Part 12: Chateau Chambord


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The Trip

Michele did an excellent job of planning our trip and she stated that we "had" to see the Chateau at Chambord.  Chambord is one of the best examples of the excesses of the French ruling class.  Chambord was the hunting lodge of the king and was constructed to impress the King's guests.  426 rooms, 282 fire places, towers, turrets, walls and nice grounds.  And, since the king would not want any competition when hunting, he had a high stone wall built around the entire perimeter to keep the game in and the peasants out.  The property is the largest fully-walled area in Europe.  And, since simple excesses were insufficient, the king also considered (but later rejected due to cost) diversion of the entire Loire River so it would run past his window.  And finally, to put this fully in context, this was not the main royal residence but rather a part-time retreat.  In fact, according to the chateau guide documents, the king ruled for 32 years and only spent 72 total DAYS at Chambord; he died before it was completed.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Traveling from Chenonceau to Chambord took us on some rural roads that went through large fields of sunflowers that were in bloom.

We stopped at the side of the road for some photos and I saw this bee hard at work.

While stopped we were passed by a group of restored cars out for a weekend run.  We followed them to this small town.  I do not know the name of this chateau.

At first look these are old Fords, but that is not true.  These are Simcas.  Nicely restored, there were about 8 in the group with one foreign interloper, a Ford Mustang.

These are some nicely restored vehicles.

An older car called a Veuette with suicide doors.

From the small village, we traveled on to Chateau Chambord, the largest of the Renaissance chateaus.  Keep in mind this was the king's hunting lodge.  The construction was started by Francis I in 1519.

Massive and intricate were two words that came to mind.  The chateau has 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms.

This fellow came riding by to entice folks to pay extra for the equine extravaganza show.

The chateau had its own chapel for its residents.  But, since the king did not want to mix with the locals, they had their own church building separate from the chateau structure.

We had not even gotten inside and words were failing me.

The widest setting on my camera is 24mm which his quite wide.  But even at 24mm I could not take in the entire width of the structure as seen from the entrance portal.

An early pen and ink sketch of Chambord.

Flash photography was not allowed inside the chateau and it was poorly lit preventing photos of many interesting things.  But, this gold-gilded boar's head that was part of a frame caught my eye.  The painting was too dark to shoot, but the subject of the 4' x 8' painting was the death of a boar at the hands of a pack of hunting dogs.

Chambord had several double helix staircases that were designed by Leonardo da Vinci who had come to France at the request of Francis I.

The double helix staircase went to the top of the turret, but visitors could only go part of the way.

A single helix stairway provided access to the chateau's chapel.

The king's bed chamber.

The toilette with a removable pan.

The fire-breathing salamander was the symbol of the crown.  There were 900+ of these symbols carved into the walls.

One of 4 wings on this floor that had the ceiling covered in alternating tiles of salamanders and the symbol for Francis I.

A view of part of the grounds.  The estate is 5440 hectares, the same area as Inner Paris (about 13,500 acres).  The wall is 32 km long with 6 gates.  Only 800 of the 5440 hectares is open to the public.  Boar and deer still run wild on the property.

The crew assembles for a photo on the upper deck.

The steep roofs were covered in slate shingles.

Intricate carvings in the stone.

A gutter gargoyle.

The chapel itself was quite large with both public and private access.

Most of the gargoyles here were quite well preserved.

The stained glass in the chapel was nice, but not as nice as the balance of the structure in terms of being "over the top".

There were a series of 5 rain gutters each with a different carving serving as the spouts.

Some of the hunting trophies inside were quite stunning and represented kills from various locations both inside and outside Chambord.  These were from Hungary and Austria.

Chambord is well crafted to separate tourists from their cash.  Like every other place of a similar ilk, you exit through the gift shop.  For a few euros, you could get a ride in the horse-drawn carriage.

Our last view of Chateau Chambord from one of the gates.

From Chambord, we headed out on one of the main highways to Chartres.  From the highway, I spotted some large cooling towers that were associated with a nuclear power plant.  The containment buildings are the small pill-shaped buildings to the left of the cooling towers.  France has poor access to hydrocarbon fuels and therefore has a large national commitment to nuclear power.  More that 70% of the power is from nuclear and they have some of the most advanced reactors on the planet at this time.

If you are in the area, Chambord is a must-see.  The excesses of the crown weighed heavily on the common folk and as the scope of the waste became apparent to the masses, it set the stage for the French Revolution which eventually ended the monarchy.

On to Tours and then Chartres, one of the best example of medieval cathedrals.

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