France is known for its chateaux, and the country is dotted with them in every region. That is one of the things that I love most about France, the romantic almost fairy tale like architecture. The Loire Valley has some particularly beautiful and noteworthy properties and one of my favorites is Château de Chenonceau. It exemplifies ladylike elegance and is particularly known for the influence of women on its design. This is why it’s often referred to as the Ladies’ Château.
Chenonceau, with its bright white facades, turrets and iconic bridge is truly a masterpiece. One woman who had a huge role in the design was Catherine de’ Medici, she was nicknamed the “builder queen” due to her involvement in the property.
As beautiful as Château de Chenonceau is, it was a source of drama during the reign of King Henry II. He had gifted the property to his beloved mistress Diane de Poitiers while married to Catherine de’ Medici . It was Diane’s idea to build the arched bridge joining the château to its opposite bank. She also oversaw the planting of extensive gardens, with flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. Diane lived at the Château from 1547-1559 until Catherine de’ Medici kicked her out and made it her own favorite residence. Don’t feel too bad for poor Diane though, she was given Château de Chaumont in exchange. Catherine spent a great deal of money expanding Chenonceau by adding more rooms, an extensive gallery and manicured gardens on the property. She loved to throw lavish parties and celebrations regularly. In fact, the first fireworks display seen in France was said to have occurred there under Catherine’s suggestion.
Ok, enough with the history lesson. When you first arrive on the property you’ll notice beautiful tree lined paths that will lead you up to the château. You’ll pass a 16th century farm, a wine cellar, donkey park, and many gardens.
As you get to the end of the long path to the Château you can see the beautiful white facade but it’s not that impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful but you don’t get that wow factor until you go along the River Cher. Take a left or a right it doesn’t matter, the view is spectacular from either direction.
You enter the Château through beautifully detailed green doors and are greeted by an enormous fireplace. One of the first rooms off the entry is the chapel with stunning stained glass. The bedrooms are beautifully appointed with canopy beds, artwork and furniture
The gallery, with its checkered floors and chandeliers crosses the River Cher, take a peek outside one of the many windows for a lovely view. Another fun history fact! The gallery was used during WWII to escape from Nazi occupied France on one side of the river to the free zone on the other side.
The kitchen in Chenonceau puts the Downton Abbey one to shame. With all of the large events that it has catered over the years it’s no wonder. My favorite feature of kitchen was the rotisserie, they used a spool of rope that is attached to an iron weight which hangs out a nearby window to turn the spit, it’s just so inventive in a time without electricity.
The grounds of the property were gorgeous. After exploring the house as much as we wanted we returned to the gardens to enjoy the flowers and sunshine. We visited in the spring so everything looked green and lush, but I hear that anytime is a great time to visit Chenonceau.
Versailles is next on my list of great properties in France to visit. Maybe this year 🙂