Anne Gordon is a widely read travel writer. Her articles and photographs are published in books, newspapers and magazines. For a glimpse into her world, read on ....
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley in France
EXPLORE A LAND OF CASTLES AND KINGS – THE LOIRE VALLEY - FRANCE
The Loire Valley in France is known as 'the garden of France' and 'the country of a thousand castles'. On a recent seven day visit I wondered through a glorious land of vineyards and flowers and explored at least eight of its 1,000 castles. Of those, I found the Chateau de Chambord to be the most spectacular. A mere 2 hour train ride from Paris, the chateau is situated in the centre of a 54 square kilometre forest. Enclosed within a 32 kilometre-long wall erected in the 16th century, the forest was once the hunting preserve of Francois 1. Still a wildlife refuge, its hunting rights are one of the perks of the presiding French President.
For 25 years 1800 skilled artisans laboured on the building of the young French king's hunting lodge. This massive structure, France's second largest castle after Versailles, is crowned with a roof likened to the skyline of an Oriental city. Its upper terrace comprises an astounding array of lanterns, chimneys, cupolas, minarets and towers. During Francois' reign it was customary for ladies of the Court to gather on the terrace to watch the return of the hunt and for the King and his courtiers to enjoy spectacular events, many of them devised by Leonardo da Vinci.
A ghostly image of the interior of
da Vinci's double-helix stairway
One of Chambord's most famous attractions is a double-helix staircase attributed to the Italian artist/architect. After studying his design sketches, its present caretakers are of the opinion that Leonardo was likely responsible for the staircase's unique design. Built around a circular central core lit by an opening at its apex, the stairway is such that climbers ascending do not come in contact with those descending.
Amboise Castle, home of King Francois 1
Although the origins of Chambord are uncertain, it is thought that Leonardo may have had more input into the castle design that just the staircase. He was a close confidant of the king, so much so that the king had an underground tunnel built from Amboise Castle to the artist's home so that he could visit for conversation with his mentor at any time of the day or night.
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Thursday, 6 September, 2012