Château de Villandry and the best formal gardens in the Loire Valley.
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Villandry's interior is unexceptional other than the quite odd Ottoman room with its golden ceiling, but the Renaissance gardens are outstanding - large, varied, conceptually fascinating, brilliantly executed and well worth the modest entrance fee.
Château Villandry's Ornamental Garden in the foreground.
The sculpted garden section at the front of the picture above represents four aspects of love:
- Bottom left = Tragic Love, represented by duelling blades and red blood.
- Top left = Tender Love, including hearts, small flames and ball masks.
- Top right = Passionate Love, with broken hearts and a layout that evokes dancing.
- Bottom right = Fickle Love, with fans in corners representing volatility, horns of jilted love and lots of sharp edges.
Villandry was commissioned by King Francois' Finance Minister and completed in 1536. The architectural style here is very French, unlike many châteaux that have clear Italian influences.
A visit to the inside the château is not essential. Villandry is about the 7 gardens. Inside is little more than a handful of bedrooms (this is Prince Jerome's)...
...a collection of grotesque paintings...
...and the Ottoman room's ceiling. But outside...
The Ornamental Garden's 'Music Room'.
The Music Room, planted with box and lavender offers stylised lyres, music notes and chandeliers to light up the musical scores. Beyond this room is the Maze and the local village.
Villandry's medieval Vegetable Garden, composed of nine equal squares with different geometric patterns and alternating colours in each.
Walking under grape vines on the edge of the Herb Garden.
In the distance is the Water Garden and the Sun Garden, with The Woods to the left and a Children's Garden and Medicinal Garden elsewhere. The bugcrew found the latter attractions of less interest.
The gardens are open till 7.30pm in summertime and to 5pm in winter. The best time to visit is during the last two or three hours when the mooing herds are back at their waterholes and the light is perfect.
Photos of Loire Chateaux and towns
Chenonceau | Chaumont Garden Festival | Cheverny | Chambord | Amboise | Blois | Clos-Lucé
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