Thursday, July 26, 2012

UFRT Day 1 : Geneva to Tours

The first day of our Ultimate France Road Trip (UFRT) we headed out from Geneva and drove west around 5 hours stopping in the Loire Valley near Tours.  On the map below that is from point I to B. 

I booked a quaint B&B for the night outside of Tours, but before checking in we had a stop to make.  

Château de Chambord is one of the most unbelievable places I have ever seen.  It is incredibly huge, pictures can't do it justice for how grand the building is.  As we pulled up Jim says That's where we are going!? Sweet!  Not knowing much about the châteaus of France I had no idea this place existed before looking into sights in the Loire Valley. 

To give a brief history; Chambord was built as a hunting lodge for King François I in the 16th century. That's right...just hunting.  Construction began in 1519 and upon François' death in 1547 he had spent a total of 7 weeks there. The Chateâu was actually never meant as a residence. The rooms are massive and the ceilings high making it impossible to heat. In François time the Chateâu remained unfurnished until the King's arrival. An entourage of some 2,000 people would bring in the furniture, as well as food and everything else the king needed for however long he was expected to stay. After François' death the Chateâu remained unused for almost a century. 

From 1639 until 1944 Chambord was renovated, expanded, and abandoned over and over until it became a tourist site in the mid 20th Century.  It was also said to be the inspiration for the Beast's castle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.   

If you need more history I suggest the internet, Chambord does have a fascinating history!

After Chambord we drove about 20 min to the bed and breakfast where we stayed for the night.  Basically I picked it for location to the highway because we wanted to be able to get up early and on the road again.  It turned out to be really nice and the owners were very friendly. We even had a little patio to sit on.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Get Ready!

the route

Two days after Jim and I returned from Portugal we packed up the car and headed out on a five day road trip across France. We normally aren't the back to back vacation people, but after I planned our Portugal trip, I found out from the family I work for that they were taking the whole week off to do some traveling of their own.  Now I had off for 5 more days.  

Jim had been talking about seeing Normandy, but with almost 8 hours of traveling to get there it wasn't likely we would make the trip in one weekend.  Finally we had the time to go.  We left mid morning on April 5 and returned April 9 the day after Easter. 

When it was all over we drove almost 2,000 km, spent 288 on gas and €130 on 8 tolls.  Whew!

Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Portugal: Part Three

Our final day in Portugal we headed out of the Douro valley and back towards the airport in Porto.  Since our flight was in the early evening we stopped in the historical city of Guimarães.  Guimarães was settled in the 9th century and is often referred to as the birthplace of the Portuguese nationality. 

Palace of the Dukes of Braganza


inside the palace

Georgian chant book from the 18th Century

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Portugal: Part 2

When last we left off Jim and I had spent two nights in lovely, historic Porto.  We headed out of town on Sunday morning and drove about an hour and a half east into the Douro river valley.  We were staying another two nights in the town of Lamego and I had arranged some Port tastings and tours at the vineyards nearby. 

After checking in to the B&B we were fed a delicious lunch.  There was just enough time to check out the house and orchard before a huge storm rolled in.  There was also hail, which according to the owners was not normal. 

We headed out early and took a tour of the Sandman production at the Quinta do Sexio vineyard.  Most large scale wine producers own a few different vineyards or buy the grapes and bring them together to make the wine.  Then we had a lovely lunch by the river and went to another tasting.  Quinta Santa Eufemia, was pretty small scale compared to Sandman.  No fancy shop or tour, but really nice people who graciously taught us about their wine.