A few hours drive away from Paris is the Loire Valley with its splendid castles, gardens and vineyards. It’s hard to choose from the hundreds of castles and since we only had one day available, we headed for Tours then visited Chenonceau and Chambord.
Tours is a town between Cher and Loire rivers and a gateway to explore the area. We walked for a bit in the center and visited the Saint-Gatien cathedral with an impressive Gothic facade.
Then we stopped for lunch and after a short drive, we arrived at Chenonceau.
After having visited Versailles the previous day, this castle seemed almost abandoned. We got our tickets instantly and started our tour through the maze. A short walk further and you’re in a fairy-tale. Colorful gardens on both sides and the castle arching over the Cher River.
The most notable thing about this castle is it belonged to the mistress of King Henry II, Diane de Poitiers. She also happened to be his nanny while growing up!? Being a mistress back in those times definitely paid off.
Also known as the Ladies’ Castle it was build by Katherine Briconnet in 1513 and passed through the hands of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. During the French Revolution is was protected by another woman, Madame Dupin.
No wonder it’s the second most visited castle in France after Versailles. I really enjoyed the building with interiors nicely decorated and fresh flower compositions everywhere. Even if smaller, I found the gardens better than in Versailles with more flowers and beautiful, strong scents.
On the way back to the parking we checked the farm and the vegetable gardens.
Our next stop was Chambord Castle, the largest castle in the Loire Valley. Maybe because we got there in the evening, we barely saw any people. We couldn’t visit inside anymore, but to be honest we’ve had enough of royal beds and paintings 🙂
After taking a few pictures, we simply stopped and enjoyed the giant. We found out the castle started, you guessed…as a hunting lodge for a king, Francis I and 28 years later 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces and 85 staircases were completed. The wall surrounding the castle is 20 miles long!
It is suspected that Leonardo da Vinci was involved in the design of the castle as he lived in the area and was close to Francis I.
What strikes me the most is that after building such an impressive castle, you would expect someone lived there. Well, it seems the king reigned for 32 years and spent only 72 days at Chambord. Not such a pity in the end, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to admire this beauty today.
Address Château de Chenonceau: 37150 Chenonceaux
Ticket price: €13, with audio guide €17.50
Opening hours: 9 am – 8 pm
Traveling time from Paris:
– 214 km away from Paris it will take 2 hours by car via the A10 highway (also called l’Aquitaine); leave at the Blois or Amboise exits
– 1 hour by TGV from Paris-Montparnasse to Saint Pierre des Corps
– 25 minutes by TER from Tours to Chenonceaux
Address Château de Chambord: 41250 Chambord
Ticket price: €11
Opening hours: 9 am – 6 pm April September and 9 am – 5 pm October – March