Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pontlevoy, France

After our vacation time in Lisbon we headed to Paris, and then drove to Pontlevoy, a small town in the Loire Valley. Upon arriving we were instructed to ask the owner of a brasserie down the street for the keys to our house. Well, it was closed. This marked the beginning of our trip...butchering French to locals in search of the keys to our "Tower." We ended up finally getting the cleaning lady on the phone, and I managed to tell her that we were looking for the keys and the bar was closed, and she told me she'd be there in ten minutes. Whew! We didn't really mind the wait, because we got to meet some interesting locals and practice our frenglish. It was fun! When we finally got into our house/tower, we were able to unwind, put our stuff away, and make a family grocery run. The house was very had four floors with plenty of bathrooms and space to spread out...although I think we spent most of our time in the kitchen near the fireplace, wine and cheese :) The grocery store was down the road and local family owned, meaning when we walked up the man and his school-aged children greeted us during their soccer match in the driveway. We picked out some grub and headed back to have a snack. The homeowner left us a guide for different restaurants, wineries, cheese manufactures and chateaus to visit...and we tried most of her recommendations. Thankfully for our GPS (although very annoying at times to hear her voice) we found these places quite easily. Most of the times we were out, it seemed as if we were the only people on the road. The town and it's surrounding villages were literally desolate. It was nice, and kind of creepy at the same time! The first day there, we decided to visit the Chambord Chateau. It was the largest chateau, and very pretty. Like most, you enter on this LONG road lined with's surreal to think that people were that important to have these luxuries way back then. Must be nice! The exterior of this one was very pretty, but it mixed a lot of different cultures (french, indian, etc.) so it looked a little quirky, too. The interior was amazing. It was done in mostly limestone with stately fireplaces (a few had lit fires, because it was freezing). We toured most of the chateau, at least all of the sections we were allowed to enter. It was awesome. That night we ate dinner at one of the suggested restaurants, and apart from confusing (seignant and a point-medium and rare) we had a great dinner! The next morning we took our time getting ready, had a nice breakfast and headed to a Goat Cheese Maker's place. Unfortunately, we had the expectation that we would be able to see the processes, and instead it was just a shop. We bought some cheese and headed to our next destination...a winery! Named after Roy, this spot was unique. It was a very small place, and our host was a little old man who, not speaking any English, was very helpful and sweet. We were able to taste some of his wines and jams, and even bought a few bottles to have with dinner. After leaving Michel Roy's Winery, we headed to another winery, Jean-Marie Presle. The GPS got it a little wrong this time, and we drove up to an "in-the-middle-of-nowhere motel" run by a man who was VERY skeptical of us walking around looking for the open door (after walking over a shotgun cover). We learned very quickly that our destination was next door, and we were happy to leave. Once we arrived at our location, we were pleasantly surprised. The owner/proprietor spoke English and was very knowledgeable and helpful. We ended up having so much fun with him (and liked his wines so much) that we came back on Friday to buy more wine and ask to use his Internet (we were desperate!). After all of the wine tasting, we were very eager to see another we drove out to Chenonceau, a gorgeous chateau on the Cher River (no, not Cher Cher, Cher as in "dear, my sweet, my lovely"). Though smaller than Chambord, it was beautiful inside. They had decorated the mantles and entry tables with fresh cut flowers with Easter themes, which made the house smell amazing! The rooms were set up with the beds and tapestries, and the furniture was beautiful. This chateau was by far my favorite, with its ornate kitchens and butcher rooms. It was very neat. We really enjoyed this chateaus gardens as well. There were two different gardens, and both were incredible. You definitely got the "enchanted" feeling walking through them...I only wish the flowers were in full bloom...I bet it's amazing. When we left this chateau, walking down the long gravel entry lined in trees, we passed a labyrinth. I had never seen one in person, so we had to stop and take some pictures. Very cool! That night we decided to make dinner at home, and we had a great time! We drank wine, had pork chops, played Spades and random poker games and had a great time! Maybe too great a time. Kelly and I didn't feel so hot the next day, because we had a girl night after everyone went to bed. Very needed! Friday we woke up, headed out to Jean-Marie's for more wine, and headed out to our final chateau. Cheverny was a gorgeous chateau (are you tired of me saying that yet?) as well, and probably the most realistic as far as space and decor. Used as a starting place for most hunts, they had a pen with upwards of 50 hunting dogs very excited about life. They were very cute, until feeding time when they were released to "do their thing" amongst each other. I could've done without that. The chateau was set up as a walking tour, and each room was furnished with it's antiquities and you could walk by and look, but no pictures. Well, the rebel that I am took was too pretty not to! Since this was our last night, we decided to go to a restaurant from the recommendation list. It was built inside of two caves, which were used as quarries way back when. They are famous (within the area) for their steaks, so we had to try them (and get the order right this time). It was delicious, I'm glad we made it back to eat there. Saturday was departure day...sad! We woke up early and got on the road to Paris. Our intention was to make it to the Parisian Flea Market. Glenda has always wanted to go, and she had sent me the info a while back on it, and I was excited to see it was well. When we put the address in the GPS, it gave us our location and we trusted it. Well, there are two streets with that name, and since we didn't have the postal code, we got the wrong one. We decided to throw in the white towel after the rain started, but were able to find the right one and take a picture. We made it to the train station in enough time to have lunch and relax, and then we were Belgium bound! It was an amazing trip, and I would definitely go back!

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