Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chateaux Hopping (Deuxième Partie)

After Amboise, we visited Clos Luce which is located in the same town. This is not so much a chateau as it is a large house with an attached park containing some additional buildings. It is famous not because it was home to nobility, but because it was the house given by the king to Leonardo Da Vinci when he came to live in Amboise.

The house at Clos Luce is nice, but nothing compared to Amboise or Langeais. However, what makes it interesting is that it is filled with Da Vinci's drawings and models of those drawings. (Side note: The models were made by IBM, and I'm about 99% certain I remember IBM announcing these when I worked there back in the 90s. In fact, I believe I saw one or two of these models at the Management Development Center in Armonk when I went there for training.)

Anyway, the models at Clos Luce were the real stars of the show, along with a bunch of full scale reproductions of Da Vinci's inventions in the park. Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of these as they were hard to really capture on film, especially because the rooms with the models were quite crowded.

Nathan and I toured the house and the took a walk in the garden, but truth be told we were not super impressed with Clos Luce. Sure, the models and whatnot were cool, but they were not actual historical items, and there was little at Clos Luce that you could not theoretically see somewhere else. However, Nathan and I were of course suitably impressed with what a great mind that Da Vinci had and how he was cooking up things in his notebook that would actually be invented 500 years later.

As we walked through the park, Nathan and I had a very interesting conversation about whether someone like Da Vinci could exist today, dreaming up inventions that people would actually build hundreds of years in the future. I think we both agreed that it would be possible to have another Da Vinci (and probably already have had some), but the idea of someone coming up with a brilliant idea, writing it down in a book and then doing nothing with it is far less likely today than it was in the 16th century.

Anyway, here are a couple photos from Clos Luce:

A view of Clos Luce from the garden

The Chateau Ambroise as seen from the garden
at Clos Luce

Nothing against Clos Luce, but it was the low light of our day of chateau hopping. Perhaps it was just that the other places we visited were so awesome. Who knows?

Anyway, after Clos Luce, we drove to Chenonceau which was by far the belle of the ball. This chateau is actually built over the River Cher and is truly a site to behold.

You approach the chateau down a long boulevard lined with trees:

Nathan's already getting excited!

On the way, you pass a garden maze on the left, so we detoured and had a little fun there:

Nathan searching desperately for a way out
of the maze

Me celebrating conquering the maze for the first time!

I'm kidding about Nathan being lost. The maze at Chenonceau is awesome, but it does give me the impression that the French nobility had a low tolerance for being humiliated by a bunch of shrubbery; the maze was about the easiest thing to get through I've ever seen. Still it was very cool, and probably both Nathan and my first garden maze.  If only I could have checked in on Foursquare!

After our maze adventure, we made our way to the chateau itself. In a word, this place is breathtaking. Don't take my word for it, here are some photos:

Chenonceau as seen from the lawn

A closer view of the front of the castle

A view from one of the gardens

In the last photo, you can see how long the castle is compared to how wide it is. This is because it is straddling the river, and boats can (and did) go back and forth underneath the castle. It is one of the most amazing thing that I've ever seen.

Chenonceau was known as "le château des dames" because it was primarily lived in and presided over by various wealthy and powerful women, including Diane Poitiers (mistress of Henry II), Catherine de' Medici (wife of Henry II!) and even Mary, Queen of Scots. Apparently these women had great taste because the inside of Chenonceau was just as gorgeous as the outside:

The first floor gallery over the river; it is filled with
statues and has amazing fireplaces at either end


The stained glass windows in the chapel


The mantle above one of the many fireplaces


Did someone say they needed a gold leaf fireplace? Check.


The ceiling on the third floor. The detail was amazing!

Chenonceau is not just about the building, however. The gardens were also gorgeous, both the formal gardens and the flower and vegetable gardens that are on site. I didn't get a lot of photos of the formal gardens (although you can see a bit of one in the photo above), but the flower and vegetable gardens were awesome, and I'm not a garden person:

Nathan posing in front of the haricots (or was it the
aubergines?)

The grounds are also immaculate:

Clearly someone takes keeping this place looking
good VERY seriously

I'm sure there are other castles that can rival Chenonceau, but it will stand at the top of my list as one of the most impressive places I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

After Chenonceau, we wrapped up our castle hopping adventure and headed back to Tours. We celebrated our day of taking in royal (and other) history by grabbing a take out pizza from the Tablapizza that was right next door to our hotel. And with food out of the way, we were off to bed.

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