Thanksgiving in the Loire Valley

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Thanksgiving in the Loire Valley

chateau de chambord

Medieval castles, ancient manors, and flaky croissants….images that come to mind when thinking of Thanksgiving. Or maybe just the croissants, unless you're celebrating in France.

One of my most favorite and memorable Thanksgivings was spent exploring ancient castles and quaint villages in the Loire Valley of France. Somewhere Mando and I had never been, the Loire Valley was on both our bucket lists and a long Thanksgiving weekend offered us the perfect opportunity to check out this stunning area of France.

To make the most of our short time there, we rented a car (a must for traveling around this area), created a slightly optimistic and very detailed itinerary to guide us, and booked accommodation in a beautiful manor located in a tiny village that was central to all of the castles and towns we wanted to check out.

So on Thanksgiving day, we hopped a flight to Paris, picked up our rental, and headed south to start our adventure. Our first stop was the Chateau de Chambord. I won’t bore you details of its Medieval French and Italian Renaissance architecture (and I probably couldn’t even if I wanted to), but I will tell you what I liked about it, other than the fact that it was really pretty.

chateau de chambord

I really enjoyed the huge fireplaces, and the fact that they lit fires in them! It was such a touch and really added to the visitor experience on a crisp fall day.

chateau de chambord

We also really enjoyed the double-helix staircase. We each took a different side and waved hello along our way to the top, without ever crossing paths.

chateau de chambord
double helix staircase

Finally, no castle is complete without an awesome rain duct gargoyle.

chateau de chambord

And I'll throw in a couple shots of the beautiful courtyard and roof, in case me standing in front of a fireplace or Mando getting her hand stuck in a rain duct just don't do it for you.

One of many spiral staircases in the courtyard

One of many spiral staircases in the courtyard

Seriously, who has roofs like this?!?

Seriously, who has roofs like this?!?

After our fun at Chambord, we hopped in our car and zipped over to the hillside city of Blois.

View of the Cathedrale Saint-Louis in Blois

View of the Cathedrale Saint-Louis in Blois

At the Chateau de Blois, we enjoyed some more beautiful architecture and spiral staircases...

chateau de blois

But what we really enjoyed were the portraits of the cross-eyed royalty and hairy wolf girl. Who knew? Sixteenth century aristocracy, just like us.

chateau de blois
chateau de blois

That evening we checked into our hotel at the Manoir de Contres, where we had reservations in the manor’s restaurant for our Thanksgiving dinner. After settling in to our luxurious room, we went down to the study, complete with crackling fireplace and comfy couches, for a pre-dinner glass of wine. There we met the very accommodating owner of the manor who sat down to chat with us for a bit. He knew it was our Thanksgiving, so prepared us a delicious 4-course meal, catering even to one us that may have vegetarian tendencies…While certainly not your typical turkey and stuffing, this was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I’ve had! Everything was prepared to perfection and tasted amazing.

manoir de contres
A vegetarian Thanksgiving delight!

A vegetarian Thanksgiving delight!

Bellies full, we tuckered out in our comfy, soft as a cloud beds to rest up for our next day of castle exploring. More to come on the rest of our time in the Loire Valley!

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Favorite Edinburgh Spots

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Favorite Edinburgh Spots

edinburgh

In honor of my upcoming move to Edinburgh, I've decided to dedicate this blog post to some of my favorite spots in the land of kilts!

Greyfriars Cemetery

Greyfriars Cemetery

1. Greyfriars Cemetery

Might seem kind of morbid to list a cemetery as a favorite spot, but what can I say, I love it! This cemetery is so peaceful, and the setting is beautiful. As you walk amongst the crumbling tombstones, you'll see nothing but centuries of history surrounding you in the buildings around the graveyard. If you stop to read some of the tombstones, you may come across a familiar name, as the names of several characters in the Harry Potter books were inspired by these very graves. Finally, if you walk to the back corner, a gated off section contains numerous mausoleums, one of which is said to be host to a very active poltergeist by the name of Mackenzie. Several of the city's ghost tours will take you into this very mausoleum, if you're feeling brave!

The mausoleum where you'll find the Mackenzie poltergeist!

The mausoleum where you'll find the Mackenzie poltergeist!

2. Isle of Skye Candle Co

This place has amazing candles and creams! The scents are all natural and made using ingredients found native to this magnificent country. The hand cream is some of the best I've ever used, and the candles make an awesome and inexpensive souvenir for friends and family!

edinburgh

3. Under the Stairs

This restaurant has fantastic ambiance and even better food. Tucked away in an unsuspecting corner of Old Town, you'll find this gem tucked away down a flight of, you guessed it, stairs! You're not likely to stumble across this place unless you're looking for it, so I highly recommend searching it out!

edinburgh

4. Mimi's

Just down the Royal Mile, you'll come across this small, inviting storefront selling tasty teas and treats. It's warm and quaint inside and the cupcakes and scones will certainly catch your eye, so it's the perfect way to escape the drizzle for a tasty nibble and dose of caffeine.

edinburgh
How could you resist?!

How could you resist?!

More to come on favorite locations as I spend the next year exploring all the nooks and crannies of this magical place!

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A Spot of Tea

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A Spot of Tea

Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge...Those might be a few ideas that come to mind in regard to London, but for me, it’s tea and crumpets. There are so many things synonymous with British culture, but the afternoon cuppa has to be one of my favorites, which is why I’m going to share some of my top picks for high tea in Ol’ Blighty

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Isle of Skye

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Isle of Skye

Have you ever been somewhere so beautiful you can’t describe it in words? That’s the Isle of Skye.  Even in the dead of winter, Skye is one of the most stunning places I’ve seen. 

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Hogmanay

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Hogmanay

Hog-ma-what? It’s not a word you will often hear in the vocabulary of most Americans. Hogmanay is actually a Scots word for the last day of the year, and is interchangeably used to describe the Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration. The largest and most famous celebration is that of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival held in the capital city, with three days of ongoing events.

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