A few days after arriving in Paris, we took a trip to visit a number of châteaux in the Val de Loire. Our trip included: Chambord, Cheverny, Chenonceau, Blois, Amboise, Château du Clos Lucé and Chartres! We had a wonderful time exploring each castle and became well informed about the history of each castle.
For instance, Francis I lived in Chambord but only for 72 days each year! Kings and royalty spent a significant amount of time traveling from one castle to another, which made the public well aware of their wealth and prestige. I learned that when kings left a castle, they would bring literally everything with them- including tapestries, furniture, and an entourage that ranged from 1,000-9,000 people! I can’t even imagine how time consuming and difficult it was to constantly be on the move.
Cheverny is another beautiful château in the Val de Loire. Funny enough, the heirs currently live in the right wing of the château and the rest of the compound is a museum. (Fun fact: Do you like Tintin? If so, you may recognize Cheverny from the Tintin comic books. Hergé incorporated a similar illustration in the Tintin books which he titled Château de Moulinsart. The only difference is that Hergé did not include the left and right wings.)
Château du Clos Lucé was very interesting because it is where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last two years of his life. We even saw his bedroom, which included an elaborately decorated wooden bed frame with vibrantly colored red velour tapestries.
The last stop on our trip was Chartres, and it completely took my breath away. The intricate stained glass (which people often recognize by the stark, royal blue) was so finely detailed that I could have spent hours just examining one pane of glass. Our tour guide informed us that the panes are in great condition because they were taken down during the world wars in order to help preserve them. In addition, she told us that scientists are unable to replicate the exact shade of blue, so hopefully restorations on the stained glass won’t be needed for a long time!
After those three full days, we all returned to Paris to meet and spend our first night with our host families.