After watching a Rick Steves episode of the Loire Valley, we knew we wanted to visit a few Châteaus while we were in France. Working again with American Concierge was wonderful! They set up the driver (Claude- how French?!) and our favorite guide, Virginie, to take us through Loire Valley.
Château de Chambord
Our first stop was at Château de Chambord. Its the largest and most recognizable because of it’s medieval and renaissance design. You can read all about it online, but I found it fascinating that King Francis I built it as a hunting lodge and only slept there a handful of nights.
The staircases were also an impressive feature. The one above is one of many massive outdoor staircases. But the most impressive staircase is in the center of the Château.
It’s a double helix or double spiral staircase. The two staircases circle each other, but never meet. So you can be walking up one and see the other through the windows, but you can’t get there. Fun fact: It’s thought that Leonardo da Vinci was the architecture.
Château de Chenonceau
While Château de Chambord has impressive architecture, Château de Chenonceau has a dramatic story. It’s known as the Ladies Château… The original owner wasn’t paying taxes so the crown seized it back. Then King Henry II remodeled it for his mistress Diane de Poitiers. When Henry II died, his wife, Catherine de’ Medici, forced Diane out and installed her own portrait above the fireplace in her bedroom (above).
In addition to the scandalous history, the castle itself is built over the Cher River. It was blazing hot again that day so we didn’t walk closer, but you can kind of see the arches of the bridge. Or you can just google it.
This picture is from one of the spaces over the water. This area was used to host large dinners. Can you imagine having a dinner party, in a castle, over a river?