Day 1 in the Loire Valley

What better way to start a trip to the Loire Valley than staying IN a chateau yourself? We booked a room in the historic Chateau Bouvet-Ladubay which has 5 rooms/ suites in total and couldn’t have been happier!

Photo above: the wardrobe and a hidden “toilet” closet 

Our pretty room
the coffee/ tea station and door into the bathroom
The huge soaking bathtub
Some of our pink cider (tastes a lot like Martinellis but A LOT better- sweeter) and souvenir cup we picked up to remember Normandy by. 
Details in the room
The Grand staircase
Quirky details in the main entrance hall
the breakfast room that opens into the historic greenhouse and gardens
Inside the beautiful old greenhouse 
Exploring the grounds. We checked in right at 4 PM and were the first so we pretty much had the run of the place. 
The front of the chateau with the greenhouse on the side. There was a small pool off to the right we relaxed by and large park on the rear of the house. 
Chateau Bouvet-Ladubay, with the adjoining winter garden, as well as the ancillary buildings (bog aviary and Bollée windmill) were built in 1878 by architect Piette, a pupil of Joly-Letertre, for the industrialist Etienne Bouvet.
Details on the Winter Garden/ Greenhouse
The historic aviary that sits on the property
details in the winter garden
The base of the old windmill that was SUPER tall. 
More exploring in the winter garden 

and finally the Chateau from the front, outside the gate. 
The Chateau is situated in the quaint little town, Saumur (which consequently has it’s own larger chateau we found out later. lol) 
Exploring Saumur as we went in search of dinner. Love this hotel name 😀
The beautiful Loire river running through Saumur. 
As we walked into the less touristy side of Saumur, we didn’t have much in the restaurant option but this place looked PRETTY cool set back in the caves, so we figured why not? 
Restaurant La Table des Fouées is a troglodyte (cave) restaurant utilizing some of the caves that were originally used to store the Loire Valley’s famously amazing wines. 
Walking into the next set of doors for the cave restaurant. 
Here’s where it gets real. I tried to put my adventurous attitude toward food (something admittedly I am decidedly NOT adventurous with since I am a pretty picky eater) and I had QUITE the interesting dinner as a result. lol On the menu which was only in French, I recognized the two words for beef and Parmesan cheese, so thinking I’d get some sort of steak like thing I ordered that. The above…. is what I got! It was like a prosciutto with salsa and lettuce on top. Overall taste was fine but the texture about killed me. NEVER AGAIN. I’m sticking with pizza from here on out!
SO anyways I’m sure the wait staff here thought I was the most tasteless American they’ve ever met considering I didn’t finish the “beef” but managed to devour all my fries and all the bread they gave us with the meal. lol That combined with both Braden and I not really being into wine and so all we wanted was water….probably cemented our “classless” look. We laughed all the way back to the chateau about my classless ways. 

The main cathedral of Saumur. 
Kissing portrait on our green couch in our suite. Too cute not to include, sorry guys.
ok FIRST non-hotel OFFICIAL Chateau. The Chateau D’Usse
Claim to fame: Inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle
This chateau got it’s start way back in eleventh century, but like most REALLY old buildings, the chateau you now visit, is a bit newer. Most of the current stone is from the mid 1400s rebuilt by a new family who purchased it. 
The chateau does boast a rather beautiful chapel, however it is detached and wasn’t added until the 1600s. 
There are several caves to explore which the chateau families used for making and storing wine. There were a couple (rather creepy) mannequin displays with some of the old fashioned wine making tools in the caves as well as a video. (that was 100% in French with no subtitles)
The stables/ wagon house with descriptions of the various wagon style and use
The donkey and cutest little dog cart. 
The view looking into the little town and toward the entrance to the chateau grounds. 
Part of the chateau courtyard 
Signs for the “Sleeping Beauty” part of the castle. 
The end of the Sleeping Beauty exhibit. Very magical n’est pas? (don’t you agree) lol 
Walking through the attic. They had some spinning wheels throughout and at each stop that told the story of sleeping beauty, there was a small book telling the story. (almost like walking through the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland!) 
Looking out over some of the very steeply pitched roofs. 
Walking along the outer edge of the chateau’s upper floor. 
A model of the chateau
An awesome wooden spiral staircase with no supports apart from the central post
More caves under the chateau. 
A fine yellow dining room
The drawing room. The chateau is currently hosting an exhibit on velvet with themed costume pieces in one wing of the chateau. The dresses would be incredibly hot I image but were very pretty. 
The central courtyard 
Exploring the lower terrace gardens 
The chateau from the lower gardens 
The beautiful river that runs along the front of the chateau and town. 
The only view of the chateau you can get without paying to go in. Still cool to see.
Chateau d’Usse Practical Information:
Cost: Adult Aged 16 and up: € 14
Children from 8 to 16 yrs: € 4
*Children – 8 yrs: Free
Audio guide: additional 3 euro pp if you want it. There was some information placards around the grounds and chateau which was enough for us. 
Hours: From 15th February to 31st March: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
From 1st April to 30th September: 10.00 am – 7.00 pm
From 1st October to 8th November: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
BONUS: DOG FRIENDLY THROUGHOUT! (Gardens and chateau!)
Free parking in front of the chateau
Next up on the Chateau tour: Langeais!
Above: my adorable yet goofy husband dancing a jig in the banquet hall
Part of the appeal of Langeais was 1. it has A LOT of cool old furniture and settings that depict what life really would’ve been like to live back then. (In fact even without an audio guide, we had the basic layout of chateaux ingrained in our brains by the time we left this one!) 
For example, they explained that back in the time of Langeais, nobility/ the rich actually received their visitor in a bedchamber which is when we see the Antechamber come into play. So each person would have a fancy antechamber like this one above. 
And a separate, yet connected private bedroom. 
The primary claim to fame of this chateau, is that it is where Charles VIII wed Anne of Brittany on Dec 16, 1491 (which made the permanent union of France to Brittany)
The Château de Langeais is a medieval castle, rebuilt as a château. Founded in 992. the castle was beseiged 3 times (largely due to a rivalry between the 2 neighboring counts of Blois and Anjou) before being captured in 1038. After it was destroyed during the Hundred Years’ War, King Louis XI (1461–1483) rebuilt Château de Langeais into what today is one of the best known examples of late medieval architecture. It is especially noted for its monumental and highly decorated chimney pieces.
Looking out one of the windows at the town of Langeais which is quaint and a fun little place to explore. 
You can take pictures with the chateau from the front side for free but to get access to the gardens for this view, or for the fun park behind the chateau, you will have to pay to enter. This was my favorite spot. 
The royal bridge you cross over the Loire on to enter the town of Langeais. 
The ruins of the 10th century keep that are still in tact
The back of the old keep that you can climb up to look at the newer Chateau
Looking out the 10th century keep window at the 15th century chateau
My other favorite view of the chateau and surrounding town from the keep window 
My knight in shining armor! haha there was a fun park bordering the chateau grounds that we went and played around in for a bit 
Epic tree house in the park
Chateau de Langeais Practical Information:
Hours: February – March :9:30 am to 5:30 pm 
April – June, September through Nov 11 9:30 am to 6:30 pm
July – August: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
November 12 – January 31: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost: Adult 9 € 
Youth (aged 18 to 25) 7,50 € 
Child and adolescent (aged 10 to 17) 5 € 
Child under 10 FREE
*No audio guide here, but there’s an introductory video near the entrance that was interesting with English subtitles, and plenty of information throughout to read in multiple languages. 
*Also getting a full priced ticket to Langeais, will make you eligible for reduced tickets to the famous chateaux Asay-Le-Rideau and Villandry. 
Free parking in town and a chateau parking lot that’s a bit out of the way
Next stop as we head East through the Loire Valley: The Chateau D’Asay-Le-Rideau
Built between 1518 and 1527, this château is considered one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture and is set on an island in the middle of the Indre river. It’s claim to fame is definitely the symmetry and reflections. It was SUPER busy but very beautiful and the crowds thin out as you wander around the back of the chateau. 

I took approx 5 photos from every angle as we walked around lol but with the lily pads and various light reflections, it was so pretty from every angle! 
The coolest tree that stood apart from all the other plants in the park. 
The chateau from the side. We wandered around the outside first hoping the tour bus crowds would thin and they did… a little 
The ceiling of the open air stair case 
The banquet room. Various motors were used so that the lavish feast would reveal itself and the figures would spin to music. The Chateau architecture and design reflects the influence of the Italian renaissance. It is made up of several drawing rooms and stately apartments, most of which are decorated in the neo-renaissance style popular during the 19th century. Many of these rooms display 16th- and 17th-century Flemish tapestries. (similar to Langeais which had a room with amazing tapestries on display) 
The attic. I didn’t get a great photo I will admit, but the technique they used in timber supporting the steeply pitched the roof here is actually counted as a UNESCO World Heritage protected process. 
A brief summary of the chateau’s history for those interested. The first castle located on this site is similar to Landreais and was built in the 12th century. And also like Landreais it fell victim to the Hundred Year’s War when in 1418, Charles VII passed through and was insulted by the Burgundian troops occupying the town. He had his own army storm the small castle and executed all 350 soldiers inside and burned the castle down. Thus the castle/ spot was named Asay-le-Brûlé (or Asay the Burnt) which would be the name until the 18th century. In 1518 the castle was acquired by the Mayor of Tours and Treasurer of the King’s finances. He set about reconstructing the building in a way that would incorporate its medieval past alongside the latest architectural styles of the Italian renaissance. The reconstruction was slow going however due to the muddy island they were trying to build on and in 1527, the financial misdemeanors of the treasurer forced him to flee the country leaving it largely unfinished. Francis I confiscated the chateau and gave it to one of his knights-at-arms in 1535, Antoine Raffin, who only undertook minor renovations. Thus the chateau which was supposed to be U shaped, remained the accidental, but distinctive L shape it has today. During the Franco-Prussian War, the château served as the headquarters for the Prussian troops in the area. Apart from during the war, for the better part of the 19th century, the chateau belonged to the Biencourts family. In 1905, it was purchased by the France state and became a Historical Monument. Also notable in its history, the chateau provided a home for the Education Ministry during the early years of WWII. 
One of the many ornate fireplaces in this chateau and this one showing the salamander and motto of King Francis I. Nutrisco et extinguo “I nourish [the good] and extinguish [the bad]”
King Francis I is also notable for his renovation of the Louvre from a medieval fortress to a palace of splendor, as well as Amboise (the next chateau we went to) and Chambord (in my next post)
The château’s most prominent feature is the grand central staircase which is open air similar to Italian Renaissance designs, though its design is thought to have been inspired by the staircase of the Château de Châteaudun. The staircase has three floors, each with a double bay window forming a mezzanine which looks out over the courtyard. The staircase rises in straight flights rather than in a spiral, as was more usual at this time, and is actually the oldest surviving staircase of this kind in France.
After my faux-pas with the first Loire Valley restaurant we went with the cheaper and more familiar delicious pizza at a cafe in Amboise for night 2. We got to Amobise around 4 with plenty of time to check in, eat, and see one more chateau. I had read Amboise was a great town to stay in and it was a pretty good size while still retaining charm. However parking was a nightmare! We spent quite some time driving the narrow streets, all street and parking lots were full! We ended up almost on the other side of town and having to walk but we luckily found a free street spot only 10 min walk from the chateau, and even less from Chateau Clos du Loce. 
We paid our entry fee and then went to visit the chapel on site first to visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s tomb. While Clos Du Loce is where his final residence was and is supposed to be another great chateau to visit in the area, it was really cool to visit his final resting place. 
and in such a pretty chapel too! 
Details over the entry to the small chapel
As previously stated, Francis I also had a hand in finishing the Chateau D’Amboise and was in residence there when he commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to make a mechanical lion that could walk forward then open its chest to reveal a cluster of lilies. In 1516, he entered Francis’ service, being given the use of the manor house Clos Lucé where he spent the last three years of his life. (many of his inventions remain at Clos Lucé.)
Looking out over the town from the main terrace of the chateau. 
A side view of the small chapel where Leonard Da Vinci is buried. 
In front of the royal chateau. 
Looking out over the Loire from the main terrace. Our Airbnb is just a little ways over the bridges. (less than a 10 minute drive) 
A view showing how the chateau is set up above the town. 
Major points about the chateau history. The chateau gets its real start in 1434 when the chateau is confiscated by the crown due to treason from the previous owner. Charles VII (1403- 1422-1461) was the first king to really move his court to the Loire Valley. His grandson, Charles VIII was born in Amboise in 1470. His ongoing attachment for the château of his childhood greatly influenced his desire to transform the former medieval stronghold into a palace. Charles VIII was also the château’s great architect, since he ordered the successive construction of the two ceremonial loggias and a chapel on the site of the oratory built by his father. In addition, he ordered the construction of the two exceptionally large cavalry towers that enabled horses and carriages to go back and forth between the town and the château’s terraces 40 meters above it. (these were REALLY cool). You may remember the blurb about Charles VIII marrying Anne of Brittany at Langeais, their emblems are all over the design of this chateau as well. He also prematurely died at this chateau at the young age of 28. The chateau remained a large part of French court until 1560, with the Amoboise conspiracy to kidnap the young King Francis II during the French religious wars. 
Another side view of the chateau standing tall over the town. 
My favorite piece of historical information comes from 1660s when Amboise was used as a prison. A famous prisoner Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s superintendent of finances, who was disgraced in 1661 was accompanied to Amboise by the famous captain of the Musketeers, d’Artagnan. You know.. the 3 musketeers ? Awesome right! 
The inner ring of the cavalry tower. This tower is HUGE with a pretty steep stone ramp that spiraled all the way down to the town for carriages, horses, etc too enter the chateau. 
Some of the gardens of the chateau. 
Posing for a photo with the gardens, chateau, and Loire river in the background
They had these really fun picture frames you could photo op with! 
One of Leonardo DaVinci’s machines in the Amboise gardens 
A bust of the man himself in the gardens. 
All in all Amboise had some of my favorite historical information yet and it was definitely cool to see Leonardo DaVinci’s mark on the place and final resting spot. The architecture was amazing too, making this my favorite chateau of the day. 
The chateau and town from across the river 
Royal Chateau D’Amboise Practical Information:
Hours: The chateau is open every day EXCEPT Christmas and New Years day. Hours vary greatly depending on the month you are there. For the summer months, it was open from 9:00- 7:00 PM
Cost: ADULT 11.50
STUDENT 9.90
CHILD AGED 7-18 7.70
*Audioguide was about 4 euros more pp but the information leaflet they include with admission had plenty of history and information in it for us. 
*Children under 7 are free
Day 6 pt 2 costs in Saumur:
Night at Chateau Bouvet-Ladubay: 150 euros 
Dinner in Saumur Cave restaurant: 33 euros
Day 6 pt. 1 costs: 120
Day 6 total costs: $303 for 2 people 
Day 7 costs:
Breakfast: included in room stay
Rental car: $32
Chateau D’Usse- 14 euros 2 people without audio guide
Chateau Landreais- 16 euros (at reduced cost for being under 25)
Chateau Assay Le Rideau- 16 euros (at reduced cost for being under 25) w/out audio guide 
Chateau Amboise- 20.50 euros (for 1 student and 1 full price adult) 
1 road toll around the city of Tours- 2.50 euros
Snack in Landreais from bakery- 2.50 euros 
Pizza dinner- 25 euros
Night 1 at Airbnb Cave (pictures coming)- $111/ night for 2 
Day 7 total costs: $239.50 for 2 people 

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