Over two days, we saw six chateaux. I am listing them in my order of preference:
1. Chateaux d’Usse
4. Clos Luce
5. Azay le Rideau
D’Usse was my favorite because it had it all: beautiful on the outside (although most chateaux are beautiful on the outside); set on a hill, so the view of and the view from are equally stunning; the grounds are not ostentatious but peaceful; there is a courtyard, there are both a French and an English garden, the interior is pretty and I liked the period clothes on the mannequins; the Sleeping Beauty setup is corny but sweet; and last but not least, it brought back memories of the cover of one of my favorite childhood books written by Charles Perrault.
D’Aignan felt magical. No other castle had a staircase like d’Aignan’s, and the views from the terrace were breathtaking!
Chinon – forbidding and imposing with a dungeon, gorgeous views, and a sense of history. The fact that here, in this very castle, Jeanne of Arc convinced the dauphin to let her lead the French army is mind-boggling. Imagine that: a seventeen-year old with no military background was entrusted an army to lead, and saved France. If it were not for her, they would be speaking English here and there would be no French food, no French bread, and no French desserts. The mere thought of that is giving me chills!
Also, the town of Chinon was one of the loveliest of all the chateau towns.
The last chateau on my list is Chenonceau. Yes, Chenonceau, that is considered to be the queen of the Loire Valley Chateaux. It was just too polished, too tamed, too groomed, and too crowded. Just didn’t click with me on any level. But that, of course, is only my humble opinion.
An added bonus of going from a chateau to a chateau is driving through the gorgeous, lush, undulating countryside, crossing the Loire and the Cher, passing through tiny ancient villages, and eating in country restaurants.
For dinner, we stopped in Tours, where we stumbled upon a little restaurant that had reasonably good reviews. You can find it on one of the main streets in the old town, rue Colbert, and it is called L’Evidence. The food in this restaurant was incredible in taste, texture, and appearance. It was better than the meal we had at the two-Michelin-star Sa.Qua.Na in Honfleur, and less expensive too. I kept saying that if this place didn’t have a MIchelin star, it surely should. If you are ever in the Loire Valley, make a detour for this restaurant – it is simply outstanding!
One sweet touch about restaurants in the provinces: when you leave a restaurant, a waiter always walks you to the door. Also, the French are so polite! Whenever you walk in a shop, a restaurant, a bakery, any place, they greet you with “Bonjour (or bonsoir), say “merci” if you buy something and “au revoir” when you leave.
Even the toll booth collectors on the highways do that.