Medieval castles on Loire river (11/17/03)
Last updated 11/24/03
The word "chateau" is French for
"castle" and will be used in that sense throughout this blog. Note:
when they say "chateau such-and-such" on bottles of French wine, it
doesn't mean that the wine was produced or bottled anywhere near a
castle, and the word should instead be understood as "estate", as in
the grapes for this wine were all grown on the same property where the
wine was made. Confusing as French things get sometimes...
We visited chateaus in several
places along Loire river, starting from a lovely town of Blois
(pronounced "blwah"). The town is situated on a high riverbank and has
many staircase paths, cobblestone streets, some nice gardens and
medieval architecture, the gem of which is, of course, the chateau, but
even without it you could have a wonderful time strolling the streets
where every stone breaths of the great deeds of yore.
Views of Blois
The chateau of Blois served as permanent residence of French kings in
some periods, and a place of occasional visits in later times when
royal court moved to Paris. Celebrities like Catherine de Medici stayed
here (even US-educated readers of this blog should be able to recognize
the name), and a few turning points of French history took place at the
chateau, such as the assassination of Duke Guise (sp?) by the order of king XXX.
The interior of Blois chateau, as well as most other French castles, is
much less impressive than the architecture because most furniture and
other royal belongings have been lost, stolen, sold, destroyed or moved
around over the centuries, hence the rooms are either completely bare,
or decorated with imitation items. The chateau of Blois especially
suffered from this problem; I'm afraid there isn't a single authentic
piece of furniture in there.
Some interior views that were worth capturing.
Our day trip to other chateaus in the Blois/Tours area was a partial
success. We got to visit an interesting castle at Ambois (pictures one
row below), but not without first experiencing a disappointment in
Onzain where, after a 1.5-mile walk through a sleepy village, across
Loire river, and up a steep wooded hill, we found ourselves at a closed
gate with a sign that the chateau would reopen in December. So our only
glimpse of the castle was from the other bank of the river, as
witnessed by the picture below. In Tours we didn't even glance at the
chateau because we didn't know there was one until late into the night;
however, the town was quite nice, with a lovely medieval area with
remains of a huge cathedral, narrow cobblestone streets, and
half-timber facades that I personally adore.
Onzain and Tours
The chateau at Ambois was fun to walk around in, especially up and down
the spiral staircases inside corner towers. Besides royal past, this
chateau is famous for accomodating the great Leonardo da Vinci in the
later years of his life which he spent at the French court in Ambois.
Leonardo actually lived in a different house, but spent much time at
the chateau and was buried there at his request.