The Drama Queen

Chenonceau was the icing on our travel cake, the multi-arched trophy for completing a meandering two-hour bike ride through the breathtaking French countryside.  No amount of reading or research prepared me for the beauty of the site, the stunning architecture, its delicate design. And at first glance, it didn’t surprise me that the château, also known as the “Château of the Ladies,” or in French “Châteaux des Dames,” for the succession of powerful French noblewomen who each made an impact on the castle.  The original owner, Thomas Bohier, disappeared on the king’s business so often that his wife, Katherine Briçonnet, made most of the (stunning) design decisions, during construction of the main château.  In 1547, King Henry II gave the château to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and after he died in a jousting tournament in Paris, his wife Catherine de Médicis, unceremoniously forced Diane out of the château and into another as a sort of consolation prize. Catherine, as regent of France would continue to spend a fortune on the château turning it into a spectacular party destination for the local aristocracy, and with a bang hosted the first fireworks display in France in honor of the ascension to the throne of her son Francis II.  Another notable and quick thinking female resident, Louise Dupin, saved her family and the château from destruction during the French Revolution.  She negotiated with the revolutionaries, convincing them that the castle was the only way to cross the river Cher, and offered that the bridge be open to everyone.  If there was an 1700’s equivalent of “you go, girl,” it might have been quietly whispered among her entire staff that evening.

Visiting the Loire Valley wasn’t on our original itinerary to Paris, but I was eager to make it happen since seeing the great châteaux in their natural setting was long on my list of places to go.  These days it’s easy to be both travel agent and client with all the necessary resources found right on our own computers. By shortening our time in Paris by a few days, and arranging for a rental car at De Gaulle, we could relax and drive at our own pace to the charming small town of Amboise, known for being a home base for the eastern section of the Loire Valley.  I found the perfect hotel with views of the Loire River and the Château d’Amboise, the Hotel Manoir les Minimes, (thank you, Trip Advisor) making our side trip itinerary complete.  I eased the worry of managing Paris traffic, and a possibly delirious jet lagged four-hour car drive by embracing the encouraging online tips from other travelers, and ignoring the advice to take the train from those absolutely terrified of the famous tangle of rush-hour on the Périphérique. It was also helpful to figure out where to find a strong cup of French java before we exited the airport terminal.  All worth it for the beautiful drive from Paris to Amboise, the chance to castle hop by bike, a road break to visit the remarkable Chartres (stained glass madness!) Cathedral on the way back to Paris, and to experience – in the most beautiful way – one of the prettiest regions of France. Recommended reading: Rick Steve’s Snapshot, Loire Valley

43 Comments

  1. Beautiful photography, Elisa. Your B&W choice for the chateau is perfect. Being able to manage a travel itinerary is so much better these days, particularly when you’re already on tour.

    BTW, the chateau was featured on “Mysteries at the Castle” on the Travel Channel a few weeks ago.

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    1. Thanks, David! …I don’t watch The Travel Channel, actually I don’t watch much TV, but I really need to start checking in on The Travel Channel. I’ve heard good things about it, and there’s no harm in armchair traveling, right? Take care, 🙂
      Elisa

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      1. You’re not missing much by not watching much TV. What I like on the Travel Channel is their Friday night line-up, “Mysteries at the Museum” and their Saturday night line-up, “Ghost Adventures” and “The Dead Files”.

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    1. Joy is the perfect word to describe our day! And funny, I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures on this trip. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment I don’t think to stop and take pictures – something I think my husband appreciates more than he lets on. I did sneak in a few phone shots though! 🙂

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  2. I know this place, but I have never seen such a majestic capture of the Chateau, Elisa. It looks splendid in B&W. Like you, I have very happy memories, filled with joy. Thank you. ❤

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    1. It’s funny, when I converted the picture to black and white it made my heart leap a little bit, as if it was meant to be. It brought me back hundreds of years in time more so than being there. I’m happy were brought back to a special place as well. Happy day to you Dina!

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  3. Fascinating! Probably the best thing on network television is Sunday Morning, with Charles Osgood. It is on CBS,Sunday mornings, from 9:00 – 10:30. It’s full of literature, travel, nature, art and music. And, insights of famous people, without any of the tawdriness, or “gotchas!”, of other shows. I always come away feeling I’ve learned something worthwhile after watching it. — YUR

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    1. You’ve got a lot of intriguing layers, it’s what I like about you. And you’re fun. Keep on absorbing everything around you, and you’ll always be the most interesting man in the room. Take care, and thank you!!

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  4. A lovely experience indeed. My wife and I stayed at Amboise for a few days in 2012 to drive around (Tours, Blois, Amboise, Chenonceau, etc.)
    This is the region of the Du Bellay’s “Douceur angevine”, although Angers is a bit further away bordering with Brittany.
    (I don’t see posts from Brittany. If one excepts Saint-Michel, which only the normands insist is in Normandie!)

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  5. PS. “The drama queen” is a perfect title for Chenonceau.
    I hope the restoration works were finally over when you went.

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