We are in the middle of taking an excellent online 48-hour course on the French Revolution, which caused us to remember various times we had been in France. The professor told an amusing story about how, in trying to amass troops to defend the country at the beginning of the revolution, nonmilitary people such as farmers and merchants were placed in commanding roles. One of them, on the front lines, was startled when the other side began shooting at him and his troops. He yelled, “What is the other side doing? Are they crazy? Don’t they know there are people over here???” Stories like that make learning so much fun!
Outside of a drive in the French countryside going from Andorra to Biarritz last year, we hadn’t been in France since mid-September 2014. At that time, we took a train from Barcelona to France, and then wandered through the Loire Valley in a rental car, stopping at several castles/chateaus, and taking on a canoe trip. Chateau de Chenonceau is the best-known chateau in the Loire Valley, as it spans the River Cher, its arches making for a lovely reflection in the water. After the Palace of Versailles, it is the most-visited chateau in France. The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in the 11th century. The current building, shown below in the first six photos, was constructed between 1514 and 1522 on the foundation of an old mill. It was beautiful to tour, and hard to leave, as the gardens and outside views were as pretty as the interior. There was even a labyrinth!
A twenty-minute drive from Chenonceau is another chateau, Clos Luce. It was used as a summer house for French royalty, until Francis I gave it to Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci lived his final three years of life here. Since the Mona Lisa resides in the Louvre in Paris, and since Leonardo lived in France for a while, the designer of this restored home and park opined that “for us, he is a little French.” The grounds are beautiful, with a garden and several of Leonardo’s inventions, including models of a helicopter, a chariot, a multi-barreled gun, and a revolving bridge. His sketches are interspersed through the grounds. The museum includes many working models of his inventions. He really was a Renaissance man, full of innovative ideas.
The third chateau that we visited is the Chateau de Chambord, and it is shown in the six photos after the Clos Luce. It was glorious, with lots of towers and spires. It has a famous double staircase, one of the few left in existence. It has connections to da Vinci, also, as he may have helped in its design. This chateau was built by Francis I, who gave Leonardo the Clos Luce.
The last two photos are a fun memory from this trip! We wanted to canoe on the Loire River, and there several companies to choose from. The one we chose, Canoes Loisirs, advertised that they would pick us up once we arrived downriver and return us to their parking lot, so that did it for us. As you can see in the last two photos, we passed little villages as we paddled along. It was very easy and restful, until….. Do you see that pretty bridge in the last photo? The current took us toward it, and we paddled hard, but, SMASH! We went right into one of the columns. We don’t think we chipped the bridge, nor did we dent the canoe, but we laughed for a long time that, with all of that room, we couldn’t avoid hitting the bridge. Doesn’t the bridge know that there are people in the river???