I went to the Loire Valley on a tour! It is beautiful countryside loaded with châteaux – over 50 that I know of. We saw three châteaux (castles) – some tour companies do four or even six – I don’t know how they fit them all in! The day was great, but exhausting.
The first château was Amboise. It was built in the 15th century. Really beautiful – although not all of it is standing today – the original plans show it to be immense. Da Vinci was at court there and died in his manor nearby. There is a chapel with his tomb on the property. It also has an adorable boxwood garden (along with others). It has a charming village just below with lovely cafes and some nice shops too.
Then it was onto “The Ladies Castle” or Chateau de Chenonceau. This was my favourite! Originally it was the home of the mistress of the king (who lived at Amboise, I believe). He would leave his wife (Catherine de Medici) and ride over and visit his mistress. When he died, she took over. She kicked Diane de Poitiers (the mistress) out and took over the castle.
Over the years, the ladies who lived there were mostly (if not all?) widows (actually Diane was a widow too – her husband had died). Hence the name, “The Ladies Castle”. It originally had a moat and big towers but some redecorating was done and they were removed. There are two large gardens – Diane’s garden and Catherine’s garden. You can take a boat onto the river or walk through the lovely forest.
It was so great to be outdoors and in trees! Aaahhh! The inside is also gorgeous – I loved the kitchens. I was practically drooling over the fantastic copper pots hanging everywhere (whomever’s job it is to keep that copper gleaming isn’t paid enough – that is constant work). There is also a gorgeous kitchen garden with vegetables and herbs. Just beyond is a field with….donkeys! I do not know how they ended up there! There is also a very charming maze – which I skipped – mazes are not for those who are directionally dysfunctional. The potential embarrassment alone….
The last was Chambord. Gorgeous, of course. The most interesting thing was the double helix staircase in the middle, designed by da Vinci. He never got to see it though, as he died before the construction was completed. It is a huge château with 426 rooms! It has 282 fireplaces and 77 staircases.
I kept thinking that if I lived there (okay, okay – I would’ve been working there, scrubbing floors but still!) I would get very lost, very often! The estate is huge (about the same size as Inner Paris) with beautiful forests and lawns. There are game animals living in the forest park (beyond what it is open to the public, of course).
Very lovely places to live but strangely, makes me appreciate my wee home more….less dusting!!