Since I learned about the Loire Valley in high school French class, I wanted to visit. I was thrilled when I found out that my visitors were also interested in visiting, too. We decided a couple of months in advance, so I had plenty of time to get excited! Despite the excitement, it wasn’t until about two weeks prior that I realized my freshman roomie would be turning 30 on the day we left for France! Even though I mostly slept in the car the night before our departure, I made sure to hang the “Happy Birthday” banner to get the party started first thing in the morning!
After mailing some things at the post office and picking up pain au chocolat for our roadtrip, we were ready! We drove the rental car to the airport where we dropped it off and switched into my car. It turns out, the airport was a bit of a detour, because we were in the car for the better part of eight hours or so. (Yikes!) Thankfully, we found an adorable little town called Charolles where we stopped for birthday lunch and a short walk to stretch our legs.
We finally made it to Amboise, which served as our home base while we were in Loire Valley. Our hotel room opened up to an alley with adorable views of the shops & restaurants as well as Chateau Amboise.
To ensure that my roomie’s 30th birthday was celebrated in style, we had dinner at Chateau de Pray. It looked lovely on the website, but I was shocked (in a good way) when we walked through the restaurant and out onto a terrace overlooking the valley and the sunset! It was GORGEOUS! The meal was fabulous, and we all agreed that it was one of our best meals ever. Between all of the goodies they brought us throughout the meal and all of the courses we ordered, it was a leisurely three hour meal. The birthday girl looked radiant! It was so special to celebrate 30 with her!
The next day, we started the morning with breakfast at an adorable Patisserie near our hotel in Amboise before heading off to the first of three chateaus we planned to visit during our time in Loire Valley…Villandry. This one is known for its spectacular gardens, and let me tell you…they did not disappoint! I will let the photos do the talking, but I invite you to imagine the MANY gasps and squeals that came out of four very excited ladies!
After lunch, we stopped by a tiny little winery where they only spoke French and then went on to the mushroom caves. My roomie (the Science teacher) played tour guide for us and protected us from the rather creepy mannikins on display throughout the cave. Yikes!
I took a nap before dinner in Amboise, but the girls went out for a walk and captured some incredible photos of hot air balloons soaring over Chateau Amboise. Amazing!!
Sunday was a big day. We had two magnificent chateaus to visit. We got up early, grabbed some pastries, and drove to Chateau de Chambord. Construction of this chateau started with Francois 1st, who was full of himself. His monogram “F” was featured throughout the property…on ceiling tiles and doors…everywhere. It was intended to be a hunting lodge, but I have to say that 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces, and 426 rooms qualifies as the fanciest hunting lodge I’ve ever seen! As we were walking up to it, one of the girls commented that it looks like the castle pictured on the cover of Beth Moore’s “Inheritance” study. I googled to confirm, and the four of us agreed that it is the same castle! You’ll see in the pictures that it is spectacular! This might have been my favorite.
We ate delicious croque monsieurs outside after taking in the chateau. Yum! Then, we were off to find Chenonceau – the ladies’ chateau. It had charming gardens and a lot of well documented history about all of the mistresses, queens, widows, and high-society women who called this chateau home. It was just lovely! We had dinner in town before coming back to see the chateau and the gardens lit up at night. Such a great way to end our time in Loire Valley!
It rained the whole way home, which was pretty reflective of how bummed we were that our time together was coming to an end. But, we did get to have a laid back BBQ with my Barnacle and her sweet family when we arrived back in Switzerland. They were visiting, too, and Monday night was the only night we were all in town to spend time together. It was a really short meal, because the little ones needed to get to bed, but it was lovely to officially meet all of them in person.
My mama sent me an email on Monday (titled “Happy Monday,” of course). She said she was so happy that my freshman roomie could come visit and reminded me that “Forever friends are the BEST!” I wholeheartedly agree.