Chilling out in Chenonceau

Moated

Moated “worker’s cottage?” on the Chenonceau estate

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.

Chenonceau, the stately front drive of stunning Sycamore Maples

Chenonceau, the stately front drive of stunning Sycamore Maples

Ann ready for action at the start of the tour with our first glimpse of the Chateau. The circular guard house is actually separate and in front of the main building.

Ann ready for action at the start of the tour with our first glimpse of the Chateau. The circular guard house is actually separate and in front of the main building.

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.

The picture in every text book of Chenconceau actually built in and over the River Cher.  A most stunning architectural and artistic effect

The picture in every text book of Chenconceau actually built in and over the River Cher. A most stunning architectural and artistic effect

Another view of the Chateau

Another view of the Chateau with richard messing up the colours

View of the Chateau

View of the Chateau “from the other side”!

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!)

Just a part of the vast formal Renaissance garden created by Diane of  Poitiers.

Just a part of the vast formal Renaissance garden created by Diane of Poitiers.

a view of the side of the herb and flower garden with statuary there but not dominant

a view of the side of the herb and flower garden with statuary there but not dominant

Chenonceau formal garden and fountain with Annthis another view of the formal fountain garden

Chenonceau the flower and herb garden, stunning in its effect although very simple..white begonias, purple salvia and pink petunias on the outside and lavender on the inside with large fish pond fountain in the middle and some small statuary.

Chenonceau the flower and herb garden, stunning in its effect although very simple..white begonias, purple salvia and pink petunias on the outside and lavender on the inside with large fish pond fountain in the middle and some small statuary.

Close up of herb and flower garden and Chenonceau

Close up of herb and flower garden and Chenonceau

An even closer view of the herb and flower garden

An even closer view of the herb and flower garden

Medici herb and flower garden complete with fishpond and small fountain in the middle

Medici herb and flower garden complete with fishpond and small fountain in the middle

Ann looking over the amazing vegetable and picking flower garden with low espalied apples trees used remarkably as borders

Ann looking over the amazing vegetable and picking flower garden with low espalied apples trees used remarkably as borders

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.

Renaissance front door of Chenonceau

Renaissance front door of Chenonceau

Detail of ornate Renaissance ceiling in front hall of Chenonceau

Detail of ornate Renaissance ceiling in front hall of Chenonceau

Rubens painting of Jesus and John Baptist as children ..part of the art collection of Chenonceau

Rubens painting of Jesus and John Baptist as children ..part of the art collection of Chenonceau

There is a fine collection of early carts and cabs and two magnificent older Bentleys in the garage.

Hansom cab. part of the carriage and cart collection at Chenonceau

Hansom cab. part of the carriage and cart collection at Chenonceau

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. ]

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