Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

La petite fille chérie de la Loire …

... or: The Loire’s River darling little girl is none other than …. the town of Amboise. It wasn’t me that came up with this wording, but it has stuck with me ever since I read it. I’ve done a post about it in my early blogger years.  However, I was curious to know where I had read or heard this expression for the first time. My good friend Mr. Google immediately directed me towards this PDF file. You’ll find the text under the header ‘Ville d’Amboise et visites contées’.

Arriving at Place Michel Debré on Sunday morning.
 In the distance, the castle's chapel where Leonardo Da Vinci is burried.
Quote from the brochure: « Amboise, c'est la petite fille chérie de la Loire,
 la plus « italienne » des cités 
La Renaissance et ses fastes sont partout ici ! … »

Ever since I laid eyes on Amboise for the first time in June 1999 I’ve been in love with the town. Maybe it were the circumstances in which I saw the towers of the château from a distance. My friend and I had driven through a terrible thunderstorm on our way down from Brussels. Later that evening we saw some horrible images of the damage the storm had caused in Paris. Anyway, the sky had started to clear by the time we reached Blois, were we crossed the river. We followed the scenic route, spotting turrets in the distance, the indication that this really was ‘château’ country. Each time we saw what looked like a castle roof, I looked at the roadmap in my lap trying to figure out which royal dwelling it could be.

We had chosen Amboise as our destination the town being ideally located at only 30 km of Tours where we had booked a hotel room for the week. According to the tourist brochures I had picked up at La Maison de La France in Brussels (no internet at the time), Amboise had some interesting restaurants and many multiple tourist attractions. Today, I would be embarrassed to say that, but at the time we were ‘tourists’ and novices as far as the Loire Valley was concerned.

At some point while I was studying the map, my friends attracted my attention to another row of turrets among the treetops in the distance. ‘Yet another castle’, he said in a rather blasé way. I looked at the map: ‘But it’s Amboise!’ I replied indignantly. ‘We’ve arrived’.

The Loire River in Amboise.
Notice how high the water level is, after last spring's incessant rain.

Over the years, Amboise has become my ‘point de chûte’; the perfect place to arrive on a Sunday morning, when the market is in full swing and the town is really buzzing. Parking your car, can be a bit of a problem, because it looks like the entire Indre-et-Loire population, plus a great number of tourists find their way into town. If you’re lucky, you can find a nice spot in the parking lots between the main boulevard and the river bank. If not, you can try your luck at the foot of the castle, where parking is free on Sundays, but where you need to put several coins in the parking machine on week days. And there is the parking ‘le Château’: ample space but a quite a long walk from the market, which is not very practical when you do a lot of heavy shopping … like melons and potatoes for instance. Finally there is the Place Richelieu, featuring a statue of the great man himself, slightly closer to the market, but most of the time very full too.

Walking down the quay where the market is located.

This year we set out on Sunday morning, with a long to-do list: food shopping at the market for Monday’s B-BBQ*, aperitif at le café ‘Le Château’, wine tasting and buying at the Cave des Vignerons (also for Monday’s B-BBQ), hoping my long-time friend Laetitia would be there, lunch at the Lion d’Or, where I went last year with Mats and Vera – a memorable experience which I wanted to repeat and share with B. and J.L. who are really foodies too.  And we also needed some bubbles from my favourite Vouvray winegrower, Guertin for Monday’s aperitif. The afternoon was reserved for a more ‘cultural’ activity …

(*) B-BBQ = Blogger Barbecue


Susan said... matter what the tourist literature persists in saying, Leonardo is probably not buried in the chapel...

VirginiaC said...

Amboise market sounds a fun place to be on a Sunday morning...glad you found great food/drinks for the BBQ.

chm said...

I was in Amboise for a short stay many decades ago. As I recall, it was very enjoyable. Closer to us, several years ago, I had Ken and Walt as guests for lunch at the Lion d’or [Au lit on dort]. We thought it was good. The management has changed since then I was told.

Craig said...

I've never been to Amboise I'm ashamed to say. But every time I see photos of it, such as your lovely ones, I think to myself that I need to correct it and plan a trip.

ladybird said...

Susan, You're probably right. But as you said, it makes a good 'tourist' story and it adds an extra touch to the Mona Lisa mystery, doesn't it? The story that says that the Mona Lisa is actually Leonardo's self-portrait :)

Virginia, We couldn't have picked a better place for our BBQ shopping, produce being fresh and largely available.

Chm, Yes management has changed recently (two or three years ago) and the interior is also much more contemporary than it used to be.

Craig, I can warmly recommend the town. Just let me know if you need any travel/accomodation/restaurant information.