Tag: Loire Valley

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!

 

Exploring Loire Valley Wine Caves

Staying in a small village near Amboise turned out to be one of the best choices on this visit to the Loire Valley. Not only were we close to beautiful châteaux, there were Loire Valley wine caves all around. 

Loire Valley Wine Caves

After a day of visiting Château Ambroise and Château Clos Luce, it was wine time. Fortunately for us, there was a wine bottler and merchant nearby recommended in the Rick Steves travel guide, Caves Duhard. Along with the musty caves and ancient bottles, there was some really good wine.

Loire Valley Wine Caves
Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

 Just around the corner from our chalet in Ambroise was another find: Caves du Pigeonnier.

http://www.le-pigeonnier-de-fombeche.eu/

Loire Valley Wine Caves

My friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, who has taken many tours in France with her travel customers,  says this was the “best guided wine tour ever.”

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

With Nancy performing as interpreter the few English speakers,  we all learned so much about wine production in the Loire, especially about the 300 year old cave that’s been owned by the same family for six generations.

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

The ancient cave has been enlarged in recent years yet wine producing techniques from its beginning are still prominent, including the “vat” in the cave wall that was used in the process before the introduction of barrels.

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Bubbling juices and skins being prepared to use as “coloring”

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Wooden crate contraption that rotates to turn bottled wine during the production process

Under the wine appellation (AOC) Montlouis, the production at Guestault is predominately white wines from chinon grapes, including sparkling wines.
Loire Valley Wine Caves

As ancient as the caves and some of the original processing methods, the grape production at Guestault is thoroughly modern. I turned on the video recorder for this explanation, interpreted onsite by Nancy.

Stay tuned …

 

Loire Valley Châteaux: Amboise and Clos Luce

Revisiting the Loire Valley …

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

Along with me on the adventure through the Loire Valley is my good friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. The tour expert extraordinaire and I started out on the three day trip, plus two travel days.

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

Loire Valley Chateaus

Loire Valley Châteaux

Château Royal du Amboise

The Château de 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.

Loire Valley Châteaux
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.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Château Amboise

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Inside Château Amboise

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Chateaux

The Gardens at Château Amboise 

An overcast morning made views of the gardens at Château de Amboise impressively dramatic.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

After bidding Château de Amboise “avoir,” our next stop was the town of Amboise. 

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux: Clos Luce

Chateau Clos Luce and Leonardo da Vinci

The small château, Clos Luce, is within easy walking distance of downtown Amboise. It was here that Leonardo da Vinci was invited to live by King Francis I. DaVinci stayed at Clos Luce from 1516 until his death in 1519. He is buried on the grounds of Château de Ambroise.

Château Clos N 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.

Loire Valley Châteaux

 

Loire Valley Châteaux

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

 

Road Trip Through the Loire Valley

Thinking about a visit to the Loire Valley? Join me as I recall my adventure into the heartland of France–a Loire Valley tour. Along with my “partner in crime” Nancy McGee from Absolutely South France, our challenge was to visit as many chateaus and vineyards as we could cram into three days in the Loire Valley, plus two travel days.

Day One: Sete to Amboise, via Millau Viaduct and Clermont Ferrand 

Starting out from Sete, we drove non-stop to Clermont Ferrand , crossing the Millau Viaduct. Frankly, I had no idea I would be seeing the infamous bridge on this journey to the Loire Valley. What a treat! The tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct’s tallest mast reaches 1,124.3 (343 metres) above the base. Designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux, it was completed in three years.

 

Loire Valley Route

Millau Viaduct

Loire Valley Route

Clemont Ferrand

The home of Michelin Tires, Clermont Ferrand shows its rich heritage with impressive buildings and magnificent St. Pierre Cathedral. Known for being a city surrounded by volcanoes, the Chaîne des Puys, Clermont Ferrand is also famous for its International Short Film Festival. 

Loire Valley Route

Clermont Ferrand

Loire Valley Route

Clermont Ferrand

 

Loire Valley Route

Cityscapes

It only we’d had more time to see the city! Especially the Cathedral. Here are some of the picture-perfect scenes that make Clermont Ferrand “oh, so French.”

Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route

Loire Valley Route

Apparently, the town’s favorite boulanerie

Loire Valley Route

Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley Route

Loire Valley Route

One very special stop in Clermont Ferrand was the Artisan Fromagerie Nivesse.  Nancy visited there with a tour group and she raved about the selection and quality of the cheeses. She was so right! In fact, since tasting their 36-month aged cheeses, I’m hooked!

Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route
Loire Valley Route

Loire Valley Route

Look at the aged goat cheese! Yes, the dark brown logs of cheese

Follow the tour!

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Amboise

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

 

 

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: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

On a three-day visit to the Loire Valley, my friend Nancy McGee and I made up our itinerary along the way. Nancy, destination guide “extraodinare” of Absolutely Southern France, was on vacation. That meant no set schedule, just a home base near Amboise. 

After seeing Château Amboise which is in the middle of the town of Amboise, Nancy and I walked a short distance to Château Clos Lucé. The attraction of the small chateau was , to us, that it was where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years.

Château Clos Lucé in Amboise

Château Clos Lucé in Amboise

 

The chateau was built in the fifteenth century by Hugues d’Amboise. It was acquired by Charles VIII for his wife, Anne de Bretagne. Later, it was used by Francis I who invited da Vinci to stay and work there. Da Vinci remained at the chateau until his death in May 1519. It is now a museum dedicated to the memory and inventions of the master artist and inventor.

 

Workshop of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Luce

Workshop of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Luce

 

An Experiment. Please comment!

In the spirit of the visit to Clos Lucé, I’d like to experiment with a different format for sharing photos with you. I really need your feedback, please. There are many pictures I’d like to show you from the Loire Valley trip. However, I don’t want to make my posts too difficult for you to view. So … how do you like to help me decide.

For example, do you like slideshows that you can view from YouTube? (The quality is not as good as the slideshow through WordPress) … or do you prefer the imbedded slideshow that has better quality but requires more time to download? Other options are below.

Let’s give this a try and please, please, let me hear from you on your preference:

  • Slideshows from Youtube
  • Imbedded slideshow?
  • Photos (6-10) per blog post? (as usual)
  • Photos and slideshow?

Here’s Château Clos Lucé … enjoy!

 

(Imbedded slideshow)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Youtube slideshow

 

 

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 3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

Staying in a small village near Amboise turned out to be one of the best choices along this visit to the Loire Valley. Fireplace, neighborhood parties and wine caves.

Arriving at our “château” after a day of castles and wine in Amboise, our host popped in to invite us to a neighborhood party–a birthday celebration. Perhaps it was because of the guest we picked up in town.

Where's Brad Pitt
He was quite a hit with the ladies.. and a big help, too.

Where's Brad Pitt
I guess he’s used to partying in France and I’m certain he was ready to have some fun. He really got into helping out in the kitchen, especially getting prepared for the barbecue.

Where's Brad Pitt

Party! party! 

Next day all the party-animals met at the nearby wine cave, Caves du Pigeonnier,  for a tour and degustion (tasting)

Amboise France

Amboise France

My friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, who has taken many tours in France with her travel customers,  says this was the “best guided wine tour ever.”

Amboise France

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

 

With Nancy performing as interpreter the few English speakers,  we all learned so much about wine production in the Loire, especially about the 300 year old cave that’s been owned by the same family for six generations.

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

The ancient cave has been enlarged in recent years yet wine producing techniques from its beginning are still prominent, including the “vat” in the cave wall that was used in the process before the introduction of barrels.

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Bubbling juices and skins being prepared to use as “coloring”

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Wooden crate contraption that rotates to turn bottled wine during the production process

 

Under the wine appellation (AOC) Montlouis, the production at Guestault is predominately white wines from chinon grapes, including sparkling wines.
Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

As ancient as the caves and some of the original processing methods, the grape production at Guestault is thoroughly modern. I turned on the video recorder for this explanation, interpreted onsite by Nancy.

Next stop, Château Clos Lucé

 

6057d5043ccaec19c58c7685c4102747

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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Hanging Out In The Loire Valley

Ten hours on the French highways and the Barefoot Blogger is in the Loire Valley.

Join me on an adventure into the heartland of France–a Loire Valley tour. Along with my “partner in crime” Nancy McGee from “Absolutely Southern France” destination management company (travel advisor.) Our challenge is to visit as many chateaus and vineyards as we can cram into three days in the Loire Valley, plus two travel days.

Day One: Sete to Amboise, via Clermont Ferrand 

Starting out from Sete, we drove non-stop to Clermont Ferrand , crossing the Millau Viaduct.

Loire Valley tour

Millau Viaduct

The home of Michelin Tires, Clermont Ferrand shows its rich heritage with impressive buildings and magnificent St. Pierre Cathedral.

Loire Valley tour

Clermont Ferranc

Loire Valley tour

Clermont Ferrand


Loire Valley Tour: Cityscapes

Wish we’d had more time to see the city, especially the Cathedral. Here are some of the picture-perfect scenes that are “oh, so French.”

Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour

Loire Valley tour

Apparently, the town’s favorite boulanerie

Loire Valley tour
and here’s why …

Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
and especially this…

Loire Valley tour
One very special stop in Clermont Ferrand was the artisan Fromagerie Nivesse.  Nancy visited there recently with a tour group and she raved about the selection and quality of the cheeses. She was so right! In fact, since tasting their 36-month aged cheeses, I’m hooked!

Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour

Loire Valley tour

Look at the aged goat cheese! Yes, the dark brown logs of cheese

Follow the tour!

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Amboise

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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