Château de Chenonceau
The Loire Valley is a 280 kilometer stretch of land located in central France along the Loire River. Sometimes referred to as the "Garden of France," it is known for its vineyards, fruit orchards and its various castles that date back to medieval times all the way up to the Renaissance era.
Among the many castles in the area is the spectacular Chateau de Chenonceau.
Part castle and part bridge, this beautiful and uniquely designed piece of architecture stands out among the rest. After seeing it, it was not surprising to learn that it is the 2nd most visited castle in France, after the Chateau Versailles.
My wife and I were lucky to visit Chenonceau only 2 days before the president of France announced that all residents of the country would be quarantined for 15 days in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The next day all the castles in the area were closed to the public.
The original castle was built in 1514-1522 on the foundation of an old mill. This was after its predecessor was completely destroyed by a fire. It was later expanded in 1556-1559 when the "Gallery" was built to span the River Cher.
One big step gets you through the beautifully carved front doors and into the interior which is decorated with various pieces of furniture, artwork, tapestries and loads of fresh cut flowers.
The Gallery, which was used as a magnificent ballroom, measures 60 meters in length by 6 meters across. It has slate tile floors, exposed wood joist ceilings and is lit by 18 large windows that look out onto the water below. It also has two enormous and elaborately decorated fire places that were used to heat the room.
Today the walls are lined with cedar trees and is decorated with flowers.
Probably the most interesting rooms to see in the castle are the kitchens, butchery and the pantry. They are located in the lower part of the castle only a few meters above the water.
Copper kitchenware line the walls and shelves along with various old style cooking utensils and equipment.
An assortment of potted plants are kept on the large tables in several of the rooms which give off a pleasant and fresh aroma within the space.
Other interesting sites in this area include a bread oven and large mechanical rotisserie.
The staircase leading up to the first floor is actually quite remarkable. Based on an Italian design, it was one of the first straight staircases to be built in France. It was much different then the spiral staircases that I'm used to seeing in castles in France.
I only happened to take a picture of the ceiling though.
Many of the rooms on the first and second floor are fully furnished with beds, chests of drawers and artwork of various varieties.
There are at least four different beds of different styles, some more impressive then others.
The castle is located in a clearing in a large wooded area. Two large gardens sit on either side of it, one of which contains a large hedge maze. My wife and I took a leisurly stroll through the gardens and maze despite the sporadic rain and our broken umbrella. I broke it while swinging it to shake off the water. Idiot!
My pictures of the garden didn't really turn out well but I was able to get some decent shots of the moat that not only surround the castle but also the garden and much of the property.
On this weekend gettaway we were actually able to visit three different castles in the Loire Valley before heading home. Overall, my wife and I were the most impressed with the Chateau Chenonceau and highly recommend visiting it if you're ever in the area. Until next time