When one lives in France, a visit to the Loire Valley is a must-see.
The Loire Valley, settled in central France, stretches for nearly 200 miles along the Loire River. The area is known for its historic towns, wine and more than 300 castles (or "châteaux").
Early Saturday morning, the students in my program loaded into a bus headed for the Loire. The first castle we visited, Château de Chambord, was the inspiration for the castle in Beauty and the Beast.
The château features 365 fireplaces, a double-helix staircase, 426 rooms and a stable built to hold 1500 horses. And I thought my family's five-bedroom Parisian apartment was extravagant...
The second castle we visited was Château de Chenonceau, which is my favorite of all of the castles I have visited in France.
Constructed with smooth white stone and surrounded by a deep moat, Chenonceau looks like the classic Disney castle. The great hall, which extends over the Loire River from the back of the château, is entirely white and black marble, and absolutely stunning.
The last castle that we visited was Ambiose, which is where the tomb of Leonardo DiVinci is located. The château itself sits high above the surrounding town, overlooking the Loire River.
It was fun to be able to wander the giant castles, considering they're hundreds of years older than the United States and all have their own stories of invasion, adultery and luxury.