vendredi 8 août 2008

Weekend in the Loire Valley

What do you get if you mix 600 kilometers, three castles and two cathedrals? Our weekend in the Loire Valley. Diego and I rented a gas-efficient Fiat (only ¾ of a tank for the whole trip, which mind you, still cost about 45€) and armed with a few guidebooks, headed to France’s equivalent of the heartland.

The trip got off to a slow start because without thinking about it, Diego and I planned our little road trip on the first Saturday in August. In France. We were competing for highway space not only with every French family headed south to the beach, but also with a great deal of Brits headed to Dordogne.

Our first stop was in Orléans, where Joan of Arc defeated the English in 1429, and which boasts a cathedral dating to the 13th century.

We then visited the extravagant Chambord castle, the largest of the Loire Valley castles.

We spent the night in Beaugency, a town that still feels like a small medieval village and which, as Diego said, “is high on the cuteness factor.” Take a look at this (the bridge was strategically important for France during the Hundred Years’ War):

On Sunday, we saw the castles at Blois and Chenonceau. My favorite castle was the Chenonceau castle because it looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale and is built right over the River Cher. I even felt like a princess as Diego rowed a boat around the river.

On our way back to Paris, we stopped at Chartres and visited the city’s stunning 12th century gothic cathedral, which contains a cloth that belonged to the Virgin Mary and the largest collection of medieval stained glass.

From Chartres, it was back home to Paris. Because we knew we would be getting in at around 10 pm, Diego and I started chanting in hopes of winning over the parking gods while we were on the road. We must have done something right because for once, parking in our neighborhood was plentiful, even on our street. Then again, it was the first weekend in August. But I like to think that the parking gods were thinking of us anyway.

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