Castle March

by wjw on December 1, 2007

Another photo from our 2008 calendar, this of Chambord, a royal chateau in the Loire Valley.
We encountered Chambord in the autumn of 2004, as we drove along the Loire Valley from Paris to Nantes, where I was a guest at Utopiales, their annual convention.
Chambord was built by Francois I, a contemporary of Henry VIII, Charles V, and Suleiman the Magnificent. Castles were a luxurious anachronism by then, and the building was intended as a pleasure palace rather than a fortification. Francis’ hobby was designing castles, and this was the one he decided to build. So devoted was he to this structure that when his two sons were captured by the Spanish, he spent their ransom money on Chambord.
In his architecture Francois had the help of his house guest, Leonardo da Vinci, who seems responsible for l’escalier d’Honneur, the central stair, which is in a double-helix design. At any rate, designs for similar stairs were found in Leonardo’s notebooks.
Francois intended the place as a hunting palace in which he would live as an equal with his boon companions. The central building is a cube three stories tall, divided into twelve apartments equal in size. There is a round tower on each corner, providing another twelve apartments. Thus Francois could hunt and party with twenty-three of his closest friends.
Eventually he got tired of living as an equal with his buddies, and built a royal wing for just his own magnificent person. Naturally this wing required an opposite wing to balance the structure, but this wing was never completed in the same glorious detail as the king’s.
We got to Chambord early in the day, and were lucky enough to find a room available at the local inn, which boasted a fine view of the chateau from its terrace. We went to the chateau and began sampling its delights, but the place is freakin’ enormous. It took forever to see everything, and we began to pine for lunch. There was nowhere on the grounds to eat, and if we left we’d have to buy a fresh set of tickets if we wanted to return. Eventually we staggered to a nearby cafe around three in the afternoon.
The awesomeness of the place was, well, awesome. Luxury and craftsmanship on a gargantuan scale, and filled with art and gorgeous furniture.
“No wonder France had to have a revolution,” was Kathy’s comment.
For some reason I got up freakishly early the next morning. The restaurant hadn’t opened for breakfast yet, and so I stole out onto the grounds of the chateau to photograph the building at dawn. It was hard to take a bad picture, and this is probably the best.

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