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A Chateau a Day

semi-overcast 20 °C

The Loire Valley to the west of Paris has long been the hunting ground for the French aristocracy so it is no surprise that they would want to have a little pied-à-terre somewhere in the woods from where they could take pot shots at the passing game. This is the petit pied-à-terre of King Francois I which was begun exactly 500 years ago in 1519...

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This 426 room chateau at Chambord may seem a little excessive as far as hunting lodges go, but medieval French kings had a tendency to go a little over the top. King Francois the first (and almost the last) spent only 72 days in this chateau during his 32 year reign but to be fair he had lots of other castles to get around. This is his 'townhouse' on the other side of the Loire River in Blois...

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More about Blois next time. Now back to Chambord where the most unusual feature is an elaborate stone staircase that intertwines two flights that never coincide. Two people joining the staircase from opposite points on the same floor can never meet...

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Even today it would take some fancy engineering and at first glance it seems implausible. But to understand the principle take two similar corkscrews and screw them together. Got it? Never mind – open a bottle of wine, drink it and try again. It is suggested that the staircase was designed by Francois's friend Leonardo da Vinci who lived nearby in Amboise, but no one can be certain that he had a hand in the plans. While the giant staircase is certainly the centrepiece of Chambord there are soaring architectural features aplenty...

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However, these cherubs are not the prettiest...

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Louis XIV, the sun king, made many additions to Chambord in the middle of the 1600s but he rarely visited – he already had his chateaus at Versailles and Fontainbleau for hunting. This is Louis XIV's bedroom in Chambord where he held court...

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The numerous royal chateaus weren't usually staffed or furnished. The king's entourage of thousands would travel just ahead of him, carrying the furniture with them from one chateau to the next. They would have everything set up just in time for the king's arrival and he always felt at home.
Château de Chambord was ransacked by the proletariat during the revolution of 1789 and everything of value was stolen, auctioned off or used as firewood. The pots and pans in the great kitchen are all contemporaneous to the time but not originally from the chateau...

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The rooftops and spires of Château de Chambord are truly magnificent and are said to resemble the skyline of a medieval city...

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The 13,000 acre estate surrounding this great chateau is home to wild boar, deer and all kinds of game and it is surrounded by a wall more than 30 kilometres long – now that's what we call a garden...

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Another day; another chateau! We are staying in the Loire Valley for the next eight days and will be visiting one of the great chateaus every day – if we can stand the pace. However, there is much more to France than the rock piles of the royals and the rich so we will be digging deeper into daily life à la mode française.

Posted by Hawkson 23:52 Archived in France

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Comments

Love those huge castles and mansions but getting around must take a lot of exercise.

by Janet

My goodness! Such extravagance! I walked along the Loire Valley from town to town many years ago with my best friend and her 12 year old daughter. What I remember is the elaborate formal gardens, and the “religeuses”, a delicious cream puff formed with angel wings which we bought for Tara from the back of the boulangerie trucks which travelled from town to town selling bread and decadent goodies! Hope you come upon some “ religeuses”! Thanks for the wonderful travelogue!

by Alison Fitzgerald

Jim, I don't think you have enough room on the property at home for even a mini chateau or garden. Looks like you are enjoying the adventure. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

by Joyce

A good reminder that small is good. Can you imagine all the work staff had to go through to make the chateau home as the family travelled from chateau to chateau. It is mind boggling. Nina and I were there when she was 12 years old she is now 55.

by Sue Fitzwilson

All stunning examples of art and architecture as usual. Hard to imagine the cost in blood and treasure to build one of these. But the dozens upon dozens! Happy Thanksgiving.

by Tom

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