When I was a little girl, I had an idea of what a fairy tale castle would like. It would have towers and turrets and pointy bits. My dream chateau would have grand doors and huge rooms for dancing and partying. It would be filled with flowers. And it would have the most beautiful gardens where you could wander but not quite get lost.
When I walked through the gates of the Chateau de Chenonceau and along an enormous avenue lined with trees whose leafy canopies filtered the sunlight to create an aura of gold and green – I was whizzed back to my childhood castle of my dreams. There in front of me was my fairy tale castle… graceful and elegant, white stones and a slate roof, Renaissance symmetry at its best.
The history of the Chateau de Chenonceau
Chenonceau is the second most visited chateau in France after Versailles. There’s a reason for that – it’s stunningly beautiful and it’s where Kings, Queens and mistresses lived and partied, it is beautifully furnished and its history is second to none… read more about Chenonceau
Diane de Poitiers once lived and loved here. Her lover was a powerful king, Henri II – smitten by her beauty which was partly it was claimed, due to her habit of bathing in the river Cher at the chateau. She commissioned a bridge across the river which Henry paid for by sticking a tax on church bells!
Diane also consumed liquid gold, believing it gave her a glowing complexion. That’s possibly true – but it also made her teeth fall out. She had false gnashers made from animals bones and sewn into her gums. Diane loved the gardens here…
When Diane’s lover died, his wife Catherine de Medici who bitterly resented her rival (and cousin) made the chateau her own. She added two storeys on the bridge making it even more gorgeous. She also created new gardens and held magnificent parties, including having young girls disguised as mermaids in the moats to greet visitors. Going to her one her soirees must have been incredible.
The gardens today are split into two sections – Diane’s and Catherine’s. They are magnificent.
Read more about the gardens and the vegetable plot at Chenonceau.
The flowers in the rooms
There are lovely tapestries from the 16th century, paintings and furniture, sculptures and objets d’art. There are centuries of graffiti left behind including scribbles dated 1543 left by the guards serving Mary Stuart – she married Francis, the son of Henri II in 1560. The Long Gallery which runs along the bridge is dazzling with its black and white checkered tile floor.
But what everyone remembers most is the flowers. The floristry team at the chateau is led by a master of the floral arts (above mid photo) and every room is decorated with flowers – they are exquisite. Read more about the flower master of Chenonceau….
I must confess, a kitchen did not feature in my dreams as a kid, but if it had, Chenonceau’s fabulous cuisine would fit the bill! Copper pans vie for attention with potted plants and seasonal vegetables. It’s here more than anywhere, that I felt a connection to the past and could imagine the life of the chateau, grand banquets being prepared…
A vegetable plot fit for a king
As if those gorgeous gardens weren’t enough, there’s a vegetable plot fit for a king. Utterly exquisite in it’s layout and filled with flowers to complement the veg, it’s one of the most magical vegetable gardens I’ve ever seen.
I never considered that fairies would eat however, if they did, the Orangerie restaurant at Chenonceau would surely be their favourite. I have never seen a more beautiful cheese tray. (check opening times on website as the restaurant is closed in winter months).
Take a Virtual Visit to the Chateau de Chenonceau
Wander through the beautiful rooms, see the tapestries, paintings and furnishings up close. Stroll through the gorgeous gardens. And have the whole Chateau of Chenonceau to yourself with this virtual online visit: artsandculturegoogle.chenonceau
Love castles? Have a listen to our Amazing Castles of France podcast!
More on the castles of the Loire Valley
Chateau d’Anet, where Diane de Poitiers preferred to live after she was evicted from the Chateau de Chenonceau
Chateau de Chambord, the French Renaissance jewel of the Loire Valley
Azay-le-Rideau, a castle of pure enchantment
Chateau de Blois, an incredible history and a beautiful chateau
Chaumont, the chateau that is also a centre of gardening
Fairy tale castle of Rivau with its enchanted gardens