Friday, December 17, 2010

Rule #1


Today was the day of our Loire Valley chateaux tour!! It was really fun and all the castles were super cool. It was a long day though (9am-6pm) and we are tired once again. The castles we went to were:



and Chambord

They were pretty incredible. Although after the first couple, the insides of them all start to look pretty similar. Over the top tapestries, furnishings, portraits, and the like. I just loved the diversity of the exteriors. The contrasting architectural styles were amazing and I loved when two or three different styles were used in the same building. I sound like such a nerd, but whatever. I thought it was cool :)

What was really crazy was the size of these places. The first three were all similar in size, big but not insanely huge. Kind of like those HUGE houses you see in really rich areas of the country. Maybe like some of the houses you might see in the Hamptons where you look at them and you're like, "how could those people POSSIBLY use all that space? That house is HUGE!!!" That's kind of house big the smaller castles were. But Chambord, the last one, was just beyond comprehension. It's the largest castle in France next to Versailles. But with Versailles, the style of the building just makes it look big because the whole thing is kind of square and normal looking. Chambord looks just as big, but actually looks like a real castle. This place is just MASSIVE! The grounds of this castle are the size of Paris proper. The grounds are the size of the CITY OF PARIS!!! Ridiculous. It's just so, so big, and guess what it's purpose was? A hunting lodge. It wasn't even a permanent residence!! As we heard today, it's amazing the French Revolution didn't come sooner than it did. The amount of money that was put into this place is just crazy and then the king that built it only spent 29 nights there in his entire life. What a WASTE! I mean it's beautiful, don't get me wrong. But good gravy, just thinking about all the people he could've helped with that money instead! Like I said, the French Revolution could have come much sooner...

Funny story from Castle hopping today:

So I decided before we came on this trip that if anyone ever offered to take mom and my picture together while we were at some tourist attraction, that I would definitely say no. I have heard too many horror stories about theft to let someone else be holding my camera. No one would touch it except mom or myself. End of discussion. This was going to be Rule #1.

So today, at the first castle we visited (Chenonceau) mom and I were walking through the gardens and she went one way and I went the other. I wanted to go to one corner of the garden to get a better pictures of the castle (funny how most of my blog is about going random places so I can pictures...) and this guy has been walking behind us, and was now walking behind me. These are pretty big gardens (I mean it is a castle.) so it feels kinda weird that he's just walking behind me for a really long time. There are a couple other people around, so I'm not completely freaked out, but it just feels weird. So I get to the other corner and get some good pictures, and then I look around a little bit and start to head back. Right as I start walking, this same guy comes up and asks if I would be so kind as to take his picture in front of the castle. This has happened to us a lot over our time here so I oblige without hesitation. I take one shot (it's obviously a good one:)) and then hand his camera back to him, ready to take off. Then he asks, "Would you like me to take your picture? You know, to return the favor?"


"Oh no this is rule number one I am NOT supposed to let anyone touch my camera I decided this before we even got here but he's going to think I'm totally rude if I say no I mean what type of person doesn't want their picture in front of a castle well I did just look around that direction is gated off so he couldn't run that way and this way is a really narrow little bridge and he's wearing a backpack so I could probably grab him if he made a run for it and this third way is back towards everyone else and they would totally notice him sprinting away from a girl screaming and running after him plus I just learned a ton of self defense moves so after I caught him (since he'll be slow from his backpack) I could totally take him down but if I DID take him down what if he fell on my camera and broke it then I'd be PISSED."

"Sure!" I told him. I handed him my camera and explained how to use it (it's amazing how many people have no idea how to use a camera with a view finder these days, it's like cameras have always had LED screens...) and take a few steps back. Then he fumbles with it, takes a picture or two and says something about it not focusing. I'm like, oh I KNOW it's focusing pal. I can hear it and see it rotating around, what are you playing at? So I go over and take a look and the pictures are totally in focus so I tell him it's fine, and I start to take my camera away. Then he asks if I want a picture in front of the garden too "It's so beautiful with all the snow!" Yeah. right. Me: "No thanks! It's fine with just the castle, thanks anyway!" Him: "Ok, well see ya" Me: "BYE!" And I hoof it outta there. Whew...crisis averted. Although he DID have an Australian accent. At least he had THAT going for him..

So anyway, have I mentioned that Tours isn't that great? Because Tours really isn't that great. I like Paris way better than Tours, and I like the country better than Paris, so you can see where that puts Tours. At the bottom of the happy list. The castle tour today was fantastic, but the city pretty much stinks. Although this is only from the perspective of a tourist. If you lived here as a French person it would probably be just fine, but they make ZERO effort to accommodate tourists here. ZERO. Now, you'd think that for a town within the limits of a region that has the most castles concentrated in one area in all of Europe, that you'd be used to, and ready for, a good amount of tourists. Apparently not. Yesterday when we got here we walked around for probably a good 20 minutes trying to find a restaurant with an english menu. (Meaning that there are english descriptions under the french descriptions of each item on the menu) None to be found. But we figured we just didn't know the area well enough yet, and that we were probably looking in the wrong spot. False. Tonight, after getting back from our castle tour, we walked around for 45 MINUTES, in the area of the city that is filled with restaurants, and only found 2 places that had an english menu. Also, it wasn't like we just ran across one restaurant every 4 minutes or something, there were restaurants EVERYWHERE. We probably looked at like 30 restaurants and none of them had english menus. We were about to go insane. We even walked into an Irish pub-looking place just because we saw the word "Irish" in english and hoped for the best. But alas, the bartender spoke great english, but they didn't serve dinner. Foiled. Basically we're just tired of this town and we're ready to head back to Paris where they at least speak a LITTLE english...good gravy.

So anyway, tomorrow we're on our own and were planning on roaming around the countryside as much as possible and staying out of Tours if we can. But it's supposed to snow so we'll see if the roads are passable. Since they don't plow anywhere, things could be messy. We'll see what happens! Btw, is anyone still reading this? I feel like people have gotten bored and stopped reading...if you're still out there gimme a shout! (Pal I know you are, don't worry) :)