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At 6:30, we were up and ready to go. We took a taxi from our hotel to Gare Montparnasse, where we caught a train to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps for the next leg of our trip. We were very sad to leave Paris. That city is wonderful and amazing, and so much more than what I had dreamt it would be. I vowed that we will be back next year. We had fallen in love with this beautiful city.

The trip down from Paris to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps took about an hour. I was worried we might struggle to get to our train at Gare Montparnasse, but it was surprisingly easy. We even had time for a quick croissant and coffee. We found our platform without any problems, but did struggle to find the right carriage to get into. There didn’t seem to be any signs or numbers to indicate which carriage to get on to. So we ended up just jumping into a random carriage as we didn’t want to miss our train. A really nice and helpful French guy helped us find out seats.

When we arrived at Saint-Pierre-des-Corps it was still rather early in the morning. The TGV office was open at the train station and so I decided to collect our tickets for our train from Dijon to Venice while the office was open as I didn’t want to get caught out. The lady at the desk was nice although she didn’t speak much English, but we managed to get our tickets without any problems. Next, we tried to find the Europcar office. We struggled with that for a bit as we searched every inch of the train station and could not find it. Turns out it’s outside the station, directly on the right of the station exit. We got our hire car without much fuss.

Our hire car for the next 7 days was a Toyota Corolla. The French really do like their small cars. But then, the roads and lanes are so small and narrow, you can understand why a small car would be more convenient. Maps in hand, luggage stowed in the boot, we were ready to set out. But when we turned the GPS on, we were horrified to discover it only had the main roads on display, not the display that we were used to back home. Cursing Garmin for the crap France map chip, we fumbled our way to the freeway. It was rather stressful as hubby was driving on the opposite side of the road, in the wrong side of the car, and we had no idea which way we were going. Our only guide were the signs pointing to the major attractions. The GPS was hopeless until we got on the freeway, and even then, it was not always accurate. We were so glad then that we stopped at Saint-Pierre-des-Corps instead of Tours because driving in Tours would have been a nightmare.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideaux

Château d’Azay-le-Rideaux.

We finally made it to Château d’Azay-le-Rideaux after a few detours due to our bad navigation. The Michelin map that we brought with us as backup, was a massive, bulky piece of paper which was almost impossible to open up and read in the car without covering the entire windscreen, and our GPS display was so hopeless that according to the GPS, most of the time, we were driving on water, not on the road.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideaux

Château d’Azay-le-Rideaux.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideaux is a relatively small château in comparison to some of the larger, more famous châteaux of the Loire. This 16th century château, now owned by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, is a fine example of a Renaissance château and is listed on the UNESCO world heritage list. It is surprisingly well preserved, although quite sparsely furnished on the inside. It is set in the centre of a lovely park. We spent a good hour at this château before wandering down the small streets of the town. We found a small Italian restaurant and stopped by to have lunch. The food was surprisingly much better than we expected and the house wine was excellent.

Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry.

Leaving Château d’Azay le Rideaux, we headed for Château de Villandry. Château de Villandry is famous for its gardens but the inside of the château is beautifully furnished and well worth the visit nonetheless. Of course the gardens were most impressive. It was so serene and calm in the gardens. I especially liked the ornamental and water garden. We spent about 2 hours here.

Château de Villandry - Dining room from XVIII century

Château de Villandry - 18th century dining room.

Château de Villandry - The Oriental drawing room

Château de Villandry - The ceiling of the Oriental drawing room comes from the Maqueda ducal palace, built in the 15th century in Toledo. In 1905, Joachim Carvallo brought this ceiling back for Villandry. It took a full year to reassemble this ceiling from 3,600 separate pieces.

Château de Villandry - The ornamental garden

Château de Villandry - The ornamental garden depicting love in its various forms - Tender Love, Passionate Love, Fickle Love & Tragic Love.

Château de Villandry - The water garden

Château de Villandry - The water garden is centred around a large pond in the form of a Louis XV mirror.

Château de Villandry - Path to the Sun garden

Château de Villandry - Path to the sun garden.

Château de Villandry - The vegetable garden

Château de Villandry - The vegetable garden.

Château de Villandry - The vegetable garden

Château de Villandry - The vegetable garden with a view of the château in the background.

By the time we left Château de Villandry, it was well into evening. Surprisingly, we found Château de Rochecotte without any trouble. Our accommodation for the night was quite impressive. The place was sumptuously decorated in the 17th century style, with beautiful furniture, which made the surroundings seem rather grand. Our Comfort Room was fairly large and comfortable, with a view of the French garden. The only down side was the lack of other guests. Because we were there on a week-day, there were only 3 other guests staying the night. So you could say the place lacked a certain liveliness and warmth.

Château de Rochecotte

Château de Rochecotte - former residence of the Duchess of Dino and our resting place for the night.

After settling in, we headed down to the restaurant for dinner. Due to the lack of guests, there was no a la carte dining option. There were 3 degustation menus on offer. Surprisingly, the food was quite good. We chose a bottle of Touraine wine to go with the meal, and were pleasantly impressed. We enjoyed a lovely meal in the grand dining room, before retiring for the night.

Château de Rochecotte - The interior

Château de Rochecotte - The interior.

Dessert at the restaurant

We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the restaurant in Château de Rochecotte. The dessert was one of the best we had in France.