Amboise market and Chateau Chaumont-Sur-Loire
10 Aug 2014
|Sunday in Amboise is expected to be wet, so we've decided not to deliberately go somewhere where the gardens are huge. We've also decided to try do what the locals do, and headed to the market along the Loire. In saying that, it is a bit deceiving as there's a wall and path separating the river from the stalls, but its as close as you can get.
We decided to walk down to the river, rather than drive, as it is quite hectic looking for parking `when the market is on, and the walk is short in any case. We walked through the commercial district and watched people sitting down at the cafes having some coffee and pastries. As we got close to the main road we noticed traffic had come to a complete standstill, and that there had been an accident.
Someone had decided to turn left (sort of like a right turn in Australia as you have to cross the near lanes of traffic) and misjudged the turning lane. This ended up with two bonnets touching on the near corners of each car. At least it made it easy for us to cross the road!
The market is kind of like a portable “Vic” market. There are lots of caravans with food in them, including fromageries, butchers, mobile deli's (more on them soon!), and fishmongers. Mixed in amongst them are some bakers, clothes shops, leather goods and random knick knacks like knives and tools. We walked through one entire side of the market then half way back the other, and Tess saw a scarf she liked. The gentlemen who sold it to us was very nice and helpful. He said it was a new line just in for autumn.
We then went and bought ourselves a knife so we could have a picnic, with some goods from the market. The first place we went was to a baker and bought an “artisan baguette”. I think the word artisan has become a marketing term, as I've seen it on the bread in the Carrefour supermarket. Just the same, it was nice and crusty. We then went to the “deli” where there was a lady selling saucisson. Saucisson is like a dried sausage, a little bit like a salami. There was a deal of 4 for 10 Euro, so we chose 4 different flavours. Tess chose the pepper and garlic saucissons, and I got the blue cheese and Camembert flavours. We also got a nice hard cheese from one of the fromagerie in the market. I wished I knew its name, as I'd buy it again in no time. We then headed back to the accommodation to get the car, and go to our next stop – Chaumont-Sur-Loire.
On the way we passed a gourmet food and wine store, and bought a couple of bottles of regional wine. One “sancerre” and one bottle of “pouilly fume”. The lovely shop keeper who served us was very, very helpful at pointing us to the good stuff. He also was very insistent we try a rose as well, but I managed to convince him I wasn't an alcoholic so he let me go. As we got to the counter he suggested I get some goat cheese, as goat cheese goes particularly well with these wines. I said does it, good information, thank you. He then pointed me to the refrigerated cabinet next to him, and said I have some very good goat cheese here. Such a courteous and informative assistant. Next time I'll just hand my wallet over and let him choose the notes he'd like to have.
We got back to the accommodation and jumped in the car after picking up our cameras etc and headed to Chaumont. Tess was eager to do the driving as I'd done the bulk of it to this date, so I sat in the passenger seat and used the video camera to record some of the trip.
We got to Chaumont about 20 mins later, and parked down the bottom of a big hill, atop which the chateau sat. I had passed this chateau several times on my last holiday, and we passed it a couple of days earlier when we came from Chambord, so it was good to finally go see what was inside. It sits right on the edge of the hill and has an unobscured view of the river.
We climb the steady long walk up to the top of the hill after buying our tickets, and took lots of pictures of the river. At the top of the hill, there were some seats which people were sitting in which looked like horse carriages without the wheels. In the distance were the large metal tubes, which we found out later were pieces of an artwork. From the top of this area, we could see some very tall pine trees and lots of blue, purple and white flowers.
Over to the right is an area which has a sign telling you about how the area used to be covered in lime trees and another tree which I can't remember. It was something like an elm or an oak, as I thought it was an odd combination to put side by side. This area was almost entirely destroyed and has been slowly regenerated with new trees. Maybe we'll come back in 20 years and see what the area looked like in its glory days. The area also has a suspended wooden footpath, which went above the curve of the hill and overlooked the Loire river to the east. We took some pictures here in between some big groups of family shots. The decking or wooden footpath was designed by a Japanese artist, and you could definitely see this influence.
We walked from here over to the animal farm section, which had a lot of the farm buildings which now contain art displays and food stores. Chaumont is very big into promoting art as you can probably tell. It also has a lot of beautiful gardens. More than I was expecting for a chateau built on the edge of a hill.
Just to the left and down a slight hill was a very large stables. These were quite elaborate for something just used for horses. The first part of the stables was for the half breed horses, who were kept in stalls no bigger than ones you'd see on a farm today. These horses would be chained into the stable they were allocated, and were usually used for pulling carts and transportation between villages. The full bred horses which would be used for riding were kept in more prestigious stables, which were 2-3 times bigger than the half caste horses. They were allowed to move freely in their stable. The next area was reserved for whips and saddles etc, and was said to be one of the biggest collections of its type in France. There was a piece of art in the middle of the stables area, which was a giant crown of thorns, made from copper. It stood above a huge ring of black coal.
In the last 2 rooms were a collection of stage coaches, one of which belonged to royalty, and and a round room where they trained the horses to ride. Inside this dome now was another piece of art, which was an overhead projection of flowers onto a surface in the middle of the room. This was more attractive than some of the other pieces they had shown so far. After the stables, it was time for the castle.
The castle itself is very beautiful. The entrance to it has 2 big round towers, covered in sharply sloping black slate roof tiles. This style is what I see when I close my eyes and think of Loire chateau. Between the two towers is a wooden drawbridge, which is still in working order, however it is operated by an electric motor now. Inside the castle, the first room is a collection of pictures of various important figures from history, such as Diane de Poitiers and Catherine Medici, both of whom had owned Chaumont at one time.
The first real room from here, was the Ruggieri room. It was fairly simple, however there was a clever picture of the Greek letter delta, as well as three circles intertwined with the letter. Some believe the three circles were moons, which was another more cryptic reference to Diane. Others believe it was related to one of the astrologers who were involved with the chateau – Ruggieri.
From here it was in to Catherine de Medici's chambers, which opened up on one side to the chapel. Her chambers were fairly simple, especially in comparison to the ones she had at Chateau Chenonceau, but the 3-4 pieces of woodwork in the room were very detailed and intricately carved.
The next rooms were the blue and gold wall papered council chambers, with diamond patterns showing alternating fleur de lys and letter “C” for Catherine. The roof which had its cross beams decorated and at a lower level to the main part of the ceiling was very traditional for its time.
The following room was a hall, which was the room that joined the two towers seem from outside the castle. One of these rooms - the western tower side – was used for the kings visit, and still shows the kings icon, a porcupine.
The next rooms were Diane De Poitiers' chamber, then down the grand staircase to the dining room, a lounge room which had the weirdest couch I've seen in a while. It was three seats, all one after the other around a single point (picture a circle, with three chairs going clockwise from the middle). This couch wasn't built for comfort, but for discussing issues of the day. The next room was another parquetry floored room, with all green furniture. This was the games room, and a backgammon table was set in the middle and a snooker table.
The last room was one of the most fabulous. It was the grand salon. The Grand Salon has several couches, all split down at one end of the room via a two columns, which had the affect of creating a wall, where one didn't exist. Above the fireplace was a very detailed porcupine, and the nearby windows gave fantastic views over the river.
We left the inside of the “U” shaped chateau, and out onto the terrace where we got some pictures again of the river. Standing out here we noticed that there was some dark clouds rolling in. We stayed in the terrace for a while and took photos, then went into the chapel to look and take pictures here. Afterwards, we went to the boutique to get some souvenirs of our visit. When we left, the dark clouds had arrived, and an EXTREMELY heavy shower hit. We stayed in the opening to the chateau, although now the drawbridge had been closed completely. We stayed hoping to ride out the rain, and after 25 minutes we did.
We left the chateau after this, as we did not want to get caught again, without having a means to get back to the car – dry. If we'd only taken our 2 umbrellas we'd have been right. When we arrived at the car, we moved it to the river front and had our picnic, although this was done in the car as all the tables were now soaked with water.
When we got back to Amboise after the picnic, we stayed for a few hours in the room relaxing, then went out to get some pictures of the sun setting over the river. The sun looked very beautiful, as did the river with the soft glow resting on the top of the water. We walked into the middle of the bridge and took some photos of the chateau as well. Given we'd been here a couple of days, it seemed a bit odd taking pictures of the chateau so late in the visit. With that done, we headed back to spend our last night at the B&B via some souvenir stands. Next stop – Limoges.