Back to France: Autumn in the Loire Valley

Korea and Japan were exciting and fun countries to explore, but architecturally, no one can beat the Europeans. Returning to France, I found that I had missed the charming architectural details that can be found in walking down a residential street in Paris or driving through a random village. (Side note: One thing I didn’t miss about France: the smell of cigarette smoke and the dirty streets. But that’s a story for another time.)

One of the best examples of French opulent architecture is in the Loire Valley. So I was happy to be able to return to one of the most beautiful areas of France to explore two more châteaux in the fall – the Château de Chambord and the Château de Chenonceau.

Château de Chambord

The Entrance leading into the Château de Chambord

The Château de Chambord is probably one of the grandest châteaux of France, and the largest of the Loire Valley. Its grandeur mainly lies in its exterior as its interior is quite sparsely decorated, especially for a 16th century château of this magnitude. There’s a good reason for this – as large as the château is, it was meant solely as a vacation home for King Francis I, who loved to hunt in the area. Despite taking 28 years to build, the King only stayed there a few times for a total of 7 weeks (!!!) during his lifetime.

Double Spiral Staircase

This staircase, reminiscent of a DNA double helix, is one of the highlights of the château interior. Rumored to be inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, this 3 story staircase ascends in two intertwining different spirals. It was built so that two parties could ascend and descend the staircase without ever meeting, though they could see each other across the way. Pretty cool for something that was designed 500 years ago.

The sparse interior of the Double Spiral Staircase with openings where you can see individuals on the other side of the staircase
Inside the Chapel Wing
Another spiral staircase (though this one isn’t a double) at the corners of the château

After the double spiral staircase, another impressive piece of architectural design is the intricate roof. Though I would say calling it a “roof” does it a bit of injustice, because it’s so much more complex than a roof. Its ornamental design is incredible.

Up on the roof

The views from up top aren’t too shabby either…

After exploring the interior of the château and the roof, it was time for us to take a look at château gardens. Although the gardens themselves weren’t too impressive, the imposing château made a pretty impressive backdrop.

All in all, although the Château de Chambord is quite impressive and worth a visit, it wasn’t my favorite château of the Loire Valley. It just felt too empty and sparse inside. Especially compared with the beautiful Château de Chenonceau, my favorite château in France. I liked the Château de Chenonceau so much that it was worth a second visit, this time in the autumn…

The Château de Chenonceau

For all the reasons that I love the Château de Chenonceau, feel free to refer to my earlier blog post here. It was interesting to see this château during another time of year, where the bright greens started giving way to the rustic yellow and oranges of fall.

Already in love with this château on the tree-lined walk up to the castle
The stunning blue bedroom of Diane de Poitiers, King Henry II’s mistress
Gleaming cookware in the kitchens
From the inside looking out
The entryway of the château
As was the case last time, I’m in love the beautiful floral arrangements in each room
And as was the case before, this gallery that sits above the Cher River is my favorite room in the château

The other nice thing about returning to the Château de Chenonceau is that the weather was more cooperative, leading to some beautiful reflective photos of château over the Cher River…

As beautiful as the château itself is, it’s also worth it to take a walk through the surrounding woods.

Now tucked away at the end of a maze in the gardens, these Caryatids (Pallas & Cybele) and Atlantids (Hercules & Apollo) sculpted by Jean Goujon once adorned the façade of the château

We enjoyed our second visit to the Loire Valley. It’s easy to see why this beautiful area was once the playground of the wealthy.

Until next time…

S

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