I didn't visit any castles with Jules last year - he originally hadn't planned on coming along at all - but this year I thought it would be a bit silly for him to go all the way to the Loire Valley again and not see a single château. So, because it was kind of on the way from Brussels, and more importantly, because I'd never been, we decided to go to Chambord.
I've probably been to most of the major Loire châteaux now and several of the minor ones - Chenonceau, Villandry, Ussé, Azay, Blois, Chinon, Langeais, Loches, etc., but Chambord had long been on the list without quite managing to get there. It's the biggest and one of the most iconic of the châteaux, but not that easy to get to. There was a direct bus in summer, but I never wanted to go in summer,with all the tourists. Otherwise it was some sort of fiddly train/bus/faff which, as I recall, only allowed you to see the château in about an hour or you were stuck there for three or four hours. Picky, I know, but you can afford to be when you live somewhere and think you'll be able to go see it any time you want.
So anyway, it was a good opportunity to go while we had a car, and once Jules stopped sulking that I wouldn't go to Chenonceau with him (kidding), I'm sure he thought so too.
Chenonceau is undeniably gorgeous, but Chambord had a real fairytale frisson to it. It's not that it looks like a Disney castle, but walking towards it, seeing the towers first come into view, it does seem like something magical out of a storybook. You feel like Peer Gynt should be playing or something. We were lucky enough to have the only really nice weather of the weekend while we were there as well. Everything's that little bit more special with bright blue skies instead of grey on grey.
|At the back (front?) entrance|
|It took a long time to get one with the flag fluttering|
The courtyard and the famous double-helix staircase, which doesn't look like much, but is fun to go up. Most scholars agree the staircase was designed by Leonardo da Vinci, then living nearby at Amboise.
|Old-fashioned mirror selfie in the King's bedroom|
I'm not sure whether I should find these taxidermied animals cute, but I kinda do.
|Windows in the chapel|
Built for François I, his symbols of the ornate letter F and the salamander were everywhere. In the legends of the time, salamanders were meant to be able both to extinguish fire and to spit fire, and throughout the château you see them doing both. This gave rise to François' motto, "I nourish and I extinguish", which sounds like a threat, but supposedly refers to being nourished by the "good fire" of faith and love while extinguishing the "bad fire" of passion and injustice.
The château is huge - 440 rooms, although not all presumably open - and most of the interior is fairly unremarkable, at least if you've been to your fair share of castles. I loved this space on the second floor though, with an ornate ceiling studded with François' emblems.
|This panorama is cool but gives a false sense of the layout - the rooms aren't in a row like they look here|
|Where Louis XIV liked to sleep|
|View of the church from the roof|
I take too many photos, I know. So hard to choose the best ones. Let's round it off with a little Vitifun.