The incredible Chateau de Chambord Loire Valley France

Written by on January 8, 2018 in Centre, Museums and Châteaux

Chateau Chambord Loire Valley under a starry sky

The Chateaux in the Loire were created to be second homes and visual symbols of power and wealth.

Those who owned chateaux didn’t usually live in them permanently, there are some exceptions, but on the whole, owners visited them rarely, taking their possessions with them. Unlike today when owners furnish their holiday homes, in the old days, people carried their belonging from home to home. Beds, chairs, cutlery, dishes, tapestries etc were expensive and even the royal family seldom decked out their chateaux with permanent collections.

Ostentatious, flamboyant and fabulous Chateau de Chambord

Take Chambord. Built by Francis 1, the flamboyant King of France (born 1494). He began work on the castle in 1519, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci (who died that year) and who had been working for the King for the last three years. Immense, architecturally stunning with a double helix staircase whose design may well be by da Vinci, it cost a fortune. And yet Francis spent only 40 nights there in total.

Chambord is dazzling and unlike any other Chateau. The great French writer Victor Hugo said of it “All magic… all madness is represented in the bizarreness of this palace of fairy kings and queens”. And, he’s right, this really does look like a magical castle, with an ethereal air, almost delicate but over powering at the same time. Teeming with turrets and towers, gleaming white stone contrasts with its pointy black slate roof, it is a magnificent display of power and taste.

Chambord’s dramatic past

Francis I never saw the chateau finished. Six years after work started, the king was taken prisoner by Charles V after a battle in Italy. To secure his freedom, he gave up Flanders and Burgundy and his two sons as a ransom. But, obsessed with Chambord, he kept pouring money into it, leaving him nothing to pay for his sons return. It took until 1539 for the chateau to be deemed habitable, though not finished, and between then and his death, Francis stayed there only 40 nights.

Subsequent kings and queens loved Chambord, especially Louis XIV, though when his own Versailles was complete, Chambord fell out of his favour. After the French Revolution Chambord was looted and pretty much neglected. No one wanted it and it was too expensive to pull down as was considered. Eventually a massive restoration programme was put in place thankfully ensuring that we can see this incredible monument today.

What to see at the Chateau de Chambord Loire Valley

The chateau has 440 rooms and 400 fires, which on chilly days you’ll find some are lit. It’s lovely to see the embers glowing and the rooms scented with the smell of a wood fire, just as they would have been when it was inhabited. Some rooms are furnished with tapestries, paintings and furniture, many are empty, just as they would have been. It doesn’t matter, this place is so huge there’s plenty to see.

There are a stunning 70 staircases here including that special double spiral staircase. Climb the stairs to the roof top and look out over the extraordinary newly renovated gardens. A donation of 3.5 m euros from an American benefactor have transformed the vast area in front of the chateau

Don’t miss a trip to shops, restaurants, maison des vins and the lovely biscuiterie in the tiny town-like estate at the foot of the chateau. I had to be dragged out of the biscuit shop and away from the utterly delicious cherry fancies!

Here you can also do a free wine tasting and buy Chambord, a sweet French liqueur that’s very more-ish. Made from honey, vanilla and raspberries, drink it neat, with white wine or Champagne or even splashed over ice cream. It’s notoriously difficult to get hold of overseas and even in France – this really is an exclusive sip.

Stay in the area at La Maison d’a Cote www.lamaisondacote.fr it’s a gorgeous boutique hotel with beautifully decorated rooms in a tranquil town in the countryside. The chef/owner, the renowned Christophe Hay, makes delectable dishes – his chocolate mousse is the best I have ever tasted.

More on visits to the Loire Valley

Chateau du Clos Lucé, the former home of Leonardo da Vinci is beautiful and atmospheric
The magnificent Abbey de Fontevraud
The enchanting Chateau de Brissac, the tallest castle in France and the most amazing setting for a very posh B&B

www.chambord.org
www.biscuiteriedechambord

More info and things to do in the area: www.amboise-valdeloire.co.ukwww.loirevalley-france.co.ukuk.france.fr

Related Articles

Mulhouse Train Museum | Cité du Train

When it comes to the Cité du train at Mulhouse, you don’t to be a train buff or train spotter, an anorak or a ferroequinologist (someone who studies trains) to get steamed up about a visit. This incredible museum is a fabulous place on so many levels. History, engineering, social history but overall – it’s […]

Continue Reading

Museums, Monuments and Arts Venues of Lille

Lille in northern France is one of the most cultural cities in the country. There are more than a dozen museums and art venues in the city and every three years or so Lille goes arty-party mad with a major several-months-long art festival known as Lille3000 in public buildings and the streets. Palais des Beaux […]

Continue Reading

What to see and do in Orleans, Loire Valley

Julius Caesar was here. The English were here, and because of that, Joan of Arc was here. It seems throughout history, Orleans in the Loire Valley has established its place as a principal city in France (and it was the most important city after Paris during the 10th and 11th Centuries). While today most people […]

Continue Reading

7 things to do in Tours in the Loire Valley

There’s a whole lot to see and do in Tours in the heart of the Loire Valley. It’s easy to reach from Paris by train and provides a great base to visit the area. There are several of the major Loire Valley Chateaux nearby and you can organise a tour by coach or mini bus […]

Continue Reading

The Halle de la Machine in Toulouse

When I was a kid I was entranced by stories of mythical beasts. My favourite tale was of a Minotaur who roamed a labyrinth on the Greek island of Crete. Small me believed that Minotaurs, a species which had the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, really lived, much […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top