Castle Crawl #2

James in the garden of Dianne d'Poitiers at the Castle of Chenonceau.

It’s been another exhausting day on the “Castle Crawl of the Loire Valley”. I’ve changed into a pair or shorts and a t-shirt (and enjoying the relaxed nature of a queen-sized bed), while David is resting up in track pants reading a book. After a long day visiting three famous castles in the valley, we’re both pretty exhausted. In fact, I can barely keep my eyes open, so it might just be a few words today and some lovely “castle porn”.

After a light breakfast of coffee and croissants (I had a pain au chocolat) this morning, we set off to visit the first castle of the day, Azay-le-Rideau. Throughout most of its history it was privately owned, eventually sold when the final owner ran into some financial problems. Only once did a king, Louis XIII visit the property. The house had a very intimate friendly feel about it, and I especially enjoyed walking in the gardens.

We then came back for a bite to eat in Tours where I ate the very typically French liver pate on a baguette.

After lunch, we visited Chenonceau which mostly belonged to women. The occupants included Gabrielle d’Estrees, a favourite of Henri IV; Diane de Poitiers, a mistress to Henri II; and when he died it was taken over by his wife, Catherine de Medici. And after that, it became a refuge for the widow of Henri III when he was assassinated. For many years, the house was also in private hands, though it was turned into a military hospital. and during WW2, the house, which crosses the river, marked the line between occupied and free France for a period.

And then we visited Amboise: the place where Charles VIII died; a residence of most of kings of Fance in the Loire Valley until Henry IV. including being the place where Francois I had many famous parties. Some of the parties, incidentally, were designed by Leonardo de Vinci who lived just down the street for a number of years. Leo died nearby, by the way, and was buried in a chapel at the castle. We made a brief visit to the nearby house where he lived, though with only a few minutes to closing time, didn’t think the entry fee was worth the investment of time.

On several occasions today David has asked me to nominate a favourite. I don’t think I can since all three have their own special qualities. Some are beautiful, some are homely, some are architecturally or historically interesting. Sorry if that’s a cop-out.

Back in Tours we had dinner, and now we’re back in the room, ready to hit the sack. This is hard work, you know.