'Have you fed the fish today?'

The weather was unusually warm and sunny all weekend. I've been layering jackets over sweaters over long-sleeved shirts for weeks now, but we had a brief respite this weekend where it was warm - maybe even hot - for hours at a time. It was a very nice atmosphere for a weekend of castling with Jez, who came down to visit and invited me to stay with his family.

Jez called me when he left his parents' house, so I got my stuff together and took advantage of the sunshine to sit in front of the abbey and read my book. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the direction he'd be arriving from, so he had to call me and we found each other using the 'wander around for a while until you see someone else wandering around and talking on a cell phone' strategy.

We walked to his car, which he had brought over on a train in the Chunnel so that we could zoom about all weekend. Seeing as it was an English car, we had plenty of hijinks and foibles all weekend with the driver being on the opposite side. If you want to know his bank card code, it's... well, okay, maybe not.

I decided that our first stop would be Amboise, because I've never been there and because I've been on a Leonardo da Vinci kick of lately. We drove to the town, got a sweet parking space, then sat in a café and had a drink and chatted at the base of the château.

We went and bought our tickets to the Château d'Amboise and had our first instance of the Dilemma of Brochure-Languages. I think we ended up asking for one French and one English one. It's nice to have the English brochure, but you never know what you're getting yourself into. We were a professional translator and a snarky language nerd, so it was best that we have the French alternative in case the English was translated so badly or so strangely that it only frustrated us. That was my reasoning, anyway. People probably thought we were crazy because we always had to discuss what language we spoke.

We stopped into St Hubert's Chapel, where the presumed remains of Leonardo da Vinci are now buried (apparently he had been interred in a nearby church that was ruined and it didn't occur to anyone to dig him up until about 60 years later!) and explored the rest of the grounds and the Gothic/Renaissance style château. François I, the children of Henri II and Catherine de Medici and Mary Stuart all spent time in Amboise while they were growing up.

Charles VIII hit his head on a doorway here in 1498 and died a few hours later. Although some of the stairs and doorways were clearly made for people shorter than the average for today, none of them seemed dangerously low - so maybe he had some help.

At some point in the trip, Jez and I made a formal division of labour where I had to make any decisions related to châteaux and he s'est occupé de all those related to food. So he picked a saladerie/crêperie down the street from the castle and we had a break.

After lunch, we went to the nearby Château du Clos-Lucé, which was the home of Leonardo da Vinci while he was living in France as a guest of François I. In addition to the normal châteaux features like period furnishings, the museum and grounds are full of reproductions of Da Vinci's paintings, sketches and inventions. IBM has sponsored the construction of models of several of Leonardo's inventions, which probably only existed on paper and in Leonardo's head.

We continued our visit to the Clos-Lucé with a walk through the grounds, which contain life-sized versions of many of his inventions and recordings of scientific observations he made. We left through the one-way gate and decided that Da Vinci had invented that one, too.

I've been confused for a while as to the spelling of the name "Chenonceau(x)" but I've now discovered that this is because the town is Chenonceaux and the castle is the Château de Chenonceau.

We stopped for another drink and I had a lovely apricot juice and we examined the tables' centerpieces, which appeared to have some kind of artichokes or weird old potatoes in buckets.

Chenonceau is the château des dames and has been home to Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici (mistress and wife, respectively, of Henri II), Louise de Lorraine (widow of Henry III), Gabrielle d'Estrees (official favourite of Henry IV) and I don't know who else. It's chock-full of lady-history, though, I'll assure you. During WWII, one end of the castle (which bridges the Cher river) was in Occupied France and the other in "Free" France. The long gallery was used as an escape route during that war and as a hospital during WWI.

We also visited the kitchen, which was packed with horrible tourists from places like England and the US. Jez told me all about his bartering system of translation for radishes while we were down there, but it has only just now occurred to me that what he is really working towards is probably a great big turnip in the country.

I think it was at Chenonceau that we began the language game, which consisted mostly of coming up with words or phrases in British or American English that do not exist in the other. This usually manifested itself as one of us carrying on a normal conversation and then the other loudly shouting out some strange word that had been used. "VACATION!"

After Chenonceau, we headed to Jez's parents' home in St Cyran du Jambot. I had thought that P-------- was small, but the commercial sector of St Cyran, it would appear, consists of a bar and a tractor dealership. I met Jezmum and Jezdad briefly, then we went for a walk around St Cyran and through the local equestrian school, petted some horses, didn't get bitten and saw the famous Jambot river from whence the name St Cyran du Jambot comes from.

Well, more of a stream, really. A trickle.

Still, it's better than St Sirop du Jambon, which is how I originally heard the town name! It was a nice, quiet little place.

We went out for dinner and had a posh ("POSH!") meal on the banks of the Indrois in Gemillé or Chemillé or some similarly named town (everything around there rhymes, I think). We ordered a bottle of wine, which was silly because Jez was driving so I had to pitch in and do my part to help out the team. I stumbled back to the car, slurred some helpful navigational advice and stumbled back into the house to fall asleep... at 11pm. Lame!

srah - Friday, 16 July 2004 - 5:37 PM
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Comments (10)

gravatar Mr B------ - July 19, 2004 - 1:46 PM -

I don't really have anything that entertaining to say, but I feel like a post that long deserves a "wow!" or something like that.

Wow!

gravatar Rachel - July 19, 2004 - 1:55 PM -

This was one of my favorite posts from France yet!

gravatar MaTT - July 19, 2004 - 3:17 PM -

That's cool that they built some of DaVinci's inventions -- i wonder if he ever thought that would happen hundreds of years later?

And any restaurant that serves food which covers only 1/4 of the plate (necessitating decorative bits of stuff to fill the rest of the plate) really *is* posh... wow! :)

gravatar srah - July 19, 2004 - 3:26 PM -

Those are mostly appetizers ("APPETIZERS!") and desserts ("DESSERTS!"). It actually was a lot of food!

gravatar srah - July 20, 2004 - 1:02 PM -

All right, if you're all so smart, where does this post title come from?

gravatar alfie - July 20, 2004 - 2:39 PM -

I had to use Google, because I had no idea what you were talking about, the only thing I could find was that it's a quote from Badly Drawn Boy. Who I didn't realize you had ever heard of, so that one wouldn't really be fair?

gravatar Jez - July 20, 2004 - 5:01 PM -

I'll just say wow to the retentive properties of your capacious memory.

gravatar alfie - July 21, 2004 - 11:06 AM -

Whose memory?

gravatar srah - July 21, 2004 - 11:10 AM -

Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

gravatar alfie - July 21, 2004 - 11:17 AM -

:P

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