Chateau de Chenonceau

Ever since I can remember, there has been three drawings of the Chateau de Chenonceau hanging in my mother’s bedroom. My parents visited Chenonceau when I was just a little thing, and she’s talked about it for years. I had big expectations for Chenonceau, but after being so impressed with Chambord, I didn’t know if they would be met.

Just a very, very brief history lesson about Chenonceau. It was built between 1515-1521 by the Bohiers, but it was seized by King Francis I for unpaid debts. Then his son, Henry II, gave it to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers. However, at the death of King Henry II, his legal wife, Catherine de Medici, kicked her out of the chateau and took over residence herself. I can’t blame her because it’s quite lovely and who wouldn’t want to stick it to the mistress.

We parked the car and walked through a gift shop and then down this beautiful tree-lined lane.

Tree-lined lane to Chenonceau

I was already loving it. The weather was perfect, and the light dappled through the leaves was beautiful. At the other end of the lane was this charming cottage. You know, I don’t need a chateau; a cottage like this would be just fine for me. Or perhaps this tower.

I’m not sure what is inside the tower. We weren’t allowed to go in, but I imagine it looks something like Rapunzel’s tower in Tangled. Which is to say, amazing! Here’s the facade of the chateau:

And a little closer look at the details:

There’s a self-guided tour with an audio guide that you can take, but of course, we didn’t end up getting the audio guide. I know they are full of interesting information, but I never feel quite free when I’m carrying around an audio guide around. I always have to worry about pausing and playing or skipping ahead. I did, however, have a written visitor’s guide that I just now happened to read. Mostly I just enjoyed looking around at all of the details, like the pattern wearing off the floor.

Even though the chateau is obviously quite large, it felt more intimate than the Chateau de Chambord. The doorways were a little smaller and there were lots of little rooms that would have been perfect for writing letters while looking over the River Cher. I also loved the various wallpapers and tapestries.

The most famous feature of Chenonceau is the gallery that stretches out across the river. During WWI, it was the scene of a hospital. During WWII, the River Cher was a dividing line between occupied and free France. The facade of Chenonceau was in the occupied section of France, but the other side of the gallery was free, so the resistance was able to use the chateau to move lots of people from German-occupied France to freedom. It’s definitely a photo op.

After a week of traveling, I found a little trick. Groups of people usually come in waves, so if I want to get a photo without a horde of fellow travelers, all I have to do is wait. Eventually, they all clear away.

Chateau de Chenonceau Gallery over the River Cher

Something else that I loved about the chateau was all of the beautiful flower arrangements. I had to check to see if all the flowers were real (they were).

I think my favorite part of the chateau, though, were the kitchens. They were just perfectly French and charming and I want them for myself.

There’s a balcony on the second floor with an incredible view of the gardens and the rivers.

Upstairs is the Five Queens’ bedroom in memory of Catherine de Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law who were all queens. I’d say the bed is very regal.

This is the bed of King Henri IV’s favorite mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrees.

One of the small rooms next to Catherine de Medici’s bedroom was turned in to an exhibition room full of drawings of the Chenonceau over its lifetime. They reminded me of home.

This room is the mourning room.

After Catherine de Medici’s death, the chateau passed on to Lorraine, who retired there after her husband, Henry III, died. She cloaked the room in black and only wore white thereafter, earning the title of “the White Queen.”

Of course the chateau is beautiful, but a major draw is the gardens. I wasn’t sure how in bloom they would be at the end of September, but you’ve already seen from the balcony view that they were bright and gorgeous.

I had such a pleasant time wandering around the gardens taking photos. The weather was gorgeous and I just thrilled to how beautiful everything was around me. I may have taken a little too long, though, because I found Cristen patiently waiting for me and making good use of time writing some postcards.

We worked up quite an appetite from all our wandering and decided to just eat at the self-service cafe on the grounds. It wasn’t the best hamburger I have ever had (by any stretch of the imagination), but it was in the old carriage houses, so the location was really pretty. And convenient.

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The Tuileries Garden

The last time I went to Paris, it was the first week in March. I was actually surprised to see some blossoms and flowers, but in general, it was not quite spring and the trees were anything but leafy. I remember wishing at the time that I could see it in its full glory. Well, I definitely got my wish.

We loved it so much that we returned after visiting the Louvre. It was just such a perfect place to relax and enjoy the evening.

Plus, Cristen’s socks matched the hot pink flowers.

Speaking of hot pink flowers — does anyone know what kind of flowers those are? I tried to find it via Google Images but didn’t have any luck. I love them!

We stayed until the sun was setting (and really only left after a man invited himself to sit down with us and we found it incredibly awkward).

I love it when things are even better than you hope.

Gardens at Giverny

We planned to visit Giverny on our way up to Normandy, but first we had to get out of Paris. This is the part of driving in France that I was most nervous about. We didn’t have a paper map and had neglected to print off directions, so we were relying completely on Sir Percy the GPS to guide us to the freeway. However, Sir Percy had been in deep hibernation, and it took a long time for him to have enough energy to tell us where we needed to go.

Meanwhile, I was driving the streets of Paris. I would have parked, but I couldn’t find a parking space. Of course, that didn’t stop many people from just parking in the street and turning on their hazards. The prevailing attitude seemed to be, “I’ll do what I need to do, and you can deal with it.” At first, it’s kind of frustrating because I didn’t know what to expect from people, and I didn’t trust the drivers around me. But then I put my aggressive Paris driver face on and realized that I was out for myself, too. It didn’t matter so much when I was just going straight, but when it came to intersections and especially to merging onto the freeway, it was every man for himself. Here’s a basic picture of what it was like.

Oh, except, I forgot to add the motorbikes and scooters that are also weaving in and out of traffic at 50 mph. After the second or third car came within 1 inch of hitting me, I had to just trust that the other drivers knew what they were doing and do my own thing, too. And it worked. We made it out of Paris alive and with nary a dent on the car.

Once we got away from traffic and the city, driving on the freeway felt pretty normal. And then we got off at the exit for Giverny and started driving on these little roads and through some villages and I suddenly realized that I was driving in France. That doesn’t look very significant when I write it down, but it felt awesome. And everything was so incredibly charming.

When we arrived in Giverny, we circled the parking lot three or four times before a family walking back to their car took pity on us and allowed us to follow them and take their parking space. I was a little worried that crowds would once again dampen the experience, but then we walked inside Monet’s gardens and toured his house.

Photography isn’t allowed inside the house, but you can find a few photos online. For example, here’s the yellow dining room:

And here’s the kitchen:

Photo from AtticMag

Are you loving it? I totally fell in love with his house. It’s probably not even the decor, but the atmosphere there. It just buzzed with life somehow. I just wanted to live there and read and write and paint and maybe even garden, although I’d probably prefer to have gardeners. Plus, you could sit out on the balcony and look at this view.

And I could spend hours wandering these gardens.

Perfect backdrop for a selfie…

Perfect backdrop for a selfie…

And yeah, it was pretty crowded (and almost impossible to get a photo without another tourist in it), but it didn’t take away at all from how beautiful and peaceful the setting was. I could have stayed there forever. But eventually we had to move on. We still had a few hours to drive to get to Bayeux.

We arrived around 8 and checked into our hotel (probably the sketchiest of the ones we booked, but it was still pretty clean and nice). We were starving, though, so we ventured into town. Cristen had read about this pizza place, so we tried it first but were greeted with, “Non, non, termine, termine!” so we assumed they were closing for the night. There were a few other places nearby but they each had something against them (too pricey, no veggie options), so we headed back to the car. It wasn’t too much of a loss, though, because Bayeux is such a charming place (I may overuse the word charming, but is there a better alternative? France was just charming).

On our way out of the center of town, we passed an area with an open restaurant that looked pretty decent, so we stepped inside. Even though it was late, we were seated and handed menus. When our waiter came to take our order, Cristen and I could barely keep ourselves from giggling. He was the quintessential snobby French waiter. He sneered at everything we ordered (especially the water) and barely even let us finish ordering before he walked away. We ate in a lot of restaurants in France and never had another waiter like him, so I don’t mean to stereotype. I just thought it was hilarious that our very first waiter should live up to the caricature so perfectly.

my two lips

A few weeks ago, Kylie and I went to the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point. I hope you like vibrant, beautiful tulips because this is a whole post full of them.

|Does anyone know what kind of flower this is?|

A booth was selling these beautiful paper parasols and I saw lots of people walking around with them. I think that next year they should have a dress code where everyone has to wear white linen or Regency-style attire. It would really help out my photos.

If people don’t come to the Tulip Festival wearing white linen/Regency attire, then the least they could do is dress head to toe in florals, including accessories. This lady being pushed up a hill looked delightful.

These stairs reminded me of the Oratoire Saint-Joseph in Montreal.

So many of them! We didn’t climb them, though. We ended up finding a secret garden instead.

The secret garden (and all of the gardens) was actually full of people. It was pretty crowded, but because the Thanksgiving Point gardens are so large, you didn’t really notice. Until you wanted to buy some ice cream to cool down and it was all sold out. And so were the mini donuts. But at least there were lots and lots of tulips.