The next Chateau on our list was Chambord, probably the most photographed Chateau in the Loire Valley if not all of France. It is undoubtedly the largest and marvellous example of French Renaissance architecture, built by King Francis I (the self-same Francis who seized Chateau de Chenonceau in our earlier instalment).
From the exterior, it is imposing, with multiple turrets, cupolas, eleven different kinds of towers and three types of chimneys. Its roofline has been compared to that of a town and with good reason.
The surprises come thick and fast as you delve further into the story. Chateau de Chambord was not a principal residence of the King. Although it has 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, and 84 staircases, it was a hunting lodge, of all things. Never completed, the King used it for less than seven weeks in total, in short bursts for hunting trips. With open windows, enormous rooms and high ceilings, heating was well nigh impossible. Consequently, it was never furnished, and all the accoutrements for the short stays had to be schlepped with the arriving parties of up to 2,000 visitors. And you think you have problems entertaining your relatives at Christmas!
The salamander, King Francis I’s personal emblem, is present in the chateau’s architectural detail.
The magnificent internal double helix staircase is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, although there is some question about his involvement.
More than 140 years later, Louis XIV furnished the Royal Apartments. This endeavour involved building lower internal ceilings and constructing partition walls whose padded fabric wall coverings provided some insulation from the drafts. The fashion of beds enclosed in curtains was very understandable under the frigid circumstances.
The Chateau contains some lovely ceramics, including large lidded ginger jars and a set of porcelain.
Louis the XV made his bid for heat by installing three huge Dutch ceramic stoves.
As we wended our way towards the exit, I was delighted to discover that the gift shop sold a set of six Gien plates featuring French Chateaux. It quite made my day.