The first one we stopped at (other than our hotel for breakfast) was Chambord.
(Once we were inside the outer walls)
This chateau was comissioned by King Francis in 1519 to be his hunting lodge. It took 20 years for the main part to be built, although it as added onto and beautified for centuries later.
The castle is huge with 77 staircases 282 fireplaces, and 426 rooms. The ceilings are about 22 feet tall. The place was vast--but the royal family would get lost because everyting looks the same.
(the rooms off the staircase on almost every single floor look like this)
One claim to fame is a hexigonal staircase in the middle of the castle.
Sketches of the chateau were found among Leonardo di Vinci's papers and, since he was given a small chateau in the middle of the Loire Valley by the French king, it is believed he may have contributed some ideas to the chateau--in particular the staircase because of the complexity involved.
We did climb all the way to the top of the stairs and got an up close look at the towers on the top of the case as well as the surrounding grounds.
(This one was shaped like a crown, with the royal fleur de lis on top)
Now it is surrounded by forests, but at the time it was built it was a marshland. There were only 2 times of year it was comfortable, fall and spring (in the winter it couldn't be heated and, in the summer, the mosquitos were horrible). In fact, King Francis the first only stayed in the chateau he had built for 72 days total, even though he reigned for 32 years.
(An original door from the castle, which are rare. If firewood was needed, they would just take the door down and burn it! It has the F for "Francis" and his symbol a salamander eating fire)
(Bedchamber as it would have been decorated for Francis I. The original furnishings do not remain--the kings of the 16th century would move a lot, and their furniture moved with them.)
Louis the XIV, the Sun King, also used the chateau as a hunting lodge.
The castle does have some rooms decorated as they would have been for Louis the XIV.
(I thought the chateau in this tapestry looked like Chambord--I don't know if it is)
A couple of rooms were even decorated as they would have been in the 18th Century for Louis XV:
The next chateau we stopped at was Chenonceau, a 16th century chateau built over the Cher River.
In front of the palace is an old mill, which was there before the palace was even built.
This one is nicknamed the "chateau of the ladies." Its most famous claim to fame is that King Henry II gave the chateau to his misteress, Diane de Poitiers, in 1547. She added a bridge to get from the house to gardens she had planted. The queen, however, had Diane kicked out after the king died and took over the chateau as revenge.
(All the floors would have been painted as shown in the picture above--wouldn't that have been so pretty to see! Most of the paint did not survive, of course)
(Picture of Catherine de Medici--which is interesting, because this room is named after Diane)
(Crest Henry used. Could be Henry and Catherine's first initials--or Henry's and Diane's)
(These chairs are actually from the 15th century! It is pretty rare for them to survive because, as I mentioned earlier, furniture would be moved when the King or Queen moved)
(Portrait of Diane--she was actually older than Henry and Catherine!)
(A bit about the flowers. The chateau has a hothouse and prepares these arrangements that you see throughout my pictures--the flowers were simply gorgeous!)
(Portrait of the chateau)
(Louise de Lorraine's bedroom--she retired to this chateau after the assassination of her husband, King Henry III. She was in mourning, so the room was in black.
We also stepped out on the balcony, and looked down on the two gardens around the house:
(Catherine de Medici garden)
Before leaving the Palace, we quickly went through the kitchens:
Unforunately, it was raining and we didn't have that much time, so I'm sure we didn't do the grounds justice, but we did visit both of the gardens.
Diane de Poitiers garden:
Catherine de Medici's garden:
It was raining a bit by this point, so we decided it would be a good time to break for lunch. The stables on the property had been converted to a cafeteria style restaurant, so that is where we headed:
This vineyard began when the family patriarch, a farmer, dug out caves, and started making wine, really for his family's own use. We were told that used to be pretty common in the Loire Valley!
(Wine tasting with goat cheese, bread, and a pork spread snacks)
(Interestingly, this vineyard grows grapes on land that is part of the Chateau de Chenonceau.
We had our last group dinner tonight at our chateau hotel.
We had wine made by the chateau:
Amuse bouche: A cold cucumber soup to "amuse the palette":
For dessert, poached pear in a honey sauce with star anise, and lemongrass.
I couldn't resist a quick picture of this tea set in the dining room--it matches the wallpaper in the room!