Part 3 of 3: French Chateau Trifecta: Chambord, the Granddaddy Chateau

This is part 3 of a series of 3 blog posts about Loire Valley Chateaus. Don't miss the previous two articles in the series about Chenonceau and Chateau d'Amboise!

Chambord: Grandaddy of the Loire

 Approach to the car park with the sheer mass of castle in the distance.

Approach to the car park with the sheer mass of castle in the distance.

Making Time for the Largest of the Loire Valley Chateaus

Trying to schedule seeing the most fabulous castles of the Loire Valley is tough...but it's even more daunting when you see how gi-normous they are!

Is it possible to see them when you have limited time?  If you only have approximately 2-3 hours, then the answer is YES!  Just make sure you are prepared: Protein-enriched meal eaten before arrival, comfortable shoes, snacks, water bottle, camera, chateau map, and...you've already paid a visit to the restroom.  

On this occasion in France, I pondered the question of whether or not I would have sufficient time for seeing my top 3 castle choices.  I couldn't say no, so I made the time.

When you see iconic photographs of French Chateaus, it is most likely you are viewing the Granddaddy of the Renaissance-Era, Chateau Chambord.  It is truly majestic in size and scope, and just like its former line of royal owners, it has much to offer.  

You may have heard the phrase:  "Necessity is the mother of invention."  It seems fitting to say, as it relates to castles of the Renaissance, 'Dissatisfaction is the mother of architectural grandeur', since most of these chateaus were built based on new preferences in design or functionality...or simply because the king said so!

If you see aerial photos of the castle, its unique, awe-inspiring design feature will become apparent: the shape of a crown.  Originating as a hunting lodge, it has all of the features of a proper, formal French castle.  

Da Vinci's consistent influence

Scholars today are still trying to verify Leonardo da Vinci’s contributions to its design, however, the genius of the distinctive, interior spiral staircase seems to point directly to the Italian inventor.  No one else during that era has put forth any similar stairway blueprint.  The ‘double-helix’ style meant that the twin stairs never actually meet.

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 Peering into the center of the double-staircase

Peering into the center of the double-staircase


This next photograph helps convey the monumental scale of construction along with geometric elements and sculpted emblems representing François I.

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The chateau’s interiors include beautiful and straightforward glimpses into the eras of the Renaissance and François I, Louis XIV, and Henri, the Duke of Bordeaux, to name a few.  Keep in mind, that many French castles vary in what is presented and displayed, depending on how they were monitored during and after the French Revolution.  Many belongings were destroyed or carried off for safe-keeping, or by thieves.

 Relief Sculpture which decorated the tomb of Francois I.

Relief Sculpture which decorated the tomb of Francois I.


The Views

Three flights up and the views over the massive grounds at Chambord are a great reward.  In June 2016, most of the formal lawns shown below were flooded after heavy rains in the region.

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 Including people in photos helps to give you a sense of scale.

Including people in photos helps to give you a sense of scale.

 The moldings and other ornamental details around the roofs and chimneys are jaw-dropping.

The moldings and other ornamental details around the roofs and chimneys are jaw-dropping.

 French security detail were friendly and always at the ready.

French security detail were friendly and always at the ready.

Seeing Chambord is very do-able in a brief amount of time.  Personally, I would rather see a place on my list, even if it is rushed, than forever regret skipping it.

If you have a longer time period allotted, the Chambord grounds are massive, with more than 13,000 acres and 14.5 miles of trails requiring a good deal of walking, but also offering bike, rosalies (check out the Chambord website below to see a photo of one), electric vehicle, or boat rentals, a show about horses and birds of prey, special tours of the nature reserve, wildlife observations, cafés, gift shops, and carriage rides. 

Check out the website for more information at https://www.chambord.org/en/, and always keep an eye on the Special Events pages.

It is easy to echo the words of Victor Hugo, the French author of Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, when he said,
"Can you imagine, dear Paul, that ever since I saw Chambord, I have been asking anyone and everyone:
'Have you seen Chambord?' "