A MAGICAL STAIRCASE
The highest point of the Château de Chambord is in its lantern tower, from which we will enjoy a total panoramic view of the surroundings of the castle, its French gardens and its vast forest park, while, from the heights, we can verify that the river is channelled to fill the moat. Don´t miss the views of Chambord from its lantern tower!
The lantern tower is the small dome tops the castle´s central keep. The tower is accessed from inside the building and through an authentic Renaissance masterpiece that is perhaps the most outstanding element of the court. It is the famous double spiral staircase, a great work by Leonardo da Vinci. The famous Florentine humanist arrived in France at the invitation of the French monarch himself, who became his patron.
The peculiarity of this monumental staircase has contributed to the popularity of the Château de Chambord. Built-in white tuff, a material that facilitates its modelling, is reminiscent of Leonardo´s projects as a helix with hydraulic turbines. It is about two overlapping and intertwined staircases that rotate in the same direction. Its purpose is that two people can go up or down the opposite side of the helix without ever meeting, although they do see each other in some sections. This suited the king wonderfully to hide his love affairs from the queen ...
The staircase acts as the central axis of the building. Through it, we will access the rooms and apartments on the first floor and the living rooms on the second. These large rooms have an impressive vaulted ceiling full of sculpted caissons with the king´s emblem, formed by a salamander, a reptile that "rises from its ashes" and the letter F of the initials of his name, François.
Once we have reached the exterior terraces, we climb the lantern tower. A final double-section staircase will take us to the highest point of the castle, whose 32-meter height is topped by the heraldry of the French monarchy, the Fleur de Lis. Legend has it that, during the baptism of Frankish King Clovis, a dove came from heaven carrying a bouquet of lilies, that is, a bouquet of lily flowers. However, there is also another story that tells that Clovis placed a flower on his helmet of lily before a great victory. Since Clovis was also known as Loys, it is believed that this is where the "Loy´s flower" may come from.
Be that as it may, centuries later, King Louis VII of France added to his coat of arms the drawing of a lily flower on a blue background. From then on, the emblem of the Fleur de Lis remained for a long time attached to the French royalty.
41250 Chambord, France
MEAT OF PREY
In Chambord, we can taste good game meat, the star of one of the essential dishes of the place, just at the foot of the castle and with views of its fabulous construction. One of the favourites preys was the wild boar, an animal highly appreciated for its delicious meat, very tender, low in fat and with an irresistible aroma. It is precisely that one of the reasons why the kings chose this place in France was because of the abundant hunting in its lush forests.
Wild boar has red meat with a much more aromatic flavour than, for example, pork. It is also relatively lean since it only contains 2% fat and 105 calories per 100 grams, so it is ideal in diets that need to keep cholesterol under control.
This meat is cooked stewed for its tenderness or roasted for its flavour. The most appreciated pieces of wild boar are the sirloin, the entrecote and the shoulder, and also in Chambord, we will have the opportunity to taste another delicious part of the animal thanks to its star dish, Dos de Sanglier Grillé, that is, loin of wild boar a la grill, which is accompanied by French fries and salad. This meat pleasures the palate cooked in all ways!
It is a wild animal, classified as "res nullius". That is, it does not belong to anyone in particular. This mammal has always been organised by jurisprudence as prey. Since time immemorial, it has been one of the favourite pieces of hunters. Since, throughout history, hunters have been using all possible means to hunt down this coveted prey, the government of France ended up-regulating the hunting of wild boar with stringent regulations. Currently, wild boar hunting takes place in the country´s private hunting grounds.
An excellent place to taste the succulent Dos de Sanglier Grillé is the small Place Saint-Louis. You can also contemplate the castle. In the past, after a hunt, the wild boar was served at a feast among friends, and the head of the prey was hung on the walls of the halls as a trophy. An absolute visual, olfactory and gustatory pleasure! Today we can also enjoy its delicious meat, although less explicitly...
THE MOST FAMOUS COOKIE IN THE REGION
Years of tradition distinguish the Chambord confectionery. Its pastry chefs, true artisans of flavours at the service of the public, have created with their savoir-faire such delicious sweets that they dazzle both young and old. Using local products, respecting their traditions and always based on a lot of passion and dedication, these pastry artists make their sweets following their most traditional recipes and achieving a quality that satisfies the most demanding.
The most famous pastry speciality in this area is the Palet Solognot. This cookie is irresistible from the first bite. Let´s know the history of this ragweed! Its recipe has remained almost unchanged since its creation, is a perfect pairing of aromas and flavours.
The story goes that there existed in this region a poultry farmer who, together with his wife, ran a family chicken coop, inherited from many previous generations and located opposite of the Château de Chambord. The chicken coop was huge and had about 20,000 chickens. The poultry farmer realised that if he only used the eggs for sale, he would lose money, so he wanted to find another outlet for the large number of eggs he obtained daily from his chicken coop. Finally, our protagonist decided to use the eggs to create his cookie, following an old recipe that he found. For this, he installed an oven in the chicken coop to make his cookies. The success of its creation was so great and so immediate that it ended up wholly dumped into pastry production, transforming almost the entire chicken coop into a huge pastry shop. This cookie became a delight in the whole region.
Thus, the Palet Solognot, a crunchy and golden biscuit whose reputation is known throughout France and has even crossed its borders. This shortbread cookie is truffled with raisins and marinated in Ron Negrita Hence, this drink´s logo appears on its packaging. It is a top-quality delicacy that captivates those with a sweet tooth and lovers of artisan products.
And what would this product be without its packaging ...? Palet Solognot biscuits are sold in easy-open and close cases so that they can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, and also in beautiful metal boxes that are the ideal gift.
Solognots pallets are for sale on street stalls and at the Biscuiterie de Chambord, a specialised shop located on Place Saint-Louis and where, in addition, you will have the opportunity to be tempted by trying these delicious cookies on the spot
FROM CASTLE TO PALACE
The Château de Chambord was built to the glory of its benefactor, Francis I, King of France. The very young monarch returned to France victorious from his campaigns in Italy and totally in love with the art he found in this country, in which a cultural splendour had recently emerged that took shape in a new trend that would soon reach the rest of Europe and that received the Renaissance name.
I was inspired by King Francis´s new vision and its modern conception. Both were fused in the unique Renaissance style to build a building commemorating his conquests in Italian lands and identifying his great power. For the construction of this monument, the monarch opted for that Italian style that had so captivated him. The new trend included a novel architecture that transformed the old and boring medieval fortifications into sumptuous palaces with slender and light lines, completely losing all defensive function to become residential and stately buildings. Following these new trends, the Château de Chambord, one of the most notable French Renaissance works, was erected.
This work is a swarm of towers, chimneys, skylights and stairs. A constructive display that seems to recreate a fantasy world. Even preserving the Gothic idea of elevation and ascent, its general outline manages to be Renaissance, a trend introduced in France by the king himself. He applied the foundations of the new architectural movement in the Château de Chambord, thus becoming the architect of the change in styles.
An architectural grandeur that contains more than 400 rooms, nearly 300 fireplaces and some 80 staircases! The castle manages to be framed in its maximum splendour from the area between its side and its rear. This perspective allows you to contemplate and photograph the construction´s magnitude thoroughly.
It should be noted that absolutism, as a custom implanted in the French monarchy, was born precisely with this monarch. Its construction supposed an enormous waste of means and an enormous outlay of the existing money in the public coffers and coming, mainly, from the peasant taxes. The most curious thing is that, throughout his reign, King Francis I only spent a few weeks in his new mansion, which he did not even see the end of its construction ...
Initially, the Château de Chambord was designed as a hunting lodge. Around its forests, great hunts were organised, attended by King Francis, a great fan of hunting, to later relax in good company, as an entourage of young ladies always accompanied him.
King, builder, hunter and gallant ... This is how Francis I was, the monarch who brought the Renaissance to France.
THE KING AND THE GIOCONDA
Above all, King Francis, I was a man with significant artistic concerns, very modern and ahead of his time. Tall, gallant and tremendously handsome, Francis played his king to perfection. As soon as he came to power, his resounding victories injected him with excessive confidence and moulded a very arrogant character that ended up taking a toll on him in the diplomatic field. His constant confrontations with Emperor Charles V always ended in defeats.
When the king came to power, he noticed that everything in France was crude and wrong, so he decided to reform. To begin with, he made French the country´s official language since Latin was still spoken until that moment in France. He also embellished the Louvre Palace, a medieval fortress construction and built new castles, including Chambord. Also, during his reign, maritime expeditions were financed, new routes and new lands were discovered, such as New Angouleme, a bay in which New York is currently located and which received that name in honour of the monarch, since before he was king, Francis I was count of Angouleme.
His reign saw the emergence of Renaissance splendour and the arrival at the court of Leonardo da Vinci. The artist arrived in France from Italy carrying three paintings after a three-month journey on his mule. One of those paintings is perhaps the most famous in the world! It is La Gioconda, a work also known as the Mona Lisa. This very well-known work was commissioned by a textile merchant named Francesco del Giocondo, who asked Leonardo to take a portrait of his wife, Lisa Gherardini. This commission was never delivered to the merchant since Leonardo constantly delayed its delivery, perhaps voluntarily. And since the artist did not like to part with his works!
Shortly before Leonardo´s death, King Francis acquired La Gioconda and thus, the work became part of the royal collection. Over the centuries, the Mona Lisa has passed through different royal palaces in France until it ends up in the Louvre Museum, where it is currently exhibited.
Who was going to tell King Francis that, in the future, his beloved castle would be a refuge for the works of art in the Louvre Museum? And, to protect the pieces from the Nazi bombings suffered during World War II, many of the Louvre´s treasures were hidden in the Château de Chambord. Among them was La Gioconda returning to her castle!
A "SAFARI" ON PEDALS!
Nature is truly remarkable and wise. What would our lives be without trees ...? They are as necessary as breathing since they provide oxygen and always create a space of peace and calm. Lovers of natural life will be in luck during this visit because the Domain of Chambord is the largest walled park in all of Europe. It extends over 32 km2 that is crossed by a river course and is home to a large fauna. More than a hundred different species of birds can be distinguished.
At this point, we will propose a challenge that, at the same time, is a great activity. to get lost sensually in the fullness of the domain! Listen, observe, smell, touch. In short, savour this unique world that exists in the surroundings of the Château de Chambord with the senses. One way to do it, entertaining and respectful with the environment, is to discover the Domain of Chambord by bike! In this way, while we exercise our muscles, breathe fresh air and pump blood to the heart, we will be able to reach the confines of this vast forest park by pedalling through endless lanes distributed throughout the park.
Salamanders live near the river, in shady, humid and hidden areas under the leaves, so we can walk the river course to find them. If, in addition, we follow this channel in the opposite direction to the dam that is located in front of the jetty, we will reach a wooden turret, half camouflaged, which serves as a viewpoint and from which we will obtain a more general view of the place. Climbing this turret is a magnificent opportunity to observe the odd wild animal roaming freely and defying our presence! On our pedal ride, let´s look, for example, at the reptile that served as the emblem of the king-hunter.
The castle park also has a game reserve. It is not by chance that Francis I chose this place to build his castle, but instead that he did so motivated by the many preys that he could capture here. Father of hunting, to which he dedicated a large part of his reign, this monarch relentlessly chased deer and wild boar through these lands.
Apart from the aforementioned wild boars and deer, species such as roe deer or the cunning fox, so beautiful with their tan-coloured fur, also inhabit this park—the thicker the forest, the more likely to find wild animals. Indeed, wild animals are seldom seen, and they feel our presence a mile away and flee. If we want to be lucky and see some, the best thing to do is tiptoe and avoid getting too perfumed ...
Good "hunting" folks!
Bike rental at the jetty
Approximate time of the tour: 1 hour
SOME ILLUSTRIOUS CHARACTERS
Francis I´s official cause of death was a fistula caused by kidney failure that degenerated into continuous fevers. This is what his medical report confirms, but another version ensures that, in reality, the king´s constant love affairs were the actual cause of his death. We will tell you about it below.
Giving more of his energy to love conquests than to military ones, King Francis was an expert in wooing all the beautiful ladies, especially those who resisted him. The more the intended woman fought him, the more attraction the monarch felt for her! The king fancied a beautiful married woman on one occasion, but she initially rejected him. After continuous gifts and numerous passionate love poems, the woman ended up falling into the arms of her seducer. After knowing he was cheated, the husband planned unparalleled revenge. Tremendously spiteful, he frequented all the brothels in the region until he managed to contract syphilis. Once infected, he passed the disease to his wife and her lover, the king, who died of this disease. Indeed, it is a very unworthy death for a sovereign.
The death of Francis I made the monarch unable to fulfil his dream of seeing his great project finished. Almost a century later, he was one of the greatest rulers in French history. They completed the construction work on the Château de Chambord. We are talking about Louis XIV, the king who made France a world reference and the political capital of Europe. Under the rule of this monarch, nicknamed the Sun King, France reached its most remarkable territorial expansion. Its language, French, spread widely, mainly thanks to relevant writers, among whom Molière stood out.
Playwright, poet and actor, Molière is considered the father of French comedy thanks to his play, full of picaresque and scathing irony. Such was his satire that the Church called him a "demon in person" and even came to be convicted for his taunts about the corruption of society. But Molière had the favour of the Sun King.
In fact, on one occasion, King Louis XIV travelled to Chambord to attend the premiere of "The Bourgeois Gentleman", one of Moliere´s most acclaimed works. The piece was performed in the castle by the playwright himself! By way of derision, this play tells the story of a naive and wealthy bourgeois who wants to imitate the nobles´ customs and way of life.
Molière´s scorn and the irony were such that on his grave, the following epitaph reads: "Here lies Molière, the king of actors. Right now, Molière plays dead and does it really well".
A WALK THROUGH THE ROYAL APARTMENTS
Francis, I built the Château de Chambord as a secondary residence. Still, despite this, he spared no expense to create a multitude of rooms, halls, and rooms to receive his honourable visitors. Over time, additional dependencies arose around the castle. So, put on comfortable shoes because we have a long way to go!
We started our walk in the Place Saint-Louis, a small square full of jewels. Behind the Information Office and next to the river is the Relais de Chambord, a luxurious hotel located in the old Post Office. Its interior is decorated in a minimalist way, preserving the original aesthetics. Without leaving the square, we look at the building that occupies its entire right flank. It is quite possible here that the old chicken coop was located and turned into an oven to produce the famous Solognots pallets. Right on its corner is the famous Biscuiterie de Chambord, the famous pastry shop where we can taste these sweets.
Continuing with our visit, on the path called Rue de la Grange aux Dîmes, we will find the Church of Saint-Louis, built by order of King Louis XIV. The Sun King wanted this little Church to be dedicated to Saint Louis, not in his honour, but his predecessor, King Louis IX. Already in front of the entrance to the castle, we will come across the garden, which occupies the place where the stables used to be. Currently, the products of this garden are sold on-site to individuals and restaurants and shops in the area.
Once inside the castle, we will access the first floor, where the royal apartments stand out. The king´s apartments are at one end of the first-floor gallery, made up of two rooms, two cabinets, a small oratory, and a council room. Up to three kings had the honour of spending the night in those rooms! Just at the opposite end of the gallery are the queen´s chambers. Following the latter, we can visit the Parade Room, a spacious room overlooking the garden that resulted from the union of two rooms.
As we can see by walking inside the Château de Chambord, many of its rooms serve as small museums and spectacular exhibition halls today. Some of its galleries are even used to give concerts.
A wonderful ride!
What would a castle be without gardens, gardens without plants, or life without green spaces ...? And speaking of gardens, those of the Château de Chambord come in handy to take our well-deserved break and to add a note of natural beauty to the majestic stone façade whose whitish colour highlights the natural greenery, playing both tones as alternative colours. Quite an aesthetic achievement!
They precisely recreated floral patterns, and hundreds of trees escort the graceful boulevards. Hundreds of rose bushes, thousands of flowers and green bushes delimit plots drawn with spectacular geometric mastery. Almost as many plants as the thousands of square feet make up the immaculate lawn. The gardens surround the castle, guarded by a moat drawn symmetrically and filled with river water, just as it was in the past, but with a current image that is more romantic than protective.
These gardens can be admired in all their splendour from the castle´s balconies, from where it is just as sensational to admire the soft lawn that stretches out like a carpet placed at the foot of a court that points to the sky with its imposing turrets. It is a unique stamp.
The beautiful gardens were designed during the reign of the omnipresent Sun King. Given the success that this type of plant ornamentation had achieved in Versailles, Louis XIV decided to endow the Château de Chambord with similar gardens since, until then, the glorious castle lacked them. The garden works were continued by his successor and great-grandson, Louis XV. This monarch, known as the Well-Beloved, ended up being the most hated for his libertine behaviours, so unbecoming of a king, and also for having given Canada to the English.
Over time, the gardens of the Château de Chambord fell into oblivion until they disappeared, totally abandoned. And, in addition, a misfortune destroyed them, ending their two centuries of existence. An excellent river flood flooded the lower part of the castle and caused the gardens underwater.
Fortunately, a fortune (worth the redundancy) made the formidable gardens of Chambord reborn again, and they could be fully recovered. After the devastating flood, a major North American investor invested a large sum of money in restoring the gardens, as conceived in palatial times. It is fair to point out that a large part of French architectural and cultural heritage is financed by American patronage, born of Franco-American friendship.
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