Of the 50-some-odd castles in the Loire River Valley, one of the most beautiful is the Chateau de Chenonceau. Nicknamed “Chateau des Dames” (Castle of the Ladies) due to its design and decoration being heavily influenced by some of France’s most famous women, Chenonceau is a jewel of the area and a must-visit.
The chateau dates back to the early 16th century, and has been influenced by powerful French women such as Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de’ Medici, and Louise Dupin. It is certainly one of the most picturesque chateaux in France, and has been preserved beautifully.
The town of Chenonceaux (spelled differently from the spelling of the castle, but it is, in fact, the location of the castle) is located approximately 30 minutes from Azay-le-Rideau. Upon arriving, we noticed that Chenonceaux is also a charming little French village reminiscent of Azay-le-Rideau. (We still preferred Azay.)
The town of Chenonceaux, home of the chateau
Slow down and smell the flowers
One thing we noticed upon entering chateau grounds is how well everything was cared for. The grounds were perfectly manicured, and fresh flowers were placed in numerous locations throughout the chateau. Your 12,50 € goes a long way, and it is worth the price (one of the more expensive Loire chateaux).
The chateau itself is quite stunning. It spans the River Cher (which is a tributary of the Loire), which makes Chenonceau one of the most fascinatingly designed of the chateaux. We took some time to explore the grounds.
The inside of the chateau is quite attractive, as well. It’s a lot easier to navigate than Versailles!
The gallery section over the bridge
One of the more fascinating parts of Chenonceau’s history was outlined on this plaque. During the first part of World War II, the River Cher was the border between the Nazi occupied zone and the free zone in France. Chenonceau was used as an escape point to cross over to the free French side!
We truly enjoyed our trip to Chenonceau. If you are in the Loire Valley, it is a must-see.
After returning to the Azay-le-Rideau area, we decided to take a ten-minute drive out to Chinon. Compared to Azay, Chinon is a slightly larger, slightly less quaint town that features a prominent chateau overlooking the river. The town was made even less quaint because it was hosting a medieval festival at the time, which attracted all sorts of people dressed as knights, dragons, you name it…It was busy! As a result, we decided not to spend too much time exploring the chateau (we were exhausted and just looking for a brief visit), but we did get to see Chateau Chinon from the outside.
Chateau Chinon also boasts some remarkable history. Parts of the fortifications of the castle date back to the 10th century, making it one of the Loire’s oldest chateaux. In 1429 and in the throes of the Hundred Years’ War against Britain, Joan of Arc came here to the chateau to plead with Charles VII, who had been hiding out here after heavy losses, to re-enter the war and take back the land. Charles acquiesced, and the rest is French history, as Joan of Arc became a French hero and contributed to France’s eventual victory in the war.
But there’s more to France than chateaux…France also boasts a vivid culinary reputation. Next time, on 2ofus!