Today we finish with the Loire Valley – we could spend a month just doing the Loire but we have to head south soon to really get a fuller picture of France.
The room at the Chateau de Pray was very small but very nice – and in the morning we got to shoot the exterior.
This is the patio where we had dinner!
Pray is like 5 min from Amboise which is our next destination.
I wish we had big biscuit stores like this at home.
Lunch before the castle though… Even a quick Italian lunch here is amazing!
The Chateau d’Amboise is pretty big. And its tricky because it has these HUGE walls and you climb up and up and arrive at a raised courtyard so it looks bigger outside then it does inside and you really get this isolated city feeling.
This one tower ramps all the way down…
The small chapel was interesting. I liked the cross in the antlers.
Most unexpected is the grave of Leonardo da Vinci. This isn’t where he was originally buried. In fact a short ways away there was another chapel and when they excavated they found a grave of a man the right age and period and dress that had other indicators that it was Leonardo (who lived at the time 5 minutes away) so they moved the body here and placed the marker. So this only the alleged grave of Leonardo da Vinci – though no one has another that is competing with it.
I won’t post the photo but we watched as some lady first sat down and then stretched out like she was doing a glamor shot on his grave. Very tacky.
And just a 5 min walk from the castle (well 10 min in the heat) is the Chateau Clos Lucé. This is the Chateau where Leonardo spent the last three years of his life.
Inside is pretty standard in terms of furnishing – nothing too special but one floor is all miniatures of his inventions and it is a real zoo! Outside there is a park with oversized and climbable models of his inventions for the kids to play on. The coolest part is that in the basement there is a tunnel (closed off of course) that they say leads to Amboise!
The zoo continues in the gift shop – its all Leonardo all the time. I now have a Mona Lisa lens cloth (thank you Amanda).
And one last quick jump down the road takes us to the Chateau de Chenonceau.
The history of this castle is pretty interesting because it is completely influenced by women.
One woman built it, another restored it, and then it was the primary residence first of the mistress of the King and then after he died the Queen took it for herself. Of course everyone loves the fact that its a castle AND a covered bridge.
The covered bridge is one large room – every one walks to the end – checks that the door is locked and turns around. You have no idea how busy this place is and how hard it is to get this photo though!
I love the kitchens here – very well stocked – butchers blocks, knives, pots and pans. In the corners of the rooms they have pumps to bring up water from the river!
The bedrooms are lavish – this is the bedroom of Catherine de Medici.
This is the black bedroom of Louise of Lorraine also known as The White Queen.
Chenonceau has a great gift shop and when I saw this guy I felt a little better about the amount of stuff I was carrying on my back.
I almost got this stuffed bunny for my mom.
You get spoiled in the Loire because everything is VERY close and we headed off to our next hotel which was 2 hours away – (no more castle hotels for a while). Finally we made it to our IBIS budget. When you go to check in and the self check looks like this…. it doesn’t bode well.
And when I say that many of the hotels we stayed at were bare bones – I mean bare bones – this is what the toilet looked like at most of the hotels.
And yes it is in a closet.
Trip tally: 1530KM traveled. 33 places visited (21 castles, 3 cathedrals, 4 prehistoric sites + 5 places of cultural significance).
As always we thank you for the support of this project be sure to Like us on Facebook & tell your friends.
Sorry for the delays in posting – but let us continue.
Yesterday had been a shorter day – we did Laundry and only visited Saumur (which was long in that since I can’t pronounce the name I had to say it 100 times) and then spent the night at Rochecotte which really is a wonderfully luxurious castle. We couldn’t stray too far because I wanted us to be at Langeais first thing in the morning for the dropping of the drawbridge. I had stumbled upon this a few years ago by mistake but every morning they actually drop the drawbridge. You can see footage of it in the original trailer and so this year I wanted to get it from a different angle.
Of course while you wait you need a Viennese cocoa and an almond croissant.
I watched the drawbridge fall right at me – its was pretty cool. Very tense as I didn’t know when it was going to exactly happen.
The Chateau has some great interiors. They really have a lot of the castle open and allow you to see what it looked like.
Very few ropes and wonderful floors!
They have a nice exhibit of tapestries as well with some pretty good explanations.
As we headed back on the road we saw an outdoor laundry! Outdoor! You just drive up (and then I guess wait).
Next we headed to Villandry which is known for their gardens (as you will see) but first a quick lunch.
I am starting to understand the joys of Gazpacho – an ice cold soup on a hot day – nothing could be better!
So while the meal was great I ordered a bottle of sparkling cider (which came in its own little ice bag) only to find out it was alcoholic!
I explained – “I didn’t want any alcohol”. ” Well why did you order the sparkling cider?” “Because it was listed under soft drinks!” “So?” “So what makes a soft drink ‘soft’ is that it doesn’t have alcohol!” The day before I drank a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider so I knew what I was talking about. They told me it didn’t have much alcohol just 15%! They later apologized and took it off the bill.
Back to Villandry. The castle really goes back – you can see the original keep.
Nice displays – some rooms (like the kitchen) were clear to view – a lot of it was an art gallery.
I like this old turntable.
But its the gardens that make this the place to visit. They just go on and on!
They even have a hedge maze! (Which Amanda tripped and twisted her ankle in – luckily she recovered pretty well).
I love the souvenir shops! I mean who needs wooden napkin rings with their names on it? And how many do I get? Do they all have my name on it?
Our last stop for the day is Azay-le-Rideau. It just emerges from the water. Small but lovely! Well not that small really. Just gorgeous!
Many of the room inside are nice to view – but the billiard room was coolest.
From there we headed to our hotel – which is a castle hotel called the Chateau de Pray.
While we were booked to spend the night there and a manager gave us a tour and let us film an interview.
They offered us a lovely dinner out on the patio – very very elegant. Except for the bats. The bats kept flying overhead and while that seems pretty ok – one of them left a present on the table. Now imagine the paranoia I spent during the rest of this wonderful dinner – and it was a great dinner – they just kept bringing us food!
First the appetizers we didn’t order!
Then another appetizer we didn’t order – regretfully it was a sort of fish foam.
The meat was well presented and also cooked perfectly. They brought all the sauces on the side.
Then the first dessert (which we didn’t order).
The the dessert I ordered – which was WOW – looks wow – tastes wow. See and now I have already forgotten about bat poop.
Then more desserts we didn’t order!
And then they brought us a bowl of candies! OMG I was going to explode!
A great day in the Loire – 3 castles – some great food and the weather is still holding!
Trip tally: 1498KM traveled. 29 places visited (17 castles, 3 cathedrals, 4 prehistoric sites + 5 places of cultural significance).
As always we thank you for the support of this project be sure to Like us on Facebook & tell your friends.
OK so an update for everyone!
First – we made it through the trip and we made it home safe.
We haven’t given up on the blog – we just had to take an intermission – we got short on time with the travel, filming, and dealing with equipment issues and data management.
But – there is 20 days of blogging left and we will start it back up again very soon!
If you haven’t checked out the first 10 days – be sure to do so!
As always we thank you for the support of this project be sure to Like us on Facebook & tell your friends.
It’s day 10 – which means 1/3 into the trip which means laundry day. I did make sure that Saumur had a laundry mat and schedule the day accordingly.
Everything was controlled from one big machine on the wall – pretty cool.
With clean clothes we then headed to the Chateau in Saumur – which I have a really hard time pronouncing! I mean really hard time. It is a storybook castle.
You might recognize it from the Duke of Berry’s Book of Hours:
There is a cafe outside of the castle and for lunch I had the salmon salad.
I accidentally ordered noodles – I still don’t know how.
I found that my new favorite dessert is the floating island – meringue and custard!
Like so many castles it is better from the outside than the inside – very much designed for children – lots of ‘fun’ things and museum things but not as striking as from the outside. They have been doing a lot of renovation so maybe in a few years…
Our next stop was the Chateau Rochecotte. This is a castle hotel that we stayed at before and also allowed us to film. Very nice – very elegant.
Tonight was about filming a ‘fine’ meal – and this was one of the finest we had. They allowed us to film at dinner.
First they brought us these tasting appetizers (that we didn’t order).
Then I had a carpaccio of Fois Gras and Tuna.
Then to the lamb!
And the cheese course.
You have to tell them what you want – I influence but let them take me on a tour.
After they tell you what order to eat the cheeses in!
Then the dessert…
And the dessert that comes after the dessert!
Remember folks – this is work! Though I do get to eat it 🙂
We have had lots of questions about menus so I am posting this one:
Trip tally: 1395KM traveled. 26 places visited (14 castles, 3 cathedrals, 4 prehistoric sites + 5 places of cultural significance).
So today we start the Loire valley. Most people go from east to west (from Paris outward) which is how the tour books are all written but from a practical matter I always head west to east and start in Angers.
The castle is huge – I mean really really big!
What is most deceiving is that when you enter the castle you can’t really see the height of the walls because the courtyard is elevated.
It houses the Apocalypse Tapestry – it is very very long – and people really respect the no flash rule – it is housed quite elegantly.
After we headed to lunch at the Dolmen Cafe – it doesn’t look like much from the outside – but inside they have the largest Dolmen in Europe. But no food! He gave the same excuse about not having food that he did in 2009 – so it really isn’t much of a cafe.
It looks like a giant pillow fort – and his is the largest by ‘volume’ because there is one a bit bigger in Spain but not area wise. Also there was a wasp nest inside so about half way in you realized you didn’t want to linger.
Still hungry we headed to Fontevraud – we found a nice cafe and sat down – they guy was so worried about our unstable table that he fussed and fussed and got new feet for it and made it perfectly level and then told us he didn’t have any good. Oy. So we went across the street.
We were there to see Fontevraud Abbey.
I had been told at one point that the tombs of Eleanore of Aquitane and Richard the Lionheart were not here only their effigies were – but their literature says they indeed have the tombs. The fact that there is still color on these is amazing!
Out in the courtyard of the cloisters they had this roller coaster looking deck – very neat work of modern art – fun to walk on.
I also loved the wildflowers.
We were staying in Saumur but the Chateau wasn’t open (which is why the zig zag for the day) – but from the hotel room I could see a balloon tour. We looked it up and they are VERY expensive. Still a great view from the room. But that’s not until tomorrow!
Trip tally: 1354KM traveled. 24 places visited (12 castles, 3 cathedrals, 4 prehistoric sites + 5 places of cultural significance).
It is Bastille day! Don’t get excited – we didn’t end up seeing ANY celebrations – no fireworks or nothing. We were kind of in between things.
The big news is that our next Castle – the Chateau d’Fougères was closing early because they shoot the fireworks from there.
The Chateau is considered one of the largest fortified castles in France. The fortified part is the distinction. Like many places we visit it looks better from the outside – where you can see the walls, towers, and even moat (with water). Inside was a lot of construction, event spaces, and multimedia.
I did like this trap door though.
From there we headed to Brittany to see the Chateau d’Comper. It was originally built in the 13th century.
Inside it houses the “Centre de l’imaginaire arthurien” which is this amazingly awful museum of Arthurian legend artwork. I mean they were looping parts of the Disney film The Sword and the Stone and had these displays and posters explaining Arthurian Legend but they were more New Age than informative.
This is the heart of Arthurian legend because behind the castle is the lake that Merlin is said to have built the Crystal Palace for Vivianne at.
That’s right – THIS it the lake the Lady in the Lake lives in:
The castle is located right outside the Paimpont Forest which is rumored to be the legendary enchanted forest of Brocéliande also from Arthurian Legend.
There are several neolithic sites in the forest. However when we got there we realized this was no place to leave a car with bags – lots of ‘campers’ in the area just staring at people who were pulling up and leaving their cars. So for the security of the bags – Amanda stayed with the car (she also wasn’t too upset about not hiking through the forest) and I went on ahead with the tripod. I went down the path and bumped into a lady who said that what I was looking for wasn’t the way I was going so I turned. Next thing you know… I am lost. Don’t get me wrong – there are paths – but little ones – covered in leaves and spiders and all sorts of stuff. So I wandered around and found an access road – which was great and I was safe but I wasn’t near my car and had no idea which way it was. So I went back into the forest (on another path) and finally after about 2 hours found a very worried Amanda.
She said people kept pulling up – walking into the forest and coming back like 20 minutes later. Weird right? So we went to the big sign map and it turns out I went the wrong direction – I mean the totally wrong direction – it was across the street wrong direction. So once again I headed off into the forest (this time the other way) and this time there were markers. I started following the markers and after about 30 minutes ran into to 2 ladies who said that what I was looking for wasn’t there either and that the markers were for something else! So I turned back.
Eventually I saw a sign and found the first place. The fountain of youth. Well not THE fountain of youth but A fountain of youth. This is an old Celtic fountain. No I didn’t drink.
Not far was a clearing where people had stacked stones. It was very weird. This was clearly recent because this is the trippy Arthurian forest and it was filled with New Age people.
Having totally given up on finding what I was really looking for I headed back to the car and not 500 feet from the car I saw the turn I had missed which led to the neolithic stones (and this weird guy reading a journal with his dog).
So finally I found it – the neolithic tomb they call Merlin’s Tomb. Is it neolithic? Yes! Is it a tomb? Yes! Is it Merlin’s? Well – was that skull a few days ago John the Baptist’s?
People had stuffed little notes in the rock.
Since the car was in earshot of the Tomb – I got Amanda and she came out and also got to enjoy the Tomb (after waiting in the car for over 3 hours of me being lost).
Back on the road we passed one of my favorite roundabouts. It has this giant chair in the middle of it! Many of the roundabouts have public art in the middle – but this one really clicks with me.
Even though it was Bastille day we really didn’t see any celebration or fireworks – we thought we might see from the road (and ended up driving late because of my forest misadventure). Go figure.
For the foodies. A simple breakfast.
And a simple gas station lunch – yes they sell Flan at the gas station.
We did stop for a snack and I had a crepe with Creme de Marron which is a sweet chestnut paste. Very yummy.
When the driving gets tough – I keep going with Cherry Coke and these little meat sticks.
And one last note – when did Papa Smurf start wearing a speedo?
Next stop – the Loire Valley!
Trip tally: 1241KMtraveled. 21 places visited (11 castles, 2 cathedrals, 3 prehistoric sites, + 5 places of cultural significance).
Sorry for the delay in posting – I wrote all of this and then the Internet ate it and I had to write it again. Also I am very tired – so much work to be done every night and every morning – but I will explain that in another post.
Only one thing to do today but it is a really big thing – Mont Saint Michel. Of course we need a power breakfast so we started with the pink marshmallows that come with the room!
Even from several KM away you can see the island (islet) and the Abbey and city on top of it!
Mont Saint Michel is one of the stops of the Tour de France (which had just been through) and you could still see markings on the roads and signs on the houses.
I have been to Mont Saint Michel several times and the nightmare is always the parking. The rock (or islet) is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Before they built the causeway there was a road that would be there only when the tide was out – when the tide came in the rock would become an island. Normally it has this long line of traffic and then you have to find the safe parking lot (the one that won’t flood with the tide). However when we got there we found out that they no longer allow cars on the causeway and force everyone to park on the mainland and either walk the 40 min or take a free 10 min shuttle. The parking was easy and the lot was huge and it made the entire experience just pleasant. They don’t allow dogs on the shuttle unless they.. well you can see the sign.
Over the years sand has built up and it isn’t the island it used to be – so they are building a new (and more subtle) causeway and they are going to remove all of the sand so that it becomes a tidal island once again!
It is a fascinating city (yes it is a city about 50 people live there today) – with all sorts of interesting architectural details.
The city itself is fortified (so I count the city part as a castle) – you can see sand (not water) in the background.
They say it is pretty dangerous to walk out on the sand – these people were on horses! The area is known for quicksand.
Regretfully the area is a nightmare – it is overfull of tourists and when you first arrive all you see is food and gift shops. You can buy anything!
They don’t have the name Jared but they do have the name Jean Baptiste! Go figure.
I mean they sell everything…
This made me think of my friend Mace. Seriously a lot of fake (and real) weapons – from swords to guns!
At one shop they had all of these old maps and there was one with this butterfly marking on it – and as I got closer I realized it was a real butterfly! I took this picture and then only after realized it looked like I was taking pictures of a poster in a gift shop (which is a real no-no) when instead I was taking this detail. Ooops!
Once we got through the waves of gift shops we go to the Abbey.
There are still Monks and Nuns who live here – (like 9).
The cloisters are a favorite (like in all abbeys) and this one opening has a spectacular view – it is covered in plexi-glass though.
And from here you can see why! I wonder if it was open in medieval times?
There was some workers strike going on and the Abbey was going to close earlier as a show of solidarity – we got there in time so it didn’t affect us and for some reason they also didn’t charge us.
Someone told us (at another castle) that a seagull at your castle was a sign of good luck. I don’t think they mean that here.
On the way to the Abbey we passed a sign for a museum. As we approached I heard some woman lament that it cost money and she didn’t want to pay. Why would you come all this way and then get cheap at the last second? The man at the counter told us there were 4 museums and that we got a discount for all 4 and then another discount because there were two of us so I said sure – what the hell.
The first museum was a 13th century house. It was small but well furnished and a nice example of what it was like to live on the island. It really demonstrated the idea that everything is built up and up – like a tower on the side of a mountain.
The second museum was a history museum and wax museum of torture. Torture was right. The history museum was only 2 rooms filled with keys, and swords, and watch parts (and whatever else they could find). In order to give full value they had a guide come in and close both doors and talk and talk about the items in the room. But only in French – and you couldn’t escape. When we got to the second room we slipped out and found the wax museum but it was creepy and we left. That is when we realized that this was like Niagara Falls – all those little museums that hustle you for a dollar here and a dollar there. And we had paid for two more!
I can’t accurately describe the third museum. It was a sound and light show involving water and a 3d model of the island and it was really trippy.
The last museum was a maritime museum that contained models of ships – models – 4 floors of models! And each museum ended… in a gift shop!
So glad those are over.
The shuttles operate until after midnight but we saw what we came to see (and some stuff we didn’t mean to see).
For the foodies. We had a very nice meal on the island itself. It started with olives and a salmon spread. This was a complimentary appetizer.
I then had the Fois which was homemade and came with this amazing fig and almond bread.
The lamb came with a sweet potato puree (which I normally wouldn’t like) – it was a perfect compliment.
Don’t think all the meals are fancy. At the motel later we found they had an appetizer and dessert bar.
The trick is that even cheap French food is pretty gourmet!
Tomorrow we head to Brittany and explore the land of King Arthur!
FYI – we count today as 1 castle (the city) and 1 cathedral (the Abbey).
Trip tally: 910KM traveled. 16 places visited (9 castles, 2 cathedrals, + 5 places of cultural significance).
As we head into Normandy it is amazing that the weather is still holding! There are these funny posters that show the entire country of France with little suns all over it but clouds over Normandy.
Some people have asked about how we ‘work from the car’. All of our essential are in our backpacks – this includes technology, cables, cameras, harddrives, medicines and such.
Everything else is packed in 2 big and 2 little suitcases that we fit in the trunk of the car. (The quadcopter is also in the trunk). To get the suitcases in we had to move the seats up slightly so we cover the gap with a black cloth. From the outside you really can’t tell. And luckily as time has passed the car no longer looks as ‘new’. Thank you dead bugs and dirt.
Having spent the night in Caen all we had to do was get up and head 2km down the road. It is a HUGE fortress.
Like many castles it was built and rebuilt. The original part of the castle, which was the palace of William the Conqueror, is a total ruin and an archeological dig. Next to it is the 12th century keep of his son, which was later built up with towers. It too is a ruin – destroyed during the revolution because of its use as a prison:
There isn’t much to see INSIDE Caen. They let you walk the ramparts (they even have an elevator for part of them) and most of the remaining structures are museums (art and history). We bumped into the historian that we met several days ago again – and he mentioned he was going to Bayeux to see the tapestry so we decided we would also go (though not together).
The drive to Bayeux was lovely and the tapestry (which is really an embroidery) was amazing:
In case you are wondering, no, they don’t allow for photos or video. I used my video sunglasses. They entire tapestry is behind glass and goes down a long wall and then wraps back down on the other side. They give you an audio tour that walks you through the entire story – it is VERY well done – and then they dump you into the tackiest gift shop you could ever imagine.
The tapestry is on everything. And everything is expensive. The is technically more to the museum with multimedia and stuff but the reality is that they are a museum with one artifact and they really milk it. That being said – if you are near Bayeux – you HAVE to go – its worth the 15 minute walk around the tapestry!
Bayeux was the first town liberated after D-Day and it was really appropriate because our next stop was Omaha Beach. We didn’t stop for souvenirs – just sat at the monument for a half hour or so and enjoyed the wind and the waves. Shockingly even though it was FREEZING – people were swimming.
After the beach we headed to the American Cemetery. Very moving and most people were actually being respectful.
One of my favorite parts of the cemetery was the ongoing look of confusion that the Jewish stars on some of the markers caused. You would see a small group walk up – look confused – have a discussion involving the word “Jews” and then move on. It was genuine confusion – but a great teaching moment.
It was pretty late by the time we hit the hotel and while we thought we would miss dinner there was in fact one restaurant still open – a Chinese buffet. It was huge and they had everything from traditional Chinese dishes to Sushi and a custom grill section. On the way out they tried to give us shots of alcohol!
Tomorrow we only do ONE thing – but that one thing is Mont Saint Michel!
Trip tally: 808KM traveled. 14 places visited (8 castles, 1 cathedral, + 5 place of cultural significance).
It is very cold and it looks like rain. Not the thing you want to think when you are heading to Giverny to see Monet’s Home and Gardens. We did a quick deep dive into the suitcases to grab jackets and rain gear. Luckily, while it stayed cold it also stayed dry.
Giverny is a nightmare. It is filled with buses and tourists. And with rude tourists comes rude service (I mean who can blame them). Breakfast was good but the service was terrible.
However – seeing Monet’s home is really awesome. As an artist he really created the right working environment.
They don’t allow for photography or video in the home itself – which is fine since his paintings inside are all reproductions. However Monet had an amazing Japanese print collection and being this close to “The Great Wave” I just had to grab a quick pic with my video sunglasses (no – I didn’t use a flash). Yeah I know it is a terrible picture but I was SO close to it.
The water lily garden with the Japanese bridge is one of two gardens. The crowds were terrible – they should have people movers and automated cameras like on a roller coaster. People were pushing and shoving and jumping in front of each others photos. The picture shown here is a complete fluke – Amanda shot it at the one moment of emptiness – I mean it must have been a split second in which she got this picture. I spent a lot of time on the bridge trying to get the right video segment and this photo is not representational of the throngs of people taking picture from one crowded bridge to the other.
If you avoid looking at the people – the water lily garden is amazing.
The other garden is a flower garden. The crowds were more polite here.
The flower garden is an opportunity to practice taking photos of flowers. Enjoy…
At the flower garden I noticed something bizarre. The button on my camera that allows me to change the lens had broken off of my camera. After a minute of panic I realized I needed a pin and thanks to the gift shop – I now have a Monet pin and can again change lenses.
At the church down the road is Monet’s grave. No crowds here. At all. Very sad.
We left Giverny and headed to La Roche Guyon. I have been here a few times but we got a little lost trying to find a place to park and ended up circling the town a few times before finding a PERFECT spot right in front.
A few years ago I had a Salmon Crepe that came with a surprise side of Caviar. We went to the same place for lunch and it was just as good as last time. I am a loyal customer!
And some of the best frothed milk and chocolate I have had yet!
La Roche Guyon is a double castle. The 12th century castle is carved into the limestone cliff and on the top there is a 12th century tower.
You enter the castle from the main entrance on the ground floor and start to climb…
The ceiling beams are nicely decorated.
The castle had strange multimedia installations. At one point there were couches and headphones on an outside balcony! This is an old hair dryer that has a speaker in it:
At the top of the castle there is an entrance to a tunnel that leads into the cliff – and a secret staircase leading up to the tower.
Half-way up is a pigeon coop. Very imaginatively they demonstrate this by putting picture of pigeons in each of the holes.
Back up the very steep steps and you get to the base of the tower.
Through the door and up more steps to the top of the tower.
Luckily there was a toilet at the top! I didn’t see any toilet paper so I waited for the next one.
Then back down the stairs.
In the basement of the castle are casements that were cut during WWII when the castle was used as Field Marchall Rommel’s bunker.
There are also prehistoric troglodyte caves as well. Very dark and damp.
Just to recap – we climbed to the top of this:
Which of course means I can have some ice-cream!
Back on the road – we headed to Caen to a hotel at the train station. We got there pretty late and there was nothing to eat (except pink marshmallows) and a quick cheese sandwich.
The adventure continues tomorrow…
Trip tally: 643km traveled. 10 places visited (7 castles, 1 cathedral, + 2 place of cultural significance).
We got up first thing in the morning to have a quick visit to the Cathedral in Amiens and then move on. Of course we had to stop for some coffee, cocoa, and croissants (and some mini beignets).
Amiens is the tallest intact cathedral in France. Standing inside it makes you feel small.
The cathedral has a floor labyrinth – walking it is amazing (sorry) – but it really is peaceful and you can see how praying or mediating while following it would be enlightening. Don’t ask how I got this picture!
This brings us to the skill of John the Baptist. Yes this is the skill of John the Baptist. Can I prove it? No. Can you prove it? No. Are there others out there? Yes. What was more important was the importance of the relic to those visiting. To be honest – no one was even looking at it until we started to film and photograph it and then a crowd gathered and we had to leave.
Our visit to Amiens was to enjoy the size of the cathedral and see the skull. Our timing was perfect though as they were just taking people up the tower. The gargoyles are cool!
They told us that this is the only cathedral in France where you can walk at the ‘level of the rose’ and when standing right next to it you can see not just how big it is but also how it was built. This was only halfway up – they let us climb all the way to the top. What a view and what a lot of steps!
After Amiens we headed to Gisors. Along the way we had a ‘gas station’ lunch. Don’t feel bad though the gas station food in France is pretty gourmet. Ham & Butter sandwiches, dry sausages, Emmental flavored cheese curls. It was helpful getting the GPS to allow for toll roads – now we get to take some highways.
Gisors is a classic Motte and Bailey construction – a Norman keep on a man made hill surrounded by an open field and a curtain wall.
The weather was perfect and there were very few people visiting!
From Gisors (which is 11th century) we headed to the Chateau Gaillard (which is 12th) – this is the castle of Richard the Lionheart. It was a challenge to get there as there were many detours on the road because of construction – a real struggle between the signs and the GPS. I can’t say who won the fight.
It is a crazy drive up the mountain (not man made) and then an insane walk to the castle which is in ruins.
The ruins of the castle are free but the inner keep you have to pay to see – we did both but I think the outer ruins are better. We explored every nook and cranny of the castle. Some amazing views. We met a historian who suggested while in the area we try and see the Bayeux tapestry. Everyone we meet always has a suggestion of where to go next – however this one I have to admit was pretty good – I didn’t realize we might be this close and if I can squeeze it in I might!
I wish I could tell you we had some glorious dinner but most places were closed and the hotel gave us a coupon to a chain restaurant (hey it was still French – it is not like we ate at a Leon of Brussels) – I had a wood fired steak and this dessert platter (yes I have 2 whip creams because I had to substitute the alcohol laced fruit).
So endeth day 4! The weather has really held up and tomorrow we head to see Monet’s garden in Giverny!
Trip tally: 427km traveled. 8 places visited (6 castles, 1 cathedral, + 1 place of cultural significance).