Prior to going to Loire Valley, I had made a list of chateau I wanted to see from East to West within a certain distance. I had put an * next to the ones that I wanted to go inside and ** next to the ones that were at the top of my list. I recommend doing your research and making a similar list based on where you will be staying, as there are hundreds of chateaux and it can be very overwhelming to choose which to see and which to pass up. Our last full day in Loire Valley was supposed to be spent driving to Angers to tour the amazing old city; however, we were getting a little tired of driving so we decided to stay closer to our base camp in Amboise. Azay le Rideau and Villandry were highly recommended chateaux-but neither of these had an * next to them on my list. They did not look different enough or impressive enough. Since we had an extra day, we decided to visit them anyway. Let’s talk about Azay le Rideau first, a small yet beautiful 1500s castle in the Touraine region on an island in the Indre River. Of course, this chateau was built on top of a prior fortress which had been built in the 11th century…no surprise there! It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, like most of the Loire Valley chateaux.
My first impression of this chateau was that it had some of the same elements as Chateau d’Chambord, both being great representations of French Renaissance architecture.
It was so symmetrical and intricate that it reminded me of a wedding cake.
It is necessary to purchase an entry ticket to get close enough to even see the chateau, so we ended up going inside it as well, as this was included. Azay le Rideau wasn’t very different on the inside from other chateaux we had toured, but it was still very interesting to see subtle differences in the details. For example, the exit sign (top left photo of the composite image below) as well as the billiards room.
The ceilings were deep and dripping in gaudiness. I especially loved the salamanders and ermine (short-tailed weasels) motif. These emblems represented King Francois and his wife, and can be found everywhere around this castle.
Are there any parents in the audience? I bet you are wondering how we kept our barely 2 year old entertained and happy during our vacation. We drove about 4 hours per day and were in museum-type places most of the time. Well, we allowed her to explore a little bit…(even with the holes in the floor). We let her “pound it” and give “high fives” to the knights and stone animals. We even let her lay down on the floor for a minute…of course, we did not do this enough to attract attention and we were not disrespectful. We simply allowed small opportunities for play.
Outside, we allowed her to run around the large open gardens around the chateaux. She loved picking up small pebbles, wild flowers and leaves. Most importantly, we took a variety of healthy snacks…and a few not-so-healthy snacks. We kept her entertained for a long time just by giving her part of a deck of cards. They ended up everywhere, but kept her entertained and happy. Coloring and listening to children’s music in the car was also a big hit!
For more information on this and other chateaux, I recommend http://loire-valley.us/