Thursday, March 23, 2006

Château de Chenonceau

One thing can be said about visiting perhaps one of the most famous Loire Valley chateaux on a rainy March day: there are many fewer visitors than usual. I have been at Chenonceau when the crowds were so thick you'd swear you were... well, you'd just swear. Yesterday, just a little rain, just a little after lunch, and we very nearly had the place to ourselves.

Here is an older shot of the castle, taken in the fall, from a place most visitors don't get to (downriver, left bank):

Below is the main floor of the gallery that spans the Cher river. What's unusual about this picture, you might ask? Well, there's not a single person in the gallery. Most of us tourists never get to see it this way, except in official photos.

The story of Chenonceau is complex, but the bit of historical intrigue that most of us are familiar with involves Henri II, king of France, his wife, Catherine de Médicis, and his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. The king had inherited the place (his father, François I, obtained it as payment of taxes due) and made a gift of it to his mistress, Diane, when he ascended to the throne in 1547. While she was in residence, she had the elegant bridge built from the castle on the right bank across the Cher to the left bank.

In 1559, Henri II was killed in a jousting tournament. His wife, Catherine, now regent (Henri's son, François II, became king - he married Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots), forced her rival Diane out and took the castle for herself. Diane was given Chaumont, but apparently never lived there. Catherine had a new garden built and extended and improved the parkland around the castle. She also is credited with building the 3-story gallery on the bridge across the river.

Jump ahead a few centuries. In WWI the castle served as a military hospital. During WWII, Chenonceau was important for it's strategic location: the Cher river divided Occupied France to the north and Free France to the south. The castle was a bridge between the two.

It's an impressive place. My favorite part is the elaborate kitchen complex in the foundations of the main castle.

Servants' dining room in the kitchen complex at Chenonceau.


  1. Great shots, Walt! And thanks for the history lesson.

  2. The shot of the gallery is really wonderful. And you're right about the kitchen complex. All that copper -- it must have taken a small army to keep it polished.


  3. What beautiful photos! I just found your site after your message about my 100th blog. I used to live in Montbazon and have great memories of the area -- except for the weather! I'll be back.

  4. Bonsoir Walt,

    J'adore la photo de la galerie, c'est génial quand les tou-tous, les toutous, les touristes ne sont pas là :-) !!! Bonne soirée ! Marie qui a bien aimé la visite de Chenonceau lors de son séjour dans votre belle Touraine (Normandy, France)


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