After negotiating the train and reminding ourselves how to drive on the other side of the road, we have reached the Loire and can feel the relief of being suddenly in the countryside. Paris is tres chic, but we now realise that it was lots of work and exhausting and quite expensive, and being in the fresher air and greener pastures of the Loire countryside is almost relaxing. Breath a sigh of air and take in those vistas!
So while we have some hours until we go to our accommodation, we may as well visit a chateau....
Our first is Chenonceau on the river Cher. And ooh la la, what an introduction to visiting and understanding chateau country.
It is on an enormous scale and almost breathtaking. The gardens and grounds are as wonderful as is the chateau itself. The grounds have lots of lush green dappled forest of what seems to be mainly hornbeam trees. It is beautiful and romantic to wander the paths through to the chateau. The main allee is of course lined with enormous, well maintained trees to formalise the entrance.
This chateau has an amazing history and is associated with royalty (of course). The formal gardens closer to the chateau are attributed to Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589) and Dianne de Poitiers (1499-1566) and they are quite stunning. Formal in their own way with the de’Medici garden more Italianate in style and the Poitiers garden more French formal.
Both are on an enormous scale and beautifully executed.
Obviously there is a large team of permanent gardeners.
Of course there is much more history to the chateau than just this but it is long and complex and I won’t bore you with all the details but it involves many kings and queens, famous people and extremely wealthy ones also. It also involves the strong influence of 5 women starting from the 13th century. Apparently Catherine de’Medici ran the whole of France as Queen from one of the exquisite fabric lined studies that we saw on the 2nd floor.
One of the highlights of the garden was the vegetable and flower garden. It has 12 large plots covering over a hectare. It supplies all the flowers for the enchanting and numerous floral decorations for inside the castle. And they are splendid and very in keeping with the castle theme and add a lovely ambience to the whole scene.
Inside is truly a wonder, and well worth the time to look through. It is immaculately kept and the ceilings and wall decorations are gilt and ornate and awesome (in the correct sense of the word!). The buildings are stone – huge slabs – and so inside the doorways, stairways and lintels etc are all carved and ornamented.
The overall impression is of stone, tapestries on a huge scale, lavender wax, subtle lily scent from the amazing flower arrangements, height and space, renaissance history and you can almost hear the guards and important people drifting through the castle hallways from yesteryear.
Everything is beautiful and I can’t capture how truly amazing and well worth the trip it is. There is so much more I could tell you, but really make the effort if you have the chance and see it yourself.