The Château of Chinon stands on the banks of the river Vienne, encircled by vineyards that produce the wines for which the region is famous. Gazing at these tranquil surroundings it is hard to imagine that this was the location of some of the bloodiest conflicts in European history, which played a decisive role in determining the fate of medieval France and England.
Chinon was the principal residence of Henry II, from which he ruled his sprawling kingdom that encompassed both England and a large part of western France. Here he battled not only the French king and renegade barons, but also his own turbulent family, including his four sons who were in a constant state of rebellion. They were encouraged and abetted in their attempts to seize the throne by their mother, the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Henry beat back the challenge from his offspring, but time is always on the side of the young. Henry died while still at Chinon and was succeeded by his second son, soon to become famous as Richard the Lionheart. Eleanor outlived them both, becoming the effective ruler for many years while Richard was off crusading in the Holy Land.
Henry was buried at the nearby Abbey of Fontevraud and he was eventually followed there by both Richard and Eleanor when they died. Now they all lie side-by-side in the silent interior of the abbey chapel. Stepping out from the hush of the tombs into the cloistered gardens inside the abbey, one can only hope that they have eventually found the peace that they certainly never knew in their lifetimes.
Touring vast chateaux can get tiring. Revive yourself with fabulous food in one of their signature restaurants. Often situated right in the sprawling grounds of the chateau, these restaurants feature fantastic, innovative food with reasonable (lunch) prices. Here, you can sit in the shade of an ancient tree, gazing out at spectacularly beautiful gardens while savoring the best food you will eat in your entire trip!
Classic, sophisticated and easy to make, this French favourite will wow your family and friends! Serve with crusty baguette and a crisp salad, and if you have any of that wine left after cooking, serve that too!
2 lb fresh mussels, scrubbed
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large sprig of thyme
1/2 cup white wine
Salt to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Clean mussels and discard any that are open. Transfer to a bowl.
Warm butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and thyme sprig. Saute for 2-3 min, until lightly softened.
Add reserved mussels, white wine, salt and pepper. Give it a good mix, cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 4 min or until mussels have steamed open.
Pick over with tongs and discard any mussels that haven't opened, as well as the sprig of thyme.
Add cream, parsley and lemon juice, mixing well. Cook 1 min to incorporate.
Serve right away with toasted baguette.
Note: For a thicker sauce, remove cooked mussels from broth and reserve in a bowl. Bring broth to a boil over medium high heat and reduce until lightly thickened, about 2-3 min. Add mussels, mix well before serving.