Last year, Mike and I decided that we wanted to do another bike & barge trip, and also, that we wanted to be away from our hurricane zone during September.
I booked a bike & barge trip for France –along the Loire Valley- for the first week of September. Then I decided that we might as well stay in Europe for the rest of the month.
After trying out different ideas for visiting other countries post bike trip -none of which seemed to work out well- we decided to stay in France thinking it would be less complicated. Even so, there was a lot of planning aggravation that had me using lots of colorful words and resulted in a huge pile of printed out confirmations and trip information.
Our “daventure” started even before our trip started. A few days before our flight, a hurricane with its eye on Florida developed in the Caribbean. The question was – where in Florida? We were concerned that our plans would have to change, but the hurricane ended up coming ashore further South of us on the same day we flew to Paris. Of course, while being relieved that our plans were safe, we never wish a hurricane on another community.
In a rare “daventure” double-whammy, the night before we flew I checked my Email and found an emergency notice that the bike & barge trip was changing the route due to low water. We were no longer starting the trip where my carefully timed and booked train tickets were taking us to. I was up at midnight figuring out how to get us to the new starting location –which was an extra 1 ½ hour train ride away from the old one.
Thankfully, we were able to fly as scheduled and when we arrived in Paris we had an easy walk to our hotel for the night. It was located inside the airport and almost directly above the train station, which we would be using the next day. We didn’t feel like eating too much, so we went to the hotel bar for a snack – we decided on a very French gastronomic experience.
What screams France more than French beer and French fries?
We had an extra day between arriving in Paris and the start of the bike & barge. There is a chateau -Chenonceau- that I particularly wanted to see. It wasn’t exactly in the direction we needed to go, but it turns out that visiting the chateau gave us a less complicated train trip and we had the time…so decision made.
It was very convenient to check out of the hotel the next morning and go down the escalators to the train station. It was a bit chaotic with a small central waiting area where everyone was watching for their train’s track number to be posted, which is usually only about 10-15 minutes before the train arrives at the station. We figured out what line to stand in for our destination. After they posted the track number and a crowded rush of passengers through the ticket checkpoint, we only waited a short when we got to the platform.
We had to change trains in Tours. While there, I found my sign!
Nearby was this seat -￼ Notice it is empty. Mike said he couldn’t sit there because he’s NEVER right. 😆
It was a short 30 minutes on the next train to Chenonceaux. We were a bit surprised at how simple the stop was since Chateau Chenonceau is the 2nd most visited chateau after Versailles. I have a feeling most people arrive by tour bus or cars.
A few photos from around town:
The parking lots /entrance to the chateau are right next to the train tracks, so it was a quick walk to get to the entry gate. There was a nice walk down a pretty driveway to the chateau.￼
Chenonceau is known as the Ladies’ Chateau because between the 1500s and the 1900s, seven women were influential in the history of the chateau.
Originally there was an old castle and mill at the site dating back to the 11th century. Starting in 1515, Thomas Bohier and his wife, Katherine Briconnet (the first lady of the chateau) demolished the existing buildings with the exception of the tower (out front) and began building a new chateau.
The tower and the well are still standing after all these years. The tower is now called the Marques tower after the previous owner.
The couple more or less copied the original fortress, which was surrounded by moats at the edge of the Cher River when they built their new chateau. It was finished in 1522.
In 1535, the chateau became royal property as part of a debt settlement.
1547, King Henri II gave Chenonceau to his favorite “lady” Diane de Poitiers. It was she who created the gardens (on each side of the entrance) and had the chateau extended across the river.
Upon the death of King Henri in 1559, his widow Catherine de’ Medici had Diane removed so that she could occupy Chenonceau herself. As Regent at the time, she governed France from the Green Study. She also made changes to the chateau and expanded the gardens.
The last royal occupant of the chateau was Louise of Lorraine the widow of Henri III, who lived there between 1589 and her death in 1601.
Louise Dupin was the “Lady of the Chateau” in the 1700s and is credited with saving the chateau during the French Revolution. She saved the chapel from destruction; hiding the religious aspect of the room by filling it with wood – making it appear as a mundane storeroom.
The chateau is smaller than I’d imagined because the section over the river is just one long room on both stories.
This is the lower gallery that crosses the river. This was used for large parties and as a ballroom.
The upper gallery is used as a display area for the story of the chateau. During WWI, the galleries were used as a hospital space for wounded soldiers.
Quite often a historic site has a one-way route through to keep things moving. Here we were free to wander.
Diane de Poitiers’ bedroom:
The kitchens were interesting. There were several areas for different kinds of food preparation and storage. they are located below the main level- actually inside of the piers holding up the chateau. I didn’t see it, but there is a delivery door at the river level for provisions arriving by boat.
Next we walked out to the garden. Not much was in bloom.
We were getting hungry and decided to buy and share a sandwich. The bread was amazing!
After our snack, we walked through an area where the old stables were, the castle’s wine cellar and other out buildings…as we headed to the exit.
A member of the Menier family, a name famous in France due to their chocolates, bought the chateau in 1913 and the family owns it to this day.