Sunday, June 7, 2009

Loire Valley, France

This is a region in France that boasts some of the world’s verdant countryside and best chateaux. Having visited 5 years ago and seen the Chateau Chambord, I decided to come again with the main purpose of visiting the fairytale Chateau Chenonceau.
Thanks to my CS friend Eric, who drove me around, I was able to see the sights much easily than via the train. We visited two chateaux-- Amboise and Chenonceau. Amboise is where Leonardo da Vinci is supposedly buried. Also, in the same town is where da Vinci lived. This mansion is called Le Close Luce.

Chenonceau was the absolute highlight. From the beginning, one gets a sense of regality as one strolls down the grand avenue with tall trees leading to the chateau. My favorite interior part was the kitchen with its copper utensils still intact. Outside, two splendid gardens, one with a fountain and the other with a lake, surround the chateau. The best view had to be from one of the gardens, in which one could see Chenonceau’s bridge reach across the Cher River.

We also visited several wineries in the region. The main wines I tasted were Vouvray, which is made from chenin blanc. I enjoyed wine tasting here as it was more informal and intimate than in St. Emilion--many of the wineries don’t even have formal tasting bars.

To top off this great day, my CS host Camiel prepared an excellent 4-course French meal for us. First, our entrée (appetizer) consisted of crab sticks and tzazitki (yogurt and cucumber dip). The plat (main course) was a delicious and aesthetically pleasing salad with potatoes and chicken gizzard. Third, we sampled some of the region’s famed chevre (goat) cheese with bread. Dessert was a light tarte au citron (lemon tart). To top it all, we drank a red wine (which I forgot the name) from the Loire Valley.

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