A great day trip south of Paris, takes you to the Loire Valley and some of its amazing châteaux. We booked a small group tour in a mini-van. There were six of us and the driver/guide. The itinerary took us to three châteaux, including lunch at the second.
Château Royal d’Amboise
The drive from Paris took two and a half hours. When we arrived in Ambroise, our first stop was a little patisserie for coffee and croissants for breakfast. A short walk from here was Château Royal d’Amboise. This is a 15th century castle, built overlooking the rest of the town and river. The overall structure is quite impressive, with towers and fortifications all around the high ground. Once you enter and are inside the walls, it looks more like a manor house, as the top is flat, so you do not see the walls.
The interior of the main building contains much of the original decor and is quite interesting to walk through. Outside, there is a small chapel. This contains what is presumed to be the body of Leonardo da Vinci. Also worth a quick look.
The grounds contain some recreations of Leonardo’s inventions and some medieval siege weapons.
Was it worth seeing? We though so, if only to see Leonardo’s resting place and the exterior battlements.
Château de Chenonceau
The second stop on our trip was Château de Chenonceau, a sixteenth century building. This one is interesting as it is built on and into the Cher River, using it as a moat.
Compared to the first stop, parking and tourist facilities are more extensive, as is the security check to enter.
Externally, it looks more impressive than Château Royal d’Amboise, with its bridge into the river and beautiful gardens. If you intend visiting here, do it before Versailles, the garden will seem more impressive then. Everything is overshadowed by Versailles.
The guide gave an excellent history lesson on the château and then left us to explore for an hour. We looked at all the rooms, which contain many original artifacts. The kitchens are set up as they would have been when the chateau was in use.
The gardens and surrounding moat are very nice and we spent a while walking around them.
Lunch was at L’Orangerie on the château grounds. A set menu, which was OK and a bottle of wine which was quite nice.
Was it worth seeing? Again, we though so, a more impressive castle in a unique river setting, with nice gardens.
Château de Chambord
Our last stop for the day was Château de Chambord, a large Renaissance Palace an hour’s drive away. This is a very impressive building with many fairy tale type towers. The car park is even bigger than Chenonceau and you pass a row of gift, tourist and food shops as you enter.
The château is surrounded by a wooded park, but the gardens themselves are not as nice as we had just seen. However, the building was the largest we saw on the day and very impressive with its many towers.
Inside however, is very disappointing. Only a few of the rooms are furnished, most are empty. There were some areas displaying modern art, but they clashed with the setting, and really didn’t belong there.
We spent time walking around the interior, the spiral staircases are very nice and then walked across the outside upper area for a close-up of the towers.
Despite its impressive exterior this was our least favorite stop of the day. Apart from the dual spiral staircase, everything of interest can be seen from outside. We though the interior was a waste of time.
Drive time back to Paris was two hours.