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France ~ Chateau de Cheverny: Tally-Ho and Tintin

August 27, 2009 by · Comments Off on France ~ Chateau de Cheverny: Tally-Ho and Tintin 

Chateau de Cheverny

Chateau de Cheverny in the Loire Valley, France

My bus trip continued to the Chateau of Cheverny, a Loire Valley location renown for fox-hunting. Cheverny was built in the 1620’s for Henri Hurault, the Comte de Cheverny and Governor of Blois. The architecture flaunts Louis XIII style with classical symmetry, five pavilions (divisions) and two roof-top domes. The 1640’s interior decoration presents some of the finest paneling, painted ceilings, and fireplaces of the era.

Diane de Poitiers, who owned Chateau de Chenonceau (which Laura and I had visited earlier that morning), also held deed to an earlier castle on this site. She sold the property back to the original family owners in 1565.

The current mansion underwent a major twelve-year renovation during the late 1770’s. The Hurault de Vibraye family, descents of the original builders, acquired the estate in 1825 and have kept it in the family ever since.

Tintin_and_Snowy

TinTin

Perhaps the facade, decorated with sculpted roman busts looks familiar? Cheverny inspired the mythical Chateau of Moulinsart in Herge’s famous Tintin stories. We noticed some darling children’s toys and Tintin memorabilia in the gift shop, but Laura did not recall the story. I recognized TinTin, but honestly have never read the books.

Cheverny

The ground of Chateau de Cheverny

After entering the main gate, visitors walk down a long, wide gravely path dividing a manicured lawn. They enter the house through the small main door, into the lobby boasting a grand limestone staircase with elegant carvings. The ceilings feature finely painted exposed beams which create a lively colorful mood. The walls are covered with wood paneling decorated with more flowers and mottos. The swanky drawing room dazzles with examples of French decorative arts and period furniture.

We toured the bedrooms including the King’s Chamber where Henri IV slept, the dining room, and armory. I was impressed but felt at ease with the gracious home-like atmosphere. Some members of the bus tour group visited the private apartments, which were used until 1985. They raved about the interior but time was short with so much to see.

Dining Room at Cheverny

Dining Room- Interior of Chateau de Cheverny

Laura and I chose to walk across the grounds to the kennels. We heard barking, then found at least seventy fox hounds of mixed English and French breeds. Our guide said feeding time is popular with tourists, especially children, who delight in watching the dogs gobble their dinner.

The Dogs of Cheverny

The Dog Kennels at Chateau de Cheverny

Sadly we missed seeing: the formal gardens, the organery (where the Mona Lisa was secretly kept during the Second World War), the woodland park offering boat rides on the lake and the trophy room- filled with over two hundred stag horns. Hunts are still held on the property.

But, our schedule demanded departure: tally-ho and away we go. Next stop-Chateau de Chambord .

France ~ Chateau de Chenonceau: Tour of the Ladies Chateau

August 25, 2009 by · Comments Off on France ~ Chateau de Chenonceau: Tour of the Ladies Chateau 

Chateau de Chenonceau over the River Cher

Chateau de Chenonceau on the River Cher in the Loire Valley, France

The Loire Valley, just two hours from Paris, abounds with a wealth of historic chateaux. The former French royals discovered this enchanting area made a perfect getaway and I was ready to join them, even if that meant taking a group bus tour.

My daughter Laura and I were in Paris so we hopped aboard the comfortable vehicle at 7:15 am, which included about 20 other tourists. We were blessed with two knowledgeable guides who fortunately understood the need to nap.

First stop was Chateau de Chenonceau which sits not just on the banks– but directly over the River Cher. Chenonceau is often referred to as the ladies chateau as its designers and owners were women.

Marques Tower at Chenonceau

The Marques Tower of Chenonceau

Upon entering the grounds, we strolled down a long, sun-dappled tree covered pathway. Two lion statues acted as sentinels at the gates. Then, we passed the Marques Tower, the oldest standing building remaining from the original fortress built in 1432. The turrets are exactly what I imagine Rapunzel’s tower in fairy tales.

Our guide led us into the stone castle through the main entry with the original wooden doors. This section, built in 1513, was sold to King Francois I, in 1535, to pay back taxes and debts. In 1547, Henri II presented it to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Diane loved the chateau and lavished her feminine touches on the property.

However, when Henri died, the queen (Catherine de Medici) took revenge and forced Diane out. Diane took Chaumont (another chateau) in exchange. In the end, the rival between these two women created the galleried bridge, the chateau’s most famous feature. Diane designed and installed a small lower bridge. Catherine then redesigned a large extension above and thus, the chateau grew over the river.

Chenonceau Bedroom

Royal Bedchamber- Chenonceau

Paintings, tapestries, original furniture and other Renaissance period pieces are scattered throughout the rooms. Visitors see the guardroom, chapel, bedroom of Diane de Poitiers, and another used by Catherine de Medici. I found it easy to imagine royalty dancing in the spacious gallery ballroom over the water. The view from the room’s windows, however, bespoke tranquility.

In addition, we saw Henri II’s bedroom with a portrait of Diane and the five queens’ bedroom- used by Catherine de Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law. Louise of Lorraine’s bedroom was decorated in somber black and white after her husband, King Henri III,died. She then became known as the White Queen for joining the reclusive nuns who always wore white.

Chateau de Chenonceau Balcony

Laura overlooking the Chenoceau gardens

I took this photo of Laura in the upper window balcony because I thought she looked like a princess smiling down on her subjects.

The gardens burst with vibrant pink blossoms: one is a copy of Diane’s garden, the other is Catherine’s. These flowers are used to create the gorgeous arrangements that decorate each room in the chateau.

Chateau de Chenonceau

Chenonceau Chateau from the garden

Chenonceau gets a thumbs up. I would definitely return to this elegant chateau and spend an entire day. We didn’t have time to explore the maze, take a boat ride on the Cher, which would have offered a terrific photo-op or see the wax figures displayed in period costuming. The lunch area seemed lovely, and goodness, more time to stroll the grounds would have been appreciated. I suspect the grand illumination of the grounds during summer months is spectacular.

Mimi’s Angels and Demons Tour continues: Vatican Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb

May 23, 2009 by · Comments Off on Mimi’s Angels and Demons Tour continues: Vatican Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb 

christassol.jpg

Early Christian Ceiling mosaic of Jesus in Necropolis masoleum

Day 7- Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb

We left Langdon and Vittoria racing along the pasetto (corridor) from Castle Sant’Angelo to St Peter’s Basilica. Our story now picks up speed, makes confusing turns and exposes a few devilish surprises, as it nears the climax.

I won’t try to summarize or give away the plot; you simply must read the book or go to the movie. But, let’s just say, both versions lead to our next site. We venture deep below the Vatican– to the Necropolis .

scavi-tombc-ent-mb-a.jpg

Doorway into ancient masoleum under the Vatican

Most visitors to Rome, and many residents, have no knowledge of the hidden city lying two stories below the main altar. Ancient mausoleums were not uncovered until 1939 when Pope Pius XII ordered a secret archeological dig. He hoped to find St. Peter’s grave . The result of their discoveries was not publicly announced until decades later.

I learned of the Vatican Scavi (necropolis) tour while researching my 2008 trip to Italy, and applied for tickets. Only 150-200 people per day are permitted into the tombs. Tickets costs just ten euro, but must be requested months ahead.

The morning I arrived at St Peters, I stopped a priest to ask for directions to the meeting point. I showed him my confirmation letter and he looked at me, smiled; then said, “You are blessed.”

And I was. To stand in the most sacred space in Rome is incredibly powerful.

I wrote a descriptive article about the Scavi tour, recently published by Bootsnall.com. I hope you will use this link to read the details of the search for St. Peter’s tomb .

Angels & Demons Secret Vatican Tour

Inside Catacombs (not the Scavi tombs)

Inside Catacombs (not the Scavi tombs)

This photo was NOT taken in the Vatican Scavi, it is a photo of catacombs.


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