Château de Chenonceaux, Loire Valley
Château de Chambord exterior
Château de Chambord
Most impressive exterior: Château de Chambord, largest of all Loire castles butjusta hunting lodge with over 400 rooms
The Château de Chambord began as a hunting lodge in 1519 for young King Francois I, but became gradually more excessive, ending up with 426 rooms, 77 staircases and plenty of innovative Italian architecture, including a bizarre double spiral staircase that was probably designed by Francis’ good buddy, Leonardo da Vinci. Incredible exterior, less exciting interior.
These are the chateaux, towns and main sights that the bugcrew visited over a week during July.
There are many more attractions that will have to wait till next time such as the superb medieval town and cathedral of Chartres (better than the Notre Dame apparently, uncrowded and just one hour from Paris by fast train), the similarly historic town of Bourges, taking a wine tour of Loire vineyards with plenty of tasting and someone else driving (the whites are especially notable), and of course checking out a few hundred more chateaux!
Tours city medieval centre
The spectacular old centre of Tours city is at the heart of the Loire’s most striking collection of châteaux. The new town ain’t bad either and fast trains and slow planes all arrive here so this makes a great base/starting point for Loire Valley exploration. Alternatively, closer to the châteaux action and smaller are Blois and Amboise towns.