Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Chateaux of the Loire, A Glimpse Into History

Once upon a time, in a land far away (too far away for my liking), the kings of France decided to build the most spectacular castles you could ever imagine. (Well, mostly Francis I who never seemed to run out of  ideas or building materials).  Among the many chateaux of the Loire are Ambroise, Blois, Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau on the river Cher and the pièce de résistance, Chambord.  

Construction of Chambord began in 1519 and employed 1,800 workers. There are 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces (this bit of trivia always stayed with me). The grounds are immense, the architecture breathtaking, the double staircase designed by da Vinci amazing, and the views spectacular. (I’m running out of adjectives here).  Chambord is perhaps the largest and most elaborate, but the other castles are just as magnificent.


 Chenonceau (built in1515) has a charm that makes it very special.  It was given by Henry II to his mistress Diane de Poitiers.  After his death, his widow, Catherine de Medici, forced Diane to move to the Chateau Chaumont.  (More than fair I say)!  Catherine de Medici then began extensive work on the chateau and the gardens.  (Of all we visited, I think this was my favorite).

Chateau Amboise has a fascinating history with  the Clos Lucé connected by an underground passage.  In 1516 Francis I invited da Vinci to live at the Clos Lucé and da Vinci remained there until his death.

Blois, constructed from the 13th to 17th century is comprised of several buildings around a main courtyard.  Over 500 rooms and 75 staircases.

There are many others to visit, some privately owned but offering tours (and in some cases, acccomodation):

Château d'Angers
Château de Brissac
Château de Cheverny
Château Chinon
Château Plessis-Bourré
Château du Rivau
Château de Saumur
Château de Valençay
Château de Villandry

The history of this area takes volumes.  Many books have been written on the Chateaux of the Loire, several beautifully illustrated.  Michelin has a guide to the Chateaux and if you're going without a tour, I highly recommend this book. 

Visiting the Loire Valley makes history come alive and even if you have no interest in gardening, architecture, art, literature, science or French history, you’ll still like the Loire Valley.
Chateaux Of The Loire - Directory
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  1. Anonymous9/29/2010

    Hubby and I are going to Paris in two weeks. Do they have tours from paris into the Loire region



  2. Hi Wanda. Yes, there are several companies that do 1 and 2 day bus tours. A good way to visit because you get a professional guide and that makes it all the more interesting. Check out ParisVision.

  3. I hope you get to visit Paris soon!

  4. I may have told you that once, years ago, I was at the Epcot Centre in Florida, and saw a film in the French pavillion, shot from a hot-air balloon flying - silently - over the Loire Valley and all the magnificent castles...needless to say it was breathtakingly spectacular - this blog brought back those images; gotta get there for real!

  5. You should put the Loire Valley at the top of your list. It is spectacular and I would love to visit again.