the chateau series: chambord

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In this edition, we take a look at

Chateau de Chambord

Chambord is on an estate of about 5440 hectares and is enclosed by a 32km wall that is 2.5 metres high.

The exterior of this chateau in itself is enough to make us say, “WOW” over and over again.IMG_2422

Especially knowing that it was intended to be “only” a hunting lodge by King Francis I. He wasn’t alive to see it completed with its 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms.

 

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The most famous of staircases, which is believed to be the idea of Leonardo da Vinci, is the double spiral staircase that links the three floors in the centre of the keep. The two stairwells wind independently of one another and never meet, although you can see through to the other whilst on one.

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The difference between this chateau and the others is the sheer extravagance and size of it. The rooms, stairwells corridors all weave upon themselves and getting lost is only natural. It is however not as warm and welcoming as some of the others that were inhabited.

The ceilings high, the rooms cold, the hallways dark, it is not somewhere we would want to be stuck in at night time. We did say however, it would be ideal for a murder mystery night.

Anyway, adding to the rather aloof atmosphere, there is much to suggest the prestige in hunting. The walls are adorned with deer heads or art depicting hunting. It was a little overwhelming and confronting.

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And of course there is a room displaying the trophies.

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A little bit of trivia to finish off the Chambord showcase: the vaulted ceilings are carved with King Francis’ F monogram with a salamander; his emblem which is a mythical animal able to live in fire.

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Have you visited Chambord? 

Tell us what you think here

Chambord is located 77km north east of Tours. Extended opening hours from April to September with one admission and access to 800 hectares of parklands where you may sight a wild boar or deer.   

the chateau series: azay-le-rideau

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In Part 2, let’s share:

Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau

Was it extravagant? YES

Was it original? YES

Was it impressive? YES

But in saying all that, this was probably our least favourite of the chateaux we visited. And not because it wasn’t gorgeous to look at – just in comparison to the others we saw… it wasn’t AS “WOW”.

To be fair, we were there in miserable weather so we not able to explore as much of the gardens as we would’ve liked.

So upon paying the entry fee and walking out of the ticket office… we walk down the tree-lined paths and before us stands an example of early Renaissance architecture, positioned beautifully in front of lake.

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Yeah, okay … it is pretty WOW.

Enter the doors to ascend the grand staircases, which is an example of one of the first French examples of staircases which are straight and not spiral. Knowing this little pieced of information is rather exciting for us. We do walk up them slowly to soak up the experience.

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At the top, we enter the great attic and look up to the ceilings. The original timberwork (dating back to 1550s) is overhead- and it is basically like an upturned ark. The crowds in this room suggests it is a main feature and possibly the drawcard.

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Then the remaining parts of the chateau is like looking back into the “everyday” living quarters.

The study:

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The very fancy four-poster in the bedchamber:

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The salon which welcomes guests. It is open and inviting especially the rather plush-looking seating. Portraits adorning the red matching walls.

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This particular dresser caught our attention – with the intricate level of detail on each draw.

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Lastly, anyone for a game of billiards? On those back walls hang large tapestries of a hunting scene. Very fitting for the entertainment room, maybe in those days anyway ;)

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When we were done inside, it was time to pop outside and check out the view from behind.

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Yeah, alright then! So it is extraordinarily fancy but some more impressive chateaus are still  on their way.

Have you visited this chateau?

If you have been here, tell us what you thought here or just leave us a comment.

Azay-le-Rideau is 23 km west of Tours. There is only one admission fee for the residence as well as the grounds.

the chateau series: villandry

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If you have been following our blog for a while, you may remember the post about 8 of the chateaux in the Loire Valley that we shared last year.

Following on from that post, we will be featuring each one of the chateaux in more photographic detail in an 8-part series.

First off the rank is:

Villandry Chateau and Gardens.

Villandry is famous for its architecture and gardens. Possibly slightly more famous for the gardens… and we hope you can see why by the end of this post.

This model layout of the property really helps put the size of the gardens into perspective (relative to the castle).

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The castle is the first one we see during our time in Tours so we are immediately enchanted  by the exterior. These perfectly symmetrical windows, the rectangular and sharp corners – it is but a mere fairy-tale castle for us.

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Once inside, the interior only adds to the feelings of intrigue.  Walking from room to room down the hallways… we are immersed into a slice of French history.  Furnished with furniture and art from the Renaissance period, it seems like time has stood still in those very rooms.

Who else has walked these very halls? Who has stayed in these very rooms?

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Honestly though, every window we walk past, we get distracted! We catch glimpses of the gardens and can’t help but long to be out and in amongst it.

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In total, there are 6 gardens that can be explored. There’s a kitchen garden, filled with fruits and vegetables planted beautifully in geometric patterns.

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There’s a water garden, a sun garden, a herb garden, the ornamental salons and the labyrinth. Picture Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts :)

Each shrub in it its place, each bush trimmed to perfection.

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It is surely the most impeccably manicured garden, we have EVER seen in our lives. But remember, this is only the FIRST of EIGHT that we would be visiting…

Aren’t those gardens simply magical? 

Villandry is 15 km west of Tours. There are two types of admission: one for the gardens only and another for the chateau and gardens.

buddhist cave art in the yungang grottoes

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With Le back into full-time work, time has just been slipping away. It has been over six months since we returned from our last overseas trip and we just are getting edgy to plan our next one.

At the moment, we have a few short local getaways planned but we are hoping for an overseas trip at some point for 2-3 weeks at the end of the year. We’ll see how it pans out.

In the meantime, let’s go down memory lane for a little bit. We thought we would look back on a UNESCO site that we visited back in 2012….

It was April 2012, and we were in China. We were rather unaware that it was still going to be COLD…. So very very cold!

The day we went to Yungang Grottoes it was absolutely freezing and windy. We can recall so clearly how we had the hoods of our windbreakers pulled tightly over our “beanied” heads, our scarves wrapped around our necks and up around our faces… just enough to reveal our eyes.

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The cold air was slicing through us despite our multiple layers…

But walking around the grottoes in that cold air was worth it! It was worth every teeth chatter, it was worth every shiver, it was worth the sting on our cheeks from the wind.

Before arriving at the caves, we walk down a path with tall majestic carved columns, then over a bridge with the frozen lake below.

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We had no idea what we were in for…

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There are more than 250 caves and more than 50 000 carved statues of all shapes and sizes. Impossible to see them all in the time we had there.

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The sizes of the statues vary from tiny to massive – some are inside the caves while others are outside.

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The level of detail on the carvings was mindboggling. And to think this artwork dates back to the 5th and 6th Century, it had us in complete awe.

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The visit to these grottoes was definitely an experience to remember for many reasons. By the end of that day, our cheeks were frozen solid!

 

Yungang Grottoes was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2001.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list