Pays de Châteaux

The day started out crazy as we overslept due to alarm clock ineptitude. Mad packing, scarf down breakfast, then a mad dash to the bus carrying too many bottles of wine. Today is our first trip on the tour bus with our cute French driver, Olivier. We left Paris for our road trip into the Loire Valley – land of 1000 Châteaux.

Up first was a stop for lunch in the small town of Amboise, the quiet little pedestrian-friendly village on the Loire river, overlooked by a hilltop château. It was once the royal residence of the French King François I in the early 1500’s and it’s where Leonardo da Vinci lived at the end of his life.
We decided to forego any touring of those places and opt for drinking it all in from a lovely café. I had researched a few of the restaurants in Amboise so we power-walked to several only to find them closed today or only open for dinner. We ended up at an outside table Chez Bruno right next to the château. We made an excellent choice.
For entrée, we shared some buttery pâté and rillettes – both made of pork and duck. Rillettes is a preparation of meat similar to pâté except that the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily, and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded. Then it is cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste.
The pâté…

The rillettes…
Our main courses were a surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what we were ordering. But my eyes closed and guttural sounds came out of me when I got my first taste of the salad consisting of lettuce with a light vinaigrette layered with chunks of andouille pork sausage chunks and thick bacon. Oh yes.
Ted had a moist turkey breast with pasta in a light cream sauce which was actually, really good. This was all accompanied by a nice bottle of local wine.
For dessert we stopped into a pâtisserie for macaroons (my new favorite food). I got 3 – pistachio, orange/chocolate, and strawberry – plus a chocolate almond croissant for Ted. We ate dessert with wine from Ted’s magic pack along the river. Lizard and ducks were sighted.
Back on the bus and shortly we were at Chenonceau – our first French château.

Leading up to the château…

The interior was ok – sort of a check-that-box situation – but the setting and exterior are spectacular. This 16th century great pleasure palace arches over the Cher River. Its nickname is “the château of the ladies” for two women who transformed the original structure into the beauty it is today. Diane de Poitiers was the King’s Mistress in the mid 1500’s and she created the grand arched bridge across the river so that they could access good hunting grounds. Unfortunately, her benefactor King Henry II was killed in a jousting tournament and his pissed-off wife, Catherine de Médicis, kicked Diane’s butt right out of there. Catherine then added the multi-story building on top of Diane’s bridge. Both ladies added beautiful gardens around the château.

Ok, off to Chinon…

Retenez votre souffle.

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