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France – Chateaus of the Loire Valley

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On my most recent trip to France I visited Villandry Chateau in the Loire Valley. I arrived by bicycle after pedaling 6 miles along the Cher River.

Villandry Chateau is beautiful, built mostly in 1536, they started with the original keep from the 12th century and added on from there. It has changed ownership a few times since and in 1906 was purchased by Dr. Joachim Caravallo whose grandson Henri is still the owner today and I was lucky enough to have him give us a tour of the Chateau.

What impressed me most were the gardens, like the Renaissance architecture of French Castles they combine the Gothic tradition with the Italian gardens using floral, medicinal plants and kitchen gardens and flower beds all planted in squares of geometric patterns of colors like those found in the monasteries and princely estates of that time. They are replanted each season with different plants and always have the special geometric pattern within each square.

Something I never realized before is that the gardens include what they call a kitchen garden, where all the vegetables are grown and even that is planted with seasonal vegetables in beautiful colorful squares. There is also a herb garden and then of course the flower gardens, the ornamental garden and the water garden. All are extensions of the Chateau and used during the summer and warmer months as the places to gather, visit and even take their meals, Henri Caravello described them as the living rooms of the 14th century. Who knew they had such functional gardens back then??

Inside the Chateau you’ll find some of the rooms are set up as they were centuries ago for the  guests viewing, but Villandry still retains a homey feel. The Caravello family has also spent years attaining a beautiful art collection which can be seen in the painting gallery as well as the Oriental Drawing Room which has the most beautiful ceiling made of 3600 separate pieces of wood made in the Mudejar style by Moorish craftsmen for Spanish gentry similar to what you would find in Alhambra Palace in Spain.

Henri Caravallo says he often takes groups thru his Chateau himself, so you may be lucky enough to have a guided tour with him as well. Don’t forget to look at the gardens from the upper floors of the Chateau as they are magnificent!  Jennefer – Totem Travel France Specialist

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