After researching a bit about the villages in the Loire Valley, we decided to stay 2 nights in Amboise. We spent a few days in Paris and Amboise is located less than 2 hours by train from Paris. If you want to know what you can see in Amboise keep reading
Arriving at Gare d’Amboise
In Paris, we took the train at Gare d’Austerlitz and arrived at 8 p.m to Gare d’Amboise. We were a bit rushed because the hotel reception would close at 8:30. We asked a man who got off the train in Amboise if he could give us directions. He told us that our hotel was on his way and that he could take us in his car. It was not very far, but we had to cross the Loire River, and go walking would have taken about 20 minutes.
Thanks to this kind person we arrived at our hotel, the Chaptal, where a man was waiting for us. Oops! poor man, he looked a little desperate, because he had to close the front desk. The hotel is not very big, but the room was comfortable and clean. Our host was also very friendly although he spoke almost no English. We had to communicate with signs because my French is not good either. After showing our room, he gave us directions to enter and exit the building through another door. The main door would remain closed at night.
We went for a walk around the town and bought a sandwich at a Carrefour supermarket near there. The downtown streets were empty and it was not too late, 9 or 10 at night. I think tourists only make day trips around here.
What to see in Amboise: Château Clos Lucé
The next day the morning was cool and a nice mist covered the town, it looked like a fairy tale. Unfortunately, I did not bring the camera with me (slapped!) One of the many mistakes I’d make on this trip (check out my 10 travel tips for your first trip to Europe). We walked inwards in the village to explore a little. We saw a local groceries shop on wheels (oil, cheese, etc.) and although we tried to communicate we could not. Leaving that aside, the inhabitants of Amboise are more relaxed and smiling than in Paris.
We had a coffee in an establishment near the Castle of Amboise. Here I discovered that no matter how many times I ordered an american coffee in Europe, I’d receive something like a double espresso instead. Well, unless you’re at Starbucks or Mc Donald’s. Anyway, I started to like it and now espresso is one of my favorite kind of coffee.
The Château d’Amboise was closed for visits, 🙁 what a pity because we only had a day and a half in Amboise. We decided to visit the Château du Clos Lucé. The Clos Lucé is one of the main attractions to see in Amboise. It is located about 10 minutes walk from downtown. This castle is famous because the great artist, Leonardo Da Vinci, spent the last 3 years of his life here.
In the footsteps of Da Vinci
The Chateau Clos Lucé belonged for a long time to the Cloux family, until King Charles VIII of France acquired it. Later, King Francis I would host his sister Marguerite de Navarre, and his friend Leonardo Da Vinci here. An underground passage connects this mansion to the Château d’Amboise. According to the legend, king Francis used it to visit Da Vinci.
The price of the ticket is €15,50 ($19.00 USD) in high season, which runs from March 1 to November 15. In low season, from November 16 to February 28, the ticket costs €13,50 ($16.50 USD). You can check other rates and opening hours on the Official Page of the Castle.
The tour begins climbing to the watchtower, a medieval element, preserved from the times when the castle was a fortress. From an exterior corridor (called the Gallery) you can see the patio and part of the gardens.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s bedroom
It’s in this room where Da Vinci spent the last 3 years of his life. He also died here on May 2, 1519. According to legend, King Francis I assisted him in his death and Leonardo died in his arms. In the room, you can see a Renaissance bed and a fireplace decorated with France coat of arms. They exhibit renaissance everyday objects and a portrait of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The portrait was painted by Bernardino Luini, a disciple of Da Vinci.
In Google maps you can take a virtual tour of the room and other rooms of the Clos Lucé.
The bedroom of Marguerite de Navarre
Then you can continue through the room of Marguerite de Navarre, sister of King Francis. Both spent much of their time in their youth in this mansion, with their mother Louise of Savoy. In this room, there are many Renaissance elements such as the bed, tapestries, and religious items.
During your visit, you will also see the Chapel built for Anne of Brittany, wife of King Charles VIII. She used to come here to pray for her children, whom she lost while they were very young. In this chapel, there are several frescoes painted by Da Vinci pupils.
There are other rooms decorated with 18th-century style. Also the large Renaissance Room, which served as a reception room for Leonardo da Vinci. As decoration, they have tapestries from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as a bust of Francis I.
Continuing the tour you will see the Kitchen, where Mathurine, the cook, prepared vegetarian dishes for Leonardo da Vinci. After his death, he bequeathed to her his coat of fine black cloth trimmed with leather.
The basement: The rooms of the models
In the four rooms of the basement, there are 40 machines made from the original Da Vinci drawings. They are made of an original material of the time. You can see the tank, the swing bridge, the helicopter, and the first car. Here you can also see the entrance to the secret passage that linked the Château d’Amboise with the Clos Lucé.
When leaving the mansion you can continue walking through the extensive Renaissance Gardens. Here there are also larger models of Da Vinci’s inventions. You will see beautiful bridges and ponds with birds. There are a couple of restaurants where you can have lunch, a creperie and an area where you can picnic. The park is very beautiful, so if you have time, walk around without hurry.
What to see in Amboise: Château d’Amboise & Clock Tower
In our visit to Amboise, we were not so lucky because the Castle was closed. Definitely visiting the Château d’Amboise is a must see in Amboise, and probably the reason you are here in the first place.
On the outside, it is quite beautiful. Its construction began in the 13th century, having several later additions and remodeling. In its interior is the Chapel of Saint-Hubert where the tomb of Leonardo Da Vinci is located. A tomb that is empty because it was desecrated during a revolt. On the castle terrace, there is also a bust of the artist.
The clock tower
The center of Amboise is compact and what attracts attention is the Clock Tower (Tour de L’Horloge). A 15th-century tower that stands on an old arch called Porte d’Amasse. No doubt a beautiful picture that you can see in Amboise. You can also admire the amazing medieval houses with their wooden trusses.
You will find many things to see in Amboise when you stroll through its ancient streets and alleys. For example the medieval, small Catholic church, Saint Florentine, near the center. You can also enjoy a relaxing walk along the banks of the Loire River. Besides of enjoying the view of the castle on the other side of the river.
Amboise is a very nice medieval town that deserves to be enjoyed in a relaxed way. I know that there are people who take tours to see the castles of the Loire Valley, which is not bad at all. But I also think it’s worth staying at least one night in one of these towns to see the daily life of France, away from Paris.
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