jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 39 [9 Mar 09] – Tours

Posted in Tours by jn82 on March 9, 2009

Today was château day number two, and given that we were only in the Loire Valley for one more day, we tried to see as much as possible. In the morning, we took 9.04am Corail Intercites 14052 from Tours to Amboise, and after a short walk, were at Château Royal d’Amboise. This château had only been given a two star rating by Frommers by Rail (as opposed to the maximum three stars), but the train schedule to and from it fit with our château maximisation plans.

Château Royal d’Amboise.

The château is very beautiful, but I only have time to list the main areas here. Outside of the château on the terraces lies St Hubert’s Chapel, dedicated to the patron sait of hunting. This chapel is best known for being the site of Leonardo da Vinci’s grave.

The supposed grave of Leonardo da Vinci.

The exteriors of the château’s two main wings are a transition of the French late-Gothic style as seen in the Charles VIII Wing to the Italianate Renaissance style of Louis XII-François I Wing.

Gothic roof window (left) and Renaissance roof window (right).

The rooms within the gothic wing are not particularly interesting as compared to those in the renaissance rooms. Below are a few examples of the renaissance rooms. I would love to talk more about the rooms but if I do then I will get no sleep tonight and this blog post will be way too long, also I am pretty sure you do not want to keep reading about who killed who or did what where. The main interesting point is that Charles VIII, who was born in the château in 1470 and lived there with his Queen, died on 7 April 1498 after bumping his head on a door frame after watching a game of real tennis.

The cupbearer’s room.

King Henri II’s chamber.

The music room.

Apart from the château, the view of the Loire from it is also pretty good.

The Loire.

Château Royal d’Amboise from the opposide bank of the Loire.

After a quick and not that fantastic overpriced lunch in Amboise, we got on Corail Intercites 14041 back to Tours from 1.05pm – 1.23pm. At Tours, we got on the ten 60812 from 1.31pm – 1.55pm to Chenonceaux, out afternoon château destination. This was out first time on the newer (than Corail Intercites) inter-city ter (Transport Express Regional) trains, and while they did feel more modern, the first class carriage seats were smaller in width in a 2×2 configuration and could not recline. The train to Chenonceaux this afternoon had only two carriages, and looked more like a light rail train.

ter 60812.

First class carriage.

Upon arriving in Chenonceaux, the Château de Chenonceau was only a five minute walk away.

Château de Chenonceau.

It is one of the most beautiful château’s in the Loire, and has a three star rating from Frommers by Rail. It is not hard to see why, especially with its large gardens and the fact that one part of the château (the gallery) spans across the Cher river, much like the Uffizi does in Florence. There is no coincidence here, as its one time owner Catherine de Médicis was from Italy.

Across Le Cher.

This château has a very interesting ownership history in that it was given by the French King Henri II to his mistress (20 years his senior!) Diane de Poitiers in 1547. In 1559, when Henri II was killed in single combat during a tournement, his widow and queen, Catherine de Médicis, ordered Diane to give Chenonceau back to her, and gave Diane the château of Chaumont-sur-Loire in exchange.

Again, I will just highlight some of the more interesting rooms in the château.

Dianne de Poitiers’ Bedroom.

Dining room, reserved for the staff.

François I Bedroom.

Louis XIV Living Room.

Catherine de Médicis’ Bedroom.

Louise of Lorriane’s Bedroom.

We finished with the château long before the train was scheduled to arrive, and just walked around the gardens for a bit. The train back was on the ter 60725, but this time the first class cabin had a different layout. We managed to get two “Club 4” seats to ourselves in a private compartment of the first class carriage right behind the driver’s compartment (right behind the divider in the picture below), which was very nice and peaceful.

First class carriage layout.

The past three days in Tours, with two spent exploring the châteaus of the Loire, have probably been the highlight of the trip so far. It is not hard to understand why the entire Loire Valley of around 200km is a UNESCO recognised World Heritate Site. I would recommend anyone to take a couple of days in Bordeaux and then a train up to Tours to see the Loire Valley. Off to Paris tomorrow!

Today’s pictures available here.


Day 38 [8 Mar 09] – Tours

Posted in Tours by jn82 on March 8, 2009

*I only just realised tonight that the full size of the landscape oriented pictures were not loading fully with the old blog theme, and have thus changed the blog theme to a wider one so what the full dimensions of the landscape oriented pictures can be displayed. Go back in time if you thought there was something wrong with the old blog post pictures!*

Took a day trip today from Tours to the small city of Blois, a small city around 40km from Tours. The train ride was on a slower and older inter-city train, but the seats were very comfortable and the carriage we were in had no one else in it (for almost the entire ride to Blois).

Corail Intercites 14056 from Tours – Paris.

Inside the carriage.

Upon reaching Blois, it was very weird that all the retail shops and 50% of cafes were closed on a Sunday. I guess that there are not many locals around over the weekend, especially during the winter period which sees less tourists.

The main reason for coming to Tours was to use it as a base for château touring, of which Blois boasted of the famous Château de Blois, a Renaissance château once occupied by King Louis XII. (Borrowing the description from Wikipedia, it was also the residence of several French kings, and the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans. After paying the cheap 6€ concession entry fee, we began to walk around the château.

Château de Blois.

The first part of the château we saw was the medieval fortress, which was built by the counts of Blois from the 10th century onwards, and has been the largest Gothic hall in France from the 13th century onwards. It consisted of the hall of the estates general (which was pretty boring) and the lapidary museum, which housed original stones and carvings from the different wings in the château.

Hall of the estates general.

Example of a stone carving.

The next part of the château was the François I wing, which housed various rooms which were restored in the 19th century according to how Félix Durban imagined them to be. He created the painted decoration abd conceived an ideal layout of a late 16th century royal apartment. On the first floor were the apartments of  the François I and afterward Catherine de medicis.

Queen’s bedchamber.

19th century stained glass window in the oratory.

After this, it was on to the second floor, which was the King’s apartments under Henri III. The most interesting room here was the hall of the guises, which housed a few paintings depicting the assassination of the Duke de Guise, which occured in Blois on 23 December 1588. It is said that the assassination of the Duke de Guise occured in the King’s bedchamber, and that he collapsed at the foot of the King’s bed after being stabbed by eight assassins who were acting on the King’s orders. The Duke de Guise had in fact been planning a coup d’État in order to take over the kingdom.

Painting depicting the assassination of the Duke de Guise.

The King’s bedchamber.

The rest of the château was not particularly interesting, but we did pop in and have a look at the Louis XII wing which housed the fine arts museum, as well as the Saint Calais chapel. however, the view of Blois from the château just outside the Saint Calais chapel was very good!

City of Blois.

L’église Saint Nicolas.

Overall, taking Frommers by Rail’s recommendation, it was a pretty good experience visiting my first château. I did see many pictures of other châteaus in the Loire Valley which looked much nicer, such as Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau, however not all are easily accessible from the train stations, which is the limiting factor. Tomorrow, we plan to head to Château de Chenonceau and Château de Amboise, and hopefully will not suffer from château overkill.

Links to today’s pictures available here.

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Day 37 [7 Mar 09] – Tours

Posted in Tours by jn82 on March 7, 2009

Took the TGV this morning from Bordeaux to Tours. It was a smooth journey all the way, although the train was 15 minutes delayed in leaving Bordeaux St-Jean. Got a duplex seat to myself for most of the journey and managed to sleep for around half of the two hour twenty minute trip.

Upon reaching Tours, we walked about 2.2km from the train station to the hotel! Now this was not because we were trying to save money, but because we were unsure what bus went to the street the hotel was on, and could not be bothered to ask. The walk was pretty okay though, and we reached the hotel in under thirty minutes. The hotel was a former Holiday-Inn express, and is probably our best accomodation to date on the trip. Price wise it is very cheap, only 21€ per person per night for a twin share in a two star hotel, inclusive of breakfast! This may not seem like much, but we have paid the same price for hostel beds in multi-share rooms and other poorer quality twin bed rooms. The only downside to this hotel was probably the location (as compared to the other hotels nearer to the city centre), but 2km+ away and a direct bus into the city solved this problem.

After dumping our bags, we decided to head into the “old city” for some lunch and to walk around. The old city looked very nice, with many of the old houses preserved in their unique Tours style.

Tours old city.

The walk around the old city was very nice because there were not many people around, even though it was a Saturday. Very peaceful time walking about while taking in the old buildings. After lunch, we headed to the main tourist attraction within the city, Cathédrale Saint-Gatien, built between the 12th and 16th century.

Cathédrale Saint-Gatien.


The next stop was just next door, to Musée des beaux-arts, an art museum of sorts situated in a historical compound. I am not a big art guy, but there was nothing else to do really and this place was recommended in the Frommers guide.

Musée des beaux-arts.

Lisa Mona.

Fishy fishy…

I do not understand contemporary art. Do you?

Pretty easy day again, which is good. More time to relax in the hotel in preparation for the next two days of château visiting.

Today’s pictures here.