Wednesday and Saturday Castles
Built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, Chenonceau is most known for the arched bridge at its base joining the château to the river's opposite bank.
A couple of centuries of crumbling disrepair was finally addressed right after World War II by the current owners (the family Menier, heirs to a chocolate-making fortune). Other than the Royal Palace of Versailles, it is the most visited château in France.
The village of Amboise is anchored by the grand Château Amboise, along the river Loire, just 20 minutes from Tours.
In recent times, the château Amboise has been partially restored and preserved, but has never returned to its 16th century glory, when Leonardo Da Vinci and Italian craftsmen lived on the grounds, building to the specifications of then King Francis I. It's the only castle still owned by heirs to the French throne.
Clos Luce is a stately manor house with the distinction of being Da Vinci's last home. Connected to the château Amboise via an underground tunnel, it's now a museum housing 40 assembled models based on the genius artist/inventor's mechanical plans. The grounds feature gardens and an invaluable collection of Da Vinci's botanical sketches.