Salamanders and sips

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In Chateau d’Amboise

AGMA’s so on top of things.

I’ve been back from my trip over 2 weeks and I’m just now getting around to writing about the last week and a half of our adventure.

Top notch travel blogger here.

Our last 10 days in France can be summed up as a festival of the nectar of Vitis vinifera.

And Francis I.

AGMA can’t say I’d ever heard of Francis I (1494-1547) before last month, but if you go into any of the grand chateaus in the Loire Valley, you’ll see his salamanders everywhere.

Yeah. Salamanders. With little crowns.

WTF??

Francis I was the first king of France with absolute power, and ruled from 1515 to 1547. And everybody knows every king with absolute power needs a symbol he can slather all over his castles just in case people don’t know they belong to him.

Evidently back in the day, folks thought salamanders were magical creatures able to live in and use fire for their own purposes. They were a symbol of power, mystery and purity. I guess Francis liked that ‘cause all the chateaus we visited were dripping with salamanders.

With little crowns.

Not having Instagram or Twitter back then – they were sooooo lucky – Francis I had to travel around France with his entourage giving folks some face time so everybody knew that he was THE king.

It’s good to be the king.

He seemed to have spent an inordinate amount of time in the Loire Valley. But of course it was the Beverly Hills 90210 of the time. It was the epicenter of chic where all of the beautiful and powerful people in France hung out.

Paris was so 1400’s…

We visited 7 chateau’s in the Loire – Chenonceau, Gaillard, Amboise, du Close Luce, d’Azay-le-Rideau, Blois, and the grand Chambord. Easy for me to say. They were all either built by Francis or “borrowed” by Francis.

Like I said, it’s good to be the king.

Good Lord, AGMA can’t clean our townhouse. Chambord alone would have done me in…

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Honey, can you grab the vacuum cleaner and a mop?

Aside from the yugely biggly chateaus, there was wine in the Loire. Lots of wine. While not as famous as Bordeaux and Burgundy, the Loire Valley produces some lovely, affordable wines. Both red and white.

We visited Vouvray twice for “tastings”.

“Tastings” is code for “they give you enough wine to get you well on your way.”

That’s what I’m takin’ about!  A “tasting” in Burgundy.

We stayed at an AirB&B in Amboise during our visit to the Loire Valley. Our host was the fabulous Christine who spoke wonderful English. Here is the link to our room. Everything in Amboise was walkable from her home and she served a uber-yummy breakfast in the morning with home-made crepes and preserves. It was a great value for the money.

We got very, very serious about wine after we left the Loire. We spent 3 days in Burgundy and then 2 days in the Champagne region.

More tastings! AGMA loved me my “tastings”!

Burgundy was really interesting if you are a oenophilia. Yeah, I said it. Oenophilia.

It was fascinating learning about all of the wine “rules” there. And there are a lot of rules. Which is why wines from this area are $$. Actually, they are $$$. And some are even $$$$.

Hubs is a pretty steady guy and doesn’t get excited by much. But you should have seen him when we drove through the unassuming looking Vosne-Romanee vineyards. He was as excited as tRump with a bag of Cheetos in a spray tan booth watching Fox and Friends.

The vineyards looked like the vineyards we saw around Saint Emilion and the Medoc and in other areas of Burgundy.

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Evidently they’re not.

The 6 Grand Cru vineyards in this area only total a mere 67 acres. But most of the bottles of wine produced from these vineyards are all pre-sold starting at $1000 and up. Depending on the location of the vineyard, the year, the producer and the harvest “rules”, prices can go up into the 10’s of thousands.

In case you’re wondering, AGMA did not bring a bottle of this particular wine home.

Burgundy was actually kind of a pricey area. For us, it was real pricey. Hubs somehow lost his wallet (the jury is still out on how it happened…) He was panicked. Naturally.

But of course AGMA had my wits about me. I went to the TI (Tourist Information Office) across the street from the last place he had it, and we were in luck.

Sort of.

Yes, they had his wallet. Yes, it had all his credit cards and ID and other cards in it.

No, there wasn’t any money in it. To the tune of about $300.

Ouch.

Having learned my lesson last summer in stealth purse protection when my purse got stolen in Barcelona (it was recovered in tact from the hapless lady thieves), I would say Hubs learned his lesson in stealth wallet protection. An expensive lesson.

Ouch.

In Burgundy, we stayed in Beaune which was brilliant. Our hotel, the Brit Hotel Au Grand Saint Jean, was a great value (for the area) in a fabulous location. Easy walking distance to all of Beaune and some fabulous restaurants.

After Burgundy, we drove north. Our next stop was Reims.

Finally, AGMA was headed to the promise land…

OMG – CHAMPAGNE!!

But this post is getting too long and I have a lot to say about our last 4 days in France, sooooo…..

Meet me here next week.

Same time, same place.

 

 

 

Oh my…

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Yeah I did!!

That was fun.  I think.

AGMA’s not sure that I’ve ever thought of a marathon as fun, but this was probably as close to being fun as one can get.

No – it was definately fun!

To relieve the burning question you all have – I did finish.  Barely.

But let’s start from the beginning….

We arrived in Pauillac on September 7.  Pauillac is in the Haut-Medoc region of Bourdeux.  The wine in this area is spectacular.  But since AGMA was going to attempt to run/walk 26.2 miles (42KM) in two days, I needed some restraint.

I was semi-successful.

It was difficult.  There was/is wine everywhere.  Everywhere.  Good wine for very little $$. Great wine for very little $$.

There was wine at the little Expo.

Every marathon has an expo the day before (or sometimes two days) the run.  The runners pick up their running “bibs” (with their number on them and timing chips on back) and get a goodie bag (ususally).  There are also booths and displays from vendors trying to sell you running “stuff”.

This one had wine.  Lots of it.

Then there was the pasta “dinner” the night before the marathon at Chateau Livran.  For 1500 close friends.  That started – started mind you – at 8:30 P.M.

It was beyond description so I’ll just post a few pictures.

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The calm before the storm…  Because of Hubs mobility issue, they let us into the dining area early.

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This was a man who was dressed like a woman who evidently decided that undergarments were for the weak.  This was evident when he lifted his arms to dance or bent over, which he did frequently.  Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

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Each time a new wine was served, the wine stewards marched out to music each carrying 6 to 8 bottles.

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The first of 4 bottles of wine – all from different wine Chateau’s – they brought for Hubs and I, and a couple from England we were sitting with!

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And then everybody danced.  And danced.  And danced!

OMG – the French sure know how to have a pasta dinner!

AGMA tried to be restrained.  I only sampled each wine and probably had 2 glasses total. Others were not quite so restrained.

Ah, to be young again.

I felt it was a poor decision for others to dance when they were going to run a marathon the next day.  Tut, tut…

That is until the band played Pharrell’s song, Happy.  And Earth, Wind and Fire’s song September.

Yup.  AGMA joined in the party.

Hubs and I tore ourselves away from the party and headed back to Pauillac at 10:15 P.M.  This was BEFORE they served dessert.   At that point, we’d been served 4 bottles of wine between 4 of us.  Who know how much was served after we left…

Every party needs a pooper right?  An AGMA pooper.

Thankfully, the marathon didn’t start until 9:30 A.M.  And AGMA was stealth in planning this trip – we were in an AirB&B in Pauillac, about a 10 minute walk to the start of the run.  And the finish.

So I got a good night’s sleep.

Thank God.

I’m not going to go into details about the run.  AGMA will just say it with pictures….

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Vikings!

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1st of 20 wine stops

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I saw this guy finish!  He ran 26.2 mile wearing an Eiffel Tower.  Yikes!

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The theme was 33 RPM because it was the 33rd running running of the marathon.  Lots of hippies, rockers and, especially Elvis’.

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Lots and lots and lots of men dressed as women.  tRump would have a fit.  Or try to pick one up…

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The guys in red had inflatable dinosaurs on them!  Normal for a marathon really… NOT!

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OMG – I got behind the sweep wagon!  If you are behind these guys at the finish, you don’t get a medal.  AGMA hauled butt after I snapped this!

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Just another Chateau to drink at!

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Caught guys (again, dressed as women…) peeing in the vineyards while I snapped a picture of one of several beautiful rainbows during the run.

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AGMA stems afterward!

There was a naked guy who had nothing but his bib in front of his twig and berries who threw up at one of the wine stops.  That picture might be TMI…

So AGMA finished.  I got the medal.  I got the backpack.  I got the bottle of wine.

Official time…slow.  Let’s just say I beat the sweepers, but I’m pretty sure they slowed down along the way.

This was a good thing since I was over 6 hours and 30 minutes…

I’m sore.  And still tired.

But boy, was it fun!

Next year?