La Loire - land of chateaux

On the way to our next stay, on the spur of the moment we detoured to a little town called Fougere. And what a delight! Fougere is home to not only a fortified castle but a magnificent cathedral that is set amongst pretty gardens and a tree lined archway that overlook the entire district. We were amazed, and so thankful we had made the detour.

Le Clos (pronounced 'clow') du Golf was a beautiful B&B in a little hamlet called Plessis near a little village called Cangey not far from the town of Amboise, and all the wonderful chateaux in the Loire Valley.

There are 59 chateaux open to the public, and we managed to visit five. The first, Clos Luce was built in the 1470s and is smallish in stature, but famous for being the final resting place of Leonardo Da Vinci. Set in hectares of gardens, the chateau is decorated as it was in the 16th Century and is full of Leonardo's inventions, both inside and out.

Second, we visited the beautiful Chenonceau, built in 1513. This chateau has passed through many hands and contains rare tapestries and paintings. It is the most visited monument in France and the photos will show you why. During WW2 the chateau, which is built over a river, was used as a escape route by the resistence.

Langeais is a medieval chateau and is decorated accordingly, right down to the food on the table. It was built at the end of the 10th Century and walking through it makes you feel that are literally back in that era. In one of the rooms, a royal wedding has been staged using manequins dressed as they would have been. Fantastic.

Villandry is amazing for its spectacular renaissance gardens, all five acres of them. The chateau was built in the 1100s and has undergone much rebuilding over the centuries. But it is the gardens that took our breath away; flowers, lawns, vegetables, herbs, ponds - you name it, and all manicured to perfection.

Chambord is the largest and perhaps the most spectacular in the Valley. We walked through some of the more than 400 rooms and saw some of the 365 fireplaces. And we climbed some of the 77 stairways, including the 'double helix' stairway that was reputedly designed by Mr Da Vinci himself.

We also found some wonderful restaurants in Amboise, with its very own chateau that overshadows the town. our hosts at Le Clos du Golf, Katia and Mark, spoiled us rotten. Breakfast was wonderful and Mark's croissants are to die for. Katia even did our washing and our room was serviced daily during our four night stay. And we met a lovely Belgian couple who are keen for us to housesit at their home near Antwerp for a few weeks next year.

Jim has just advised that over the last 20 days we have driven 3,600 kilometres... all on the wrong side of the road, from motorways (130kms per hour) to tiny narrow village laneways at 1km per hour!