Day 2 in the Loire Valley

As promised, photos from our 2 night stay in the Troglodyte (cave dwelling) which was maybe my favorite part of our Loire Valley trip. We had to walk up a short path to the entrance so we looked out over the rooftops of the town, Nazelles-Negron, which is just across the bridge from Amboise.

The AHmazing bathroom and tub we had. I had myself a candle lit bath both nights! Definitely unique for Europe! 
French breakfast for 2
Our cave cat. There were actually 2 that liked to come hang out with us when we were there
The room had a small kitchenette as well which would be nice if we prepared more food. haha 
A photo of me loving on the cave cat. 
This bathroom was HUGE!
Looking toward the exit. Braden playing with our trip cat. 
We loved them! 
The door into our cave! 
Amazing stay with Airbnb! Maybe one of our favorite spots yet. 
So up first on Day 2 of chateau hunting, the beautiful Château de Chenonceau which is only about 20 minutes from Amboise. We got there first thing as it opened, got our tickets, and walked up the beautiful tree-lined drive. 
*Note this is the 2nd most visited chateau after Versailles, so we expected it to get VERY busy. We got there early for this reason. 
First siting of the chateau! Already in love with it! 

The original chateau dates back to the 11th century however most history accounts start with the Marques family who owned it until 1513. The original chateau burned down in 1412 (as punishment to Marque for an act of sedition) The Margque family rebuilt the chateau with a mill. The tower/keep above is all that remains of what the Marque family built as the new owner, Thomas Bohier, demolished the chateau to build a new one. 
The chapel within the chateau
A very ornate fireplace with a portrait of Catherine de Medici.
Bohier demolished the castle, though its 15th-century keep was left standing, and built an entirely new residence between 1515 and 1521. In 1535 the château was seized from Bohier’s son by King Francis I for unpaid debts to the Crown; after Francis’ death in 1547, Henry II offered the château as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who became fervently attached to the château. Diane added the arched bridge in 1555 (even though she was the mistress of the chateau since 1547, the chateau had belonged to the crown until 1555) as well as oversaw planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens.
Crossing over the bridge which remained open until it fell into the hands of Catherine de Medici. When King Henry II died in 1559, his regent Catherine de’ Medici forced Diane to exchange it for the Château Chaumont. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite residence, adding a new series of gardens as well as the grand gallery, which extended along the existing bridge to cross the entire river. The gallery was completed in 1577. Catherine also added rooms between the chapel and the library as well as a service wing in order to better accommodate the court when they were all at the chateau. 
The chateau crosses the river Cher. On the other side of the gallery, there is an exit where you collect a token from the worker there. This allows you re-entry when you finish exploring the grounds on the other side. 
The chateau photographs beautifully with the reflection on the calm river 
Braden and I posing in front of the chateau. 
We walked to both sides to explore all the lighting options
At the base of the main part of the chateau is actually where the kitchens are located. There is a small bridge under the smallest archway which allows for food and supplies to be delivered directly into the kitchen. 
Château de Chenonceau in all it’s glory
The kitchens in the basement
The small bridge which connects to the pantry and from which, supplies can be loaded directly from boats on the river
another ornate fireplace in the Chateau
The 3rd woman to be mistress of the chateau was Lousie de Lorraine-Vaudémont. On Catherine’s death in 1589 the château went to her daughter-in-law, Louise wife of King Henry III. At Chenonceau, Louise was told of her husband’s assassination in 1589 and she fell into a state of depression, spending the remainder of her days wandering aimlessly along the château’s corridors dressed in mourning clothes amidst somber black tapestries stitched with skulls and crossbones.
*They are currently renovating the rooms Louise occupied with the dark tapestries. 
A view looking down the river through the decorative windows 
 Louise left the château to her niece, Françoise de Lorraine, at that time six years old and betrothed to the four-year-old César de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme. The château belonged to the Duc de Vendôme and his descendants for more than a hundred years although the Bourbons had little interest in the château, except for hunting. In 1650, Louis XIV was the last king of the ancient régime to visit.
A GIANT portrait of King Louis XIV and frame by John Rigaud
View looking out at the original tower
Amazing flemish tapestries and furniture fill this chateau. It was probably my favorite in way of decor. 
In 1733 the estate was sold for 130,000 pounds to the Dupin family who owned it for some time. Louise Dupin actually saved the château from destruction during the French Revolution, preserving it from being destroyed by the Revolutionary Guard because “it was essential to travel and commerce, being the only bridge across the river for many miles.”
The chateau then passed hands a few times until it was purchased in 1913 by Henri Menier, a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates, who still own it to this day.
Another really cool fireplace in the upstairs gallery covering the bridge. 
The upstairs gallery has a lot of interesting reads on the women who owned the chateau, including the very interesting relationship between Henri II and Diane de Pointers, as well as interesting more recent history. 
A photo showing the additions to the chateau and women responsible. 
An interesting plaque on how the chateau was used as a hospital during WW I
And a really interesting read on how the chateau bridge was used to help escaping Jews and villages escape occupied France to the free zone during WWII. 
Braden in front of a beautiful old tapestry of the chateau. 
The staircase in the chateau
The original doors! So beautiful! 
 A photo of the chateau from the front side now. Draw bridge and all. 
Also note the chapel is the first outcrop and then the library is the next one on the left before the bridge. 
 Notice how the old keep (tower) doesn’t match the chateau style? Well It is A LOT older
 Cute little people in row boats messing up my reflection! We almost did that but had too many chateau to see in one day! 
 Modeling in front of the chateau in the Diane de Pointers gardens 
 And the last possible angle I could give you on this chateau, the view from the Catherine de Medici gardens. 
Chateau de Chenceneau Practical Information:
Hours: Open EVERYDAY of the year from 9:30 till… varies anywhere from 5PM to 8 PM in peak season. There is so much variation, writing it down would be chaos, check before you go. 
Cost: Adult €13.00, with audio guide €17.50
Students between 18 and 27 (need student id) €10.00, with audio guide €14.00
Children (7 to 18 years of age) €10.00, with audio guide €14.00
*Children under 7 are free
*Dog friendly but must be on leash when in gardens/ on grounds. Dogs are allowed in chateau only if carried in a bag/carrier. Guide dogs are accepted in all public places. 
 Exploring the larger bordering gardens. There’s a small historic farm on the estate, large hedge maze, the still in operation vegetable gardens, an orangerie with a restaurant, and these beautiful Muses. 
After Chenonceau, we headed an hour away to the incredible CHAMBORD. The largest by far of the chateaux, and architecturally speaking, the coolest. 
Walking around the outer walls/ wings of this MASSIVE chateau. (In fact at this point, I’m more inclined to call this one a castle or palace) 
An aerial photo (not by me- thanks user on Google photos) of the chateau to show its immense size 
Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley; and like Versailles, it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I, who maintained his royal residences at the châteaux of Blois and Amboise.  It took 28 years to contruct (from 1519- 1547) and received many alterations in design as construction went on. The original design of the Châteauis attributed to Domenico da Cortona although rumor has it Leonardo da Vinci may also have been involved.
This massive château is composed of a central keep with four immense towers at the corners. The keep also forms part of the front wall of a larger compound with two more large towers.The château features 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. Four rectangular vaulted hallways on each floor form a cross-shape.
The NO DOUBT most intersting piece of this chateau, is the incredible DOUBLE HELIX staircase. 
 To describe the staircase, the two spirals ascend the three main floors without ever meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the chateau. At each landing there are 2 entrances (directly across from each other), each giving access to a different spiral. 
Braden and I put this double spiral to the test and each chose a side to walked down at the end, glimpsing each other through the small windows to the other side. It was honestly MAGICAL and Mindboggling. And probably my favorite aspect of a chateau ever. 
Loving all the details of stonework at the top of this chateau! 
Looking at one of the corner towers at the amazing (single spiral) staircase there. 
A historic ceramic room heater that was used to warm parts of the castle back in the day. 
As this chateau was only designed to be a hunting lodge, it may be considered the most impractical building ever. Not only is the open aired Italian styled loggias and giant rooms anti- heating, but it is also not located near a town or village so all food had to be brought with the arriving party. As a result, the chateau sat largely unfurnished. When the king’s party would come (generally 2,000+ people) they would need to bring food, furniture, wall coverings, eating implements and so forth making this a logistical nightmare to me. 
The chateau is still largely unfurnished in parts, but the rooms that are decorated are very cool. I loved how the beds were set back in alcoves. 
The mind boggling double spiral staircase. Look at this long enough and you’ll pick out that the stairs people are on, is the only part of that spiral you see. And the ceiling and lower stairs are the other spiral. 
Looking out the window at the beautiful grounds and park further out. 
As far as history goes, the chateau was never much of a royal residence, instead mostly used as a hunting lodge and was in fact abandoned for years at a time. Luckily for us, it has been kept up and renovated, because not to sound pun-y but… it’s a National Treasure. 
Looking down the central column of the staircase
The top and end of one of the spirals with beautiful glass windows. On top of the chateau is an outside balcony that gives incredible views of the towers in the chateau and looks in a lot of ways, similar to a city sky line. 
Walking around the high up, outer deck of the chateau
There is also a stable on the grounds that do short dressage shoes as well a birds of prey show. We went and grabbed a snack at the stand here but unfortunately didn’t catch one. 
The backside of the amazing chateau
My fav. piece of history we learned, was that during WW II they moved a lot of the art from the Louvre to this chateau for safe keeping. The most famous pieces were the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. 
Another Chateau for the WIN!
Recognize this design? (again not my photo, thanks google) It’s used on A LOT of different types of merchandise 
Chateau de Chambord Practical Information:
Hours: Open everyday except for 1 January and 25 December. 
Peak Season April 1- Oct 3: 9 A.M. – 6 P.M.
Off season Nov 1-March 30: 9 A.M. – 5 P.M.
Cost: Full rate 13 euros, reduced rate for 25 and under: 11 euros
Parking: 6 euros/ day
*EU citizens are free until 25, and everyone is free until age 18
There are MANY chateaux around the Chambord area and still on my list were potentials like Blois (another double helix staircase!) or Cheverney (the inspiration for the manor in the adventures of Tin Tin!) But both these options were a bit out of the way for our return to the CAVE. In the end, we went with the Chateau Chaumont which historically rang a bell and looked pretty cool from the road we took to head straight back. 
So we settled on this fairy tale beauty. 
Note: you’ll have to pay if you want to get this view of the chateau… the pictures I got from the outside are about all I cared for. The inside and history is not nearly as interesting as the other chateaux we visited. 
You may remember, this is the chateau that Catherine de Medici exchanged with Diane de Pointers for Chenonceau. It was beautiful from the outside, maybe the most fairytale- esque yet. Like Amobise it is set up on a cliff overlooking the Loire and a small town. 
Unfortunately, this chateau threw history to the wind, and went full-scale ART mode on us. Almost none of the rooms were renovated and most instead hosted odd art exhibitions. The only one I thought was cool was this chaos happening in the chapel. 
The really cool stables, yet again.. filled with art 
Ok this art exhibition was pretty cool to. Basically every stone is a sparkly geode with a purple geode at the lowest raised point. (but I’d still rather see horses) 
So considering we didn’t really learn a spot of history while touring this site, I don’t have much info to impart to you. 
The original castle was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois.
After Pierre d’Amboise rebelled against Louis XI, the king ordered the castle’s destruction in 1455. The Château de Chaumont was rebuilt by Charles I d’Amboise (Pierre’s son) between 1465-1475. 
Château de Chaumont Practical Information:
Hours: Open everyday (except Dec 25 and Jan 1) from 10 AM
Closing again is very seasonal anywhere from 5 PM to 7 PM
Cost: Ticket for the Castle, Park and Stables: Adults: 12 €, Reduce rate (students) : 7.00 € , Youth aged 6 to 11 years: 4.00 €  Free for children under 6 years. 
*There is also an International Garden Festival at different times of the year that costs about 5 euros more pp. We didn’t pay for this as the giant park was enough. 
Lastly, we didn’t actually visit this chateau on the same day as it is quite a bit more North than Amboise, so we visited it on our drive back to Paris on our final day in France. 
Another fairy tale spot: Châteaudun
We mostly stopped here to break up our driving as we headed back to Paris so we didn’t actually go in and tour, but from the outside, this place was incredible. (looks like a backdrop RIGHT? unreal) 
And the most unreal part of all, the backside of this chateau where it shows its 12th century start as an incredible fortress. It was definitely a cool short stop on our drive. 

Loire Valley Day 2 Costs:
Rental car: $34
AHmazing cave room: $111
Breakfast from bakery: 4 euros
Chateau de Chenonceau: 13 euros pp
Chateau de Chambord: 11 euros pp (reduced cause we young! ya)
Chambord parking: 6 euros
Another gas stop: 45 euros
Sandwhich/coke/icecream at Chambord: 13 euros
Chateau de Chaumont: 7 for Braden, 12 for me so 19 euros total
McDonalds for dinner: 15 euros
Loire Valley Day 2, day 8 of the trip TOTAL: $295 for 2 people 

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