Jun 18 – Revisiting the Loire

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.

Loire-side campsite

Chateauneuf-Sur-Loire

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.

Council offices in the rotunda
Bug houses in the gardens

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.

Loire valley view from the old chateau

The church of Saint Martial in the centre of the town, has a very unusual entrance and beautiful stained glass windows.

Exterior of Saint Martial church
Colourful window in the church

Saint Dye-Sur-Loire

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!

Our view from the free aire
Sunset over the river
Manor House overlooking the Loire on edge of the village
Church road!

Chateau Chambord

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.

First glimpse of Chambord

As we got closer and had a clearer view, it was seriously impressive.

Chateau Chambord in all its glory
View from the approach footpath

We enjoyed our visit and paid extra to have the histopad which gave visual information and an English commentary.

One of many richly decorated rooms

Although there were 24 rooms to visit, some of which contained historic artefacts, the outside was more interesting architecturally.

One of the terrace views
Another impressive tower

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!

Double helix staircase

Alongside the staircase there are vaulted rooms with amazing ceilings.  The oratory on the first floor is similarly decorative.

Oratory

Outside the chateau there are extensive grounds to be explored (13450 acres)

Extensive grounds stretching away from the chateau

and the Chambord Chapel of St Louis, which was built before the chateau.

Inside the chapel

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. 

French Gardens

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.

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