Friday, October 7, 2011

The Loire Valley: Chateâu de Chenonceau

The air is crisp and chilly this morning, and we scramble into our warmer clothes (we knew we brought them for a reason).  After a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee, we head out for Chateâu de Chenonceau.  Built on the River Cher in the 16th century, it is stunningly beautiful.  We walk its stone floors for well over an hour trying to picture what life must have been like here.  The Chateâu is built over the river with a magnificent hall built by Catherine de’Medici and is embraced with formal gardens on either side.

The gallery built over the river
My favorite rooms are the kitchens with all the copper pots hanging from the walls and huge fireplaces for cooking and roasting meats.  There are several rooms: the pantry with a large fireplace and bread oven, the larder which would have been filled with grains and produce is off to one side, and the butchery with its hanging meat rack is off to another.  There is a small dining room beside the pantry where the staff would take their meals and a bridge to the larger kitchen with roasting spit through a small bridge. 

There are of course the rooms for the King (Henri II), the Queen, and the King’s “favorite lady,” Diane de Poitiers, who had the bridge build upon which Catherine de’Medici built the gallery.  But the most interesting room is that of Louise of Lorraine, who, after the death of her husband, King Henri III, took up residence at Chenonceau surrounded by nuns, and spent the last 11 years of her life in mourning.  Always dressed in white, the protocol for royal mourning, she was dubbed the White Queen.  Her room is black: ceiling, walls, drapery, even the linens upon her bed. 

There is also a 16th century farm; a great example of how growing food can be beautiful as well as practical with flowers and vegetables growing side-by-side.

For more pictures of Chateâu de Chenonceau, the gardens, and farm click here.

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