Aigle Noir Fontainebleau
Le Manoir les Minimes - Amboise in the Loire
One of the most wonderful parts about research is actually visiting the extraordinary remnants of sixteenth century Renaissance France. I thought I would share some of my travels and they may give you some guidance if you are planning a visit yourself.
When in the Loire I love to stay at this gorgeous little hotel in Amboise which is nestled between the river and the towering walls of the Chateau Royal. Breakfast is a wonderful basket of decadent pastries and a pot of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). In the afternoons its lovely to sit in the courtyard in the sun and gaze at the forbidding facade above.
Amboise makes a good base to visit many of the chateaux in the area and is a quaint little town in itself.
Fontainebleau is a bustling university town full of lovely cafes and restaurants. The palace dominates the town and this little gem of a hotel is directly opposite the gate to the palace gardens. Aigle Noir is also right near the bus stop, so if you catch a train from Paris (45 mins), jump on the bus and ask to get out at the palace. There's a great little restaurant around the corner called Croquembouche that serves gourmet fare with flair. The palace gardens are open from morning until evening and entrance is free.
A visit to Chateau Chenonceau is highly recommended. One of the most photographed Chateau in the Loire, Chenonceau was given to Diane de Poitiers by King Henri II. But Catherine de Medici coveted the pretty Chateau and took over as owner after Henri's death. I simple couldn't visit Chenonceau without planning lunch in the Orangerie.
There are a number of must see Chateaux in the Loire and I would definitely include Chateau Villandry amongst them. The owners have painstakingly designed the extensive gardens as they would have appeared in many Chateaux in the 16th century. The gardens are nothing short of superb. The medicinal and herb garden is of particular interest to see how people in the renaissance would have used their garden for healing. Plan to spend quite a few hours to get around and appreciate all the various styles.