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Why So Many Castles in One Place?
Once you see the Loire Valley you will never ask that question again. The Loire Valley has the most beautiful rolling, lavish landscape, with the Loire River meandering through it.
It stretches from Orelans to Angers and it is one of the most storied and visited destinations in the world.
It is a fertile farmland, providing magnificent food.
Cheese making in the Loire Valley is a serious business and an important part of the region’s gastronomic identity. Among the best cheeses from the Loire Valley is Sainte Maure du Touraine.
The ultimate French Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Loire Valley. It has a longstanding reputation as one of the top areas in the world for harvesting grapes for Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.
And, at every turn of the road, it seems a magical castle appears boasting a splendid architecture and each has its own intriguing history to tell which takes you through the major events in France’s past.
How Did It All Begin?
It all began in about 10th century when the residences along the river were military fortifications around which towns and villages grew. During the Hundred Years War between the French and the English, the Loire Valley was a frontier zone and castles became fortresses. When peace came during the mid-15th century they were transformed into magnificent chateaux built higher up on the rolling hills which provided a perfect backdrop.
And so, the Loire Valley became to be known as the Cradle of the French.
Two Chateaux That Dazzled and Exceeded My Expectations:
1. Chateau de Chambord
It is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley with 440 rooms. King Francis I begun the construction in 1519 and Luis XIV completed it almost a century later.
What you must do is climb to the rooftop and onto a massive terrace. The view is incredible. It looks like a mini city skyline with an array of many mini tops of cathedrals dotted with geometric patterns, medieval towers, and different styles of chimneys, cupolas, gables and gothic adornments.
Once you are back inside, check out the famous double-helix staircase.
What’s a double-helix staircase?
I did not know either. Take a look at the following picture. Does it make sense?
Do you get an idea?
So if you have a travel companion, tell them to enter on one side and you enter on the other side and start climbing. You will both reach the top, without ever crossing each other. Pretty cool! This impressive work of art is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, although it is not confirmed. Well, no matter who designed it, it is incredible to see and climb.
2. Chateau de Chenonceau
Chateau de Chenoncean is majestic and when you admire it from a distance it looks like the river Cher runs through it.
This was accomplished by making an addition to the original castle which was built atop a bridge spanning the river.
It was built in the 16th century and is known as the ‘Chateau des Dames’ or Ladies Castle.
Katherine Briconnet, a French noblewoman, supervised the construction work and made important architectural decisions between 1513 and 1521, while her husband was away fighting in the Italian wars. Diane de Poitiers, who became notorious as King Henry II’s mistress, extended the castle by adding bridge over the river. After Henry died, the Queen, Catherine de Medici, forced Diane out of Chenonceau. Catherine proceeded to build the gallery and grand ballroom on Diane’s bridge which finally gave Chenonceau its now iconic look.
The 60 metre long gallery is quite stunning with its chalk and slate tiled floor and it must have been a delightful ballroom. A door to give you access to the opposite bank of the Cher is at the far end. The door is usually opened during high season.
There is so much more to see in this constellation of enchanting, fairytale castles.