Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An April Easter

I just love it when Easter is in April. Something about a March Easter just doesn’t seem right. I wish I understood why the holiday can be in such drastically different time frames from year to year. This year we decided we needed to do something special for the holiday since we are an ocean away from our families. Easter is my favorite holiday and I was wary if we stayed in Brussels the homesickness might start to creep in. So we packed up and headed to the Loire River Valley in France to see all the lovely chateaux. I did the same trip back in high school on a French mini exchange during Spring Break. My host family took me to the Chateaux on the Loire for Easter in 1994, so it seemed a logical spot to repeat and to celebrate our risen Lord. Spring has sprung and the flowers and gardens are bursting with color and fragrance.

The 5 hour drive from Brussels started innocently enough. We rolled into Paris feeling cocky that we might even make it to our first Loire Castle by lunch time. Of course that is when the traffic decided to stay still – for nearly 3 hours!!! It was honestly the worst traffic jam I have been in my entire life. My insides were burning and my toenails curling I was so frustrated. There is something maddening about a senseless traffic delay on a Saturday morning when we had places to go and see. I so dislike my impatience – which is especially contrasted with Kirk’s calm, even demeanor. Even Connor took it all in stride and took another nap – cool as a cucumber. I was the hot tomale in the car groaning for the cars to please just MOOOOOVE after the 3 hour delay. We finally bypassed and took another (longer) route, but we made it at long last to the Loire. I whooped for joy when I finally saw the Loire river. That will no doubt go down in the Willingham memory vaults – the day Reid couldn’t keep it together on the way to Easter weekend in the Loire. But as soon as we were moving my nerves loosened and we were able to bounce back and laugh about it - sort of.

We first went to the Chambord castle with its 365 chimneys – one for every day of the year! We circled the grounds and snapped some photos. We decided we would only pick a few chateaux to go actually pay to go inside. The rest we would soak in the magnificence from the exterior (for free!)
We then tootled down the road to Cheverny. This one we did go inside and made it to the grounds just as the hunting dogs were being fed. It was a highlight for us to finally see the “doggies” we told Connor about all day. They were obedient beyond their hunger! If you come to the Loire be sure to time your travel, as we did (unknowingly!) to see the hunt dogs’ 5:00 PM daily feeding at Cheverny. Connor was a little scared at first of the dogs, but once she got used to the scene she couldn't get enough. At long last we followed the Loire River another hour to our hotel, Domaine des Bidaudieres. Again hotel price negotiation helped us score a gorgeous room of golden tones in this gleaming 18th-century chateau. I can barely wait to wake up here on Easter morning. It has spacious grounds, perfect for an impromptu egg hunt and warm hosts who seem grateful and kind – delighted to have a toddler in one of their 8 rooms – and ready for the Easter bunny to hop on over!

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