Beyond Paris: Paris to Loire Valley

We’ve been having too much fun visiting adorable villages and UNESCO heritage sites not to mention eating good food and drinking great wine to spend much time on the blog.

Since leaving Paris we’ve toured Chartres Cathedral, ventured to the Loire Valley for some amazing Chateau. Small medieval hilltop villages have been discovered, visited 9th century abbeys enjoyed some great and not so great meals and had more wine.

We’ve now reached Burgundy for another day or two before saying adieu through Lyon.

When I have more time I’ll come back and fill in the details and of course photos! Until then, here are a few highlights.
************Finally coming back and updating the blog!*******

Picking up the rental car in Paris was in theory pretty simple. The taxi stand was just a few short blocks from our hotel. Upon arrival at the train station we followed signs through the halls to the rental car offices. Filled out a few forms, picked up the keys from Europcar, reached the garage and found our Volkswagen Golf.

We also found it smelly and dirty. Smoky, full of ashes and sporting low tire pressure warnings. The cup holders were lined with ashes. The seats had to be wiped off. Disgusting. I went back to the office specifically about the tire pressure and mentioned the dirty/smoky condition but there were no other rentals available and I was assured the tire pressure warning was nothing to worry about. Hmmm. At least we figured out how to turn the warning off.

My GPS unit also failed to gain a signal and wouldn’t charge. We again returned to the train station – parking in the taxi area while I rushed back in to figure out the charging situation. The very patient rental agent even provided me with a USB cable for my GPS, but there was still nothing to be done about the smelly car.

Back on the road we drove without guidance for several blocks as we waited for the GPS to obtain a signal. All I knew is that heading toward the Eiffel Tower was a mistake! Doubling up we managed to get my cell phone to navigate (oh, yes and T-Mobile free international data has been a plague the entire time but finally worked).

Now, we’re heading out-of-town toward Chartres. Next moment of panic was the toll road. I understood that you picked up a ticket at the toll entrance then upon leaving the toll section you’d reach booths where you could pay via credit card. Well . . . . those carte signs are NOT for credit cards but for toll cars.

We confidently drove up to one, inserted the toll ticket, inserted credit card and it rejected the credit card. Kept the ticket. Uh oh. Thank goodness only one car was behind us and we signaled to back up. Moved over to the next booth that had more options. Inserted credit card . . . still no ticket and now it kept the credit card! Stupid to blindly insert credit card, I know.  Panic. Stress. People are behind us. I’m picturing Los Angeles traffic. Oh. My. God.

Luckily this booth had a call box and the person on the end spoke little English. So, using few words I explained No Ticket – credit card stuck. Help! Simple explanation that we started in Paris and viola the appropriate charge was made to my card and out it popped.

Okay, so at this point we’ve navigated Paris without direction and got stuck at a toll booth. Not much else can happen more stressful!

About an hour later we arrived in Chartres where we ran afoul of GPS directions and rain. After driving around a bit we finally managed to find our way to the central parking for the Cathedral and were ready to get the heck out of the car!

Before venturing into the Cathedral we stopped for lunch where our timing was perfect. While we were some of the first seated for lunch within 20 minutes the restaurant was full.  No photos of lunch, but it was one of the best meals. We choose the house special starter which was a salad with eggs stuffed with a creamy mushroom mixture and shared a grilled beef with blue cheese sauce and scalloped potatoes. Oh my. With large portions meals are perfectly shared for lunch.

Now we’re ready for Chartres!And isn’t this just a fantastic photo of Linda!

From the outside it reminds you of all the rest of the grand Cathedrals scattered across Europe. It’s from the inside that Chartres shines. Once again I am in awe of the stained glass.

I would love to see this place throughout the day as the position of the sun changes.

People have studied this cathedral their entire lives. Just reading that, I couldn’t understand. Seeing it in person begins to make sense.

P1020101-0.JPGThe abundance of glass is breathtaking. There are exterior panels ringing the entire church. But, it’s not just the exterior that is graced by glass. Surround the choir are more panels and stories being told with colorful glass.  At some point you just put down the camera and gaze in awe.

Sufficiently overwhelmed it’s time to keep heading south toward Amboise. We had one more mixup with the paid parking garage meter when a gentleman in front of us had some confusion with his ticket – which caused confusion with our ticket. Luckily we each were there the same amount of time and essentially ended up paying for each others parking. Geesh.

In Amboise we’re staying at a bed & breakfast so arrival isn’t until after 5pm. This is one of those towns were you disbelieve what the GPS tells you. That simply must be a sidewalk I shouldn’t drive down. So, we made a few loops about the small town before heading down that street/sidewalk. Okay, so it’s really fun to squeeze your car between tourists and drive down what looks like sidewalks.

Finally we reached our destination! Les Fleurons.

Our hotel is the white manor house in the middle of the above photo – and our room is the second from the top on the left – well, that’s our sitting room!

Now, for a relaxing dinner. After today we definitely need a relaxing dinner! And boy, did Amboise deliver.  Our hosts recommendation didn’t work out without a reservation so we instead dinned at L’Epicure and enjoyed every moment.

I went with one of the more traditional dishes on the menu – duck confit. Linda enjoyed  scallops with shrimp. So, duck confit isn’t exactly photogenic but it is delicious!

 

After dinner we enjoyed a short still about town before collapsing into our incredibly comfortable beds for the night. How’s this for a room with a view?Tomorrow it’s time for castles!

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