LivingTravelThe castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley

The castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley

The old castle, originally built in the late 10th century, became famous in the 16th century when it was acquired by Catherine de Medicis, widow of King Henry II in 1560. In a typical act of revenge against Henry’s favorite mistress and his bow . Rival, Diane de Poitiers, the owner, forced Diane to hand over Chenonceau, which Catherine and Diane preferred in exchange for Chaumont.

Don’t be put off by the story; Chaumont is charming. It is an elegant white stone building overlooking the Loire Valley. Powerful and still looking like a fortress on the west side, it has more Renaissance features on the other two fronts. Keep an eye out for the interlocking ‘D’ of Diane de Poitiers, surrounded by bows and quivers, hunting horns, deltas and crescents of the moon representing Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt.

The castle had quite a glorious existence, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries under the then owner, Le Ray de Chaumont, who turned the place into a social and intellectual center. Prominent figures flocked to the castle, including the 18th-century Italian sculptor Nini, who made beautiful terracotta medallions in the library, the writer Germaine de Stael, and Benjamin Franklin.

Later, the Prince and Princess de Broglie added to the property, building magnificent stables in 1877 with all the comforts for the horses, including electricity installed in 1906. They also employed the landscape architect, Henri Duchene, to create the rolling park that you see today. The prince brought the seal; the princess, daughter of a sugar baron, brought the cash.

What you see

Today visit the rooms of the two great rivals Catherine de Medicis and Diane de Poitiers, as well as the great Council room with its Spanish tile floor. Don’t miss Ruggieri’s room where Catherine consulted the stars with her astrologer. This is where, according to legend (there always have to be some legends), he saw the fate of his three sons, Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III and the rise of the Bourbon family that took over the kingdom with accession. by Enrique IV.

After that, it is a great relief to go down to the restored kitchens that fed the great house and outside to the stables.

The park

The park is huge, stretching around the castle and offering you great views over the Loire River. The park is dotted with several large-scale sculptures, including one that is, in fact, a huge wooden walkway that offers a panoramic view of the river.

A new 10-hectare garden has expanded the Domaine’s historic gardens. In this, the Pr é s du Goualoup , the first garden named Ermitage sur la Loire and created by the Chinese architect and garden specialist, Che Bing Chiu, is designed in the spirit of the Chinese garden. With the idea that it will evolve over the years with the incorporation of pavilions, trees and stones, its aim is to take the visitor into the world of meditation of Chinese scholars. Others will follow, but this is a very long-term project that takes many years.

The international garden festival

This famous annual festival always takes place from April to October. If you are interested in garden or garden design, do not miss it. Along with the castle and the other gardens, a visit to Chaumont makes for a great day out.

Eating in Chaumont

There are several restaurants on the premises. The largest, Le Grand Velum , is housed in a greenhouse-like structure. Three menus offer creative dishes, beautifully presented with seasonal ingredients. Desserts that include a chocolate cone on a waffle base with cherry sauce, pannacotta, and sorbet should not be neglected.

Le Comptoir Mediterranee (Mediterranean Bistro) offers freshly cooked dishes such as pasta and homemade sauces.

L’Estaminet is the place for a light bite of homemade sandwiches, cakes and sorbets.

Le Café du Parc is near the castle and offers more snacks.

Practical information

Phone: 00 33 (0) 2 54 20 99 22

Château and Grounds every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Check online for current admission prices.

Get there

Chaumont-sur-Loire is located between Blois and Tours, 115 miles southwest of Paris.
By car Take the A10 and A86 motorways and exit at Blois (junction 17) or Amboise (junction 18), then follow the signs for Chaumont which is on the D952.
Every day train from Paris Gare d’Austerlitz at the Orleans line – Tour. Exit in Onzain and then take a taxi from there.

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