Center (Now Centre Val de Loire)
The Center region includes the Departments of: 45 Loiret with its capital city of Orléans; 41 Loir et Cher with Blois being the capital of the department; 37 Indre et Loire with Tours as the capital; 36 Indre with Châteauroux as the capital; 28 Eure et Loir with Chartres as the capital of the department and 18 Cher with the capital city of Bourges.
With those names, many will recognize this as much of the Loire Valley.
From my very first trips to France back in 1986 this is a Region that I have always enjoyed. A week of so of driving along the Loire Valley to tour the châteaux - well, does it get any better? The Center Region may not be know by its offical name, but it is known by many who have travelled to France.
While the town of Azay-le-Rideau is scenic - an old mill on the river with a bridge and church, the château is the big draw. Françoise I, a wealthy Financier built this beautiful château located about 28 km from Tours.
The château sits on a little island in the Indre river. We went through the château on one of our visits of the area. Many of the rooms are furnished, and after a while they all start to look somewhat the same. Inside you will see paintings, furniture and tapestries, all beautiful. What I remember, however, is the grand staircase is noteable and it is designed in a straight line, something unique at the time.
Located 181 km from Paris, Blois was one of stops in the Loire Valley on my very first trip to France, so it remains special. on my first tours of France.
I travelled by Train to Blois, it was a short trip, in under two hours. As a single man, of course I arrived with no reservation. Those were the days that travellers left the rail station with a Let's Go in their hand and started the hunt for a room. Many years later when I arrived with my wife, we had hotel reservations.
On the first trip I used Blois as my base and booked a number of tours of various other châteaux, all the tours typically included two or three differ châteaux on a daily run.
The local cheese shop got to know me and my limited French. By the third visit they were bringing out cheeses that were not in the case.
On later trips Blois would again be a stop and it is an easy city to drive into with a car and then travel the area. If you are there in the spring, Blois is known for the asparagus grown in the area.
The château is impressive and interesting to visit. It was the former seat of the Dukes of Orléans and is one of the more stately châteaux in the Loire Valley. in the day. During the 16th Century all of the six Kings stayed some time in Blois. See the Catherine de Medici apartments with furniture and tapestries.. Don't miss the staircase!
On some evenings they play music and light up the château and do a sort of play with lights in rooms going on and off in conjunction with a recount of some of the events.
A Another one of the châteaux not to be missed. I frist saw this on one of my "three châteaux a day" buy tour and then returned a number of years later with my wife for a longer visit.
It was a former hunting lodge of Françoise I. This is big, and that was the goal, to build someting that would out do Charles V. There are more than 440 rooms, 85 staircases and some 465 chimenys crowing the building.
It was designed by an Italian architect in 1519. It follows the plan of a feudal château with a central keep with four towers and a wall enclosing the château, it was inspired by Saint Peter's in Rome. When you are visiting of course you will walk the spiral staircase, there are actually two sets of stairs allowing two people to walk down from floor to floor and not bump into each other! Also visit the chapel and the King's Apartments.
Some 1,800 to 2,000 men worked on the construction during the time of Francois I. This is a castle of many owners but a permanent residence to none. In fact, Francois I only lived in there for six months.
Some say Leonardo da Vinci was the real architect of the château as he was living at the Clos Lucé in nearby Amboise.
The stables are also impressive and great ready, they can house 1,200 horses.
Chambord actually was almost demolished after the French Revolution. In 1793 all of its the furnishings were dispersed. Luckily for us, the State took over in 1947 and commenced restoration work.
And women say men don't listen! Diane de Poiter, the mistress of Henri II suggested a five-arched bridge across the river Cher. That started it all. Later, when Henri II died, Catherine de Medici made Diane give up Chenonceau for the Château Chaumont and had the grand gallery built on the bridge.
The château was built in 1515. The keep, the front section was actually part of a previous manor was was dismantled to build the new château.
This is a very pleasant château to visit. Walking along a gravel roadway lined with plane trees the front of the château greets you but you do not see the impact of the gallery over the river until you walk along the river so you can get a view. The kitchens are down in the archways below the building and worth have a look at. All that food that had to be carried up!
Built between 1604 to 1634 this château has been in the Hurault family for more than 400 years. The viscount's family still lives on the third floor. Luckily Cheverny was not sacked during the French Revolution. So go and enjoy the furnishings of this château and the dogs. The dogs are what I remember from my visit here. It seemed like hundreds of dogs who will all run up along the fence to meet you.
If you can be there at 5:00 it is dinner time and the noise of the dogs barking for their food... they know what time it is.. is incredible. I was amazed at the incredible discipline of the dogs. They must stay in their place while the food is being put out. No one moves until they get the command.
Yes this is a hunting place and see the trophy room as it has more than one thousand antlers and the heads of five wild boar.
The streets of the town down by the river have a medieval flavor. The ruined château is up on a rock spur above the town. You can walk through parts of the château.