YOLVO: You're Only in the Loire Valley Once

The one excursion that we all went on together was to the Loire Valley. This was a jam packed weekend so I decided to split it into two posts. So many memories were made this weekend and friendships created. We all agree that we wish this trip would have been the first weekend in France but c'est la vie. You get what you get and you make it work. We set out on a huge coach bus from Paris to the LV at 8am on a Saturday. People were hungover, still drunk or just plain exhausted. I was one of the latter. Thank God for a three hour bus ride and two whole seats to myself. I knocked out after about ten minutes.

Our first destination was the Château d'Amboise in Amboise which is in the Loire Valley. I really loved this little town and wish that we could have spent more time. Anyway, we got a tour of the château which was absolutely gorgeous. I think that if you had asked me what I was really excited for in France, it would have been the castles. I never had a dad growing up so, of course, like any other girl I always dreamed that he was a king and I was a princess. So being able to walk around in these castles where royalty has been countless times was kind of a big deal for me, a childhood dream come true. Amboise is also the place where Da Vinci died and was buried. It's for that reason that the Mona Lisa is at the Louvre rather than in Italy. The Italians and French fight about that all the time. I'm just repeating what I was told.

Our next stop on the trip was kind of like a botanical garden. The official name is the Château de Chaumont but there were more fields and forests and flowers than there was castle. In fact, we didn't even get to go into the castle. I don't know if it was because of time or budgeting but regardless, I would have much rather spent two hours touring a château than walk through a foresty area with sketchy wooden walkways. A little side note: I am not a nature girl. I am city girl all the way. The closest I get to nature is through the trees lined down my street. All that was going through my mind while walking through the foresty area was what kind of diseases the bugs would give me if I got bit and "was that plant I just rubbed up against poisonous?" I'm not a hypochondriac but the possibilities were driving me insane. I'm also not very good at navigating my way through these areas. My poor friend Steve got stuck behind me but apparently my trivial difficulties were extremely amusing to him. I got him some great shots for his camera though. I guess we're even...

Our "last" stop on the first day was to a goat cheese farm. We got to see where they keep the goats and as much as I hated the bugs I loved the animals. Whoever said that animals don't have personalities has never been in contact with goats before. There were a couple that were seriously cracking me up. We also got to see where they make the cheese as well. After the tours we got to have fresh cheese and some amazing wine!! I think my favorite part of any day is when I get to have some wine. It's like the nectar of the gods designed especially for me. We also had a baguette, of course, and this honey, ginger bread with cheese melted inside. It was absolutely divine. The cheese was melted in the center of the bread! It's a girl's dream: wine, cheese, bread...cheese inside of sweet bread. Amazing. After this was part two of our goat cheese farm tour which was where the goats are milked. I personally did not like this part because it was too "factory-like" for me. They weren't treated bad but I still didn't like it. Plus, there were huge bees everywhere! And that is not something I can live with.

Moving on from the farm tour, we set off to where we were staying for the night with two bottles of wine each in hand. The first part of the farm we went to had a little boutique where they sold a wine that my Oenology professor recommended we buy while in the Loire. I got a bottle of white and then a sparkling rosé. As the bus started to drive away, me and another girl who are absolutely terrified of bees noticed that one of the HUGE bumble bees decided to come in for a ride. I was pretty much having a panic attack the entire ride to the mansion.

We arrived at the grounds of the mansion we were staying in...yes, I said mansion and out hopped all of us with our luggage and two bottles of wine each. Let me point out, we were not planning on getting drunk. We bought the wine merely for pleasure and to take back to Paris with us. We were all too exhausted to do anything that night anyway. However, when the lady saw us you could see the immediate panic in her eyes. American students? Wine? Disaster!!! So, of course, she said that there could be no drinking in the rooms. Only what we were served at dinner.

And so we had dinner. It was a medieval type of meal. Kind of like a stew? I'm not sure. All I know is that I was starving and so I ate it. I wasn't too thrilled with it though. After dinner, we all roamed the grounds and just spent time with each other. I saw the first and hopefully last slugs I will ever see in my life. They were banana slugs if you really care. Then we went in the rooms as soon as it got dark. Allison and I decided that we were going to have wine whether they liked it or not. So, since I had the sparkling wine, we opened it and split the bottle. We didn't have a bottle opener which is why the sparkling was the drink of choice. It was this night that I learned how to uncork carbonated wine without making a sound. Well...there was a little pop but make no mistake! There was no wine spilled through foam and the cork flawlessly came out in my hand. I also learned that night you cannot drink sparkling wine out of a bottle because it foams right back up at you. Bad decision on my part. So there we were, in the country of the Loire Valley, in a mansion, drinking sparkling wine before we went to sleep. Among weird animal sounds there was only silence and it could not have been more peaceful. It was the perfect escape from a typical Parisian night and more importantly, I got the big bed.