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Friday, January 8, 2010

Château de Chenonceau

Chenonceau is often described as the most beautiful of all the luxury castles in a region where all the castles are beautiful. In this region of the Loire et Cher, castles here were built for pleasure and distraction. Here royalty hunted, wined, dined, masqueraded and balled. This is the Bali of the French kings. Here, they wanted to be surrounded by only beauty and decadence.

And Chenonceau is first among equals. There is a magic about Chenonceau. Other castles were built by men for men. There are moats and drawbridges. There are tall towers with wide ramps for horses to gallop up the different levels. There are grand and ornate sculptures bearing the emblems of Kings. They are grand, majestic, well-proportioned and well-crafted.

Chenonceau was built by a woman, and in different generations, it was always a woman (who had succeeded in man's world) that owned it, extended it or restored it. Here there are perfect proportions and simple elegance surrounded by manicured gardens filled with rare plants. It is in these gardens that the Black Queen (Catherine de Medicis) deployed her "Butterfly Squadron", a troop of young ladies especially elegant and very beautiful used by the Queen to reward friends and gather information from enemies. Whilst other castles were the backdrop for many an infamous murder, Chenonceau is the beguiling backdrop for many a scandalous seduction. And it was a haven of peace during the French Revolution because the lady who lived here had been kind to the villagers around, who protected and shielded her and her castle. In World War II, it was a military hospital where men recuperated by hanging fishing lines out the window into the river, whilst lying in their sick beds. Indeed, this is a place that recalls the best and the worst of womanhood from wanton seduction to benevolent kindness and healing.

I knew nothing of other castles when I first saw Chenonceau. I was only 15. I didn't know that others had already described it as the most beautiful of the luxury castles here. I only knew that something of Chenonceau spoke to my heart and I have come back here to enjoy it 4 times in my life. I go to Versailles because I have to. You cannot show your friends/children Paris without showing Versailles.

I come back to Chenonceau because I want to.

It is the only castle in France that spans a river. One end of the castle starts on this side. The other end is built on the other side. The castle rises out of the river in stunning white limestone. It is said that mistresses of kings bathed in the middle of the river hidden from view by the elegant white pillars that stand in the waters. Little Boy was taken aback by this piece of information.

- “What if you accidentally see?!”
- “Ummmm… then the King will chop off your head.”
- “But… but… it’s an accident. You didn’t mean it.”
- “Too bad for you.”
- “Hey that’s no fair! She should bathe in a bathroom like everyone else!?”

Whatever the injustice caused by indiscreet mistresses with no sense of modesty, Château de Chenonceau is very well maintained by the Menier family. I was most intrigued this time by their very well equipped kitchen.

State of the Art Oven

Designer Copper Pots and
Island Work Space

Meat Larder?

Barbecue Pit

Kitchen Tap


Open Kitchen Concept said...

Oh.. I have been there! I like it very much! It's a "cosy" looking castle, if there is such a thing. I know it as "The Castle where the garden on the right belonged to the mistress and the one on the left belonged to the wife"..

Blur Ting said...

Designed by women, must be good and practical! :-)

petunialee said...

OKC -Yup! That's the one!

Ting - Yeah! No need to cross the bridge... just cross the hall will do.

Emily said...

Its my dream to also go back some day - I love the castles in the Loire Valley area!