The Loire Valley in the Mist

While driving south with my mom and 13-year old sister on our epic French road trip, we passed sign after sign for the châteaus of the Loire Valley.

“Want to stop at one of the Loire Valley châteaus, mom?”

“Sure. I think it would be good for your sister to see one.”

Thus began the most random road trip stop of my life- the Château de Chambord.

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The château was built in the 1500s as a hunting lodge for the mighty French Renaissance King, François I. While I had read that the Château de Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley, I didn’t realize how colossal it truly is until stepping onto the grounds myself.

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Immediately upon walking in, I felt a surge of warmth and smelled wood-fire, a smell that always brings me back to my childhood. The cheerily burning fires really made me feel like I was at a real hunting lodge- and even 500 years later, there’s nothing that warms up an old castle like a roaring fireplace.MomKristi Trip35

While strolling the castle, we learned a little bit about what life was like for the king and his courtiers during the sixteenth century. Cards were apparently popular, which given my poker prowess I will take as a sign that I was a French courtier in my past life. As you do.IMG_3664

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The château’s double-helix staircases, which two people can use without meeting. I wonder why a king would have that constructed… curious…MomKristi Trip36 Instead of ruling from Paris, François I loved the Château de Chambord so much that he lived there year round. A man of the arts, he commissioned many chateaus to be built, and is known for sweeping the Loire Valley up into a château-building frenzy.

And according to my Frommer’s guidebook, he enjoyed taking his courtiers, “from palace to palace to hunt, dine, make love and listen to music and poetry.” I have a feeling we would have gotten along, this François and I.

MomKristi Trip39F, which stands for François I, paired with his symbol, the salamander.

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Given the scenic nature of the castle, my little sister and I took it upon ourselves to stage a series of dramatic, Beauty and the Beast-esque photos… when in a French château, right?MomKristi Trip38IMG_3712

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Overall this taste of the Loire Valley has made me so eager to visit the other châteaus of the Loire Valley, as well as time travel back to the 16th century. I’ll let you know how both of those ventures go.

Have you ever visited the Loire Valley?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

12 thoughts on “The Loire Valley in the Mist”

  1. What fantastic pictures. Lou and I remember the castle well. So extravagantly
    beautiful . what stories these dwellings tell.

    Love,

    Gamma

  2. Too funny, as I saw the headline in my reader feed, I thought to myself, wonder if you went to the same castle, and you did! :)

    I don’t remember seeing as much of it as you have in the photos (but it also was ~15 years ago I went… wow, that just made me feel old)

    Thanks for reminding me how awesome it is. I think the weather was about the same too!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I am visitng some friends in Orleans in the beginning of May and they are taking me there! So fun to read about it!

  4. I went to the Loire Valley over Christmas break ostensibly to nerd-out at places relating to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England—Château de Chinon and L’Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud—but only got to visit the former which was really more castle than hunting lodge. To make up for missing Fontevraud, I on a whim went to the nearby Château d’Azay-le-Rideau and LOVE LOVE LOVE-d it. It was a small, L-shaped château sitting on an island in the middle of the Indre River and was the most beautiful place. I hadn’t had any real desire to visit the châteaux of the Loire valley, but after touring that palace I’d love to go back to Chenonceau and Chambord.

    BTW your pictures make the lodge look gorgeous. I think sometimes we can get disappointed when the weather isn’t cooperating with our desire to take pictures, but I’ve come to welcome inconvenient weather because it can completely change the feel of a place. The fourth picture on the post just makes me want to curl up in a windowsill with a good book and sigh wistfully over the beauty of La France. :)

  5. I haven’t been able to see Chambord yet, but hopefully I can make that happen at some point in the future. out of the Loire châteaux I really loved Chenonceau in particular! Amboise was fun to explore as well – the view was absolutely gorgeous! I got to peek at Azay-le-Rideau through the gates but didn’t get to go inside; we did stay in the town though, and that was so charming.

  6. I visited the Loire Valley a couple of years ago with my parents and it’s so beautiful! The Chateau de Chambord could really be taken right out of a fairytale and I can see why the king would rather spend his time there… there must be worse things in life than living in a castle somewhere in the nature being surrounded by all the things you love. ;)

    Another castle in the Loire Valley that I really liked is the Chateau de Chenonceau. It’s less grand than Chambord, but still very beautiful and situated in a stunning landscape. I might actually prefer it over Chambord! :)

    xx
    Melanie

  7. I’ve yet to visit the Loire Valley; I’ve yet to see a LOT of France, but I plan to change that soon. Do you think I’ll be able to drive on the right hand side in my left-drive car? I’m nervous!
    Which guide book do you recommend?

    • I’m actually not 100% sure on that! And guidebook-wise for Paris I highly recommend Knopf Mapguides, they’re amazing. For France in general I really like Frommer’s but it’s not a budget guide (LP would be better for that.)

  8. Lovely write up on Chambord. Loire Valley is just wonderful. Everyone should visit it. We visited once and bought a gite complex there. Any excuse to return for a visit, over and over again :)

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