France

the chateau series: cheverny

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To any Tintin fans – this chateau may look a little familiar?? Think about Captain Haddock’s country home, Marlingspike Hall… It is said that Herge (author of Tintin) based the house on this chateau.

Chateau Cheverny 

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This estate has been in the same family for 6 centuries and to this day, is still lived in by the descendants of the Hurault family. They live in a sealed off wing of the chateau while the parts that we can visit are much like the others we have seen.

In this post, we share a little bit of what we found interesting.

The Dining Room is adorned with a silver-plated solid bronze chandelier weighing over 100 kg. It hangs above the table that can extend to seat 30 guests. Don’t want to be sitting under the light should it come down, right?
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The arms room is the largest room in the chateau. There are plenty of pieces on display showcasing artwork, furniture, armour and weapons from as far back as the 15th Century. The travelling trunks, shown in these pictures, for example are from the 17th Century.

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Let’s not forget the King’s Bedchamber which has an extravagantly decorated canopy and tapestries. These are there to keep the heat in.

The beds were unusually short as during this period, people slept sitting up. Lying down was for the dead.

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The grand salon houses the 18th Century harp that is still in perfect working condition. Can you just imagine the sounds this instrument would’ve produced?

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The gardens went virtually unexplored by us because we spent a lot of time visiting the kennels. Cheverny is an important hunting venue.

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The kennels house approximately a hundred French Hounds which are fed every day around 3pm. This was rather entertaining to watch.

We stand outside high metal fences, peering in to watch the “event”.  The keeper lay out the meat as the dogs clamber over one another and growl and bark in the overhead terrace.

Once the side gate is open, the dogs tear down the stairs (left of image) and wait for the keeper’s  command to feast. Then it is just frantic.

Those dogs are fierce, we certainly wouldn’t want them chasing us through the estate.

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Have you been to Cheverny?

Cheverny is about 80 km east of Tours.
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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.