Monday 10th August
Today we visited our second Loire Valley chateau at Chenonceau on the Cher River which joins the Loire near Tours. Chenonceau is just 32 kms from Blois and our faithful satnav took us there through some distance along the Loire and then through glorious French villages and forests to the little village of Chenonceau. Absolute pride of place in this village goes to this chateau which is actually built in and across the river, having been built originally on an old water mill by the aristocratic Marques family in the early C15th.
We have visited many stately homes in England and Chenonceau is up there with Chatsworth and Castle Howard. The entry through a stately avenue of beautiful Sycamore maples is stunning. Water surrounds the Chateau either the many motes or the River Cher which flows “through” the Chateau. I have dreamed about this place so often but never believed I would be here to take the photograph below.
There are three magnificently maintained gardens. There is also a magnificent maze’labyrinth and a wonderful forest for cycling. One garden is in Renaissance formal style surrounding a large fountain; one a more modern herb and flower garden surrounding a large fish filled pond, and the third a vast vegetable and flower picking garden with not a weed in sight and everything looking absolutely delicious. In addition the green lawns surrounding every element in the Chateau are manicured to perfection (no picknicking or even walking on the lawns!)
The Chateau itself is classically formed, not huge and has been furnished for each period with style and good taste. There is a very impressive art collection mainly Renaissance Italian with works by Tintoretto, Rubens, Veronese, Corregio, Poussin, Jouvenet, Jordaens, Ribera and others. I counted at least five massive Renaissance fire-places, and valuable tapestries hang in just about every room. Many of the original Renaissance heavily carved ceilings remain and some extraordinarily elaborate Renassance cabinets and other unique furniture.
There is a fine collection of early carts and cabs and two magnificent older Bentleys in the garage.
In sum a magical place on a perfect summer’s day.For our final day in rural France this Chateau was a place of deep beauty, creation and peace.
[The Chateau has an amazing history for those who like this sort of thing. It has had many wealthy owners since the Marques family but three women in particular stand out. Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) was the most loved mistress of French Renaissance King Henri 11, and was given the chateau as a gift. It was the beautiful and resourceful Diane who built the chateau out over the River Cher, distinguishing once for all, this image as the ultimate Loire Chateau image and it was Diane who created the absolutely amazing formal garden which remains today.
Once Henry 11 died his queen Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), as regent removed Diane and actually governed from the remarkably small “Green study” of Chenonceau above the waters of the Cher. Louise of Lorranie (1553-1601), the last wife of Henry 111 also retreated to Chenonceau as a mourning widow devoting her time to prayer and charitable work. Her death ended the royal presence at Chenonceau.
After many misfortunes the Chateau came to life again in the C18th with two other women in leading roles. Louise Dupin living there and making it a centre of intellectual life ..Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau her would be lover survived there during the Revolution. Margaret Pelouze the wife of a business magnate provided the hard cash to restore the chateau to its former glory and during the First World War the Chateau was a hospital and in WW11 Simone Menier worked for the Resistance from the Chateau. ]