The mother of all chateaux (Chambord) – Day 19

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D and I had gone to bed the previous evening specifically looking to get an early start; thus, we were up and having breakfast before 9 am. I desperately wanted to avoid major crowds at our final chateau, so I was determined to get there before 10 am. We largely kept to schedule and were soon cruising towards Chateau de Chambord. It wasn’t long before we entered the Parc du Chambord, apparently the largest enclosed game reserve in France with red deer and wild boar wandering about. We parked (first pay parking for a chateau we’d encountered) and headed up the drive to the chateau. Now, Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire region, and certainly the most fanciful. As we came upon this massive structure, the first apparent thing was its somewhat bizarre roofline, meant to look like the skyline of Constantinople. We also discovered, much to our chagrin, that despite our best efforts for coming early, there were still a good three tour groups ahead of us.

Nevertheless, we mustered up our best Zen faces, got ourselves some audio guides and headed in. Not surprisingly, the place was massive to explore—an endless maze of rooms and corridors. Almost immediately as you enter you are presented with the famed double-helix staircase, apparently devised so that the king could walk down the stairs and never encounter a servant or other staff. It wasn’t terribly impressive looking from the side; however, once you started walking it, you understood its method.  The interior furnishings weren’t as outstanding as say Chateau de Cheverny, but given the massive size of the place, I understood that it would be quite an undertaking to furnish it all. There were several museum-type setups and art displays that were interesting, and we did see several impressively furnished rooms such as the king and queen’s bedchambers and various antechambers. However, the really unique thing about this particular chateau, despite its size, is its rooftop terrace. Once you reached the top of the staircase, you can go out and walk amongst all the strange roof fixtures that make the roofline look so bizarre. D particularly liked the tower that housed the double-helix staircase. It was getting a bit crowded, however, so we headed back down to the ground floor and grabbed some ice cream and coffee. We poked around a bit and checked out several beautiful coaches (apparently never used) before heading out.

I had suggested the perhaps it might be nice to try and get some bread and cheese and sausage and have a picnic for dinner. We optimistically set off towards Blois to find a supermarket to get our supplies. Now, this being Sunday, we were met with universal closures—we even spent a great deal of time driving around the suburbs of Blois (not a terribly attractive area if I’m honest) attempting to find an open grocery store to no avail. While filling up for gas, a lady suggested we go into town as there might be something open, so we drove in and parked. We did find a shop selling bread, so we were able to get our baguette, but she said there wouldn’t be anything else open. We then decided that perhaps we’d have a bigger lunch now and a lighter dinner, but after walking back and forth around Blois in search of a decent, not touristy restaurant, we opted to just head home. We ended up cracking open one of our little cans of foie gras and having a rather decadent picnic in our room for lunch. By the time dinner rolled around, we thought we’d take a drive through Cheverny to see if there were any other restaurants open for dinner. However, a quick survey of the village determined there to be really only two viable options, and one of them was called Le Pinocchio (I think actually a Disney-sanctioned restaurant because I did see their logos on things). D was mortified at the thought of eating at a Disney restaurant so that left us with the small brasserie next to the chateau. The menu looked interesting, so we gave it a try.

The restaurant definitely had a “someone’s backyard” feel to it, and the waitresses weren’t the classiest. They also informed us that they didn’t have a huge swath of the menu available. This didn’t leave me with a lot of options, so I decided to just have a foie gras terrine and a cheese plate. D went with just a main course of andouilette of duck (bravely believing it would just be sausage and not intestines). The food presentation was surprisingly sophisticated, and my foie gras was delicious (though it’s really hard to screw it up I think). On the other hand, D faced yet another gastronomical battle against intestines. The irony being he actually chose it this time, knowing that there was a good possibility of it being intestines. He had somewhat delusionally believed that it perhaps would be just sausage. I noted that he now had the rare opportunity of being able to compare pig and duck intestines. Mercifully, this andouilette did taste markedly better than the first time, perhaps owing to the larger presence of actual duck meat in amongst the intestine. On the plus side, his order did come with a fabulously large side of mashed potatoes and some kind pureed squash/carrots, which were divinely delicious (I ended up eating much of his mashed potatoes in the end). He bravely finished his meal in its entirety, determined to defeat his intestinal foe, and we moved onto the cheese plate. D had suggested I order the 10 cheese option, which was perhaps a bit overkill since we were both fairly full. But we slogged through the different kinds of goat cheeses before conceding defeat and heading out. We spent the remainder of our evening sadly packing up our things, as we’d be moving on tomorrow.

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