Loire Valley: Château de Chambord | Europe 2017
Part Two of our Europe Trip, 2017!
See Part One HERE.
When planning our trip to Europe, one non-negotiable thing on my "list" was: at least a day seeing castles and chateaus. Loire Valley came up on all my Internet and travel book searches and was recommended to us by several friends who are familiar with Europe, although no one we know had actually "been there." But, based on research and photos, I just knew we had to visit this seemingly-magical place. And we are both so glad we did! As I wrote in my blog post, Part One, of our Europe Trip: Loire Valley is a wonder in and of itself! We could truly spend a month there and just eat, explore castles, sip local wine, and just enjoy the beauty. Loire Valley is described on one website this way: "If it's French splendor, style and gastronomy you seek, the Loire Valley will exceed your expectations, no matter how great. Poised on the crucial frontier between northern and southern France, and just a short ride from Paris, the region was once of immense strategic importance. Kings, queens, dukes and nobles came here to establish feudal castles and, later on, sumptuous pleasure palaces – that's why this fertile river valley is sprinkled with hundreds of France's most extravagant fortresses. With crenellated towers, soaring cupolas and glittering banquet halls, the châteaux, and the villages and vineyards that surround them, attest to a thousand years of rich architectural, artistic and agrarian creativity. The Loire Valley – an enormous Unesco World Heritage Site – is also known for its outstanding wines and lively, sophisticated cities."
Spending just a handful of hours in Loire Valley truly isn't enough, but we are so grateful for the few days we spent in this lovely place! Before our trip, I wrote a list of three castles/chateaus to visit on our "castle day" but after we spoke with a sweet British lady in the Montresor Village tourism center the morning we set out on our touring adventure, she suggested that we visit just one (maybe two) and really enjoy and soak up our time there, instead of racing through three chateaus just to say we did. So, we scratched our plan and went with her suggestion! She told us about several that she thought we would enjoy/could easily get to/would be toddler/baby-friendly, and the one that caught my attention immediately? Chateau de Chambord. She described it as grand, "fancy," kid-friendly, large, with plenty of areas for a picnic (part of my plan for the day), and, "Best of all?" She said, "Diana often visited! They still hold royal dinners there and when she was alive, she often attended events there!" And let's be real, that's really what sealed the deal on Chambord for me! (Some of you will "get that" ;)
Happily, our day there did not disappoint! It is ever more grand, magnificent, breathtaking, huge, and beautiful as it looked in pictures. Everything you would imagine a French castle to be! Plus, tourists are allowed to explore parts of the interior. What a ball we had wandering those historic, gorgeous rooms!
My whole world, right here.
Surrounded by a lush natural forest and proper French gardens, Chateau de Chambord is massive and immense. In one description, I read: "This immense castle is one of the Loire’s most recognizable due to its unique French Renaissance architecture that blends traditional medieval forms with classic Italian structures. The chateau was built by King Francois I to serve as a hunting lodge, who maintained his royal residences in nearby Chateau d’Amboise and Bhateau de Blois. Perhaps most famous in this castle is the unique and double helix staircase, which is rumored to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci and the elaborately decorated roof line, which Froncois I wanted to look like the skyline of Constantinople." I fan-girl-ed over the fact that Da Vinci is said to have designed parts of the chateau. Back in high school, we spent a year or more studying in depth all about his life and work (Dad took over schooling us on Fridays and we went through a wonderful book called "How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci" and did so many exercises and spent many memorable days together learning. Brought back those memories and felt so unreal to be there where he worked, lived, and created!)
Before we headed out of Montresor for the chateau, I ran into the darling little local market and picked up some fresh baguettes, crackers, turkey deli meat (the absolute best and freshest we've ever tasted!) several different types of cheese, olives, grapes, Swiss chocolate, Pringles (sounds strange but we loved the Paprika flavored chips in Europe) and some leftover chilled rose from our dinner the previous evening!
A peek inside the castle... the construction began in 1519, and it has (get ready...) 440 rooms, 84 staircases, and 365 fireplaces!! The details of the interior blew me away.
Swooned over the gold frames and chandeliers.
commended it. A beautiful, happy, memorable day!
On our drive back to Montrésor, we stopped for dinner in Blois. We didn't really see any of it besides one little streets around where we dined. And, usually, I snap a picture of the cafe or restaurant's sign to recall later, but I was so tired and jet lagged that night that I didn't, so I can't tell you the name. But the pizza we ate... it was delicious (or, maybe we were just starving ;) Either way, it was a yummy dinner and a sweet time together.