After we visited the Chaumont and Chambord domains together, my friends drove me to the city of Blois so that I could take a train to my next destination. I was heading an hour south to visit the famous ‘Chateau de Chenonceau’ whereas they were heading back to Paris for a big family reunion.
When I got to the train station, I realized that I had a couple of hours to kill until my train arrived so I decided to put all of my stuff into storage (aka a small bicycle shop nearby) and to quickly visit the Blois Castle which was only 5 minutes away.
The ‘Chateau Royal De Blois’
Just like the castles I’ve mentioned before, the ‘Chateau Royal de Blois’ has an incredible history. It was the residence of multiple kings of France (including Francois I and Louis XII) so its walls still hold the secrets to many political intrigues, love stories, religious wars, and even murders.
What also sets this castle apart is its highly unusual architecture. Each wing was done at a different time and in a different style (medieval, gothic, renaissance, and classical) which is why people often says that Blois feels like four castles rolled into one.
Some people don’t like this crazy mix of architecture (like my friends who said they thought the outside of the castle was plain ugly – ouch!) but I have to say I didn’t mind it at all. If anything, I thought it made the building even more interesting. The Francois I staircase in particular was really stunning and worth the visit alone.
What I also really liked about Blois was the fact that it was well refurbished and fully furnished. Sure the decor was quite, hum, ‘flamboyant’ (I think the people who refurbished it in the 19th century were ahead of the curb when it came to print clashing) but it was still great to see each room decorated and to imagine how nobles lived in those days.
The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to see the light and sound show which takes place in the castle’s courtyard at night. It’s meant to be amazing!
The Village Of Chenonceaux
After I left the Blois Castle I
nearly missed caught my train to the village of Chenonceaux. Before heading to the castle though I decided to take a little ‘history break’ and to visit a local winemaker.
On the recommendation of the lovely owner of my hotel I went to the ‘Caves du Pere Auguste’, a small winery which has been owned by the same family for more than a hundred (!) years.
The Caves Du Pere Auguste
When I arrived at the vineyard, I was warmly welcomed by one of the owners and she led me to their cellar room for a tasting. She was really passionate about her wines and slowly took me through their entire range whilst talking about the local terroir , her family’s legacy and even sharing some of her personal memories on the vineyard. Her son is also a winemaker so he’ll probably be taking over the business one day, making it the sixth generation of winemakers in their family – how amazing is that?
I may have tried a few more wines that I had originally intended (it would have been rude to say no ;) but I have to say it was the perfect interlude between my two castle visits.
It also meant I arrived at the Chenonceau castle around 4pm and avoided most of the tourist crowds which was another bonus.
The Chateau De Chenonceau
If you speak to people who have been to the Loire Valley they’ll most likely say that Chenonceau was their favorite castle and, to the risk of sounding really boring, I’d have to say the same.
There’s just something really magical about Chenonceau. From its unique positioning on the Cher river, to its elegant arches and pretty gardens, the whole property just exudes romance.
I think it would take a very staunch person not to fall under Chenonceau’s spell and its background only adds to its charm.
Nicknamed ‘the ladies castle’, its architecture, developments and survival were heavily influenced by ladies throughout history.
King Henri II first gave the castle (built by a lady in 1513) to his very beautiful mistress Diane de Poitiers but when he died his wife Catherine De’ Medici swiftly ousted her and forced her to swap it out for the Chateau de Chaumont instead. Diane de Poitiers was the one who ordered the construction of the bridge linking the original castle to the other side of the river whilst Catherine De Medici built the levels upon it. Surprisingly, the fierce rivalry between the two ladies actually resulted in a harmonious and exquisitely refined building.
It was also a woman, Madame Dupin, who saved the castle from being destroyed during the French revolution.
The inside of the castle is also beautiful and again you can feel the influences of both Diane De Poitiers and Catherine De Medici throughout.
Each room has been very well refurbished and since the castle is relatively narrow, all areas are luminous. I especially loved the gorgeous upstairs galleries where Catherine De Medici is said to have hosted many lavish parties and gatherings.
After such a great stay, I was a little sad to leave the Chenonceaux village the next day (three days just isn’t enough to discover the Loire Valley) but I’m still glad I got a glimpse into this beautiful region. I’m already planning my next visit!
Have you ever been to the Loire Valley? Which was your favorite castle?
ps. Next week I’ll be sharing pics from my trip to Lyon!