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.
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.
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.
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.
And of course there is a room displaying the trophies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then the remaining parts of the chateau is like looking back into the “everyday” living quarters.
The very fancy four-poster in the bedchamber:
The salon which welcomes guests. It is open and inviting especially the rather plush-looking seating. Portraits adorning the red matching walls.
This particular dresser caught our attention – with the intricate level of detail on each draw.
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 😉
When we were done inside, it was time to pop outside and check out the view from behind.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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