France

the chateau series: chenonceau

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This is our final instalment for the series and we are featuring:

Chateau de Chenonceau

Possibly one of, if not, the most famous chateau in the region. We didn’t purposefully save it for last, it was in fact the last one we saw.

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Back in 2006, Chenonceau was the only one we were able to see so on our return trip, we wanted to make sure to see some others but also come back to the one that started it all for us.

So what is so special about it?

It is built over the River Cher – literally and had also had some rather famous inhabitants. And not to mention that it is rather a treat to explore.

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Easily the busiest one we visited as well.

Let’s revisit a bit of what we mentioned in the Chaumont post about this one.

Diane de Poitiers lived in Chenonceau. Catherine de Medici lived in Chaumont. Catherine de Medici traded houses with Diane de Poitiers.

Each of the ladies contributed to the architecture work that can be seen on the house today.

A quick tour of the place will see us taking you to …

* Diane de Portier’s bedroom – with the symbolic 4-poster bed and 2 large tapestries from the 16th Century. Oddly enough, her room is where the portrait of Catherine De Medici is housed, hung above the fireplace.

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* the Gallery – located in the bridge that you see in the above picture. The end of the gallery are two fireplaces on either side of the South door which opened to the left bank of River Cher.

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Wise Monkey Trivia – During the First World War, the chateau was set up as a hospital (by its owner), the gallery was an access point. During the Second World War, the River Cher was the “line of demarcation” as such, the gallery was used to pass large numbers of people into the free zone.

* the kitchens – built in the bases forming the first two piers built in the bed of the River Cher. Looking out the window, we see the “arch legs of the chateau” and the River Cher below.

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* Louis XIV’s Drawing Room – another ornate fireplace with the Salamander of Francois I (as previously shown in Chambord) and a Stoat for Queen Claude of France.

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* Catherine de Medici’s bedroom – with the finely carved 4-poster bed and furniture. The tapestries housed in this room are rare and fascinating. The borders of the tapestries are filled with animals symbolising proverbs and fables.

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And from the first floor, look out the windows! To the left, we see Catherine’s garden.

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To our right, we see Diane’s garden.

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Yet another unique and extravagant chateau with such jaw-dropping architecture.  As we often say, we would love to be a fly on the wall back in the day – simply so we could see how every day life was and to see the historical figures in action!

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That winds up our 8-part series of the Chateaux we saw in the Loire Valley; 8 of a vast amount in the region (not all of which are open to the public though).

Now that we have showcased the 8 in a bit more detail and you’ve glimpsed the inside….

Do you have a favourite chateau?

If you commented on the original post, have you changed your mind?

Feel free to leave us a comment.

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the chateau series: chaumont

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Second last chateau for the series:

Chateau de Chaumont-Sur-Loire

So what can we say about this chateau? The gardens are magnificent and large enough to host rather extravagant floral shows, one of which we were able to witness while we were there. It was a mixture of some modern art and some clever landscaping. “Different” is probably how we would describe it.

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The chateau itself is grand and the architecture is as memorable as the others we have shared. Standing outside prior to entering and all we see is this dreamily romantic and fairy tale-like castle from the outside.

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This chateau has a soap opera story to go with.

Queen Catherine de Medici bought the chateau in 1550.

Legend tells that due to her superstitions and “predictions” of a possible dynasty downfall from her astrologers; Nostradamus and Cosimo Ruggieri, she wanted to exchange homes with Diane de Poitiers, her husband’s former mistress who lived in Chateau de Chenonceau*, a slightly more modest home.

In 1562, Diane de Poitiers took possession of Chaumont. And the chateau owes its current appearance to her.

She also had her initials and emblems added into the designs around the place. (Look above the fireplace in the picture below – the Greek letter delta and the three circles).

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All the historical apartments adorned with the period furnishings and furniture. Although similar style to the other chateaux we visited, there was something slightly more warming and welcoming about this one. Quite possible that it was actually someone’s home, so lived in and therefore decorated with a little more care.

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But what we found most interesting about this chateau were the horse stables, apparently one of the best preserved horse stables of the 19th Century. It really was such a fascinating time in history.

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*Chateau de Chenonceau will be featured in our next and final instalment of the series which will be after this one.
Chaumont is approximately 43 km east of Tours.

Have you visited Chaumont? 

Leave us a comment

the chateau series: amboise

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We have been missing in action… a lot has been going on! We’re planning our next trip… FINALLY! We are off to New Zealand in September – but that’s not what this post is about.

Sharing with you the 6th chateau (and third last) in the series:

Amboise

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Majestically located, looking down on the town of Amboise and Loire River, this fortress (or chateau) was a palace during the Renaissance. From the outside, you can clearly see why. It’s location provided security for the royal family (at least when they were staying there).

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It allowed great visibility of the dangers below and any incoming threats via the river.

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Once inside the grounds, the first thing we visit is St Hubert Chapel – the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci who died in Amboise in May 1519. This small chapel was crowded with visitors and also was a spot for refuge as the rain came down on the day we were there.

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Again, as with the other chateaus we have shared – from room to room, we spot the necessary large fireplaces, the token suit of armour(s) and the colourful furniture.

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This particular 18th Century chair (with an identical one on the other side of the fire place) caught our attention. The image and colours were just delightful to look at.

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This was actually the cavalier ramp designed to allow horses and carriages to reach the towers from the town.

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Nowadays, you can’t enter that way, it’s the way to exit the chateau – spiralling all the way from the top to the bottom and spitting us out on the street.

This wasn’t really a memorable chateau for us, it felt a little cold and impersonal. And we felt outside was more of the wow-factor than the inside.

Amboise is approximately 24 km east of Tours and about a 10 minute walk from Clos du Luce

Have you visited Amboise? What did you think of it?

We welcome your comments.

the chateau series: clos luce

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So what is so important about this chateau??

Chateau du Clos Luce

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Leonardo da Vinci lived in this chateau for the last three years of his life, invited to live in France by King Francois I, in 1516.

The man was a genius – well beyond his time; painting, inventing, engineer and architect! And King Francois I thought so too.

We were a little in awe to think that we walked through the same hallways, up the same stairwells as Leonardo da Vinci…. THE Leonardo da Vinci. We even stood in the very room that he slept in.

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His bedroom overlooked the garden, apparently he LOVED the view out of the castle.

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The rest of the living quarters are much like the others we have shared in the series; kitchen, salon, bedrooms.

But this chateau was unique, in it’s own way!

The basement was the model room for all of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. These 3D animations were  created based on his designs and drawings in his notebooks.

We spent ages in this section completely enthralled by his talented mind and imagination.

Truly a man beyond his era!

(A) Military Armoured Tank

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(B) Multiple Direction Machine Gun

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(C) Printing Press

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(D) The First Car

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(E) The Paddle Boat

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Then it was into the backyard, where there are life-sized models of his inventions, there are his works and his words – all on display for visitors to wonder around and discover for themselves. It’s a hands-on exhibit with 20 giant working models.

There are 40 translucent canvases that are 3-4 metres high.

His idea of a helicopter….

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This place is fascinating in a completely different way to the other chateaux. Nothing quite like it…

Chateau du Clos Luce is approximately 26km east of Tours.  

Do you have a favourite artist?

We don’t have one but we certainly found one that we admire immensely after this visit. Leave us a comment.