Did you truly select that clickbaity title? Seriously! I assume these cheesy headlines do work! Maybe I will title all my posts like Buzzfeed?
No, I’m just kidding. I’d never do this. That’s terrible. I simply wished to see what would happen that one time.
But, seriously, let’s talk châteaux (large country houses or castles in France, plural of château). I visited France for my birthday with the target to finally get our of Paris and explore the famed Loire Valley, using its rolling hills, exquisite wineries, wide rivers, and grandiose castles.
This region of fertile land was the seat of royal power during early French history. Kings, queens, and other royalty built grand palaces here because they cemented their rule of the vital trade region. But, by the center of the 16th century, the energy of the state shifted to Paris as kings spent less time wandering the kingdom and additional time there.
However, loving the spot, French royalty still expended considerable money building beautiful châteaux. The Loire Valley has over eighty and it could take a many more of my limited time to see all of them.
But I did so manage to go to a bunch (and discover ways to do etc a budget)! Listed below are the highlights:
This castle is probably the most popular in your community, because of its grandeur, detailed façade, intricate decorations, and large gardens. It had been originally built by Francis I in 1519 as a hunting retreat. However, he died in 1547, and the castle remained half built. It fell into disrepair for pretty much 80 years until Louis XIV visited in 1639. He ordered it finished predicated on the initial plans. ( Note: That is a running theme for a number of châteaux in your community.)
Entering the castle grounds and seeing this massive ornate structure elicited an audible “wow” from my mouth. I marveled at the building’s intricate masonry and spires. The interior’s massive double-helix staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci creates a center point that draws your attention as you undertake the home. I loved the symmetry of the large halls and old paintings of royalty.
This place was gigantic and took hours to see. There are incredible views from the roof, but the best moments were mostly in the gardens, just looking at every inch of the palace.
Tip: I recommend the audio tour. It’s given on an iPad which allows you to zoom in on paintings and artifacts, has an overlay of what the area could have looked in the 17th and 18th centuries (even including images of what it appeared as if being built), and provides a great deal of detailed information. Worth every euro!
Getting there – You may take a 25 minute shuttle or taxi from the nearby city of Bloise.
Included in the medial side of a hill, this château was originally a keep (fortified tower) constructed in the 14th century for King Philip Augustus. When the area was acquired by an area nobleman in the first 16th century, the initial keep was preserved, all of those other structure was razed, and a fortress was erected (with a cool moat!).
Through the French Revolution, the house was confiscated by the state, and in the first 19th century, Emperor Napoleon gave it to his brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. In 1906, the Carvallo family (the existing owners) purchased the house and poured a massive period of time and money involved with it to create it what it really is today.
However, regardless of the grand exterior of the castle, I came across the inside lacking, and I moved through it pretty quickly. Apart from the ornately decorated first rooms, the inside is quite bland (and sort of worth skipping altogether).
The primary draw of the château is its famous Renaissance gardens, such as a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens, altogether containing over 60,000 vegetables and 45,000 bedding plants! They are organized in formal, geometric patterns separated with low box hedges. It’s a serene spot to wander and relax, with a stream running right through it and several spots to sit and contemplate. There’s also an adjacent woods with a few trails that few people wander around, which means you keep these things all to yourself. Overall, the gardens and woods will be the best part of the castle, and that’s where your time and effort ought to be spent.
The way to get there – There’s a bus from Tours on Wednesday and Saturday. In the event that you go any other day of the week, you’ll need an automobile.
Because you have to stay in Blois to see Chambord, the city castle makes a straightforward addition. Originally a medieval fortress built-in the 9th century, it had been bought out by Louis XII in 1498 and transformed right into a palace in the Gothic style that was a center of power for years and years. (Fun fact: In 1429, Joan of Arc was blessed here prior to going to fight the British in Orléans.)
There’s very little left of the medieval fortress. The primary the main castle was built-in 1515 by François I in Renaissance style and carries a famous buttressed circular staircase resulting in the private sleeping rooms and ballrooms.
While this castle is small and the surface less ornate than others in your community, I came across the inside to be first rate, with intricately restored rooms, detailed information plaques, and stunning period furniture. Outside, you get sweeping views of the city and river. It had been an extremely lovely castle.
The way to get there – From Paris, you may take a two-hour train. From Tours, it’s about 45 minutes.
This is my overall favorite castle. It could not be as ornate or large as others, but it’s the full total package: a fairy-tale-like structure with stunning interiors, manicured gardens, and stunning views of the Loire River. Confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, it became a favored royal residence and was extensively rebuilt by King Charles VIII (who died within 1498 after hitting his at once a door (seriously). It had been included in a lavish Renaissance palace by his successors but eventually fell into decline in the next half of the 16th century. It had been greatly damaged in the French Revolution before being renovated in the 19th century.
That’s what I must say i loved about the palace: the mixture of architectural styles. You’d the Gothic portion using its vaulted roofs, the Renaissance sleeping chambers and exteriors, and the grandly designed rooms from the 19th century. You can observe the mark of history through the entire palace. I also loved the large, winding carriage ramp that descended from the castle in to the town and the terraced gardens filled up with oak trees. There’s also the church which has the remains of Leonardo da Vinci! Really, this place is top-notch!
Getting there – You may take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 10 minute walk from the station.
Built by Hugues d’Amboise in the center of the 15th century, this château was acquired in 1490 by Charles VIII. There aren’t many rooms to explore, however they do retain that Renaissance charm. Why is it famous was that Leonardo da Vinci lived here from 1516 to 1519. Today, the castle is a testament to him, with marvelously restored rooms and a basement filled up with replicas of his famous inventions.
Additionally, make sure you go outside and appearance up, as the surface has a great deal of Italian influences. The lands are stunning and include a restaurant, mill, and many ponds. The extensive gardens, filled with geese, streams, and several walking trails and places to flee and reflect, were an incredible addition, and it’s easy to assume Leonardo travelling, looking for inspiration.
The way to get there – You may take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 30 minute walk from the station.
Azay le Rideau
Originally built-in the 12th century, the castle was burned to the bottom in 1418 by Charles VII. It remained in ruins until 1518 when it had been rebuilt by an area noble. However, the French king Francis I confiscated the unfinished château in 1535 and gave it to 1 of his knights as an incentive for his service, who then left it half built. The castle’s condition deteriorated through the centuries until, in the 1820s, the brand new owner undertook extensive alteration work to create it the beauty it really is today.
Most of the place was (still) under construction when I was there, so not absolutely all the rooms were open. The inside was simple and well explained by signs but lacked any ornate furniture, paintings, or fixtures. This place had the best exterior, though. I loved the square configuration, using its turrets overlooking the garden; the actual fact that it’s built on a pond; and the long cobblestone driveway leading in from town. It’s easy to assume royalty trotting down within their carriages to the wrought-iron gates on the way to wait a ball.
Getting there – You may take a thirty minute train ride from Tours. The castle is a 20-minute walk from the station.
Chenonceau is probably the best-known châteaux in the Loire Valley. It had been built-in 1514 on the foundations of a vintage mill. In 1535, it had been seized by King Francis I for unpaid debts. Then in 1547, Henry II gave it as something special to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers (now just about the most famous ladies in French history). Diane oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens. Actually, the gardens remain organized in her original design.
After Henry died, his widow Catherine de’ Medici (also the most famous ladies in French history) forced Diane from the castle and made Chenonceau her residence. (Fun fact: In 1560, the first-ever fireworks display observed in France occurred here.) In 1577, she extended the grand gallery over the entire river, making the château what it really is today. After she died, the castle bounced around various royalty and their mistresses, was luckily spared destruction in the Revolution, and was renovated and sold a bunch more times before it became state property.
Walking through a forest that opens through to two gardens (still maintained within their traditional style), you see this beautiful, thin castle that spans a river. The inside is fairly small (it’s longer than it really is wide), even though the rooms are well preserved, they are generally very crowded being that they are so small. The gardens are marvelous to see in bloom, and there’s a good little maze on the lands (though it’s easy to get out). (Another fun fact: This castle divided Vichy and German-controlled France and was often used to smuggle Jews to safety.)
Getting there – The castle is a 35 minute train ride from Tours.
Tips for Visiting the Châteaux
Just how do you visit each one of these castles (and the 70+ not right here)? They are pretty easy to go to – all but a few are accessible by bus or train, and the ones that aren’t are often no more than a 20-30-minute bike ride from the nearest town. But admission fees of 10-15 EUR a pop really can accumulate and make castle-hopping an extremely un-budget activity. However, there are many ways to spend less on the castle experience:
- The tourism office in Tours sells discounted tickets, so it’s better to buy a lot of your tickets there. They are 1-2 EUR off the purchase price at the castles.
- Almost all of the castles are near train stations (the farthest I walked was 20 minutes to the Azay castle), so you don’t have to take among the expensive tours that whisk you to a couple of châteaux in a brief period of time. Plan your visit around the trains and buses.
- For castles not close to the place, you can rent bikes close to the tourism offices. A bike is just about 15 EUR for your day.
- If you would like to operate a vehicle, this region is most beneficial explored by car so that you can see everything. Car rentals cost about 30-40 EUR each day.
- The majority of the castles sell food that’s overpriced, even by French standards. However, you may bring your own water and food, so have a little picnic to consume on the lands and save yourself a huge amount of money!
My only regret is that I didn’t have significantly more time to see a lot more castles. It really is crazy spending 20-30 EUR a day just on castles, but I came across each one gorgeous, majestic, unique, and filled up with history that gave me a larger understanding of the spot. Even if you’re much less castle-hungry as I am, make sure to visit a few of these majestic places. Even the favorite ones are worth the crowds.
You can travel to many on a excursion from Paris, but I would recommend roaming the spot for at least a couple of days, consuming the castles, drinking an obscene amount of wine at a patio café, and bathing in a few of the history, charm, and culture which makes France the special place that’s.
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