How exciting is the feeling to be in the heart of one of the most extraordinary historical areas in the world, a valley entirely declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
Just a few kilometers and we meet the first magnificence of the day, the Château de Chaumont, which overlooks the Loire Valley, fine example of the Gothic period’s defensive architecture as well as of the ornamental architecture of the Renaissance.
The Fortress, built around the year 1000 to keep watch and protect the city of Blois, has been razed to the ground and rebuilt in the next centuries but it was Charles II d’Amboise who turned it into an ornamental château in the Renaissance style, with sculpted decorations becoming the major feature of its outer façades.
Twenty kilometers southward and we cross the River Cher, tributary of the Loire, slow-flowing and rich of gardens of scented roses. In World War II, this river marked the boundary between free and occupied France.
Stop for a coffee in Montrichard, a very charming town dominated by a huge fortress, with a rich medieval history.
Driving along the Cher we get to the Castle of Chenonceau “Le Chateau de Dames”, indisputably the most beautiful and the most photographed of the Renaissance châteaux, exceptional site not only because of its original design, the richness of its collections, its furniture and its decorations, but also because of its destiny, since it was loved, administrated and protected by women, who were all extraordinary and who, for the most part have marked history. Its original design, in fact, was supervised by one Katherine Briconnet then added to by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Medici (wife of Henry II) and saved during the French Revolution by George Sand’s grandmother.
At Chenonceau Castle, the flower display in every sumptuously furnished room adds to its elegance. The room of Five Queens, the living room of Louis XIV, the grand gallery overlooking the River Cher, fabulous kitchens constructed in the piers of the bridge, the Green Cabinet of Catherine de Medici. Chenonceau Castle also has an exceptional museum collection of the paintings: Murillo, Le Tintoret, Nicolas Poussin, Le Corrège, Rubens, Le Primatice, Van Loo, as well as an extremely rare selection of Flanders Tapestries from the 16th century.
Back to Loire Valley there is a small manor that is worth a visit: The Château du Clos Lucé. It was the residence of Leonardo da Vinci during the last three years of his life. Painter, inventor, engineer, scientific, humanist and philosopher, he tried to unveil the secrets of nature and physics. His heritage is still present in our daily life. The mission of the museum is to give an overview of the work of Leonardo to the general public. From the beginning to the end of the visit, we experience the funny feeling, that the genius was just there, just a moment ago.
Even if tired we have to find some remaining energy to take a look at an emblematic monument and its landscaped gardens with one of the most remarkable panoramas of the Loire valley, the Amboise Castle. As a Royal residence in late 15th and 16th century under the Francis I reign the castle reached the pinnacle of its glory. Many men and women of letters from Europe as well as artists, like Leonardo da Vinci who was buried in the château’s chapel, were guest at the Court of Amboise at the sovereign’s invitation.
Rising up over the banks of the royal river, in the heart of Vouvray, the most famous wine area of Loire Valley, we reach our resort for the night, an 18th century manor house nestled against a cliff, lit up by the Loire Valley’s gentle light. Les Hautes Roches (if available) has 14 rooms, all facing South and overlooking the meandering Loire river. 12 rooms are sculpted into the rock as troglodyte caves, the 2 others are situated on the first floor of the manor house .