We took a night train from Lisbon, Portugal to Hendaye, France. Before we left Lisbon we needed to pick up our backpacks which were in storage at the Rossio train station. Repacking our clean laundry and snacks into our bags, we headed out to another train station across town, Santa Apolonia.
We immediately bought icy treats and waited for the train. Our train arrived and we found our compartment. We shoved our heaping-full bags up to the top storage area, but our compartment-mates soon informed us that our beds were in the lower ones. So after prying our bags out and stowing them below us, all was good. The people, from Cascais, Portugal, were nice and even shared some homemade bread with us. The bunks were very comfy. We were glad we got stuck with a family and not any rowdies!
At 7:20 we woke up to a loud obnoxious bell ringing on the train. Time to get up! At Hendaye, on day 51, we experienced our first passport check of our trip! After switching trains in St. Pierre des Corps, we were in Blois in no time.
Our hotel was nice and had those big long French pillows. After a stop at the tourist office we set out for dinner. It was drizzling when we started but by the time we got to the restaurant our hotel had recommended, we were holding the door shut from the wind and rain. Unfortunately, they were full, so we headed out in the wind, rain, thunder, and lightening. We were drenched! But we found a pizzeria and despite some dirty looks, they served us a nice meal. After dinner the rain eased and we found our way back to our hotel early.
After a traditional French breakfast at our hotel (rolls, butter, jam) we set out to see Chenonceau. We stopped in Amboise first. Since we had to wait a couple hours until the next bus to Chenonceau, we decided to visit Amboise Chateau and Clos Lucé (where Leonardo da Vinci lived the last four years of his life). The Amboise Chateau houses Da Vinci’s grave, which was very neat to see. We also saw some troglodyte (cliffside) dwellings. Leonardo da Vinci’s home, Clos Lucé was neat. We saw his bedroom, lounge, kitchen, and some of his inventions.
We then caught our bus to Chenonceau. We had a snack of hotdogs and crepes. Leading up to the chateau, there is a long tree-lined walkway and a moat. Inside the Chateau, Brian read the room descriptions as we walked through. There were many Renaissance chimneys, paintings, and Flemish tapestries. The kitchen was very cool with a dock where they could get supplies from the boats on the river. The last room was painted black by a former widowing inhabitant. It was very creepy with skulls, thorns, rope, and other death stuff painted on the walls. Settle down mourning French lady! After our tour of the chateau, we walked to the wine “cave” (cellar) and bought Chenonceau wine.
We then headed back to Blois and had an okay dinner near Chateau Blois. The waitress informed us we could only eat something “quick” but it wasn’t even that late and another couple kept staring at us. Anyway… what a big day!
We got up early and walked 1.5 miles to the bicycle shop to rent bikes. We decided to bike to Chateau Cheverny, which was about 31 miles there and back! After we got out of the city, we rode on a dirt path in a forest. It was quite remote and very pretty.
Once we got to Cheverny, we were starving, so we ate at a restaurant but the waitress was quite snooty. After quenching our appetites, we bought tickets to Cheverny. It was very chateau-y with its golf-course-green grass. We also took a tour inside. After we were done we had much needed icy-treats to rejuvenate.
Back to our bikes! We took a different way back to Blois. Katie acted as “biking photographer” taking photos while biking. We saw lots of sunflower fields and grapes.
Back at our hotel, the nice hotel owner helped us stash our bikes in the back of the hotel. We walked down to the Loire River to eat dinner. The restaurant had cushy seats for our bruised, bike-riding buttocks! We had a nice dinner and then headed back to our hotel to sleep!
The next day, we woke up tired. It was raining. We ate breakfast at the hotel and then took a nap! Some rowdy French kids next door woke us up from our nap, though.
We took our bikes back to the rental store and we spent the rest of the day shopping for wine and chocolates for souvenirs. We had lunch at a Chinese/Thai restaurant. After another nap, we ate dinner at an English/Irish/American pub. The food was filling but not so great. We had another rude waiter. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel. A very relaxing day to recover from biking.
The next day we packed up and headed to the train station for our final destination: Paris!