For a few days, we were walking through the same hallways that Leonardo da Vinci did during the last few years of his life. We also walked where Catherine de Medici did and where other French kings and nobility had walked.
We were in the Loire Valley of France and felt like we had been transported back several hundred years. It was time to explore the châteaux and castles of the region. But when there are approximately 300 of them, 100 or so of which we can actually visit – how do we choose which ones to go to?
So we decided to choose based on their exterior. Yes, we know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but we did! Because when we sought guidance by asking those working in the travel industry in Tours which were their favourites (to help us narrow it down), they all responded the same.
“It’s too hard to choose. Each one is beautiful in their own way!”
Which was clearly not helpful to us at all.
To start with, we thought they only said that because they were being diplomatic and didn’t want to influence which ones we saw. After seeing 8 of the chateaux– we realized we couldn’t choose which one was our favourite either! Each was so architecturally different, with different interiors, gorgeous gardens or unique histories that enchanted us.
Here are a few sneak peek photos of the 8 we saw.
The last of the great château built during the Renaissance. This estate has a magnificently manicured garden, fitted out with a vegetable and herb garden as well. This one is probably best explored on a lovely day.
It was owned by the financier to King Francois I. He initially acquired the fortress in the early 1500s before building the luxurious château.
The biggest of all in the Loire Valley – it was intended to be a hunting lodge for Francois I but he only spent about 72 days there. The grounds are so vast, it is enclosed with a 32 km wall.
It is currently inhabited by the descendants of the Huraults Family. It has been owned by the Huraults for 6 centuries. It is still used for hunting parties and has kennels with about a hundred French Hounds which are fed at 5pm – it is rather entertaining to watch.
There may be a chance you recognise this château from Tintin?
Leonardo da Vinci spent his last few years in this château at the invitation of Francois I. This was an interesting château as we really got an insight into the rather profound thoughts behind da Vinci’s inventions.
This was a place to live and stay for royalty but also had a wonderful view of the Loire Valley. It was a symbol of the King’s power and economic status.
Possibly one of the most recognised château of the region – it was built over the River Cher. This is another estate with beautiful gardens. King Henri II gifted his mistress Diane de Poitiers with the château. His wife, Catherine de Medici removed Diane and in exchange gave her Chaumont.
This château was likely used as a hunting ground. It has a remarkable garden and each year hosts an International Garden Festival. It has well-preserved horse stables which houses one of the finest gala saddleries in France.
Based on just the exteriors, which ones do you like the look of?
If you have visited the region, which was your favourite and why?
Tell us your thoughts here
Following up from yesterday’s “seven” ancient images of Turkey – we are now spending today’s post on talking a little bit about them.
We mean no disrespect to history or the ruins of Turkey but too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. The first site of ruins that we saw was exciting, the second site was mind-boggling, the third site still brought awe but then by the fourth and those thereafter honestly became a bit of a blur.
But it wasn’t only here that we have experienced this form of saturation or sightseeing fatigue, this has happened to us in several parts of the world. In Europe, there were castles/palaces, cathedrals and churches! And our times in Asia, we have experienced temples saturation. We’ve suffered museum and art gallery fatigue too! Everything begins to blend into one. We tried slow travel and we’ve tried intense travel but it always happens! We have learnt that variety is key.
But back to Turkey, we did see amazing ruins! Please don’t get us wrong, there is no denying the significance of the things we saw. We love history, especially ancient history and we loved what we saw!
It is highly likely that this place needs no introduction. History buffs will know the city of Troy and those that don’t, may have at least seen the movie with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. If you still have no idea what we are talking about, then maybe you know the legendary tale how Troy came to be conquered by the Greeks in the wooden horse!
This site is probably underwhelming in some respects but we were still excited. As we walked through the clearly marked path, we tried to grasp the size of the walled city. It definitely isn’t big by today’s standards but we knew they were not penetrable. It blew us away how the city wall we could see was only part of it, the height was much taller and the rest was still buried beneath where we stood.
And of course, we needed to do the typical tourist thing, climb inside the horse and have our photos taken.
The most impressive Temple of Zeus altar was discovered here however unfortunately today there is nothing more than rubble. The altar have been excavated and taken back and reconstructed in a museum in Berlin – which is a shame but in terms of preservation, probably for its own good.
What we loved about this ancient ruins site, aside the fact you travel on a cable car up to it, is the gorgeous amphitheatre! Looking at our photos now still provides this overwhelming feeling of can’t-believe-we-saw-that. It’s so steep and its sheer size astounds us still. This place is definitely worth a visit. We really enjoyed it here.
Ephesus is probably most famous for the Library of Celsus and Gate of Augustus. Hate to break it to you, but is all reconstructed with replicas. The originals can be found in Vienna. Sometimes, we wish we didn’t know any better.
Anyway, it didn’t bother us much as we found some other things rather fascinating while here; the mosaics on the paths outside the terraces, the public washrooms, the Fountain of Trajan, the Goddess Nike carving and one of us being from a health background was quite humbled to see the medical and pharmacy symbols. Entering the gladiator arena was also probably a wee bit exciting!
Ephesus is not far from Kusadasi or Izmir which are ports for cruises. So if you happen to be here when the boats are in, expect to have thousands of other fellow visitors. Although what we saw here was magnificent and mind blowing, it was also extremely crowded.
4) Temple of Artemis
Possibly the most unexciting ancient ruins we have ever seen on any travels. The site where it once stood houses now nothing noticeable except some remains and one lone pillar. In its heyday, there is no doubt based on the reconstructions of its probable appearance that it was a very grand building. It was also once an ancient 7 wonder of the world. But alas, is no more and probably explainable due to it sad state. This might have been where out interest began to wane as is yours, so if you are reading…. thank you, we appreciate it 🙂
A bit of a mixed bag this place for us. There was the Sebasteion and the tetrapylon which were both reconstructed. So the stadium was our biggest highlight here. It is about 2 football fields long (260 m) and would have been able to house up to 30, 000 spectators. It is said that it is one of the best preserved ancient stadiums. There is an air-conditioned museum which houses all the statues and artefacts found at the site. It is a lovely refuge on a hot day but also very interesting to explore the different exhibits!
Seeing the old baths was probably the most fascinating thing here. Firstly there was a water pipe system and that there were visible heating facilities (hypocaust chambers) underground. Perge also has a stadium outside of the entrance gates which is believed could house 12, 000 spectators.
It is noticeable from our photos that our interest here has waned a lot. The heat was probably also getting to us. We don’t have very many photos of this particular area. We have a few of the very well-preserved theatre and a few of the aqueducts. What actually fascinated us most about this area were the cotton fields. Being born and raised in the city, we had never seen how cotton was grown other than on TV and in books. So to see it in “real life” was our highlight here!
Despite possibly feeling a little weary of ruins, there is one thing we always do when we visit historical sites. We pause and try to imagine what life would have been like in the times when the ruins were not ruins. In our heads, we try to recreate the sounds we might be hearing, the atmosphere. We will never know if we get it right but it’s still our way of soaking it all in so we remember it the way we choose to remember it.