Catherine de Medecis.
Most interestingly (and unbeknownst to me before this trip) Amboise was also the last home of the deposed Amir Abd al-Qādir, recognized and venerated as the first hero of Algerian independence. He stayed there four years under house-arrest with his family after France
annexed the colony in the 19th Century. Napoleon III freed him upon coming to power. After his release, this extraordinary man moved to Syria to become a sufi (wiseman) and was later bestowed by France with the Grand Cross of the Legion d’Honneur, became a freemason and was recognized by Abraham Lincoln for his help to oppressed Christians in Lebanon.
Also in Amboise, the Clos Luce, da Vinci’s home for 3 years, is worth a visit particularly if you are with children or are an admirer (and who wouldn’t be).
Chenonceaux, about 11 km away, is arguably the most beautiful of the Loire castles. Famous for its Renaissance interiors, fabulous rose gardens, farm and vegetable garden, labyrinth and wax museum.
Chambord, also in the area, is a masterpiece of the French Renaissance. It is famous for its double-helix open stairway where stairs going up never meet those going down (rather like something out of an Escher drawing), the royal apartments of France Ier and Louis XIV and its fabulous hunting grounds.
Other favorites in the area worth viewing are Azay-le-Rideau (famous for its Italianate Renaissance design and escalier d’honneur), Cheverny (a charming hunting castle), Usse (the castle that inspired Charles Perrault to write Sleeping Beauty (he also wrote Cinderella, Bluebeard and Puss and Boots) and Villandry (famous for its gardens).
For information on our Wine and Chateaux Gourmet Breaks in the regions, please refer to the Travel section of our website: www.globebleu.com