Friday morning we finally made it to Loire Valley. This area of France, about 2 1/2 hours outside of Paris, is known for their wine and especially their chateaus. After managing to drag ourselves out of bed and onto the bus, we arrived at Chateau de Blois. There were three distinct sections of the chateau, and it became obvious that they were all built during different time periods. The elaborate decorations throughout the rooms became overwhelming, since the goal of every chateau decorator was the cover every square inch with some sort of painted pattern or hanging fabric. For the weekend, an Italian man joined our group as a guide, and he continued with us to our next adventure. It was one that everyone was looking forward to, even though it was supposed to be a "surprise." We pulled up in our huge charter bus to this tiny shop that seemed half way underground. The signs were in French, but it was obvious where we were from the grape vines decorating the outside. It was a winery, and everyone, tired and somewhat overwhelmed already, was ready to try what France had to offer. After being given a tour of the manufacturing process, we entered a room decorated and full with wine and another local product, goat cheese. The cheese may have not been my favorite, but the wine was fantastic. I ended up buying 3 bottles, including a fruity white, a medium bodied red (they didn't have a full bodied one unfortunately) and another dry white. The woman who owned the winery was so friendly and welcoming. She continued bringing our group bottles upon bottles of wine, then eventually letting us pop a few bottles of sparkling wine, not champagne (champagne is from Champagne, not the Loire Valley).
Carrying and loading our boxes onto the bus, we continued to the next stop, Chateau de Chenonceau. It was located in a beautiful area, which had an entrance of trees enclosing around you, a donkey farm to one side, and even a maze. We all snapped pictures quickly of the shrubbery and structures since there was a very dark cloud centered right above. As it started to pour, we finally made it into the smaller chateau and toured again. This one was interesting in that there was a bridge attached that had two purposes on each of its different floors. The first was used as a normal bridge, where servants could cross to and from. The second floor of the bridge however was a long room with checkerboard flooring and big glass windows that was used as a party room. By this point, everyone was ready for dinner. This meal had a lot to live up to after Normandy and the fun we had, but unfortunately it feel somewhat flat, but still eventful. After a small avocado salad, there was a thud next to me. I looked over and sprawled across the table was bits of brown dirt. Nicole was looking at the mess in shock. As we looked up, we saw the culprit. A bird's nest had been made in the rafters above, and some had fallen right onto Nicole place setting, wine, and food. The waitress did not seem very happy with us to begin with, and it was a bit of confusion trying to explain what had just happened. the main course that I had was a sliver of salmon with vegetables. Everyone else had a chicken drumstick and mashed potatoes. For all that we had done today, we were all left unsatisfied and craving Papa John's pizza. Our next stop was Chateau de Razay, our hotel for the night. We arrive to see llamas, dogs, horses, and a gigantic pot bellied pig lying on the steps. The chateau was beautiful, and our room reflected that.
After a long day, we passed out quickly, only to realize the morning and the next day came too soon. We were off to Chateau de Chambord, by far the biggest and most beautiful one we had visited. They had bike and boat rides that you could take to see the grounds. There was also a hunting convention taking place. This chateau was actually a "hunting cabin" of Francois I, which I found interesting since it contains 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. Somewhat of a hunting cabin when you can light a different fire place every day of the year. After another tour by our Italian guide, we got to enjoy a cookie tasting at the bakery located in the area. I now know that I need to create a recipe for a cherry cookie and a chocolate chip with orange zest cookie. They will be fantastic, promise. I cannot wait to have a kitchen again so I can start baking! I have been missing creating my own baked goods recently. Paris has definitely given me some ideas on what to make next. After the cookie tasting and a long 2 days of tours, we headed back to Paris. I thought that it would be one of those nights that I just lay in my bed, relax, and have a refreshing sleep. It turned into something unexpected.
After using Asa's computer to change my flights for after the Paris program, I was convinced by Park to go out with them for the night. Still in my PJs and ready for bed, I agreed and quickly got ready, wine bottle in hand. The time finally hit 1:30 am, and after a few fallen soldiers, Asa, Park, Sean and I were off to the Montparnasse area. We arrived at a place called the Financier, and started off our night. I have no clue how I made it to 4:30 in the morning, but I think the dancing and lively scene around me kept me going. I am not used to those sort of late nights, as many of you know, but it was pure entertainment. I even managed to make friends with real French people from Paris, something that is suprisingly hard to come by. The only problem was the language barrier between all of us. Luckily Sean translated between me, Asa and our new friend Franck. On the way home, I managed my first ever "plank" on a bike rack and I cannot wait to see the pictures! It was another fun night, which seems to always be the case with the unexpected, and Paris.