The center of Amboise is dominated by a huge chateau—Le Chateau des Roi, the summer home of French kings from 1434 to 1560. It towers above the city, its ramparts rising at least 120 feet above the street lined with cafes. The gardens and grounds stretch away from the river atop cliffs of tufe for close to a mile. Many of the houses below are partially built into the rock, with habitation in the original caves dating back to the middle ages or before.
The narrow streets are lined with white stucco homes trimmed with brick, timber and stone. Lace curtains of all designs hang in the windows. Others are shuttered against the heat of the day. Just down the hill a ways from our gite we discover a tiny cafe, “the Maitre d’Arte” named after Leonardo Da Vinci, who spent his last three years in Amboise as a guest of King Francis I. The cafe sits opposite Close Lucé, the chateau that housed Da Vinci. Our first morning at the cafe we met Jean-Luc, a history teacher and cyclist who lives in Amboise. We spent the next few hours feasting on Crepes, yogurt, peach jam, crusty bread, and plenty of café creme, all the while chatting about bikes, travel, and education in France and the US.
Its very hot in Amboise, so we spend the afternoon reading and painting in the cool of our little site. About 6pm we set off for a ride on the Boucle (Loop) that takes us past the Chateau and over the bridge to the north of the river and the countryside beyond.
The ride, on small lanes, goes through tiny villages and vineyards, the evening light making it all the more spectacular. We come to a series of locks in a small stream, a perfect place to stop for a snack. A draft horse grazes in the field in the old farm nearby, paying very little attention to us.
Crossing the river on our return the Chateau glows golden in the evening light above the cool blues and green of the river and trees. It is 9:30, still light out, but the cafes are winding down.
The heat of the day has given away to a cool and breezy night, perfect for sleeping. After a walk around the city in the twilight, we enjoy a dinner of bread, local cheese and “jambon cru, sausisson & spianata piquante” sitting under the stars at our gite.