Catherine de Medici
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.
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.
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.
* 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.
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.
* 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.
* 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.
And from the first floor, look out the windows! To the left, we see Catherine’s garden.
To our right, we see Diane’s garden.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
*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?
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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