20 November 2011

Fairytale Weekend

Lord, have I ever been busy lately.  I'm putting the finishing touches on my Thanksgiving meal plans for next week.  I'm cooking for my very big Frenchy family :)  It should be a blast next weekend.  I also have been gearing up for a return to the USA for Christmas and the end of the year.  After 3 years of not celebrating Christmas with my side of the family, it's time to trade foie gras and champagne for eggnog and my momma's cookies.

Then there's that whole working thing.  And did I mention that I am learning Chinese?  Yea...我学汉语

Thankfully, November has two national holidays in it, giving me a couple of long weekends.  November can be tricky for planning trips because you are never sure how the weather will be here in France.  It has a reputation for being downright cold and rainy.  We decided to risk it and head to the Loire Valley, known for its concentration of breathtaking castles and equally amazing countryside.  They also have some delicious wines.  My friends at work remarked that Fab and I seem to be on a constant honeymoon, especially with this romantic setting.

Aw shucks y'all...

Château Azay-le-Rideau

We had *amazing* weather.  It was almost like springtime during the day.  The colors of the leaves contrasted in gorgeous splendor with the deep blue sky.  We started off in Blois, which was the residence of many a French king.  It is also where Mlle Joan of Arc received her blessings before going off to whoop up on the British.  It sits over the city and gives an amazing overlook onto the river and the town.  The interior of the castle is beautifully restored, since it was used in the filming of The Messenger by Luc Besson.  Here you'll see porcupines and ermines throughout the castle, representing King Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, who were the first monarchs to inhabit the castle.

View of Blois at sunset

Château de Blois
That night, we had hoped to eat in a fantastic restaurant that I picked out, but we underestimated the need for a reservation.  We instead were invited to dine with a friend of Fab's, who is from the area and happened to be in for the weekend.  They gave us so much information about the area, and we also enjoyed some fantastic local foods from Brive (an area I hope to visit this spring because they have some darn fine gastronomy!)  It was a perfect impromptu evening.

The next day, we headed off to Cheverny, which is the castle that inspired the château in Tintin.  Of course, with the new movie, the castle is buzzing with new popularity.  We were fortunate to arrive just as a hunting party was starting to depart for the morning hunt.  It was a brilliant site.  Everyone was handsomely dressed in traditional hunting costumes.  The dogs could barely contain their excitement to go out and run after game.  They actually took off before the head of the hunting party gave the signal and had to be corralled back in!

Getting ready for the hunt!

Château de Cheverny
This castle is still privately owned by the Herault family, so you see many memorabilia.  But it is beautifully decorated, and the gardens are absolutely a delight to walk through.  They also have their huge dog run, where they keep all of their hunting dogs.  The family also teamed up with Tintin's publishing house to present an exposition which brings the famous comic books to life.  Needless to say, hubby was pretty pumped.

Fab in the role of Haddock.
On our last day, we headed towards Azay-le-Rideau.  However, we had spent the night near Vouvray, which is known for its sparkling wines, and we just *had* to stop.  We went to a collective cave in the town, which buys grapes from all the various farmers and turns it into still and sparkling wines.  Let's just say that at the end of our educational visit, we walked away with 2 cases of wine.  Party at our place?

Azay-le-Rideau was my favorite castle of all.  It sits on tiny island, surrounded by a très joli English garden.  The inside is richly decorated, making it a delight to visit on the inside and out.  This is where I was glad it was fall, because the autumn leaves really lent to the rich colors and made it almost magical.

I love the Loire Valley, and there is ever so much to see.  This was my second time and I still didn't see everything that I had on my list.  That's ok...since you always need to leave something for next time.  We didn't want to return, especially since traffic jams to come back in the city awaited us.  But then again, there is something to be said for standing in your apartment entry hall with 17 bottles of wine, waiting for your husband to park the car, non?

For more pictures of our trip, check out my Flickr page here.


  1. Does 我学汉语 mean... the f-word??

    Also castle = gorgeous. <3

  2. I got a good lunchtime laugh out of Mariah's comment above! :) I love the Loire, too, and sometimes think I spend too much time going away for long weekends afar when there is a lot that's just great right here so close! Enjoy thanksgiving!