Château Chenonceau radiates feminine beauty. It’s not a foreboding stronghold built to keep out invaders. Nor is high over a town, like a warning, to keep everyone below in their place. Chenonceau is graceful, even soft on the eye, it’s built over a river at the end of tree lined path. It is all these things because throughout its 503 year history it has been a series of women who have influenced the design and fate of this Château the most.
We recently visited Château Chenonceau on the advice of some locals who told us it was one of the prettiest castles in the Loire region. It has perfectly manicured gardens and many sumptuous bedrooms filled with fine art and brilliant floral displays. But what fascinated us the most was the very idea of a castle being built over a river!
One of the King Henry II mistresses had a bridge built to join the castle to the opposite side of the river. And then his wife, who forced her out after his death, later covered it over with beautiful hall to host extravagant parties. Our favourite rooms in the interior of the castle though were the kitchens, complete with ovens and complicated rotisserie devices to feed all of the party goers. It was easy to imagine the life of the many staff required to keep 16th century aristocrats well fed and watered.
Some of Clemenceau’s interesting history is much more recent though. During World War I the gallery was used as a hospital ward for over 2000 wounded soldiers returning from the front. Later, during the Second War, the château was even used as a means of escape for refugees and resistance members fleeing the Nazi occupied zone on one side of the River Cher to the “free” zone on the opposite bank.
For 500 years Chenonceau has welcomed royalty, the rich and famous, artists, and even wounded soldiers to shelter within its grand walls. There is no doubt that this is one of the most elegant and interesting Châteaus in France. Stretching gracefully over the Cher River, now Chenonceau is open to the public for everyone to enjoy. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with the children on a beautiful blue autumn day. Leaves fell from the tress in the gardens like confetti, reminiscent of the many fine parties held there by a series of women with an eye beauty.
Château Chenonceau can be found in the Loire Valley 34 kms from Tours and 214 kms from Paris. It can also be accessed by train links from Tours, with a station at nearby Chenonceaux the nearby village. Entry for our family of four was €44 and we bought our own picnic to enjoy in a shady area with tables near the entrance. Food is not permitted in the park or Château, but there is a restaurant and tea room from refreshments.