“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day Trip to Amboise

Downtown Amboise
My program organized an excursion to the town of Amboise today to visit a few famous locales. The town itself is located a mere 20 minutes from Tours by train on the national SNCF train network, which makes traveling throughout France easy and cheap. I started my morning off with a nice 35 minute walk to the train station. Tours is nice because everything is easily accessible by foot, but the train station is not somewhere on a direct route from my house.

Le Clos Luce as viewed from its lawn

Our first stop was Le Clos Lucé, the final house that Leonardo da Vinci lived in before he died. It was built in the mid-15th century and later was occupied by French kings Charles VIII and his wife, Anne de Bretagne, followed by Francois Ier (the king responsible for igniting the Renaissance in France) and his wife Marguerite de Navarre. In 1516, Francois Ier had invited Leonardo da Vinci to move from his native Italy to France to help advise the king about how to stimulate the French Renaissance, as da Vinci had been highly influential in bringing about the Renaissance in Italy a few years before. Le Clos Lucé was da Vinci's home during this time, and it is believed that he did the majority of his work on the Mona Lisa in one of the studios here.
Leonardo da Vinci's Bedroom
In the Renaissance garden courtyard at Le Clos Luce
One of the many salons, complete with original 15th-century tapestries in amazing condition
After touring the house, we ate our picnic lunches provided by our host families on the lawn outside. Mine consisted of some sort of unknown (but delicious) paté sandwich on a baguette, a large piece of cheese, another baguette with ham and butter in it, some chips and juice. In France, lunch is usually the largest meal of the day, with breakfast consisting only of bread, jam and tea, and a later dinner - more like a light snack - around 8pm.
A view of the town center
Following lunch, we had some free time to roam around the city of Amboise. It's really picturesque and especially nice because there are a lot of pedestrian-only areas where you don't have to worry about being run down by a crazy driver...a welcomed relief to camera-happy tourists who are paying more attention to the scenery than the local drivers.
Pedestrian area - no cars allowed!
Next up on our agenda was Amboise's headline attraction, the Château d’Amboise. Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Loire River, the 15th-century château was the home of King Charles VIII and later Francois Ier, among other royals. It is also notable as it is the first of the Loire valley châteaux to incorporate Italian aesthetics, a product of the early Renaissance, which spread to France after Francois Ier traveled in Italy and brought some of its revolutionary new ideas back to France with him.

Château d’Amboise, from the garden courtyard
Note the pointy Italian spires, a revolutionary new concept in France
Enough of my historical ramblings! Some highlights of the Château & its grounds were:
da Vinci's tomb in the St Hubert Chapel on the Château's grounds! 
this awesome view of the Loire River from Amboise!
The "Rachael-In-Europe" Pose!

Gargoyles! (a.k.a. fancy downspouts)
Really Old Suits of Armor!
Fancy Rooms! (think Newport Mansions on steroids)
Blossoming Gardens!
We wrapped up our time in Amboise with a beverage at the Tea House Bigot, where I had one of the best hot chocolates ever & thoroughly appreciated sitting down for an hour after a long day walking cobblestone streets and tripping over pretty much everything that crossed my path!

Enjoying my 'Chocolat A L'Ancienne' - steamed milk mixed with melted dark chocolate
--> And for those of you who don't have Facebook, here's a link to the rest of my photos so far!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rach,

    Looks like you are having a great time! Keep the updates and pics coming cause it makes me feel like I'm there with you!

    Love you tons & more ! :)