Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chenonceaux 1 September 2011

1 Sept Chenonceaux

Chenonceau chateau straddles the Cher river
Self portrait with Chenonceau
A day of ups and downs. Luke was very sick last night, more chills and fever but he woke up a little better. Still headachy and tired. I left him in bed this morning and headed off to Chenonceau chateau by myself. I really wish he could have come as it was lovely but I don't think he'd have coped with all the standing and walking required.
King Henri's bedroom and the huge flower installation, using flowers from the chateau gardens
 Chenonceau spans the Cher river and is very beautiful - I'm glad I decided to see it. The chateau has been owned by many famous women, most famously King Henri's mistress Diane de Poitiers and his wife Catherine de Medici. There was a lot more furnishings and art in this one than Ambois and the written guide did a good job of explaining it all. I let the early tour groups pass by and took my time with things (I arrived at 9am on the dot to try and beat the crowds).

I think my favourite room was Catherine Medici's study and library, located in two small rooms that jut out into the river, offering views on all sides. Next time I'm queen of Manilla I'm building a castle in the middle of the Namoi just like it.
Catherine de Medici's library, looking out over the river
The other impressive part was the long hall that spans the old bridge across the river. It's checkerboard tiles made it look a little like an Escher painting. I could imagine many masquerade balls and parties occurring in that hall.
Self portrait in the great hall spanning the river

Flowers and the view from the 2nd story of the great hall

I did notice that there were numerous paintings featuring nude men. I guess that's what happens when women run the show.

Diane de Poitiers was the king's mistress but from her paintings she didn't seem particularly beautiful. I guess she was either good in bed or the king genuinely loved her. With arranged marriages all the go with royalty, a mistress was just standard, I guess.

(Edit: 2nd Oct. Diane was a highly educated and politically astute woman who was Henri's lifelong companion. Looks didn't come into it. And apparently the paintings I saw weren't that flattering and she was considered to be a beautiful woman.)
Diane de Poitiers depicted as the huntress Diana
The gardens were sumptuous and I took my time smelling the roses.

The vegetable and flower garden was my favourite, so many gorgeous plants. It made me realise I forget what veges look like when they're in their natural state, not the supermarket.

Speaking of veges... I'm already hankering for some steamed ones. French food is big on chips and meat but not vegetables. It's salad or nothing.

Last night Luke and I went to the Hostel De Roy for dinner, el cheapo style. I guess you get what you pay for, it was nice enough but I wouldn't even say it was pub food. More like home-style stuff. I had venison stew, Luke had wild boar stew and that bit was very tasty. But it came with soggy misc celery (I think) and the worst sort of boiled rice. It really is the case with French food - either you go high end and it's amazing or you settle for very bland everyday stuff.

We had lunch across the road today, it was better. Luke had mussels, I had a bacon and goat's cheese crepe.

This afternoon has been a bit wasted. Luke went back to bed, I had a nap due to a headache. Then I tried to go for another walk, hoping to find the river. Alas, the chateau hogs the whole riverfront here and I couldn't get back into the grounds, the ticket was a one visit affair. I had originally planned to drive around the area and see a bit more but we're essentially stuck in Chenonceaux which isn't very big.

Right now I'm sitting out on the terrace at the Hotel de Roseraie, the sun is finally out and it's very warm. Imagine that, warm in Europe! I would dearly love a kir royale but the headache is still lingering. I'm not sure if it's Luke's cold (which was manifesting yesterday) or just caffiene withdrawl because I didn't have coffee this morning.

The area near our room at La Roseraie. The turret area has a toilet in it.
Turret hat
We'll have dinner in the hotel restaurant tonight and then go back to bed. Tomorrow we go to Tours, then Saturday the bike tour starts. Hopefully we'll both be recovered, bright eyed and bushy tailed for it.

Oh... bushy tails. I saw two squirrels in the woods at the chateau today. I love squirrels. They're hilarious, bounding through the grass with their tails up, chasing each other, so busy. Then wham! they're up a tree, leaping across branches, just brilliant. I also saw lots of those lovely blue finches and a woodpecker. I'm keen to do more birdwatching in Franch, I should get a book.

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