Azay-le-Rideau is dramatically situated on an island in the Indre river, its architecture appearing to rise right out of the water.
The plush interiors are decorated in the Italian Renaissance style popular when it was first built in the 16th century. One of the newest exhibits is in the attic, showing the complicated beam and buttress design needed to hold the massive roof.
Villandry features the finest formal gardens in Europe. The dilapidated gardens and castle were restored to their 16th century glory in the 1900's, by a wealthy American heiress, Ann Coleman, and her French husband Joachim Carvallo.
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.
Visitors will enjoy seeing the manmade lake, and the specialty sun, herb, water and music gardens, among many others. Much historical research by Carvallo went into restoring the original Renaissance layout of the grounds.
Chateau de Langeais
Château de Langeais was built in the mid-1400’s by Jean Bourré, minister of Louis XI. Famously, Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany were married here in 1491, making independent Brittany into a region of France.
In the 1880’s, restoration was begun by its new owner, banker Jacques Siegfried, who spent 20 years assembling appropriate furnishings and tapestries. The castle, to this day, accurately portrays 15th century day to day life at a castle.
Château d’Usse started as a Norman fortification in the 1100’s, was ruined by the 15th century, and was found and rebuilt by a succession of relatives to the French King Charles VII.
The current Duke of Blacas maintains the property, owned in unbroken succession by his family since just after the French Revolution. Most famously, it is said to have offered the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s beloved tale, “Sleeping Beauty.”