I took a half day trip to visit three of the châteaux near Tours while I was staying there. We visited Chambord, Chenonceau, and viewed Amboise. Our guide was a really nice man, who drove like a fugitive trying to outrun the police. Truthfully, I am in cars so infrequently that they always seem to be going so fast, but everyone in our mini van was clutching the nearest hand hold or loved one. However, this meant more time in the castles, as we saved a lot of driving time. First up was the viewing of Amboise.
The driver said, “On your right is Amboise,” as we flew by the castle on our way to Chambord. Alrighty then. There it is, that whitish blur behind the trees.
Next up, Chambord, or as I like to call it, the passably ok hunting lodge. Because seriously. Hunting lodge. 400+ rooms, 300+ fireplaces, 77 staircases. Just a place to crash while hunting. No big. But it is big. Seriously big. Big enough to get lost in just the half that is open to the public.
It was spectacular. Every bit of it was perfect. It was extremely ornate, and absolutely gorgeous. I don’t love spiral staircases… but it had several that even I really liked, including the double helix in the main area of the castle, allowing one person to go up, and one down, and they don’t pass each other as they spiral around each other… a neat feature for those philandering Kings of old.
One part of Chambord that really kind of creeped me out were the heads. Or perhaps it would be more apt to call them skulls. Rooms full of them. Just to remind us that it was a hunting lodge, I suppose, but it was rather too macabre for my taste. Plus, the antlers threw strange shadows.
From the extreme excess of Chambord we made our way to Chenonceau. The Lady Castle, as it was. It was designed and has only been inhabited by women.
A little history of the castle, because I think it’s interesting. King Henry II gave Chenonceau to his mistress, Diane. She lived there for twelve years until his death, when his wife, Catherine, unceremoniously kicked her out of the spectacular chateaux, and sent her down river to another, smaller, more austere châteax. Diane, missing her home, and unhappy with her runner up castle, left after just a few years. Catherine, meanwhile loved Chenonceau and threw amazing parties there, even hosting the first fireworks display in France.
Now, this story is told as a ‘oh that greedy Catherine, how could she do that to poor Diane?!’ Kind of slant. But honestly, if I were queen, and another woman is sleeping with my husband for twelve years, you can be darn sure the tramp wouldn’t be getting a consolation châteaux. She’d just be getting put out.
Also, one last note about the châteaux. The beds- they are pretty small. The drapery was extremely tall, and the rooms were large, which I am sure made the beds look smaller than they were, but still. And I know… beds were smaller back then. People were smaller back then… I get that. But these are not just every day beds. This is the King’s bed. One would think he could have a bed as large as he wanted. Heck, he built a hunting lodge with 400 rooms! To be sure, if I am ever crowned queen of anything, I’m setting a new world record for largest bed. And most pillows. Which I will throw all of onto the floor every night. Just because I can.