Category: Chateáux

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon Adventures in France

Everytime I make a visit to the US to see family, it’s always the same. My grandson insists on watching videos of his grandmother’s hot air balloon ride.

I’ll admit, when I think about the day I took my first hot air balloon ride, I get as excited as a 4-year old, too.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

The idea for a hot air balloon ride was not mine. Good friend Julie, who I traveled with a few years ago through the Dordogne, was the brainchild. She’s one of those travelers who does a lot of research. Somewhere she learned there was a company that offered balloon rides near where we were headed. Between the Dordogne and Paris. All she had to do was mention it and I was sold.

Never did I imagine it could be quite so much fun.

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying high in a hot air balloon, come along for the ride!

To read more about the day of hot air ballooning over the Loire Valley, click here.

Hot Air Balloon

If you like hot air ballooning as a spectator sport, several times a year there are hot air balloon events near Uzès. Like this one at the Vallée de l’Eure.

Have you taken a balloon ride in France? Please tell me all about it!

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Would I do it again? You betcha!

 

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

After six days in Dordogne with my Colorado friend, it was time for the grand finale. We threw caution to the wind and took our very first hot air balloon ride over the Loire Valley. Visiting Chenonceau no less.

The tour of the Château at Chenonceau is not exactly what you’d expect from a tour of the Dordogne region of France. It’s in the Loire Valley. We drove a long way to get there, but it was worth it in every way — and from every angle.

Visiting Chenonceau

First, a boat ride on the River Cher.

A summer event that everyone looks forward to attending is Uzès Fete Votive

River boat launch at Chenonceaux

 

Visiting Chenonceau

River view of the Chateau at Chenonceau

 

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

…and if that wasn’t enough…

Balloon over Château Chenonceau

Visiting Chenonceau

Balloon ride over the Chateau at Chenonceau and the Loire Valley

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

Balloon over Chateau at Chenonceau and the Loire Valley

 

My first balloon ride!!!

balloon over Château Chenonceau

 

A toast to Julie and to me for a fun and memorable reunion! Here’s to friends! 

May they be with us for a reason, for a season … for a lifetime!

For more about the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

 

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7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

What a day! What a way to end the week traveling and touring in Dordogne. Let’s just say, it ended on a very high note.

My traveling companion and long-lost and found friend from grade school, Julie, and I put some serious miles behind us. We drove over four hours straight from Sarlat to Tours. I’m dropping Julie off at the train station in Tours tomorrow and heading back toward Uzes. Julie’s going on to Paris for a few days before returning to Colorado.

Before we ended our “reunion” tour, we were giving ourselves the last “treat” of our journey. As you may remember, we planned two special treats for the trip. One was an overnight stay and dinner in a chateau.  The last we scheduled for today. We ventured into the Loire Valley to see one of the most magical royal chateaus in France. More than that, we experienced the chateau from every angle possible.

Touring Chenonceau

The Château at Chenonceau 

Known as the “Ladies Château,” Chenonceau was built in the 16th century on the remains of a 14th century castle and mill belonging to the Marquay family. There are writings, however, that mention the castle and mill as early as the 11th century. Still intact from the Marquay era is the chateau’s well and the Marques tower which was restored in the Renaissance style.

The property is in the Loire Valley and has been inhabited throughout history by the mistress of a King, Queens, heiresses and business tycoons. It is currently owned by a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates.

I’ll leave the history and stories of the château for a later post. Today will be a photo tour. A most unusual one, too. I was particularly interested in the “crooks and crannies” of the place since everything else is in hundreds of books.

Touring in Dordogne

Château at Chenonceau

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne: Chenonceau 


Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Part 2…stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

 

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Seven Day Dordogne Tour

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

On the third day of the seven day Dordogne tour with my friend since kindergarten, we finally got it right.  

We narrowed down the “to do” list for our seven day Dordogne tour to a manageable number of places to see in one day. We came up with the concepts of “walkabouts” and “drive by photo shootings.” In other words, there are places where we want to park the car and walk around, and there are others we just want to drive through and take pictures on the run.

We’ve gotten quite good at spotting a perfect photo opportunity, slowing the car down to a near-stop, then Julie taking a picture out the window.

Today’s adventure started after we took more photos and checked out of our “dream” Chateau Mercués outside Cahors.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Mercués

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Home of Josephine Baker

First stop: Les Milandes, Chateau built by Caumont family in the 1400’s and former home of Josephine Baker. 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Les Milandes

The self-guided tour through the chateau and the immaculate grounds was well worth the time and 3.5 euros fee. Costumes and possessions of the American songstress and philanthropist, who dazzled Paris during the 30’s at the Follies Bergere were displayed throughout the chateau. Most rooms had the furnishings and decorations that were owned and used by Baker and her large family, the “Rainbow Tribe,” while living there. (No inside photos allowed.)

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour:  Roque Gageac

As if carved into the side of cliffs, Le Rogue Gageac is a small and friendly tourist town alongside the Dordogne. There were lots of tourists, but not so many as we imagined had filled the town a few weeks earlier.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

It was here we began to see our first signs of foie gras– the duck delicacy found famously in this part of the world.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour
Could there be anything better than a salad with duck gizzards, slices of smoked duck and foi gras, and a cold glass of beer on a day with temperatures in the high 90’s? (35 degrees Celsius)

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Domme

The picturesque town above the Dordogne valley was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought it was going to be much larger than it is. While quite a nice place with cute shops and cafes, Domme was a quick stop for us. Parking the car for an hour and walking around taking photos was quite enough for us to say we’d “done” Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

I will say,  if we had not already stopped for lunch, this spot that looks over the valley would have given us a great view.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Sarlat

If I didn’t love Uzes so much, Sarlat could possibly be my next home. Oh my! To die for! 

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

After a “drive by photo shooting” in Beynac-et-Cazenet where the pictures of the town and chateau are still in Julie’s camera, we landed in Sarlat.

Today’s visit to Sarlat was short — mostly to find where to park and where to go on Saturday for market day. I can tell I want to spend more time exploring the place, its shops, cafes and intriguing back street.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Marquay

I’m not certain how we decided on this spot to stay for the next three nights, but the tiny village of Marquay is giving us a welcomed respite from our hurried pace.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Marquay

Actually, the small, family-owned hotel outside Sarlat is a good jumping off place for each of the next days on our trip. A “home base,” so to speak. It’s a far cry from the luxurious chateau last night, but it’s cozy and friendly, and everything we need to recharge and move on.

 

 

Next stop: Lascaux 

 

Stay tuned…

 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

Day two on the week-long car tour from Uzes to Tours, through the Dordogne with my long-time friend, Julie, was hurried and hot–35 degrees centigrade. Happily we ended up in total luxury–a chateau!

There are two luxuries Julie and I splurged on during our 7-day Dordogne auto tour. One was to spend a night in a hilltop chateau and enjoy a fancy dinner. The other I’ll divulge later.

Check this out!

Dordogne auto tour

Château de Mercuès near Cahors

Château de Mercuès near Cahors is a dream come true! The thirteenth century chateau with its vineyards that produce superb Georges Vigouroux wines is a haven for travelers in search of history, truffles, saffron and Malbec.

 

Dordogne auto tour

Wine storage at Château de Mercuès

Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour

Starting the Dordogne Auto Tour

After a stop and start, scenic ride from Albi, through Galliac, Montauban, Lauzerte and Cahors, we landed at the Chateau in the late afternoon. Had we known better, we would have gone straight  to Cahors, spent time there, then we would have enjoyed a more leisurely visit at the chateau. Oh well…now I’ll just have to go back sometime!

 

Dordogne auto tour
We had plenty of time for dinner at the chateau, thank goodness. Plus a private tour of the winery with the hotel manager.

Here’s just a sample to whet your appetite. More details later.

 

Dordogne auto tour

Wine tasting with the General Manager at Château de Mercuès

 

Dordogne auto tour

Dinner menu at Château de Mercuès

 

Dordogne auto tour

Dordogne auto tour

Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour

 

Tomorrow, Sarlat! Stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 


Loire Valley Holiday

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

When the plan was conceived for a 3-day visit to the Loire Valley, I thought the trip was going to be rather low-key. It was the first time in years that Nancy McGee’d been away from her business, Absolutely Southern France. Now I know there’s nothing “low-key” about traveling with Nancy, destination planner extraordinaire.

For the long drive from the south of France to our Loire Valley “base” in Amboise, Nancy had smartly planned our lunch stop in Clermont-Ferrand.

“I met the merchant during a tour I was offered,” Nancy wrote to me before our trip. “He is one of only 10 cheese merchants in France who ripens his cheeses,” she continued. And oh yes … ” We could get him to prepare a small sampling platter for our dinner on arrival.”

As you learned from the first post in the series, “Hanging out in the Loire Valley,” Clermont-Ferrand, the cheese shop, the boulangerie and the whole experience was something to remember as much as visiting chateaus and wineries.

That wasn’t all Nancy had up her sleeve. She conjured up  a private chef.

“A private chef!” I exclaimed to myself when I read the first lines of Nancy’s email. “That’ll cost a fortune!” I sighed. Then I read the next part of Nancy’s note:

“I spoke to the Chef today. Here is what he has to offer on Sunday evening. He arrives at 7 with everything, and leaves at 9. He sets the table, cooks (some things he makes in advance) and does the washing up. He cooks with local produce and uses organic when he can.”

When she added that the menu would feature regional foods, complete with the chef’s choice of local wines — and cost no more that a meal at a moderately upscale restaurant — I was “in.”

But first … Château Villandry

The date set for our private chef to prepare dinner at our “chalet” was Sunday evening.  That meant we had all day to visit one of the châteaux we heard was extraordinary — Château Villandry. Believe me, it didn’t disappoint.

Château Villandry in the Loire Valley

Château Villandry in the Loire Valley

Château Villandry was built in the sixteenth century by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I. The structure was erected on the site of a feudal castle from which Breton salvaged only the keep (fortified tower) because of its historical significance — the site of the peace treaty signing, “La Paix de Colombiers ” (The Peace of Colombiers), between   Henry II of England (Henry Plantagenet) and King Philip Augustus of France.

Château Villandry was confiscated during the French Revolution and acquired by Emperor Napoleon to house his brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. In 1906 the château was purchased by Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish doctor and medical researcher, married to Ann Coleman, an American heiress. The Carvallos piled massive amounts of money and effort into creating a home and showplace,  including resurrecting and installing a magnificent tri-level garden. Enrique Carvallo, the doctor’s great-grandson, and his family live on the grounds of the château today.

From any angle, the château and gardens are both man and nature’s works of art. 

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Gardens at Château Villandry

Gardens at Château Villandry

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The day we visited Château Villandry the sky was overcast and grey. In spite of the weather, the garden was colorful and cheerful — flush with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and assorted other seasonal fruits and vegetables. I could only imagine how it the same place might look in the summertime with a different variety of plants and flowers.

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While I admire gardens, it was the interior of the château that, to me, was breath-taking. Especially the dining room.

Dining room at Château Villandry

Dining room at Château Villandry

If you wonder how dinner is served in a château, this setting showed it off to pure perfection.

Family portraits and live flower arrangements throughout the château created a warm and friendly ambience. 

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Long halls filled with an impressive art collection belonging to the Carvallo family and intricately designed ceilings were reminders that Château Villandry is a grand château worthy of its World Heritage Site designation.

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Ceiling decoration at Château Villandry

Ceiling decoration at Château Villandry

Dinner Dimanche 

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Back to chalet “chez moi.”  

After a long day visiting the château and gardens at Villandry, we were more than ready for our special treat — dinner with Chef Arnaud.

Chef Arnaud

Chef Arnaud

Le menu

Entrée
Oeufs Meurette au Chinon (poached eggs in onion and red wine sauce)

Plat
Joues de Porc Confites , Purée de Vitelottes  (candied pork cheek and purple potatoes)

Fromage

Toast de Fromage de Chèvre (goats cheese on toast)

Dessert

Tarte à la tatin  (apple pie with creme)

For any who think eggs poached in wine is weird, just try it. If you cringe at the thought of pork “cheeks,” this Southern Girl has never tasted anything quite like it. The pork was slowly cooked until the meat was deep pink. It was so tender it melted like butter in my mouth, yet there was an outside crust that was crispy and savoury.

Along with the meal fixings, Chef Arnaud brought more regional delicacies from his own kitchen that we could buy — pâte, rilettes de porc and confitures. And buy we did.

Brad even got in on the evening fun!

Many “thanks” to Barefoot Blogger readers for your comments on photo representation in the blog posts. In addition to saying “keep the photos in the post as usual,”  you seem to like the slide shows and video slides, too. Always open to your thoughts and suggestions on how to make the postings easier to manage and enjoyable for you. I love having you along with me on this ride!

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3 Days in the Loire Valley: Amboise

The Barefoot Blogger is off to explore the middle of France: the chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley.

Along with me on the three day adventure is my good friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. The tour expert extraordinaire and I started out on the three day trip, including two days on either end, from Sete where I drove to meet her.

Our home base on this trip is an Airbnb ‘chalet’ in Amboise. From there we can easily reach more chateaus and wine than we can possibly cram into three days.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley:

Chateaus and Vineyards of the Loire Valley

Château Royal du Amboise

The Chateau Amboise is in the center of the charming city that shares its same name. The first  trenches of the château were built in the 4th century to defend the residents of the town.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley
The château was the home and place to stay for the Valois and Bourbon kings. Charles VIII was born here.  King Francis and children  of Henri II and Catherine de Medici were raised here. Leonardo da Vinci, friend of King Francis, is buried on the property.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateau Amboise

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley:

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley:

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

The Chateau

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Gardens at Chateau de Amboise 

Although it was an overcast morning, views of the gardens at Chateau de Amboise were dramatic.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Bidding Chateau de Amboise “avoir,” the town of Amboise was next stop. 

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

 

Chateaus and Vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateau Clos Luce and da Vinci

The small château, Clos Luce, is within easy walking distance of downtown Amboise. It was here that Leonardo da Vinci, the invited guest of King Francis I, lived between 1516 and 1519 when he died.  The castle itself houses over 40 of da Vinci’s inventions. An audio-visual presentation of his life and work, presented by IBM, instructs tourists as they move through the rooms.

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

 

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

(From this point I changed cameras. More photos later!)

A surprise at the wine cave

After a day of châteaux, it was wine time at the nearby wine bottler and merchant recommended in the Rick Steves travel guide.
chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley
chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

To our surprise, we met up with a most unexpected celebrity who, rumored to be depressed and somewhere in hiding, we persuaded to join us.

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Stayed tuned…

Follow the tour!

Hanging Out In The Loire Valley

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

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