Today was the day. We had been looking forward to this day ever since we had decided to not go to Spain and instead rent a car in France for 16 days. Will’s first chance to drive since 2011. We picked up our car, an Opel Corsa, from the rental company in central Paris. It had only done 18,000km but was already pretty worn out and untidy. But we didn’t care! Fortunately it was early on a Sunday morning meaning that traffic in Paris was at its weekly quietest. With some pre-prepared notes and google maps on hand we took off. Managing to stay on the right hand side of the road, we negotiated the streets and got onto the ring road. Will’s eyes lit up once he saw a speed limit sign of 130kph and duly got to that speed as fast as he could.
We had the choice of 2 routes to follow to get to our overnight destination of Blois in the Loire Valley. One was via motorways, proving an easy and fast if somewhat boring drive. The second was via D roads, rural roads going through villages and farmland. After exiting Paris we decided on the latter. The freedom of going where we wanted and seeing small towns and villages was great! For lunch and a coffee we stopped off at a village called Chateauxdun. There happened to be a jazz festival on so we sat in a cafe, drinking an excellent espresso while watching the various bands play in the old square. After a small explore of the town with its old cobbled streets, chateaux and stunning countryside views we set off again. We drove a total of about 4 hours, yet it seemed like only 5 minutes it was so much fun.
That afternoon we explored Blois, with postcard streets and buildings all set along the Loire river.
The following day we took Will’s parents’ advice and headed to Chenonceau Chateaux. The chateaux had a rich history and had housed several French kings over the years and served as a place to smuggle resistance members in and out of the German occupied zone on the other side of the river during WW1. Half of it was built on a bridge crossing a river, and the chateaux and grounds were amazing. Exploring the bedrooms, kitchens, dining areas and ballroom where French leaders such as King Henry II ruled France from was rather surreal.
After exploring the grounds and donkey farm we drove to Amboise for lunch, before slowly heading back to Blois.
Tomorrow we undertake an 800km drive to Chamonix. A full day, but one we are looking forward to – plus doing it in one burst means an extra day in the alps to have a look at Switzerland. Perfect.