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YFA’s Travels – Europe 2010 (Part 6/?) by YFA

Wow… let’s hope I finish posting this Europe trip blog before I start with Asia…

December 30, 2010
We had a super early start this morning because we have a lot of ground to cover – probably the worst part of highway driving for this trip, as we head up and over the mountain towards the north where there were earlier reports of snowstorms and possible road closures. This is as far north as we’ll go in this entire trip, so if we survive driving through the snow/mountains (which was a real concern we had, that we would get stuck in the snow in the mountain with a stick shift) we should be fine for the rest of the trip from the snow. Our final destination for the day is Bordeaux, but in between the 7+ hours of driving needed to get there, we have a few stops along the Loire Valley to look at French castles, of which we settled on the largest Chateau Chambord, and the unique looking Chateau Chaumont. Both castles appear very photogenic in our online image searches, so those were our top picks amongst the many Loire Valley castles.

We left the hotel just past 8am, where we intended to get breakfast at the Subway (yes they exist in Europe too!) next to the hotel, but unfortunately the Subway doesn’t open until 9am. So we decided to skip breakfast and start driving north towards the castles. The drive was quite treacherous as it just rained and the fog hasn’t cleared, so the roads were wet and visibility was super low. After driving for 1.5 hours, we arrived at Chaumont, only to find it wasn’t the correct Chaumont… sigh navigation fail! poor driver :P . At this point I was so hungry so I decided to eat my leftover sandwich in the car from the day before. After driving for another 1.5 hour or so, I started to get this headache which I thought was from this early “intensive” driving, so we changed drivers so I could take a nap in the backseat.

The wrong Chaumont - but has a European village feel

After 1 more hour of driving, we arrived at Chateau Chambord, but I was definitely feeling under the weather – with a headache and an upset stomach. But despite all that, there is a gigantic castle in front of me, but unfortunately parts of the exterior is under construction, including the moat, so we didn’t get the nice photo where the castle is reflected in full by the water in the moat :( . We went to grab lunch in the stores near the castle, but my stomach was so upset by this point I didn’t finish my food. Combined with my headache, I almost wanted to go back and stay in the car – but how can I miss out on this opportunity to see the largest castle in the Loire Valley!

Back side of Chateau Chambord, but moat is under construction
Side angle of Chambord. Do I look ill?
Front view of Chambord
Front courtyard of Chambord - same French flag as the previous photo

Chateau Chambord features a double helix staircase (which was some ingenious design by the standards back then) that ascends to the exterior terrace on the 3rd floor rooftops. The castle was generally very cold (which doesn’t help my not-feeling-well-ness) and crowds huddle by the active fireplaces. The view was pretty nice and the castle featured some French historical exhibits, but I was definitely not in the mood to appreciate French culture and architecture at that point in time.

Single helix staircase (double helix is in the middle of the castle)
Urgh graffiti and construction!
Top of the staircase to the terrace
I'm so tall!
Is this pose less contrived?!
View of the terrace
Higher view of the single helix staircase and courtyard
Castle with its
Classic French architecture?

After Chateau Chambord, we drove to the real Chateau Chaumont – which requires a good 5 minute uphill walk to get to. In my condition then, I really didn’t think I could make it to the top when I feel like I could throw up any minute – but I toughed it out regardless and the castle is definitely more interesting looking than Chambord. I think the photos are better here just because there’s no construction ruining the sight :) .

Chateau Chaumont!
Chaumont's Courtyard
Fireplace inside. Too bad the fire isn't on, I'm going to die...
Chapel with stained glass windows
Dining Room at Chaumont
Parting shot of Chaumont - if I look annoyed that's 'cuz I'm about to collapse to the floor

One thing I noticed across both castles is that while many rooms host historical exhibits, a fair amount of rooms (and there are plenty of empty rooms) are used as art exhibits to showcase art (there’s even a photo exhibit of Cambodia). There was even some post-apocalyptic art exhibit in Chaumont which was quite scary when you randomly stumble across it in a corner room.

Church at Chaumont's town
Blois (I think... I didn't take this photo as I'm passed out at this point)

After Chaumont, we hopped back into the car and started driving, with one short stop along the way at Blois, but at that point I was so tired and sick that I didn’t even bother getting out of the car. I napped the entire way to Bordeaux and when we arrived at the Hotel Restaurant Kyriad Bordeaux Lac (Kyriad is another big European hotel chain) I was completely passed out and struggling to stay on my feet as I checked in for our 1 room for 4 people for 2 nights. The room ended up being a room with a ladder up to a loft and contains 4 twin size beds. The room was incredibly small and we barely had room to maneuver with everyone and their luggage. After settling in, I picked the bed downstairs next to the bathroom and showered and went to bed, foregoing dinner. The 3 of them left for dinner somewhere and I was already passed out by the time they got back.

The reason I picked the bed closest to the bathroom was because I knew I had an upset stomach and needed quick access to the bathroom – and this proved to be a wise choice as around 12:30am, I woke up feeling queasy and ended up making my way to the bathroom (like 5 steps away) to throw up all the contents in my stomach into the sink. (I even managed to close the door before throwing up, but I think I woke up everyone else regardless). Good thing I found the sink in time before I threw up – otherwise cleanup would be quite an unpleasant experience (the toilet would be a better choice, but sink wasn’t too bad). I felt much better after throwing everything up, and was convinced it must be mild food poisoning from eating that sandwich earlier in the day. Lesson learned – be more careful of what you eat while traveling!

Feeling dehydrated and with a mild headache still, I went back to sleep praying that I’d be fit enough to sightsee Bordeaux tomorrow, and would make it back home without dying in Europe O_O.

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