My First River Cruise Experience…Pre-Cruise Extension

So after our amazing dinner last night, way too much wine and a good nights sleep, I was up at 6am to go to the gym (not because I am that good about going to the gym, just trying to mitigate the damage I knew I would do on the cruise!).  However, the gym at the Clarion doesn’t open until 10am.   What?  I have never heard of a gym not opening until nearly afternoon, but oh well.  Instead I went for a walk/jog around the grounds of the hotel.  It was dark and drizzly so I only did as much as I could stand before I  gave up and headed for coffee and croissants.

The plan for the day was breakfast in the hotel, then on the bus for a trip to Château Chenonceau then back to Tours to do an official sightseeing tour.  My only complaint about the Clarion is that it is kind of far away from the main part of town so it is not just a quick walk down to the shops, restaurants, etc.  So we would be taken on a tour with our lovely tour guide

Breakfast was again yummy and thus fortified we headed out to the waiting bus.  It was still kind of drizzling but on and off, and I was hopeful for a relatively dry day.

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It did stop actually drizzling but remained pretty dreary all day.  This Château, however is spectacular.  Another one of those “mistress gifts” that seemed to be so commonplace in times gone by.  This “little country house” was given by King Henry II to his lifelong companion and chief mistress Diane de Poitiers.  Diane commissioned the bridge that joined the bridge to its opposite bank, which would actually be what saved this Château 200 years later during the French Revolution.

This gift to Diane created just a smidge of jealousy in Henry’s wife, Catherine de’ Medici.  She had wanted Chenonceau for herself, but as long as Diane de Poitiers was so attached to it, the king refused to give it to the queen.

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All that changed when the king died.  Catherine forced Diane to move to a different château and Catherine made Chenonceau her favored residence.  She expanded the gardens,build new rooms, and threw lavish parties that included the first ever fireworks display in celebration of her son taking the crown.

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I love this stove and all of this copper!

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A portrait of Diane, by all accounts a very beautiful and accomplished woman.

After our time at Chenonceau, we loaded back into our bus for the short drive over the river Cher to Amboise.

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Amboise is most famous for it’s housing of Leonardo da Vinci when he fled Rome looking for better wine and work.  I am not sure what kind of work he found when he got here, but settling in the Loire Valley sure was a stroke of genius on the wine front!

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We wandered around this medieval town looking at some of the old wood buildings.

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And we stopped at a small place along the way for some lunch.

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I had the Pâté de Pâques (Easter Pate) and I cannot remember what I had as my main course…but I remember we really liked everything. I feel like I would have ordered the shrimp, but I am not entirely sure…see what happens when the wine is THAT good!

After lunch we had to make our way back to the bus for our next stop…Tours.  As I mentioned before, our hotel is not close to the main part of the city so we were going to be dropped off, given a tour by our guide and then picked up and driven back to the hotel.

Tours has been a pretty important city in France since Gallic times.  Many historians contend that the French spoken in this area is the purest form of French.  Tours was the cultural center of French nobility until the court returned to Paris & Versailles.  The Tours Cathedral was completed in 1547.

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And its pretty spectacular.  Even in a country that has a bazillion churches this one is awesome.

Back at the hotel, I was pretty excited for what the hotel had going on that night…a wine tasting.  This was wholly separate from the Viking activities and was run through the hotel.  But first we needed dinner.  This is where we come to my only complaint again…the hotel’s distance from town.  The hotel has a restaurant, but it is fairly pricey and set up as several courses. Great for a special dinner, a couple of folks in our group ate there and really enjoyed it.  In addition, you could order room service and have it delivered to your room.  Several of our group did that and said that the food was very good.  But if what you are looking for is a casual dinner service, the distance from town makes it very difficult to get to something like that.  In addition, one of the members of my party used a walker and the sidewalks can be challenging and in some parts, cobblestone.

In addition, I wanted to be at the hotel for the wine tasting.   So after getting somewhat frustrated with the front desk staff’s willingness to help, I logged onto my “Around Me” app on my phone.  Low and behold there was a Domino’s Pizza not too far away so I pulled up my Domino’s app, typed in my location and BAM!  Pizza delivery right to the hotel lobby! Now, I would venture to say that the hotel staff was not too pleased with me and my party sitting at a table in the lobby with our pizza, but it is what worked for us that night.

And as far as the wine tasting?  It was amazing.  Wines from Orléans!  Nothing makes me happier than local wines!

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And with it was served some little nibbly things.

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Yummy!!! But I am glad I ordered the pizza…I don’t know if you know anybody like this, but sometimes I can get a TINY bit hangry when I don’t eat.  I’m sure you would never even notice.

Overall, our Pre-Cruise extension was an amazing addition to our trip.  The Loire Valley is amazing and so varied in its sub-regions.  The food and wines that we tried were all incredible and all so different.  I could go back and spend a month there in a heartbeat so if you know anyone headed that way…Just sayin’!

Next up, arriving in Bordeaux and boarding the Viking Forseti.

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