The day started early, leaving Caen in thick fog which soon cleared to brilliant sunshine and soaring temperatures. The Chateau of Amboise, on the Loire, was the first stop, as I wanted to see the gardens. But, as always, there was a great deal more to enjoy.
There has been a substantial building here since c.9 C because of the strategic, military importance of the site high above a ford, later bridge, over the Loire. The current buildings date from c.late 1400s when the chateau was considerably bigger.
The views from the Castle are stunning! The Loire looks ‘untamed’, and from the rooms and terraces the wooded countryside to the north stretches as far as the eye can see. The town lies down below, with higgledy piggledy streets, and the Church of St Denis dating from the 1100s.
Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany were the Royal couple who developed the chateau and spent most time there, and their emblems are engraved on the columns in the Great Hall. Because of its situation in the countryside the Chateau was used for hunting, and the heads of the columns in the Great Hall are carved accordingly.
The Chapel of St Hubert was built in 1491. St Hubert was the patron saint of hunting and the gargoyles and decoration on the spire, as well as the engraving over the door, all show hunting emblems and symbols. In the 1400s it was attached to the buildings, and part of the Queen’s chambers. (see above) The Chapel is also the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci, although some writers wonder if this is true.
The Muslim burial ground in the Chateau is a surprise and originates in France’s fight to free Algeria from the Ottoman Empire in the 1830s. Abd el-Kader fought against the French and was captured and held at Amboise. (More here.)
The gardens are in compartments, with the formal parterre above the ramparts now just green lawn. But the idea of formality is retained in the beds of box balls.
Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ was gorgeous, great heads of white in clumps of bushes – I need to plant mine in a group of three with support! And there were other varieties of hydrangea which I would love to grow.
Scattered in the grounds I founds a beautiful blue agapanthus growing in a tub, verbena bonariensis added majesty, and rosehips looked like bunches of cherry tomatoes
Onwards, to the Cher, to see the Chateau of Chenonceaux (1513) astride the River.
Then back to the motorway and a fast drive to Bourges to find the Hotel Bourbon, built around a restored Abbey.