An April 2004 trip
to Azay-le-Rideau by kjlouden
Quote: After four trains from Paris and 100 miles of canola fields, we arrived in Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley, but. . . where was it? Another 1.2 miles on foot and there was the storybook town and our vine-covered hotel.
an hour inside, we lingered on the grounds along the River Indre. Then we hiked that 1.2
miles again back to the train station, rode first to Chinon and then to Tours, ran out to see
this town’s Hotel de Ville (beautiful!), jumped on another
train to Chenonceau, walked all around the Old Town there and met the potter, and then
Dames' Chateau." Whew, touring chateaus by train is hard work! But even if I
been charged by an angry male black swan--"Yes, I see your lady on her eggs there in the
leaves!"--the Chateau of Chenonceau also would have been worth all the trouble to get
there. On River Cher, it shimmered in the water like Paris in the
Balzac’s beloved Touraine and an adult fairytale town.We relished the
scenery between towns. Many houses have roofs decorated with parapets, and gardens
were beautiful in April. No wonder Balzac loved the area! His house in Sache, 3 miles
from Azay-le-Rideau, is still set up the way it was when he lived there. We missed it,
since (horror of horrors!) we had forgotten our folder labelled "Loire Valley." My
favorite novelist of all times gives me reason to return. Besides, I loved our hotel with
the vine-covered facade. Two nights, I opened our French doors and sat on the tiny
balcony watching the sun set on the barn across the street. As I mentioned before, the
town is quiet early, except for the light-and-sound shows at 10 p.m. at the chateau. We
liked the sun on the chateau, so we saved ten euros each and enjoyed a
quiet evening in the hotel bar--and I mean quiet! This stay was a good rest
He was so . . . French! And, so was Hotel Val de Loire.Everything
shined with an immaculate care I associate with "French provincial." No smudges,
cracks, or scratches ruined the perfection, for he would have fixed them pronto! The
second night, we had crispy clean sheets again. Our room was small, but pleasant, and
not so small that we couldn’t move around. It was sparsely furnished with shelves by the
bed, desk and chair, large wooden closet, and an extra stool. Our two-tone mustard
yellow paper with single flower design resembled fleur de lis, and two sets of
French doors let in plenty of light.Only one minor detail annoyed us. The doors had
only sheers on their glass, and the bathrooms (2 separate rooms) were too small for
clothing and dressing. ("Hey, that’s what the stool is for!") It was just outside the
bathroom door--every problem had at least been anticipated and resolved! We
enjoyed the view of the neighborhood.
English are coming!We met an Englishman in the lounge who had driven over. He
made a few snied, but comical remarks about "Gee-orge Dubbee-ya Bush" before he and
his wife were off to visit the chateau. His booming voice made the most noise we heard our
entire visit!The diningroom was as perfect and pleasant as the rest of Hotel Val
de Loire. A paved space outside has tables in warmer weather. We felt at home here
and will return. (Our double was 72 euros.)
Goodbye, goodbye to the "pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)."--E. E. CummingsThe night before we left, we asked the
proprietor if he would be up early enough to call us a taxi. (He rises at 7:30.) We
decided to forget making the 7:36 train and settled on the 8:10. (If you don’t get to the
station at least for the 8:58, you can’t get out of town until late afternoon.) Our taxi was
a little early in front of the hotel--but no driver! He was chatting with our host until we
began to get nervous, and then he speeded the 1.2 miles down the main drag as the
"pretty how town" flashed past our window.
No need to worry! We were just in time.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 6, 2004
Best Western Hotel Val de Loire
50-52 Rue Nationale
romantic park.We enjoyed the park as much as the castle! Townspeople were
walking their dogs, and we intended to return in the evening, since we were staying
two blocks away. The scene was idyllic, an English-style park built by Biencourt
after 1810. Some of the trees he imported included Sequoia and Ginko, so a touch of
grandeur is added to the French countryside scene.
Museum of Royal History.Heads of the kings and queens of France are sculpted
into the grand staircase. Portraits of Francois I, Henry III, and Louise of Lorraine are
displayed, as well as a magnificent full-length painting of Louis XIII. Others are too
numerous to mention, but a portrait of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II and Dame
of Chenonceau, in her bath should be noted by anyone touring the castle at Chenonceau.
My favorite, since it reminded me of a history lesson I’d forgotten, is the painting of
Camp du Drap D’Or.
The gold blob on the left is Henry VIII of England arriving at an early heads-of-state
meeting with Francois I. They pitched tents, had jousting tournaments, and reached
agreements about matters of state at the "Camp of the Gold Cloth," and the painting tells
the story. Royal beds (2) are also displayed, as each owner of the chateau was
obligated to keep a bedchamber for his king. Louis XIII also visited (1610), and his
bedroom is decorated with early Gobelin tapestries and now a late seventeenth-century
Tapestries from several centuries and countries.All rooms with tapestries are
dimly lighted in order to preserve them, but they are astoundingly well preserved. Some
were Berthelot’s, including a fine example of Brussels weavers from the 1500’s, still
gothic with Biblical scenes. Others depict late seventeenth-century hunting scenes, my
favorite, since they pertain to the Loire Valley. Others still are Italianate. The castle has
been called "a museum of tapestries," and few rooms are without them.
we say "Goodbye."Kitchens on the ground floor are also interesting. Stone
sinks and ribbed brick ceilings with mythical moldings are always interesting, and these
ceilings are original, from Berthelot’s day. We lingered on the grounds admiring other
groupings of buildings not on the tour, and then we walked a narrow old street back to
the main square and on to Chenonceau.
Azay-le-Rideau, France 37190
(0)2 47 45 42 04
Attraction | "Chenonceau Chateau"
Tintoret, Van Loo, Murillo, and others.The castle is a virtual museum of royal
artwork visitors can’t see anywhere else. I was amused at the portrait of Catherine of
Medici plastered into the fireplace so that it could not be removed. (This is in Diane’s
former bedroom, and Catherine, Henry’s wife, kicked the mistress out and moved in
herself after Henry’s death.) The beautiful chimney is by Jean Goujon, a French sculptor
from the Fontainebleau School, so the plaster job had to be a good one, and I suppose
Catherine figured that nobody would dare ruin that artwork by removing her
portrait, recognized as "stern."
, many paintings.Also in Diane’s bedroom is "Virgin with Child" by Murillo,
and the chapel has another of his paintings (St. Antoine of Padua) and
Assumption by Jouvenet. The "Green Study" of Catherine de Medici, regent at
her husband’s death, is even more replete with art: Tintoret, Jordaens, Veronese,
Poussin, and Van Dyck. The library displays an Andrea del Sarto, and Francois I’s
Bedroom, a self-portrait by Van Dyck and The Three Graces (three sisters,
favorites of Louis XV) by Van Loo.
Van Loo’s Portrait of King Louis XV is in
the Louis XIV Living Room. Here, we met another of the "Dames of Chenonceau,"
Madame Dupin (portrait by Nattier), of interest to literary folk as grandmother of George
Sand and host to Voltaire.
Dames to the rescue!The women of the
chateau saved it from destruction several times by making it available for other uses:
hospital during WWI, "Free Zone" during WWII, wood store during the Revolution.
Today, it is art and history museum and World Heritage treasure. Tapestries alone could
furnish a museum of that industry. Plus, it was the home of other notable women, such
as Louise of Lorraine, "the White Queen," perpetually mourning Henry III. Mary Stuart,
Queen of Scotland, was also related and a visitor. An original builder, Katherine
Briconnet, worked on the design alone while her husband was in Italy.
Chenonceau is truly "The Dames’ Chateau."
Before we left.We
skipped the wax museum in preference to sitting outdoors with pastries at the Orangerie.
Anyone would want to linger on the grounds. David went to study the ramparts’
structures rising from the water, but I was "finished" after two chateaux in one
day! The train back to Tours would soon be just down the lane.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 7, 2004
Château de Chenonceau
Francia, France Francia
+ 33 (2( 47 23 90 07
Start at the railroad tracks.The little historic
railroad building beside the track is a good shot. It may even be World Heritage, since
many of the railroad buildings in France are. Then proceed in the direction of the
ensemble of small buildings with red doors. (I don’t know what they are, but they are . . .
"idyllic," right?) After them, don’t miss the church. Go inside and find the vase of
country flowers (sunflowers for my visit) that the priest has placed right in front of the
podium--no pulpit here. (It’s a simple, unpretentious life
here--it’s a "village"!) That’s another good shot, and if that isn’t authentic--as
old as this church is? 900s?--then I don’t know what is.
Take a break. Visit the
potter.Signs point the way. Go right on in to the compound. It’s a little
communal grouping from another era. The potter has bowls, lamps, dishes, all very nice
and priced about the same as in this country at craft markets. Large bowls and lamps can
be 100 euro, so anyone who wants a quantity of matching pottery might want to save up
for this trip. The potter’s displays and garden are photogenic, so I took pictures on my
Gastronomy is being preserved here.With only a few hundred
people, the village of Chenonceaux has an abundance of restaurants and inns, and some
are even well-known. The Hotel du Bon-Laboureur with its restaurant is known
to bicyclers who trek here to visit chateaux. It looks like a picture in a periodical
for gourmets, and it is authentic (since 1786) in its preservation of the recipes of the
Loire Valley. (I checked!) We're already planning our next visit, and it will include a stay here with dinners of coq au vin and chicken Armagnac. Several other inns and restaurants are picturesque, rather Breton-looking choices for tourists
traveling to the castles of the Loire. Best part is, we can get there effortlessly by train!
Regional Products.We followed another
sign pointing to a plant nursery, we think. At least, that’s all we found there, but we may
have been there at the lunch break before 2:00 p.m. This, too, may be a communal
setting for a number of artisans.
All accounted for, the village of Chenonceaux isn’t
too "touristy," even though it is just across the railroad tracks from the castle. Its
apparent authenticity makes a nice contrast to my album of really
touristy sites in France.
West Virginia, United States