Known as “The Ladies Castle”, Château de Chenonceau is a gorgeous, white-washed manor spanning across the River Cher located near Amboise, France in the heart of the Loire Valley. With a deep history involving several very influential women, the château has been home to a king’s mistress, served as a military hospital, and the residence of a queen. The picturesque walking path leading to the chateau and gardens are the perfect beginning to a lovely day. To purchase tickets ahead of time, click here.
The first somewhat notorious resident of the home was Diane de Poitiers, the “favorite” of King Henri II, who gave her the château in 1535, when only part of the structure existed – the main section with the turrets. Diane commissioned to have a bridge built from her castle over the river so that she could access better hunting on the other side.
Mademoiselle de Poitiers also created an immense garden. Diane was passionate about overseeing the entire design, employing an extreme symmetrical layout, all of which are protected from the river by impressive stone terraces as the garden is actually a “floating” parterre, a concept borrowed from the Italians. The gardens span nearly 3 acres, and are accentuated by dozens of climbing roses.
Upon King Henri’s death, Queen Catherine de Medici, Henri’s widow, quickly forced out Diane as head of household, and managed the Kingdom of France from the “Green Cabinet”. Catherine built up Diane’s bridge, adding two enclosed levels to include the Gallery and Grand Ballroom.
Catherine introduced the artichoke to France, thought to be an aphrodisiac. She tried incorporating the artichoke into the royal diet prior to the King’s death, in the hopes of re-capturing Henri’s affections away from Diane.
Queen Catherine was also a passionate gardener, and transformed the area on the other side of the château. The space is much smaller than its counterpart, just 1.3 acres, but Catherine’s refined style is not to be overlooked. Centered around a vast fountain, the garden is organized into five sections of lawn, bordered by roses and lavender, with many sculpted boxwoods.
There are walking paths into the surrounding woods to one side, and breath-taking views of the château itself on the other side. Which of the gardens is your favorite? Diane’s or Catherine’s?
Time to go inside! Sometimes you just gotta look up! The ceilings in the entry were just gorgeous!
The gallery housed a military hospital during World War I from 1914-1918.
The views over the river from the inside are a bit surreal and magical…
Plants and flowers are everywhere inside the château, thanks to floral designer Jean-Francois Boucher, “Master Craftsman of France”. His arrangements are thoughtful, beautiful, and new each day! You can even book a class with this master of flowers!
There are several dining options at Chenonceau, a traditional fine dining restaurant called L’Orangerie (for reservations, send an email to: email@example.com), as well as a cafeteria style créperie. We opted for the second choice as we were finishing up our tour of the manor and gardens at different times, and could join one another at their outdoor terrace.
Although more casual, the assortment of foods was plentiful and varied, so we all came away with something we enjoyed. Most of us had chef salads, and some type of pastry – because why not! We’re in France!
Just when we thought we had seen it all, there was yet another garden to explore! The Flower Garden covers nearly 2 1/2 acres, the layout containing 12 squares of hundreds of varieties of “cutting flowers” for the florists to use each day within the Château.
The area within and around these gardens have a number of the cutest cottages, giving it a village feel. The overwhelming charm of it all makes you want to knock to see if anyone is “home”, and invite yourself inside for tea!
These climbing roses were everywhere, trained into these topiary shapes, something I had never seen before, and I quickly fell in love with them. Not to mention the gorgeous stone house, and red doors….swoon!
And what castle is complete without a moat! Remember the “floating” garden of Diane’s I mentioned earlier? It’s true – all of the above is literally built on somewhat marsh-y land, which lends itself perfectly for the creation of a moat surrounding the entire property!
**Thanks to two of my traveling partners, Judy and Kaitlynn, for sharing some of their photos with me. This post would not be complete without them!