Thursday, May 17, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there were kings and queens and knights and ladies, and princes and princesses and Joan of Arc. There were kingdoms and serfdom's and Castles... Oh My!
Amboise in the Loire Valley built in the 15th and 16 Century and is the burial site of Leonardo daVinci
The Loire Valley, about a 2 hour drive from Paris boasts the largest number of Renaissance Chateaux in a concentrated area on earth. The area has such historical significance, it is designated  a world heritage site by UNESCO. Some of the buildings are so large, it is hard to grasp the immensity of them, and when wandering inside, it is easy to imagine the great halls and corridors and drawing rooms filled with royalty.

The entry court at Amboise
We visited about a half dozen chateaux during our week in the Loire, and each exhibits it's own personality as it also holds it's own place in history. Most of the chateau are  minimally furnished, some well known for their art collections, some for their tapestries, some for their famous inhabitants, and some for the sheer beauty of their architecture, and gardens.

Flower arrangements at Amboise and Chenonceau were breathtaking and creative.
 Historical names and dates and battles have always eluded me, and I can't remember the names of architectural elements, either. My personal enjoyment of the amazing structures is through the sheer joy of experiencing the beauty and magnitude of them,, and trying to imagine how the commoner would have felt, scraping a meager existence from the land, whilst observing, or in fact participating in the building of these opulent monoliths.
My favorite, Chenanceau,  “Château des Dames” was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, and successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers then Catherine de Medici. Chenonceau was protected from the hardship of the revolution by Madame Dupin. The events surrounding these ladies opportunities to exhibit this power and authority in the 16th century reads like a soap opera.

Travel is best experienced with good friends, and our trip has been superb. We met Rick and Judi and Dan at our most wonderful gite "La Roderie" near Tours, France, on May 5. Enjoying two cars, we are able  spread out and go different directions, according to interest. British expats Sylvia and Len joined us mid week, so one day 4 of us headed out to Villandry. Now THERE is a Chateau of notice!
The gardens of Villandry deserve a posting all their own!

I'll make note here that this would make a marvelous field trip for our garden club! There was the series of Love gardens, the herb garden, the poteger, espaliered apples and pears, flowers, a sun garden, an amazing maze, and a wonderful little garden shop! The icing on the cake? A little cafe on the terasse which served vegetables from the garden, comfits made from the fruits, salads with fresh cut lettuces!
A 6" poppy in the Villandry Sun Garden

So, once upon a time I dreamt of visiting buildings that rose from the earth a thousand years ago, of knights and ladies and princesses in castle towers.... and last week, I wandered into the past and expanded my understanding of kings and queens, and crowns and kingdoms..... and of Joan of Arc! 

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