After Annecy we had to start making our way back towards Dieppe. We had time to visit some of the places in the Val-de-Loire that we missed on the way down due to the poor weather. We could not stop in all the places that appealed to us, so we drove the scenic route D952 starting at Gien. The road took us through some rather less hilly countryside than we had experienced during the last few weeks, but was pleasant and had tempting glimpses of the Loire and pretty villages. By the time we had meandered as far as Chateauneuf-Sur-Loire, we were ready to stop for the night. We quickly checked the ACSI book and found a cheap site that was right on the banks of the Loire. It was so well placed for enjoying the river and the little town, that we stayed for 3 nights.
This is a quaint little town which had a castle until the French Revolution. The building was largely destroyed after that time, but the rotunda still survives and now houses the town hall.
You can view the decorative entrance hall but not on the day we were there! Around the castle are the landscaped gardens which cover several hectares with remarkable tree specimens and alleys of magnolias and giant rhododendrons. The views across the Loire valley from the castle gardens are most attractive.
The church of Saint Martial in the centre of the town, has a very unusual entrance and beautiful stained glass windows.
My aim was to visit the Chateau du Chambord and the aire at Saint Dye was the closest spot to stay. It is possible to stay overnight in the chateau car park but, it costs €17 and is not such an attractive location.
We parked for free alongside the Loire and enjoyed a walk along the river to the village church and centre. The patisserie was rather enjoyable too!
We had a very short journey to the chateau and parked for the princely sum of €11! The walk to the chateau along a footpath gave an enticing view through the trees to the chateau.
As we got closer and had a clearer view, it was seriously impressive.
We enjoyed our visit and paid extra to have the histopad which gave visual information and an English commentary.
Although there were 24 rooms to visit, some of which contained historic artefacts, the outside was more interesting architecturally.
Having said that, the chateau is known for its double-helix staircase which is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. There are two separate flights of stairs proceeding upwards around a hollow newel post. If two people choose to use different flights, they will catch glimpses of each other through numerous loopholes as they ascend…without ever meeting!
Alongside the staircase there are vaulted rooms with amazing ceilings. The oratory on the first floor is similarly decorative.
Outside the chateau there are extensive grounds to be explored (13450 acres)
and the Chambord Chapel of St Louis, which was built before the chateau.
The formal French gardens are best viewed from the terraces at the top of the chateau. They were completed during the reign of Louis XV and existed for 2 centuries before falling into disrepair. They were restored in 2017 and have still to reach maturity but are nonetheless attractive in design.
I was not disappointed with the chateau and together with the drive along the Loire valley and the riverside camping opportunities, it was a fabulous few days.