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Château Chambord, Loire Valley

 Château de Chambord, Loire Valley

If one word can summarise Château de Chambord, it's ‘excess’. There was known to be a fort on this site since the 12th century but it was King François I who planned the lavish palace as the ideal royal residence. François reputedly wanted to divert the Loire river (France's greatest river!) to form the moat, but had to be satisfied with something less, the Cosson. The statistics alone give some idea of Chambord's scale: the château itself has 444 rooms, 84 staircases, 365 chimneys; the estate is 14,300 acres of forest, lakes and grassland enclosed by a 22 mile-long wall.

The spiral staircase at Chateaux Chambord

The double spiral staircase is a central feature of the château, the whole place seems to have been built around it. The staircase is probably based on designs by Leonardo da Vinci, he drew up plans for a large château to be built on the Loire, but it never saw the light of day. Leonardo spent several years in France, living further down the river at Amboise.

Château de Chambord - the richly decorated roof

François I paid as much attention to the decoration of the exterior as to the interior; don't miss touring the roof; the egotistical king meant every aspect of his grand edifice to be looked at and admired.

The château was never completed to the plans of François I, and later kings made alterations and additions to the château. It was lucky in escaping demolition during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, whose grand rebuilding plan for France meant destruction for many of her fine buildings so their stone could be re-used.

François I's court didn't like Chambord, the area is marshy and the château was always cold and damp. If those residents could see it now, they'd be very surprised: the place is better maintained and more completely furnished now that it ever was when it was occupied.

Allow a whole day for a good appreciation of the Château. Several thousand acres of the estate are open to hikers and horseback riders; and many observation points and hides are provided for viewing the wildlife. There are herds of deer and wild boar here; Chambord was a hunting lodge since its earliest days, and hunting with hounds still takes place here.

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