They say it’s every girl’s dream to visit a fairytale castle where the princess falls in love with her prince. Well, I’m here to tell you guys can enjoy castles, too. This June, I had the opportunity to visit four chateaus in France’s Loire Valley. The valley is home to over 100 chateaus that were built for strategic or personal reasons. Join me, as I tell you about my adventures with the magnificent chateaus of the Loire Valley.
After a two-hour train ride from Paris, we arrived in the city of Tours. We met our guide and headed out. The first chateau on our tour was Azay Le Rideau (www.azay-le-rideau.fr/en/). Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, about 55 degrees, and I had conveniently forgotten my coat. Great. The castle, which looked pretty from the outside, was billed as the most “sophisticated chateau in the Loire Valley.” The first level was normal enough and contained some nice furniture and a gigantic stone fireplace. However, things took a turn on the creepy side on the second level. There we found disturbing music boxes that started when you walked by them, morbid-looking dresses that spun around, and, most unsettling of all, food that moved while eerie music played. Needless to say, Azay Le Rideau was my least favorite chateau of the day.
The rain accompanied us to the next chateau, Villandry (https://www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/). The power was out when we arrived, so we had to tour the home with only the light from the dreary day outside. This chateau had a more modern flair to it and was vibrant inside (well, as vibrant as it could be without electricity). Regrettably, due to the rain, we couldn’t peruse the splendid gardens as much as we’d hoped. I say regrettably because they are regarded by many to be the finest gardens in France. We did get to see parts of the forest, the Love Garden, and the vegetable gardens through the windows. After eating lunch at a nearby cafe, we bid au revoir and moved on.
Usse was our next stop (https://www.chateaudusse.fr/?lang=en). This castle, which was the inspiration for the tale of Sleeping Beauty, had an exhibit about the story on the upper level of one of the wings. The style of architecture definitely reflects a fairytale. There were only a limited number of rooms in the main building open to the public, but they also had a jail, a chapel, a stable, and a cave to explore. The trees at Usse were expansive, obviously having grown for several hundred years.
Our final chateau was Langeais (http://chateau-de-langeais.com/en/). What style of architecture did this castle hold for us? Why, medieval, of course! Even though it was built in the style of a traditional war castle, it was never used for such purposes. It turned out to be my favorite of the whole day. We got to see the various rooms of the chateau, the gorgeous variety of tapestries reflecting scenes from the Bible and medieval history, and the quaint yet elegant garden outside the castle walls. After the tour, we ate dinner at the train station before heading back to our Paris apartment.
The chateaus of the Loire Valley improved as the day went on. The architecture varied dramatically from chateau to chateau, and I’ll remember them as “the creepy castle” (Azay Le Rideau), “the modern one” (Villandry), “the fairytale castle” (Usse), and “the medieval one” (Langeais). I enjoyed them all (even Azay Le Rideau), and I hope that you will venture to France to experience the grandeur of the chic Loire Valley chateaus!
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