The château of Chenonceau is located near the small village of Chenonceaux. Both are pronounced shen-on-so.
The parking lot and train station are located at the end of a very long alley in which the château looks like a toy castle in the distance.
It’s a pleasant walk, however, with fields, streams and gardens on either side.
Rumor has it that the château used to have the “x” at the end, just like the name of the village (which makes perfect sense), but the mistress of the castle removed the x during the French revolution because that denoted royalty. She did save the château from being destroyed by convincing the revolutionists that it was necessary as the only bridge across the Cher river for miles.
I needed the history, as well as the detailed shots of the interior, to pull this post off because there were just so many people there. We went on Easter and the attendant said it was unusually crowded.
It was impossible to stroll leisurely through the château and take grand shots of the rooms and foyers the way I would have liked. The open shots we did get were lucky (a lull in the crowd), but most of them are very up-close shots.
Still, I think the details of a château are just as impressive as the large rooms. So let me give you a photographic tour of the château’s interior.
Chenonceau was known as the château des Dames (the castle of ladies) because they were the ones who had the most influence over its history. Built by Katherine Briçonnet en 1513; enriched by Diane de Poitiers (the mistress of the king); enlarged by Catherine de Médicis (the wife of that same king who took the castle back in a surprisingly amicable way); a meeting place under the wife of Henri III, Louise de Lorraine; saved by Louise Dupin during the French revolution; and transformed by Madame Pelouze (who hired Debussy as a pianist for the castle’s chamber orchestra). Voltaire was a guest here, as was Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The château is now owned by the Menier family, and they get no government subsidy to support it. They finance its renovations out of their own fortune and through ticket and audio-guide sales.
You can see how much attention was paid to the gardens, which are beautiful. (And when the castle is crowded, this is the preferred place to be).
There are many paths in the forest that lead to the river’s edge.
And when you cross the bridge that is the château, you exit to the other side over a drawbridge.
And this is where you get the most magnificent view of Chenonceau.
This is where you begin to suspect that braving the crowds might have been worth it.
Next up: Langeais!