Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Valençay

The "front" view of the château.

The Château de Valençay is about twenty minutes by car from our house. It's one of the places we go to often with visitors because a) it's close, b) it's got great gardens and grounds with deer and peacocks, and c) the interior is interesting but not too over the top and boring.

Part of the gardens in the front yard.

These photos are from 2003 when our friend Cheryl came to spend a few weeks with us. It was late summer and the gardens were very pretty. I know that I've posted pictures from Valençay before, so if any of these pictures look familiar, it's not you. It's me.

Cherubs splashing in the fountains.

Ken's already told the story of Napoléon and Tallyrand, the two principles in the story of Valençay. I won't go into it here. Valençay wines are well known in the Touraine region and were just awarded their A.O.C. (appellation d'origine controlée) in November 2003, right after these pictures were taken! Before that, they were V.D.Q.S. (vins délimités de qualité supérieure), the level just below A.O.C.

A bit of architectural detail.

The wines they produce around Valençay are from the standard cépages, or varietals, used in most of the Touraine region. That is to say sauvignon blanc, gamay, cabernet franc, and côt. They're low alcohol, fruity, and meant to be drunk young. I supposed I should say "consumed" or "enjoyed" young.

Walk this way, please.

I think that Valençay is one of the must-sees in the Loire Valley. But there are so many. Here, on the eastern end of the Loire château circuit, we have a number of the "biggies" including Chambord, Chenonceau, Blois, Cheverney, Chaumont, Loches, and Amboise. After a while, they all start to blend together, so you have to be careful if you're a first-time château hopper. A little château-ing goes a long way.

Valençay has the appeal of one of the Big Boys, but is much more welcoming and often less crowded than they are (except in high season, of course). You may have noticed that I managed to take these photos without any people in them. You'd be hard-pressed to do that at Chambord or Chenonceau.

Sculptural balustrades.

And there are myriad smaller châteaux all over the region that can be much more intimate and interesting than those bigger, over-crowded tourist attractions. I've been to a few where it was just us and the tour guide, a very personal touch. If you burn out on the biggies, you won't have an appetite for something smaller.

The solution to this tourist conundrum is obvious: come back again and again over the years until you've seen them all!

9 comments:

  1. These photos are lovely, and I know what you mean about keeping the château-ing under control for best enjoyment. We haven't made it to Valençay, but it's on the list.
    Susan

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  2. Claudia in Toronto02 April, 2008 01:48

    It's very hard for me to visialize one castle after another, and to think it could ever be a surfeit. I'm crazy about castles and I've never seen one. I'm very frustrated with my Larousse book "Les pays de Loire" which shows only one or two pictures of many castles, and offers two meagre historical paragraphs on each. I'm so happy with Ken's blog and yours. Your text and photos, with all the details, fill a big void in the book. Merci de tout coeur!

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  3. Walt, I'm taking note of your advice for first time chateau hoppers! Valençay will make the list, I'm sure.

    Thank you for your great posts and photos.

    BettyAnn

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  4. I forgot to ask if you could give me a link to Ken's story on Napoleon and Tallyrand. Thanks!

    BettyAnn

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  5. s&s, yes, by all means go!

    claudia, have you ever been to Québec or Ottawa? They have some nice châteaux there, albeit somewhat newer.

    bettyann, here's the link!

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  6. Claudia in Toronto02 April, 2008 23:12

    No châteaux. Only grandioses old hôtels. In Québec: Château Frontenac. In Ottawa: Château Laurier. I've stayed at those places when visiting. Beautiful ballrooms. I've also lived in Ottawa for nine years. Our Parliament is magnificent. Very British. In Vieux Montréal, a place called Château Ramezay which is a low old style mansion turned into a Museum.

    None of those buildings would have fit the lifestyle of the Queen I would have wanted to be...But then I might have lost my head!!!

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  7. claudia, but those hotels and other buildings are like châteaux, and they're pretty spectacular!

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