The Wonderful Adventure Of Castle Hopping In The Enchanting Loire Valley In France

By • Mar 28th, 2009 • Category: Tourism

Loire Valley

Whilst chateau hopping remember to take the time to happen upon some local wine cellars, for “degustation” or tasting in the Loire Valley. Take the time to relax and enjoy your holiday.

France’s Loire Valley has the grandest selection of 15th and sixteenth century castles. With fifty to sixty “must see” castles scattered on both sides of a 100-mile sweep of the Loire River, the first-time visitor can feel overwhelmed.

Château de Chaumont, a Châteaux of the Loire V...Image via Wikipedia

Five of the best castles are below.

Chateau Amboise

Amboise’s narrowed cobbled streets wind at the base of the large. Although only 25% of the original chateau survives, the fortress walls with flying banners look down on the village and neighboring river. It was here that King Francois I hit his head on a low arch, fatally wounding him.

Chateau Clos Luce

Not more than a half mile from Amboise is Chateau Le Clos Luce, a chateau built and designed by Leonardo da Vinci. He lived the last three years of his life here under Francois I’s sponsorship. The rooms are filled with 40 models of Leonardo’s inventions so you can marvel at his foresight and impressive mental powers 500 years earlier.

This is another nice venue to amuse children. The gardens are drop dead gorgeous with a bubbling brook and the kids can play on models of Da Vinci’s inventions in the garden for hours and hours.

Chateau Chenonceau

Chenonceau Chateau amazes you with its two-story, 260-foot Great Gallery arching over the River Cher. Originally “acquired” by King Francois I, it then passed to his successor, Henri II, who gifted it in 1547 to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Diane expanded the chateau and built a bridge over the river.

When Henri II died, his wife, Catherine de Medici, took revenge on her rival by forcing Diane to exchange Chateau Chenonceau for nearby Chateau Chaumont. Catherine then commissioned the construction of the bridge gallery. Unbelievably extravagant galas were held here until Catherine’s son, Henry III, was murdered. His wife, Louise de Savoie, placed the castle in mourning, furnishing it entirely in black and white.

History leaps out as you tour the rooms and the gardens. In world war I the Great Gallery was converted to a hospital. In world war II the chateau marked the boundary between Nazi-occupied and free France and became the site of prisoner exchanges. Today the chateau and grounds are maintained at their height as if they were at under Catherine de Medici.

It really is the must see chateau in the Loire Valley.

Chateau Chambord

King Francois I was not content with just the castles at Chenonceau and Amboise. He acquired over 10,000 acres of hunting land and decided to construct the world’s most magnificent “hunting lodge”. Chambord was built over many decades by Francois and his successors, Henri II and Charles IX in the sixteenth century.

Fully restored now, Chambord stands as the most extravagant of all the Loire chateaux – 500 feet wide with 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces. The central grand staircase was supposedly designed by the Italian great, Leonardo da Vinci. It has double spirals which enable two parties of people to climb and descend simultaneously without meeting.

[You can hire bikes and boats at Chambord for a delightful activity – very handy if you have kids to amuse.]

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire

Built in the 15th century by Lord Amboise on the site of a 10th century feudal fortress, Chaumont commands incredible views of the Loire Valley. It was later the home of both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici of Castle Chenonceau fame. Enjoy this chateau for its fortress feeling, drawbridge, furnishings, tapestry, and incredible vistas.

It has a fantastic garden festival each year running from April to October. They have quirky contemporary displays and a different theme each year.

If you can you should spoil yourself and rent a chateau as opposed to just visiting one. A chateau is a wonderful venue for a destination wedding in France . Some even offer a destination wedding package. You do not have to be loaded to have a fairytale french wedding.

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