Monday, 23 September 2013

Once upon-a-time in Loire

Week one a distant memory, the second arrived far too soon. As ever, we had no plan. Every day was a surprise, every surprise something for the memory banks (and iphoto). After some wifi hunting and map scouring our Sat Nav took us to the quaint Bourges as our one-night stop-off before hitting ze Loire Valley. There was a lush little Lumiere on throughout the town, you just had to follow the blue lights in the pavement and listen for the whispers of italian music– romantic, I know. 

Said wonderful event decided to erase itself from my camera, so alas I'm left with only a memory; nothing for iPhoto on this occasion. What did people do before cameras again? Paint? Oh no, can't do that. Imagination! Yes, lets. 

On that note: Imagine massive cathedral– I'm talking York minster mixed with Sagrada Familia– bathed in a glowing light, courtyards spilling with music and painted with light depicting a long forgotten battle.... Aaaaah. Now imagine that you had just read a much more descriptive and captivating story of the pretty lights and nice music on big buildings. Better? Thought so!

Now what I do have some pictures of is the Loire Valley and the splendour that is encapsulated by it. Get me using a big word eh? I do that occasionally, you have been warned.

I promise, I will try and describe to you the gorgeousness of the ch√Ęteaus we made an appearance at, but I will most likely be lost for words to write type on this already word strewn page. 



Like the drink. 

Top 5 facts:
– largest chateau in France
– built by Francois I 
– flipping BIG 
– very touristy 
– pictures of the chateau are best taken from across the river (I, the Lone Ranger, discovered this by tedious scouring of the grounds... Then I followed led all of the guys with fancy cameras across the bridge to get to the money shot– they would have been lost without me)

Chambord was home to many a merry monarch but was rarely inhabited for long by the highest of high ranking hierarchy who began and supervised her long construction. The original rooms were MASSIVE and, as you can imagine, central heating back then weren't so amazin. Soooo many of the rooms were split by partitions into smaller chambres. My camera deleted these pictures too. Sigh.

Here's a pretty flag to keep you going:

And I suppose I could just show you the pictures that I did salvage... That would be a good idea, wouldn't it?

The ceilings were adorned in the kings first initial and his salamander emblem, which were ridiculously ornate. His moto was Nutrisco et extinguo.

 "I nourish the good and extinguish the bad."

As you clever little things have probably guessed from that, he was a dab hand in battle.

Desperately trying yo think of an antler joke here and failing miserably.

"I am the Queen" 
Not me, her. I can totally see how you got confused though.

Like most grand castles, Chambord had its own chapel wing, which was of course the most tranquil part of the building. 

Oh I almost forgot! Check out this staircase! It's like a double helix with two flights of stairs running around each other. We got a little confuzzled at first but when you get the jist it's cute to see each other through the peep holes on your way up.

Scary, however, when you make the mistake of looking down. Reminded me of the film 'The Ring'. Not good I tell you, not good.

Speaking of 'up' the rooftops are open for the public to tip-tap across too. Well worth the extra flight of stairs. I would loosely compare it to the Vatican, but not quite as grand and 99% less staircases that are hardly big enough for a child to fit through.

I love this top. Urban Outfitters, £15. BARGAIN. But last year so they ain't selling it no more!

Mamma was trying to drag me out of her shot, the poser.

Grounds – Check
Ground Floor – Check
1st Floor – Checked then realised we'd missed a bit so went back, check
2nd Floor – check
3rd Floor – check
Roof – feeling the burn, check
Gift Shop – Obviously.

Three tired pups later we hoped back in ze van and drove to the smashing town of Blois (I still have no idea whatsoever how to pronounce this). We walked passed the chateau here about 5 times, and did we go in? No we did not. In all fairness 3/5 of those times it wasn't even open. Of all the places we went though, this was definitely one of our favourites. Nice vibe, cute little courtyards and hidden away streets. 

Before getting ready to go out for an evening meal we went for a wee jaunt oot on the cobbles. Before we'd gotten very far the sound of live music quite literally dragged us onto some bar stools by a giant wine barrel and we were forced into buying wine and beer, and then they threw, that's right, threw a plate of free cheese and chorizo at us! Can you believe it?

We couldn't either so we ordered more wine! 

I'm excited for you to read the next instalment, if you want to that is. 

Beautiful doesn't cover a single millimetre.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Whistle-stop Italia

After our little jaunt in Annency our next point of call was the Italian border! Making a grand total of 3 countries in 7 days (or 8, who knows?).

Heading for La Thuille where the Mama&Papa go skiing in the winter we drove through the French ski resort 'La Rosier' which is super pretty and still buzzing in the summer. 

After salad, crepes, vino and a bit of food shopping we marched on over to the border. 

Obviously not in the mood for an English camping family, the border trolls let us straight through. They obviously thought that the TERRIBLE road conditions down to La Thuile would off-road us and give them their chance at capture, however we managed to manoeuvre the pot holes, avoid the cracks and not veer over the unrailed edges. 

But don't be put off! La Thuile is a lovely little place– no matter how awful the road into it is! It's all river and big looming mountains.

On our way down– just over the border– we decided to go climb on a glacier. Yes, that's right, a glacier.

An extremely small one, but a glacier none the less!

Who'd have thought we'd be throwing snowballs on a summer-sun holiday?

 Our time in La Thuille was really cute as Ian&Ange usually only see the place 9 feet deep in snow, covered in cool winter-sports peeps.

After a quick tour of their previous accommodation and a gander at the ski lifts we flew on up one to the top of the nearest run. 

The view going up there was seriously picturesque, not a sound in the air. Until you get about half way up and you're sitting there thinking "what's that noise?" As you get closer and closer to the top the "noise" starts to sound like dance music, until you realise it is dance music. Dance music? At the top of a ski run? In the summer? 

Meet the hut. Not its real name, but that's what I christened it.  And yes, that's a pool. And no, the pool is not there in the winter. And don't worry, I asked the same question. 

This is the kind of place that can make you feel really uncool. Especially when your surrounded by tanned Italians and a smooth DJ. But I persevered, scribbled our name in an extremely hard to find gap on the wall of fame (which I had apparently done wrong so Ian did wrote it somewhere else) and ordered a bombardino, like a true Skier (even though we weren't skiing and I haven't been skiing for about 4 years and we didn't even know what bombardino's were back then). 

Now. Here's a little lesson on bombardino's. They're hot, strong, covered in cream and loaded with calories. Skiers have one to keep the frostbite at bay and summer campers have one to... Oh wait, we had no excuse!

I bet this little fella did though

Sunbathing done, hot drink-drinking unfinishable we glided back down the ski run via the lift, taking in the kind of view you'd quit your job for. 

Back in the village we went perusing the ity-bity shops to buy some local parma ham, focaccia bread,  proper buffalo mozzarella and good ol' Italian vino to take home! The Italian men working in the butchers were super friendly. The fact that one of them was very cute has nothing to do with that of course...

That's one of the super friendly guys, the cute one was inside (obviously to shy to come out).

One terrible road out of La Thuille later, we were on our way back to France (where the roads improved immensely) and just as we were about to go over that invisible line, we saw this

Lago Verney.

Yes, we may have seen it on the way in, but now we were looking for somewhere to camp. And what better place?

The day was finished with locally sourced food, Italian and French, against one of the most beautiful backdrops mother nature could have ever painted.

And I met this little dude on my way down to the lake.

I should have kissed him, shouldn't I?