Loire Valley Day Tour Itinerary #1 Chateau Descriptions
CHATEAU D'AZAY-LE-RIDEAU was under construction from 1518 to 1527. It’s an early example of a traditional French Renaissance chateaux. Atop an island in the Indre River, the chateau appears dramatically over the water, giving the illusion that it floats on the river. The style is Italianate as artisans of the day often were Italian, however the French influence is unmistakable. Examine the bastion corners capped by pointed cones, stacks upon stacks of grouped windows, and of course a sloped slate roof. The chateaus designer meant to be amusing when he added the royal look of fortifications and medieval donjon towers. The castle was built for the king’s newly ennobled treasurer, and was very much intended to look as if it had been there for centuries. On the ground floor, you can see decorative columns featuring salamanders and ermine, the chosen symbols of King Francois I and Claude de France.
You can’t miss the famous gardens surrounding one of the last castles built during the Renaissance. It’s right along the Loire River. Though they feel timeless, the gardens are in fact a modern 20th century addition, designed to evoke the 16th and 18th centuries. It takes 8 gardeners working full time to plant, prune and care for the 60,000 vegetable plants and 45,000 other varietals set out each year. Thanks to a stream running down into a small valley, a terraced garden is part of the splendor.
When there, don’t miss seeing the Garden of Love, the Music Garden, the Herb Garden and the enormous (12,500 square meter) ornamental vegetable garden, which is renewed twice per year. (select photos of Villandry)
CHATEAU DE CHENONCEAU
Many famous women from French history are attached to the castle of Chenonceau. Among them are Diane de Poitier, Louise of Lorraine, and arguably the most famous French women of all, besides Joan of Arc of course, Catherine de Medici.
While the early chateau was impressive the "Ladies of the manor" had their hand in the making of the chateau as it stands today. In the upper level, you can still see the bedrooms of Gabrielle d'Estrees, Catherine de Medici and Louise of Lorraine. Don’t miss the kitchens, an ingenious creation of the time as the are basically at the water level. Food could be delivered by boat directly to the kitchen. Quite near the gardens of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, stands "La Galerie des Dames de Chenonceau", in the former Royal stables. You can follow the life stories of these larger-than-life women. Here again, are some splendid gardens for a stroll. (A complete timeline of Chenonceau's history)
The chateau is one of the first royal residences and was the home of Francois I. A first-rate example of Gothic and, due to later additions, Renaissance architecture. Amboise is known for its amazing furniture collection. It’s amazing to consider that Leonardo da Vinci lived there in his final years and is buried in the St. Hubert chapel. As far as a picture perfect moment, don’t miss the vista from the gardens which overlook the Loire Valley, framing one of the most famous panoramas in the area. (select photos of Amboise)
While there, you’ll visit the LEONARDO DA VINCI PARC at Château du CLOS LUCE in Amboise:
Dating to the Renaissance period, the building where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his last years is a playful edifice of red brick and white stone. Leonardo’s apartments remain; you can get an inside look at his life and works – his bedroom, workshop and kitchen. An interactive exhibit allows you to experience his accomplishments through life-size replicas of his inventions, a video installation and holographic canvasses.