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.
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.
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.
Finally, no castle is complete without an awesome rain duct gargoyle.
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.
After our fun at Chambord, we hopped in our car and zipped over to the hillside city of Blois.
At the Chateau de Blois, we enjoyed some more beautiful architecture and spiral staircases...
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.
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.
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!