The Châteaux of the Loire Valley
A short train ride south from Paris will take you out to the Loire Valley, the valley of Kings. This is where much of the royalty and nobility of France spent their time, with spectacular châteaux like Chambord being referred to as mere “hunting lodges.” This trip, along with Versailles, is one of the best day drips to take from Paris.
We took a day tour which included four châteaux – Chenonceau, Chambord, d’Amboise, and Cheverny. The trip was in a small bus and included only one other couple. It was like a private tour.
Château de Chenonceau
Our first stop was Château de Chenonceau – a château I had seen posters of as a child in French class. It sits over the Cher River and has a fairytale-like feel to it – made even more so by the “dreamy” image editing I did on this set of photos! We toured the impressive gardens, along with the inside. Most château kitchens are located in the basement and tours include discussion of the meals and staff. This château had scaffolding on it – a frequent encounter for avid Eurotrippers. Still, it was a beautiful château.
The Château d’Amboise was once the home of Leonardo DaVinci. He was invited here in old age by the King of France. His grave and remains are in the small chapel on the château grounds but this is disputed by some in Italy. This is a small, castle-like château towering above the Loire River. The small town of Amboise below is a great place to stop for lunch.
Château de Chambord
The Château de Chambord is the highlight of the trip. This spectacular château is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture, with its double helix staircase rumored to have been designed by DaVinci himself. Its symmetrical layout with its many spires are a marvel. There are good views to be had from either side of the chateau, one offering reflective water, the other an expansive lawn. The liquor Chambord is made here, and can be sampled from the little restaurant/store on the property.
Château de Cheverny
Our last stop was the Château de Cheverny – an interesting narrow château with beautiful grounds, gardens and a park on the property, as well as a collection of hunting dogs. This château has been consistently inhabited by its owners for over 6 centuries. They maintain it well.
Another spectacular château is the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. It is set on a reflecting pond which lends it a fairytale feel, similar to Chenonceau. We had a short period of time here but the region is worthy of a extended visit and could include a side trip to enjoy the food & wine delicacies of Lyon, Bordeaux and Burgundy.