Chateaus and Chapels and Parks and More

I mentioned quite some time ago that I was heading off to France on a research trip. Well, I did go about a month and a half ago already, and I must report that spring is officially my favourite time to visit France. When I lived in Paris a few summers ago, the heat, the dirt, and the endless crowds of tourists put me off the city, although now I look back on that summer very nostalgically. This trip, though, it was relatively quiet, and especially once I was out in the Loire Valley, where I spent the bulk of my week, it was heavenly. The regional trains are so nice, the people are much friendlier than your average Parisian, and the chateaus were out of this world. There were some amenities that were closed in the Loire Valley because it was out of season but still, if you ever want to go see some stunning architecture and feel truly enveloped in some ancient history, the Loire Valley in the spring, when it's quiet, is the place to go. I simply didn't have time to see everything I would have wanted to see, and I'm already hankering for a return trip. 

I started off in Paris ... 

to see my favourite work in the Louvre 

and the most exquisite stained glass (Sainte-Chapelle).

In the Loire Valley, I stayed in Tours and took day trips out to Azay-le-Rideau,


(the home not only of medieval kings but also the last home of da Vinci)


and Chambord.

Chambord was definitely my favourite.

If you're thinking of going, I'd recommend staying in Tours, because it's right in the centre of the region and easy to navigate from. The trains were easy enough, but renting a car would be very easy too. Most of the chateaus had free parking. In Tours, take a wander up the Rue de Bordeaux by the train station or the Rue Colbert by the chateau when you're hungry; there were lots of great options. I'd also recommend the Patisserie Bigot (a restaurant and bakery) in Amboise and Eric Saguez, an amazing chocolatier and bakery in Blois.
And next time, Chenonceau, Villandry, and Chinon will be at the top of my list of places to see!
Have you ever been to the Loire Valley? Any recommendations for the day I make it back?
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