Day 26 – In Which we pay Homage to the Ultimate Renaissance Man

When we rolled into Amboise yesterday afternoon we were all wet and tired and some were even a little cranky. I think we were all eager to just find our lovely rooms, have a hot shower and get changed into dry clothes. As I staggered from the bike shed carrying armfuls of gear (panniers, GPS, GoPro camera, CB radios, phone, wallet, etc) and feeling like a walking Christmas tree,  I gave Maggie one small request. “Could you be responsible for the key for the bike lock ?”, I politely asked. In hindsight I should have recognised that glazed look in her eyes and looked after it myself.

Later in the evening I asked where she had put the key. The conversation went something like this .

“Where did you put the key ?”
“What key?”
“The key to the bike lock”
“Did I have it ?”
“Yes I gave it to you”
“Are you sure ?”
“I can’t remember anything”
“Well where might you have put it ?”
“Put what ?”

We started searching the panniers, we started searching all our pockets, we searched the cupboards, I even looked inside the electric jug (she is getting forgetful after all). No key.

The only slight silver lining in a very cloudy situation was that the bike lock had not actually been locked, so at least we could ride without having to find a bolt cutter. I just wondered how much the bike owner would charge me for a replacement lock.

The following morning (which was meant to be our free day in Amboise) was also spent looking for that blasted key. It was only much later in the day that she thought to check out the bike shed and found it right on the ground where she had been standing when I gave it to her. Apparently she had dropped the keys within milliseconds of me giving them to her. Since I hate losing things, I was pleased that they were found but for some reason I did feel like screaming.

After the four wasted hours looking for the keys, we walked to the famous Clos Luce, the final residence of Leonardo da Vinci. In 1516 Leonardo had impressed Francis I of France by making a mechanical walking lion that could walk forward and then open its chest to reveal a cluster of lilies. Leonardo was soon invited by the King Francois to live in a special house in Amboise under his royal patronage. He was provided an annual pension and was thus able to live the final three years of his life with some degree of comfort and dignity.

Although the Clos Luce is certainly an impressive home, it is not on the ridiculous scale of most of the other chateaus in this region. To me it seems a fitting home for probably the finest mind the world has ever produced. Whenever I think about the prolific output from Leonardo, I wonder what it was that ignited such a brilliant spark. The world had gone through the so called Dark Ages where very little progress had been made for over 1000 years and suddenly it seemed as if the lights of Europe were turned back again. In a relatively short space of time Leonardo and a host of other scholars and artists changed the world profoundly. Leonardo was particularly exceptional as he was a recognized genius in so many different fields – painting,  sculpture, anatomy, engineering, town planning, music, philosophy, science and numerous others. I wonder what it would have been like to spend some time with such a great man.

Unfortunately Leonardo’s time in Amboise was only a short three years, and by age 67 his brilliant life was over. It is hard to imagine another life that has changed history in such a profound way as he did. In one of his writings on philosophy he wrote “Evil is a terrible foe, but how much worse it would be to have it as your friend”.

RIP Leonardo da Vinci – 1452 to 1519, the supreme Renaissance Man.

Soon after we returned from exploring the Clos Luce, the first riders of Group 2 began to arrive at our hotel. They had certainly been blessed with better weather than we had experienced and we enjoyed a lovely relaxing time sitting in the glorious later afternoon sunshine.

In the evening both groups combined to share a very impressive meal at the Lion d’Or Restaurant in the centre of Amboise. The combined volume of noise from the 25 members of the groups would have put a jumbo jet to shame. After dinner it was a delightful walk back to our hotel on a warm late summer’s evening with  a brilliant crescent moon shining from a clear sky over the ancient church. It is experiences like this that make this sort of travel so enjoyable.

According to St Augustine the world is a book and those who never travel only read the same page. How true he was.