Castles in the air (Part I)…France

I guess that for many of us, the idea of castles is restricted to fairytales and “Game of thrones” type series. So of course when I got the opportunity to see real castles, curiosity got the better of me. The Loire valley castles are a two  hour drive from Paris. As always, I am fascinated by buildings that can stand the test of time over centuries but also the exquisite architectural designs of a bygone era.

This post showcases three of the best castles in the region. If you’d like to see what the castles look like inside, I’ll be posting additional parts.I suppose that visiting places like this also reminds you of how someone always pays the price for others to live so opulently, hence in today’s world, castles are more likely to remain in the air for most of us.

Chateau de Chenonceau

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Chenonceau Chateau (one of the prettiest we visited) was built over the River Cher in traditional Renaissance style, and is known as the Chateau des Dames (the Ladies’ Castle) because of the influence of the famous women who lived there. The chateau was built in 1513 by Catherine Briconnet, embellished by Diance de Poitiers and Catherine de Medicis, and saved from destruction during the Revolution by Madame Dupin.

There is a restaurant on this property where we had the most sumptuous lunch

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The beautiful rose gardens are a lovely feature of this castle and influenced by all the women who occupied it

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This castle is built over a moat and the painting below illustrates what it looked like in its heyday.

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Chateaux Chambord

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This really picturesque castle was a hunting lodge would you believe? The tendency those days was to compete with the Jones’s so if a king saw a castle he liked somewhere, he would build one even better. Chambord Castle was built for King Francois 1st.

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This castle has an  intricate stone “double helix” staircase leading up to the spires and turrets of the rooftop terrace and is thought to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
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The château of Chambord was included on the first historical monuments list in France in 1840; the forest and wall were listed in 1997. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

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The hunting grounds take up about 60kms (sq) of space. Thank goodness for greater equality these days:-)

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Château d’Amboise

The dominant renaissance style of  Château d’ Amboise in the Loire Valley, France, is there for all to see well before you even enter the town as its position high above the Loire river makes it obvious from quite a distance as you drive along the approach roads on the river bank.

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The chateau was built on the foundations of an old fortress, its position perched high on a promontory over looking the Loire, offering a solid defence against any intruders. The chateau was seized by Charles VII in the mid 1400’s after its owner, Louise d’Amboise was involved in a plot against the monarchy. He was later to be pardoned but the chateau remained in the hands of the king.

The picture below gives a sense of the foundations on which this castle is built.

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Flanked on the other side is the Loire river

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This castle is set among beautiful formal gardens as depicted below:

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Below is the pretty town surrounding this castle

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Look out for my post on part II which will take you inside and back in time:-)