A visit to a few French Châteaux

Just two weeks left of our year in France. Two weeks! The goodbyes are hitting hard and we’re notching plenty of “this is the the last time we’ll do this…” moments.

But before we go, we’re packing in a few more places to see. On Saturday we rented a car and strung together visits to three châteaux in the Loire Valley. Along with a leisurely multi-course French lunch, a visit to a medieval fair and plenty of driving through lovely countryside, it all made for a wonderful day trip.

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Château de Cheverny

We did have some adventures tracking down a gas station that would accept my credit card and got stuck for a bit at a toll booth that refused accept my card–sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t; it’s a mystery–but let’s get right to the good stuff.

We started with Château de Chambord. After hitting the road around 7:30, we were to the château by ten or so. To put it bluntly, the place is huge. Massive. They said it was built to rival St. Peter’s in Rome and it shows.

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Château de Chambord

My favorite part of visiting Chambord was that you could wander all over the place. No Versailles-style tour where you have to follow a single path. Here you can take it in however you like.

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The central double-helix staircase. Did Leonardo design it? Even if he didn’t, it’s worthy of him.

After Chambord, we drove to Blois for lunch at a restaurant in a former orangerie of the château there. We had a lovely meal, and although we only got to glance at the town, it seemed worth a longer visit. Next time! Then it was off to Château Cheverny.

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The gardens of Cheverny

This was on a much more modest scale compared to Chambord. Here you follow a tour through the house, but it’s well worth it: lovely furnished rooms and then a beautiful garden. Whereas it was hard to imagine what living in Chambord would have been like, it was much easier to imagine life at Cheverny. And indeed, the owners actually still live on the top floor!

After this we headed to what turned out to be my favorite of the day: Chenonceau.

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A château built over the river: does it get anymore magical than that? The grounds were also beautiful, and as at Chambord, we could tour the château as we liked.

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Lovely rooms overlook the river and the gardens.

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Yeah, I would love to cook some big old hunks of meat on that kitchen fireplace!

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A hot air balloon ride over the river valley taking in the châteaux? Sounds fun!

After our visits to the châteaux were finished, we stopped by the village of Montrichard–another lovely spot–had some crêpes at the medieval street fair, and got back home to Paris sometime after midnight. A long day, but worth it.

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