Moments upon arriving to Château de Chenonceau, this majestic castle with its immaculate landscaped gardens, captivated us both. Set upon the River Cher, I now understood why this was the favorite château of many. This 16th century marvel of Gothic and early Renaissance architecture stood tall against gray skies, the Marques tower across the bridge from the château. What adds to the unique history are the women who called this their home. The favorite residence of Catherine de Medici, while Diane de Poitiers was its mistress. But it was Louise Dupin who saved the château from destruction during the French Revolution, stating that “It was essential to travel and commerce, being the only bridge across the river for many miles.”
The interior of the château was equally regal. The grand ballroom once held festivities organized by Catherine de Medici in honor of her son King Henri III.
Catherine de Medici’s Renaissance bedroom was outfitted with rare Flanders tapestries from the 16th century, and a painting by Correggio representing ‘The Education of Love’.
To prove his devotion to both his wife and his mistress, King Henry II gave them each a garden. This one was Catherine’s, a design of 5 lawns centered around an elegant circular pond, “intimate” at 5,500m2.
Diane’s garden, composed of two perpendicular and two diagonal paths bordering eight large, lawned triangles is 12,000m2 in size. Each season reveals a variety of blossoms.
It was difficult to leave this stunning landscape and the stories it told. With one last glance we bid farewell.
Last weekend we hit the road, destination Loire Valley. This region of France is one of our favorites to explore, both for its proximity to Paris and its regal history. On the way to Orleans via high speed train we reminisced our trips in the Loire, our first adventure being by bike to Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord. Our second trip found us at Château d’Amboise and Château du Clos Lucé. We’ve since been back to visit friends at their family home Château du Petit Thouars. This time we were heading to another friend’s birthday celebrations, with a few visits along the way, including a château or two, but first, home in a pigeon house.
We arrived to Le Colombier, once a pigeon house from the 18th century, and settled in to our romantic abode.
A quick drive from our home in Clery-Saint-Andre we discovered the medieval village of Beaugency. I was immediately charmed by the vines and flowers around every corner as we lost ourselves in the tangle of streets.
Our next stop was Meung-sur-Loire. I was less impressed with this village but the château was worth a visit.
Château Meung-sur-Loire, once the prestigious residence of the bishops of Orleans, welcomed great names in French history including Kings François I and Louis XI. It also served as a prison for poet François Villon.
Our last stop was to a castle that has now become my favorite of them all, Château de Chenonceau…
The Loire Valley is quickly becoming one of my most beloved areas of France. Ever since our first Loire by bike trip amidst the grand château earlier in the year. Last weekend we planned another Loire adventure, this one to the scenic village of Amboise, festive and calm in it’s off-season charm. A perfect escape from the pre-Christmas chaos of Paris.
We arrived to a scene reminiscent of a painting.
And there it was, the Château d’Amboise, nestled into the skyline, awaiting our arrival.
But first, a quaint village waiting to be explored. (Would we find a restaurant open? Barely.)
A tour of the Château d’Amboise, home to many of France’s nobility, proved a regal experience.
To say nothing of it’s grounds. Enchanting!
Our last day, guided by the sunshine we visited the Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci, along with Mona Lisa, had spent the last four years of his life. It was here that we entered not simply the home but the mind of this genius. Within the château and it’s gardens are displayed many of da Vinci’s creations. I was struck by how advanced he was for his time. A painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, botanist, musician, writer… My Italian smiled proudly at the brilliance of one of his own.
It was an ideal weekend. Already we are planning the next trip… a château or two remain.