I'm all for independence. I have no qualms about going anywhere I want, hopping on trains or wandering around the city by myself.
But Chambord presented a bit of a problem. It's a chateau I wanted to visit, one that came highly recommended both on a personal level and on various websites, but it's about 8-9 miles from the nearest train station. In addition to the train, I would have had to take a taxi (if I even could've found one). This chateau required a little help in the form of the husband and the car.
So yesterday, we set out on our adventure. This chateau is in the middle of BFE (or BFF, as the case may be). It took more than an hour to get there from Tours, but the drive was well worth it. We saw bits and pieces of the chateau over the treeline as we came down the long road to the parking area, but nothing can really prepare you for the sight of the full chateau and the grounds in their immensity.
Of the four Loire Valley chateaux I've visited, B and I decided that Chambord is our favorite. It earned that distinction based on three criteria:
1 // Size/appearance of the chateau: Each chateau has its own distinctive characteristics. Chenonceaux is actually built atop the River Cher and is easily recognizable by its arches over the river. Amboise is perched high about the River Loire and the town of Amboise, and the actual castle has a bit of Beauty and the Beast-like appearance. But Chambord makes your jaw drop. For starters, it's massive. To be fair, none of these chateaux could be classified as "small," but Chambord is huge. And because the grounds are relatively flat and open, it looks even larger. The chateau itself is intricate and ornate; the towers atop the chateau almost have a Russian or Middle Eastern look to them. I can't imagine the effort necessary to build this thing. All the chateaux have been fun to photograph, but this was my favorite.
2 // Contents of the chateau: There's no comparison here. The amount of furniture, household goods, clothing, paintings, sculpture, and general accoutrements is overwhelming. Every time B and I thought we were finished with a floor, we'd realized we'd missed a room...or two, or three. Nooks, crannies, passageways, walkways, large salons and tiny closets; all are crammed with stuff. You could spend days in there looking at everything. Chambord certainly gave us the most comprehensive view of its various owners and what their lifestyles might have been like. This collection is not to be missed.
3 // Overall estate size: Chenonceaux is a close second, but something about Chambord is just special. The long tree-lined road leading up to the chateau. The moat/river around it. The biking trails in the woods. It's just spectacular, and by far the largest. The only thing it's missing, in my opinion, is a garden. The other chateaux all have some pretty nice gardens. But the size definitely wins.
Below are some pictures we took. I've tried to restrain myself, but it's so hard. It's just so beautiful. We hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed exploring the chateau and taking them.
E & B