Tuesday Sept 6, 2016

As I hinted in my last posting, these past three days in the French countryside have been a traveller’s feast – in more ways than one! Our accommodation (the Hotel Auberge du Bon Laboureur) in the quaint little hamlet of Chenonceaux has been ooh-la-la-luverly … and the four-course dinners we’ve enjoyed in the hotel’s Michelin-Star restaurant have been out of this world.

And then, of course, there are the châteaux

Way back in the 16th century, competing French kings, queens, nobles and hotshots chose the lush green Loire Valley (a couple of hours to the west of Paris) as their royal battleground-cum-playground – filling it with extravagant forts, castles or ‘châteaux’. And okay, while there aren’t 1000 (like the ads say), there are more than 300!

We Kiwis managed to inspect five of the best. They’ve all been magnificent, all several hundred years old (or more), and all very different. I won’t bore you with blow-by-blow descriptions (you really have to BE here to eyeball their respective features, sample their histories and roam their gardens), but our pix will hopefully give you the general idea.

First up (on Sunday) was the massive, chunky, multi-turreted Château de Chaumont with its sumptuous interiors, glorious paintings and tapestries, and expansive gardens …

Next up (Monday) was the famous Château de Chenonceau (without an x) … straddling a river … built, loved and looked after by a succession of extraordinary women!

Third on our list: the smaller Château du Clos Lucé … stately home of Leonardo da Vinci, his art and his endless inventions for the final three years of his life.

Then, today, you could’ve found us in the Château de Villandry … ogling one of the most photographed gardens in Europe – six gardens, in fact, featuring an artistic maze of decorative box-hedges.

The fifth and last château on our short list: the Château Azay le Rideau … half-smothered in scaffolding, but still an architectural jewel, built during the Renaissance on an island in the middle of the Indre River.

STILL TO COME: Leaving the Loire Valley, we travel cross-country to France’s third-largest city, Lyon, where the Amadeus Symphony waits to take us on a week-long river-cruise. Don your lifejackets and don’t change channels …

PEOPLE-NEWS: Another lusted-after Yellow Duck has found a new home …

  • Trisha scored our very French Oui, Oui, Monsieur’ Award – when she was spotted sneaking out of the men’s loo at an autobahn café today. (We’ve all done it, one time or another, but poor Trisha got caught!)

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you’d like to read earlier chapters in this Travel Blog, just click on ‘PREVIOUS’ or ‘OLDER POSTS’ – either at the start or finish of this entry. If you want to receive future Mad Midlife Travel Blogs in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription! And if you’d like to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your comments! (Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.)

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!


  1. Hi all you happy travellers, unfortunately unable to view photos as we are in a cold, wet and windy Papamoa using the library to catch up on emails. But tomorrow we should be back home and will catch up with you all on the blog. Please say hi to Bruce and Julie, Karen, Sherrol and Eric and Margaret keep thinking about you all and what you are up to needless to say wish we were with you. Our visit to Papamoa was our second choice?!?!?!?!

  2. Hi Granny Karen, looks like you are having a great time. We loved the castles and maze gardens. We miss you. Love from Holly, Eli, and Rosie

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