After a few days in Paris, four of us, our friends Rick and Marilyn, my wife Peg and I rented a car and drove southwest to visit the historic Châteaux of the Loire Valley.
There are 42 Châteaux mostly located in the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Montsoreau, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the Loire River in France, just a couple hours southwest of Paris. Chateaux is a term used to describe anything from a hunting lodge to a residence, we might say mansion or palace, of important people.
The Loire River flows through a gorgeous green landscape and these marvelous Renaissance palaces, castles and fortresses. They are the real jewels of the area located mostly between the towns of Tours and Blois. Besides the numerous chateaux, the surrounding deep forests with deer and wild boars, plus area’s wine regions, add to the large tourist interest in the Loire Valley.
The current chateau d’Amboise is but a quarter of the original size of this palace. Tapestries and royal furnishings are still displayed inside the now smaller palace. The town below is quite charming with lovely shops and restaurants lining the narrow cobblestone sidewalks. King Francois I brought an older Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance master, and had him stay at the nearby Chateau Clos-Lucé where he lived for 3 years. Some like Clos-Lucé, the stone and brick building built in the 1470s, even more than the royal residence. It also has a secret underground entrance used by the King when visiting da Vinci to see his many inventions, some of which now sit in the park grounds surrounding the chateau.
It might surprise you to hear, but Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519, is actually buried in a tomb in the small Chapelle de St. Hubert on the Château d’Amboise grounds. We used the town of Amboise as our base camp, staying in a nice hotel, enjoying the town’s many restaurants, with outdoor sitting, while visiting the surrounding area.
The inside the chateau Chenonceau there are tapestries and paintings by Rubens and Poussin adorning the various rooms and the long grand gallery. The large gardens on either side are lovely as well with many flowering plants and walkways for you to enjoy.
Make no mistake when you hear hunting lodge, this Châteaux de Chambord building is colossally massive and deceives the eye from a distance seeming smaller than it really is.
After our time in the Loire Valley area, we drove south, first to Lyon then on to the towns of Avignon and Arles before continuing to the French Riviera and further east into Italy. But that’s a story for another time. Hope you get to enjoy this beautiful historic area of France.