What a treat to visit both Leonardo da Vinci’s last home, Clos Lucé and the Château de Villandry in the past three days. Both magnificent examples of French architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries and both are simply amazing.
Leonardo’s home in the last years of his life was at Clos Lucé, courtesy of Francis 1, King of France. The Royal residence, the Château d’Amboise is just next door and both overlook the beautiful village of Amboise. We caught the local bus into the station at Tours and then with the help of the information person at the booking office were able to get cheaper tickets for the train to Amboise than were available from the dispensing machine – success!
A very comfortable train ride through lovely GREEN scenery and then a walk through the village and across the Loire and up the hill to Leonardo’s Chateau. He was a very lucky man to live there and had a marvellous set up for his work – a studio, workshop and comfortable bedroom with simple but elegant appointments. We saw a hologram of life size Leonardo talking with an ambassador in the study – it was the best visual demonstration of history I have ever seen.
In the basement are drawings and models of Leonardo’s incredible inventions – he truly was a man ahead of his time. The gardens are also wonderful and there is a superb kitchen area. There was some rain, so an excellent Italian style restaurant was found in the village – recommended by some 10 or so nuns in habit sitting in the front room. We did look for some troglodyte houses and restaurants – people lived (and still live) in houses carved into the tufa rock of the hills around. We did find a ‘Cave’ or wine cellar which also had a restaurant but reservations were needed and some not so keen on being underground.
Incredible gourmet meal by the indefatigable Alice and the following day had a rest. This meant popping into the local market, a coffee in the bar/brasserie, painting, talking, some riding bikes and then, finally the call that our local Chateau Branchoire over the road with its extensive grounds was open! We met neighbours picking cherries who insisted on giving us half their haul! We’ve had other neighbours lean out of their window in the evening toasting us and chatting with their glass of wine.
Friday it was off to the most wonderful place – Villandry – not accessible by train so I booked a taxi (excited my French can cope with phone calls now). Our driver, Sebastien – what a complete gem! Chatted all the way there and back and he rang me to make sure of the time for pick up and chatted about all sorts of interesting things – French politics, the language – apparently the French spoken in this area is the best in France because the Kings used to live here. Talked about health care – we have a tertiary hospital near us and often hear the helicopter delivering patients. CHU Trousseau – it specialises in coronary care and orthopaedics.
Anyway, on to Villandry – a most beautiful and fairly small Chateau, bought by a wealthy Spaniard at the beginning of the 20th Century, his family still live there. The buildings and impressive gardens have been painstakingly restored and for us, the sun shone! Lunch in the gorgeous village and yet another church with elements from the 11th, 13th and 16th Centuries. Consensus was, we left the best to last, but overall the whole visit to the Loire valley has been awe inspiring.
Two of our crew, Robyn and Fay left on the afternoon of Saturday, but not before we went back into Tours for the wonderful Grand Marché – food, clothes, flowers, coffee, hot chocolate – chatting, buying……..wonderful day to finish up here!