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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.