Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-settings.php on line 512

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-settings.php on line 527

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-settings.php on line 534

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-settings.php on line 570

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-includes/cache.php on line 103

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-includes/query.php on line 61

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/circac5/public_html/blog/wp-includes/theme.php on line 1109
Renaissance Chateaus in the “Garden of France” | Cruising in France

Cruising in France

...Travel blog about river and canal cruise vacations on luxury barges and riverboats

 

Renaissance Chateaus in the “Garden of France”

Written by Pierre on February 6, 2009
Summary:

A cornucopia of flamboyant chateaus in the Val de Loire, a region where the Renaissance blossomed and Leonardo da Vinci spent his last days…

I had been to the Loire Valley several times before, but my last trip to this region was different. My main goal was to visit a barge that cruises on the river Cher, near Tours. (The Loire River’s waters are usually too irregular or too shallow for commercial navigation.) The boat is a small barge - it accommodates only six passengers. And, with such a small number of guests, the cruises it offers are of the luxury kind, naturally. That day, the captain/owner was working on installing a new heating and air-conditioning system (it was during the off season). I spent some fun time with him. We even had a glass of the local Bourgeuil red wine together. It was a rainy and chilly day, so drinking wine felt good and warmed me up. The next day, I proceeded with my investigation of the area. You might have guessed that this meant… chateaus, more chateaus and yet more chateaus. Not quite to the point of ”a dime a dozen,” but you can find them at just about every turn in that area.

Chateau de ChambordChateau de Chenonceau

I wouldn’t have missed Chambord (above left) for the world, of course. It is hugely impressive. And, to think that it was used as a lowly “hunting lodge” by King Francis I! It is also a very popular day-trip destination for tourists from Paris. The parking lots are big and there are lots of tour buses. But that’s OK. Remember… the castle is enormous. Ditto for Chenonceau (above right) - a large building and lots of people. But it is so well done architecturally, and it contains so much history. By the way, the river that runs underneath it is the Cher, so cruising under the Chateau of Chenonceau is a high point on the barge cruise I talked about before.

The three pictures below show Cheverny, Chaumont and Ussé from left to right. Unlike Chambord and Chenonceau, Cheverny doesn’t overwhelm you with its size. It is more like a cozy and pretty country retreat - but still in the exquisite and ornate Renaissance style. They raise beagles for fox hunting on the grounds of this castle. I have never seen so many dogs of the same breed in one spot. And the barks of those hounds were something to hear!

Chateau de ChevernyChateau de ChaumontChateau d'Usse

Chaumont, another large castle, is known for its International Garden Festival, the French counterpart to the Chelsea Garden Show in England. Exhibitors come from all over the world to demonstrate their horticultural skills at the Chaumont show. Finally, the flamboyant style of Ussé… this castle is the picture postcard for all Renaissance chateaus. It is known to have inspired the author of the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty.”

I must add Villandry to this list. The castle itself doesn’t compare in architectural sophistication to any of the others, but the gardens pictured below are wonderful: formal French boxwood designs for the “love” and “music garden,” a “jardin potager” (vegetable garden), an herb garden, a labyrinth,  and a peaceful water garden.

Villandry gardensVillandry gardens

As I mentioned, there are many more, and I went on to see Blois, Langeais, Amboise, Chinon and Azay-le-Rideau. I found them all very fascinating! If you are interested in the Renaissance, the place to visit is Florence, of course. But the Loire Valley also played a role in that period’s newly discovered humanism. Leonardo da Vinci lived in the area for three years before his death. He is buried just outside Amboise at Clos de Lucé, where some of his ingenius creations are on display.

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Feb
    8
    8:26
    AM
    John

    This might be a good year to consider a barge cruise. This year even the deluxe programs are being discounted.

  2. Feb
    10
    10:27
    AM
    Carolyn

    You’re right - this would be a good time to take advantage of specials.

Leave a Comment