When you’re staying in one of the many French villas with swimming pools you might be loathe to leave the poolside to explore the surrounding area. However, if you happen to be staying in the Loire Valley, it would be a crying shame to miss some of the fairytale chateaux for which the region is rightly famous.
Probably the best known of the Loire chateaux, Amboise is a castle with a truly royal heritage.
Recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its role in French courtly life since Visigothic times in the 6th century, the chateau is a beautifully preserved fortification that has changed little since the 19th century. From 503 AD when Clovis, King of the Francs first encountered the Visigothic king Alaric on the site that is now the chateau, the castle has seen some of the most famous faces in French history pass through its battlements.
Chateau d’Amboise, as seen from the River Loire.
The chateau as it stands today has been significantly restored over the course of the past century, with the most recent work being carried out on the southern ramparts completed last year. The chateau gives a fantastic opportunity to see the glorious pomp of the French court at its finest.
Arguably the most jaw-droppingly beautiful of all the Loire’s many chateaux, Chenonceau is not unsurprisingly the most visited private chateau in France. Known as the Castle of the Ladies when it was built in the 16th century by Katherine Briçonnet and later upgraded and further embellished by Diane de Poitiers, then Catherine de Medici and has a perfect combination of strength and elegance.
The dramatic and graceful Chateau de Chenonceau.
Set on stilts in the water and surrounded by immaculately manicured lawns and carefully planted formal gardens, the chateau is like something from a fairy princess dream. If you can, visit the castle later in the evening during the summer months to see the chateau and gardens beautifully lit, accompanied by the music of Arcangelo Corelli. The booth opens at 9.30pm and the chateau and gardens remain open until after midnight to allow you to soak up the beauty and atmosphere of the castle and its grounds.
During your visit, you may choose to visit the Chateau’s Orangerie restaurant and enjoy some of the produce grown in the kitchen gardens. You will also find a tea house and self-service restaurant on estate, but one of the best ways to enjoy the spectacular gardens is to pack your own picnic and sit in the grounds.
As well-known for its gardens as it is for the chateau itself, Villandry has carefully planned and breathtakingly beautiful gardens that are worth the trip alone. The gardens are open all year round and visiting in the different seasons will give you the chance to experience the clever planting and the way it makes the most of the seasonal blooms.
The gardens are arranged in neat, geometric shapes and planted with a mixture of vegetables, fruit and flowers. The kitchen garden is very famous and produces fruit and vegetables that are used in the chateau’s restaurant and produce for its shop. In particular, the gardens have over 1,000 lime trees that give an impressive crop of citrus fruit each year.
The shop, the gardens and chateau are open every day except Christmas and New Years Days.
To make the most of your trip to the Loire, get out and see the stunning chateaux for which it earned the name as the region of castles. From city battlements to countryside fairytale castles, the Loire has history and beauty to offer in abundance. If you are looking to sample the delights of the Loire Valley and like the sound of a luxury villa, checkout the Janu Villas website.
Image Source: WIkipedia 1 & 2.
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