Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Loire Valley: Château de Chambord

After touring Château d’Amboise yesterday afternoon we bought a bottle of wine and some cheese and headed back to Château des Arpentis to relax before dinner.  Olivier, who lives on site, started a fire in the huge fireplace in the salon upstairs, and I wandered around this floor of the château—which houses the private rooms of the owner when he stays here.  I have been dying to explore and Olivier told us it would be okay.

Château des Arpentis
We had hopes of having dinner at La Forchette, a restaurant I read about that got rave reviews.  We wandered the streets of Amboise and were happy when we found it, only to be immediately disappointed as they are closed until October 24th.

This morning we venture a little further afield to Chambord, about an hour’s drive from Amboise to visit Château de Chambord and Château Chevenry.

Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord, a truly grand Renaissance castle—the largest in the Loire Valley—was intended as a hunting lodge.  Begun by King Francis I in 1519, only the keep and the royal wing were complete upon his death in 1547.  In his 32-year reign, he only spent 72 days at Chambord. 

The keep is in the shape of a cross with double spiral staircases, each winding independently, at its center.  This is pretty ingenious for the time and there is some speculation that Leonardo di Vinci had a hand in the design.

There are three floors, reached by the central staircase; the First Floor (second to Americans) consists of the royal apartments: the State Apartment, the Queen’s Apartment (occupied by Louis XIV’s wives, Maria Theresa of Austria and Madame de Maintenon), the 18th-Century Apartments, and the Comte de Chambord Museum.  These rooms contain some of the best perserved tapestries I've ever seen. 

The State Apartments: Louis XIV's Bedchamber

The Queen's Apartment
There is also the Chapel and King Francis I’s Chamber (in the Royal Wing) accessible by a hallway or exterior staircase.

King Francis I's Chambers
The Second Floor with it’s stunning ornamental ceiling vaults contains the Hunting and Wildlife Art Foundation.  I must admit that I am somewhat fasinated by the skulls and antlers hanging from the walls, which are morbidly beautiful. 

Hunting Tapestries
From the terraces there is a wonderful view of the park, which covers 5440 hectares (800 of which are open to the public) and is the largest enclosed forset park in Europe.  From here we have a spectaular view of the roof.

Off to Cheverny...

For more pictures of Château de Chambord click here.

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