Ever since I can remember, there has been three drawings of the Chateau de Chenonceau hanging in my mother’s bedroom. My parents visited Chenonceau when I was just a little thing, and she’s talked about it for years. I had big expectations for Chenonceau, but after being so impressed with Chambord, I didn’t know if they would be met.
Just a very, very brief history lesson about Chenonceau. It was built between 1515-1521 by the Bohiers, but it was seized by King Francis I for unpaid debts. Then his son, Henry II, gave it to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers. However, at the death of King Henry II, his legal wife, Catherine de Medici, kicked her out of the chateau and took over residence herself. I can’t blame her because it’s quite lovely and who wouldn’t want to stick it to the mistress.
We parked the car and walked through a gift shop and then down this beautiful tree-lined lane.
I was already loving it. The weather was perfect, and the light dappled through the leaves was beautiful. At the other end of the lane was this charming cottage. You know, I don’t need a chateau; a cottage like this would be just fine for me. Or perhaps this tower.
I’m not sure what is inside the tower. We weren’t allowed to go in, but I imagine it looks something like Rapunzel’s tower in Tangled. Which is to say, amazing! Here’s the facade of the chateau:
And a little closer look at the details:
There’s a self-guided tour with an audio guide that you can take, but of course, we didn’t end up getting the audio guide. I know they are full of interesting information, but I never feel quite free when I’m carrying around an audio guide around. I always have to worry about pausing and playing or skipping ahead. I did, however, have a written visitor’s guide that I just now happened to read. Mostly I just enjoyed looking around at all of the details, like the pattern wearing off the floor.
Even though the chateau is obviously quite large, it felt more intimate than the Chateau de Chambord. The doorways were a little smaller and there were lots of little rooms that would have been perfect for writing letters while looking over the River Cher. I also loved the various wallpapers and tapestries.
The most famous feature of Chenonceau is the gallery that stretches out across the river. During WWI, it was the scene of a hospital. During WWII, the River Cher was a dividing line between occupied and free France. The facade of Chenonceau was in the occupied section of France, but the other side of the gallery was free, so the resistance was able to use the chateau to move lots of people from German-occupied France to freedom. It’s definitely a photo op.
After a week of traveling, I found a little trick. Groups of people usually come in waves, so if I want to get a photo without a horde of fellow travelers, all I have to do is wait. Eventually, they all clear away.
Something else that I loved about the chateau was all of the beautiful flower arrangements. I had to check to see if all the flowers were real (they were).
I think my favorite part of the chateau, though, were the kitchens. They were just perfectly French and charming and I want them for myself.
There’s a balcony on the second floor with an incredible view of the gardens and the rivers.
Upstairs is the Five Queens’ bedroom in memory of Catherine de Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law who were all queens. I’d say the bed is very regal.
This is the bed of King Henri IV’s favorite mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrees.
One of the small rooms next to Catherine de Medici’s bedroom was turned in to an exhibition room full of drawings of the Chenonceau over its lifetime. They reminded me of home.
This room is the mourning room.
After Catherine de Medici’s death, the chateau passed on to Lorraine, who retired there after her husband, Henry III, died. She cloaked the room in black and only wore white thereafter, earning the title of “the White Queen.”
Of course the chateau is beautiful, but a major draw is the gardens. I wasn’t sure how in bloom they would be at the end of September, but you’ve already seen from the balcony view that they were bright and gorgeous.
I had such a pleasant time wandering around the gardens taking photos. The weather was gorgeous and I just thrilled to how beautiful everything was around me. I may have taken a little too long, though, because I found Cristen patiently waiting for me and making good use of time writing some postcards.
We worked up quite an appetite from all our wandering and decided to just eat at the self-service cafe on the grounds. It wasn’t the best hamburger I have ever had (by any stretch of the imagination), but it was in the old carriage houses, so the location was really pretty. And convenient.