My mind was struggling to leave behind three words, sí, por favor, and gracias. I knew I was in France, but my mind was stuck in Mexico. Grant proved stronger in the French language than me. Probably because he has given more dedication to learning the language. Even before we left to go sailing, I allowed yellow French vocabulary stickers to be placed around our house.
After leaving Paris we hopped a train for Amboise and couldn’t help but notice the change in scenery of the country side. Green rolling hills with rapid flowing rivers, and streams! It was Iowa sans châteaux, and olive trees. Riding by train was a breeze. Everything was very well marked and arrivals to stations were announced.
Amboise is a small medieval town with a 15th century castle (château) located along the banks of the Loire river. They call this river the last wild river in France as there are no dams to control flooding. Walking through the cobble stone streets one can imagine what it life might have been like when merchants walked the same path preparing for the arrival of the king.
Today modern merchants line the streets in the form of patisseries, clothing stores, and cafes. Cars are not allowed on the main pedestrian street Rue National leading up to the château. As we walked around town we heard a commotion being orchestrated from a group of cars honking wildly as they drove around the side streets. In the small town of Amboise this does not go unnoticed. A celebration was emerging around us. Dozens of cars in an interlocking train ended up in front of the museum entrance where the beautiful bride and her handsome groom emerged.
Each week a large market assembles along the river where you can buy your fresh items. That is bread, veggies, cheese, olives, herbs, meats, sausages, you name it. This is where creativity sets in, sans list and recipe. You must think on your feet. I was struggling because there were no limes, tortillas, or chorizo. Black beans? Forget it!
I managed to see the word Feta on a package of cheese. Apparently this doesn’t translate into French. Olives, marinated mushrooms, sausage, green leaf lettuce, a French baguette and the feta cheese all made their way into our bag. Exiting the kitchen came a lovely green salad, dressed in olive oil with a touch of vinegar. A meal fit for a king!
The Château D’Amboise was the royal residence of Charles VIII, Lois XII and the summer residence of François I. In 1516, Leonardo Da Vinci (age 65) left Rome to relocate to France, accepting a commission by François I (age 22). He was named Premier peintre, architecte et méchanicien du Roi (“First painter, architect, and engineer to the King”).
The interior showcases furniture, tableware, art and tapestries of the time. The tapestries were hung on bare stone walls to add a bit of warmth to the otherwise stone room and absorb noise. Most tapestries featured scenes of the times, kings in battles defeating the enemy, important events from the families life, or nature.
François I gave Leonardo a country house Le Château du Clos Luce where he passed away three years later. During these years he devoted his time to drawing, teaching, town planning and architecture, but was revered by the king much more for his knowledge and philosophy. The St. Hubert chapel on the property of Château D’Amboise honors Leonardo as his final resting place.