For the last two days of our trip we left Paris behind and headed into chateau country…
The first thing I asked G when we decided to head to Paris was if we could take a day to pop over to one of my favourite places in the whole world – Mont Saint-Michel. Being the easy-going guy he is he said ‘Let’s do it!’ immediately. When he found out that ‘popping over’ would actually involve a seven hour round-trip drive…he became a bit skeptical.
So I had a brilliant idea – why not break the drive up over two days with stops for some chateau-ing in the Loire Valley?
Having seen almost everything Paris had to offer (and racking up almost 130km of walking in the process!) we hopped in a rental car and headed south to our first destination – Chateau de Chambord.
Famous and distinctive for its French Renaissance architecture, Chateau de Chambord was constructed as a hunting lodge for King Francis I of France (though to call it a lodge is deceiving as it’s actually the largest chateau in the Loire Valley!) The innovative chateau layout suggests that Leonardo da Vinci, who went to France in 1516 at the request of Francis, may have helped inspire the project and/or design.
At the heart of Chambord is the double spiral staircase which comprises two concentric spiral flights of stairs that wind independently around a hollow central column.
The view up the centre of the staircase^
It’s a long climb to the top but the views of the estate and its ornate roofs – described as ‘a strange synthesis of flamboyant Gothic and Italian Renaissance revisited by French craftsmen’ – is well worth it (even with the annoying scaffolding…).
Though most of the Chateau’s original furnishings are long gone there are still some richly appointed staterooms to marvel at.
And with its cavernous interior it’s not much of a surprise to learn that both the Louvre and Compiègne museums chose to store their art collections at Chambord in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Given that da Vinci likely played some hand in the concept and design of the chateau I imagine he would be very glad to know that his precious Mona Lisa got the opportunity to lay eyes on the structure herself!
There was so much to love about Chambord but my favourite feature was the staircases. In addition to the interior double spiral there were outdoor staircases leading to the different wings. The detail, grandeur and beauty of their design had me in complete awe.
With the rain threatening and another chateau on our itinerary we waved farewell to Chambord, vowing to return again very soon.
I hope you’ll join me tomorrow on a journey to my favourite chateau of them all!