France Day 4, a set on Flickr.We headed out about midday for the grand Chateau de Chenonceau on the river Cher. This is one of the bigger Chateaux of the Loire, and it was packed with tourists. We approached the castle along the tree-lined boulevard leading up to the impressive façade. The most significant part of Chenonceau is the long gallery suspended above the river by a series of arches. The chateau served a decisive role in both World Wars. In WWI the gallery was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. During WWII it was on the border between Occupied and Free France, and thus served as a crossing point for many of the Resistance. German artillery were constantly poised at the ready to blow the whole thing out of the water – literally! Chenonceau also has some lovely gardens and a maze.
Amboise was a bit of treat for the evening. It is much more of a defensive castle, rather than the showy fairy tale chateaux like Chenonceau and Chambord. But the best part about Amboise can be found in its tiny chapel overlooking the town below. I strolled in, quite casually, and came face to face with none other than Leonardo da Vinci! Well, his grave anyway. I thought the guy was somewhere in Italy, but nope – there he was! I was floored – how cool is that!? Amboise Castle is also pretty cool in its own right. I was really pleased to walk in on the tour being given in French, and I could understand everything the guide was saying! Amboise was less busy, so we had more freedom to walk around and explore the rooms.