Letter From the Loire - Part 2

Letter From the Loire – Part 2

Ever wonder why the Mona Lisa ended up in France instead of Italy? One of the benefits of travel is you wonder about things like this instead of why you missed the first season of Game of Thrones.

Ever wonder why the Mona Lisa ended up in France instead of Italy? One of the benefits of travel is you wonder about things like this instead of why you missed the first season of Game of Thrones.

In case you missed Part 1 of this letter, here you go.

And oh all right, Season 1 of Thrones here. Honestly the things I do…

Clos de Luce via vinci-closluce.com/
Clos de Luce, via TripAdvisor.com

Anyway speaking of thrones, Leonardo came to France in 1516 at the invitation of  French King François Ist, who had just whupped Milan in a battle and was feeling expansive. The artist brought La Joconde with him, continuing to work on her during his stay at Clos de Lucé in Amboise, where he died three years later. The royal court at the time was in Chateau d’Amboise. The king bought the painting from Leonardo’s assistant (and boyfriend?), who had inherited it.

Clos de Lucé
The rear garden at Clos de Lucé, via VirtualTourist.com by Von Otter.

Situated on a park by the river, the house includes a swell museum with drawings and replicas of the master’s inventions. Reproductions of his contraptions are also placed around the grounds. It’s all very child- and husband-friendly. Read more about Amboise and Clos Lucé at VirtualTourist.com byVon Otter.

I hope Leonardo would have appreciated his garden being enjoyed by our congenial group of Americans on bicycles, though he might have been horrified by the outfits. Understandably.

In the garden at Clos Luce, Loire Valley
Our sporty friends in the garden at Clos Luce.

While we stopped for coffee, I scribbled a quick sketch.

Sketch of rear gardens, Clos de Lucé, by Frances Schultz
Sketch of rear gardens, Clos de Lucé, by moi

Moving on. Some of the most famous gardens in France and the world are those at Chateau Villandry.

Chateau Villandry via www.chateauvillandry.fr/
Chateau Villandry via www.chateauvillandry.fr/

We were shown around by Henri Cavallo himself, current owner and scion of the family who acquired Villandry in the early 20th century and set about restoring the castle, collecting art and creating the gardens.

Henri Carvallo of Chateau Villandry
Henri Carvallo of Chateau Villandry

What a tremendous, not to mention labor-intensive, legacy Monsieur Cavallo and his family carry on. Here’s the story, also a love story, of the Spanish-born doctor Joachim Carvallo and his American heiress wife née Ann Coleman, a scientist herself, and the beautiful place we have to thank them for.

Chateau Villandry, Loire Valley
Chateau Villandry, Loire Valley, via www.chateauvillandry.fr/

Did you know formal gardens are meant to be viewed from above? Me either but makes sense.

Gardens at Villandry, Loire Valley
Gardens at Villandry, Loire Valley
Chateau Villandry via www.chateauvillandry.fr/
Chateau Villandry via www.chateauvillandry.fr/

Owing to the cold spring the gardens were a few weeks behind. I borrowed a few flowery photos from their beautiful website, where I also learned that this week, on July 5 and 6,  is the Night of a Thousand Fires – Nuit de Mille Feux–when the gardens are lit by thousands of candles, which must be magnifico, as His Grace (my husband for new readers, and obviously a fluent French speaker) would say.

Gardens at Villandry
The Kitchen Gardens at Villandry

So peaceful…

Gardens at Villandry, Loire Valley
Gardens at Villandry, Loire Valley

I also liked the cantaloupe colored dining room.

Dining room at Villandry, Loire Valley
Dining room at Villandry, Loire Valley

Cantaloupe is what I kept wanting to call the Pagode de Chanteloup, and judging from some of your comments, you do too. For some reason we just don’t want to put that h in there. Maybe a way to remember it is Hoot, because in the most magnifico of garden folly traditions, this is a beautiful hoot. I can think of worse things to be called.

Pagode de Chanteloupe, Loire Valley, France
The slightly leaning Pagode de Chanteloup, Loire Valley, France

Fellow traveler and Principessa Carolyne Roehm was charmed by it and took 437 photos, as did her beau Simon.

They have matching jackets.

It is true that she looks perfect at all times.

Carolyne and Simon at Pagode de Cantaloupe
Carolyne and Simon at Pagode de Cantaloup

They were very brave and climbed to the top. I have gotten funny about heights. I think because I am turning into my mother.

Children love coming here to play with the antique wooden games outdoors on the lawn.

Antique wooden games at Pagode de Chanteloupe, via www.pagode-chanteloup.com
Antique wooden games at Pagode de Chanteloupe, via www.pagode-chanteloup.com

The gift shop, housed in this wisteria be-draped little building, is an eccentric mix of books, crafts and antiques.  Principessa and I are sometimes more interested in the gift shop than in the museum or castle or whatever. Shocking I know.

House and gift shop at Pagode de Cantaloupe, Loire Valley, France
House and gift shop at Pagode de Cantaloupe, Loire Valley, France

We spent one night at the Domaine de la Tortinere, which was so lovely.

Domaine de la Tortiniere
Domaine de la Tortiniere, via Tortiniere.com

Then on to the Chateau du Rivau, also an inn. Also a good gift shop. Before the gift shop, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Rivau was renown for raising and training war horses.

Chateau du Rivau
Chateau du Rivau, where Joan of Arc prepared for the siege of Orleans in 1429.

In fact Joan of Arc came here to fetch horses and to prepare for the siege of Orleans in 1429.

We prepared for the siege of another dinner, here under the glassy eyes of game trophies.

Dinner at Chateau du Rivau
Dinner at Chateau du Rivau

A beautiful setting…

Dinner at Clos du Rivau
Dinner at Chateau du Rivau

The gardens are spectacular here, but again we were a little early–a shame because these are the premier rose gardens in France with some 300+ species and test gardens for David Austin roses among others.

But you couldn’t say the place didn’t have legs.

Great legs in the gardens at Chateau du Rivau
Great legs in the gardens at Chateau du Rivau

…among other kooky sculptures and exhibits in the current owners’ “Fairytale Gardens.”

Great legs in the gardens at Chateau du Rivau
Great legs in the gardens at Chateau du Rivau

What we missed in roses we made up for in feathers. The peacocks put on quite a show.

Peacock in the garden at Chateau du Rivau
Peacock in the garden at Chateau du Rivau

The End.

Peacock in the garden at Chateau du Rivau
Peacock in the garden at Chateau du Rivau

Photos by Frances except where noted in the captions.

7 Comments

  1. Emily Ellison

    Thank you for sharing these gorgeous photos and mental sketches of one of my favorite regions on earth. Years and years ago my beloved and I spent what was indeed a lovely evening at the Domaine de la Tortinere. There was a multi-windowed dining room on the lower floor looking out over the gardens and pool. I remember most the graceful, dignified mistress of the home who served as our host in order to pay the taxes and keep up the estate that had been in her family for generations. Your blog is always anticipated with such pleasure — even read it today before the NY Times. Safe travels! Emily

  2. Melita Easters

    Loved front (and back) view of peacock!

  3. Linda tilley

    I’m dying…sooooo gorgeous

  4. Gigi Maloney

    Magnifico! I joy to read with my Sunday morning coffee. An armchair journey to France one can never get enough of. I especially liked the ending you funny woman.

  5. Leslie in Little Rock

    Can’t help it, but after thoses fab photos of castles and gardens, the wisteria draped house and gift shop was the sweetest. Loved seeing and reading about all!! Especially about Mona.

  6. Thanks for the all the lessons and breath taking photos. We will be leaving for France in September but my photos and stories won’t be quite as interesting. You certainly are talented, knowledgeable, and entertaining. I look forward to your posts.

  7. Muy magnifico! My co-workers are convinced I am losing it, as I often laugh and/or make comments as if I were speaking with you when reading your blog … Ah, well, c’est la vie! Favorite photos, the gift shop at Pagode de Cantaloupe (too funny), the second one of dinner at Chateau du Rivau (beautiful table setting) and both shots of the peacock (The End … still giggling). I have a friend who lives in a neighborhood where they run wild, one visits her garden every day for breakfsst and he gets testy if she doesn’t serve it pronto, pecks on her terrace’s (glass) door. I totally get the fairy tale concept with the sculptures in the woods, but those giant legs would give me the willies, made me think of a giant Pinnochio running amok in the woods!

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