Photo Locale of the Month – March 2016

Spring is in the air! The Vernal Equinox is just two days away, and the weather across Tennessee – and elsewhere in the U.S. as well – has been positively spring-like. A few days ago, temps crept into the lower 80’s, and I was able to sleep with my windows wide open!

Despite the continent being more northerly in latitude, the weather in Western Europe is generally milder than here in the U.S. This was definitely the case in 2011, when I spent several sunny, shorts-wearing spring days in France, exploring Paris for the umpteenth time and making my first trip to French château country, aka the Loire Valley.

Chambord Chateau 8

The most famous attraction in this land of palaces and manors, just a few hours south of Paris, is the castle-like Chambord Château.

Chambord Chateau 9

The dizzying roof comb of Chambord Château is like something out of a fairy tale, or a J.K. Rowling novel, perhaps.

Chambord Chateau 32

The château was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I of France, as evidenced above. Artwork from the Louvre was stored here during WWII.

Chambord Chateau 14

The unique, double-helix staircase may or may not have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci, and helped grant UNESCO World Heritage status to Chambord.

Chambord Chateau 87

The grounds are enormous, and include this canal and waterside walking/cycling path. Rowboats are available for hire.

Blois 15 - view of Cathedrale Saint Louis

The hilly town of Blois (pronounced “blue-wah”), two hours south of Paris by train, is the gateway to Chambord Château, and a nice place to while away an afternoon. The Cathédrale Saint-Louis sits atop a bluff in Blois, overlooking the Loire River.

Chateau de Blois 70

Blois plays host to its own château, which towers over the rest of the town. This château was also built for François Ier.

Chateau de Blois 21

A curious nighttime diversion at Château du Blois is the striking sound-and-light show, which is performed in the main courtyard.

Chenonceau Chateau 7

Another famous attraction, this one literally straddling the River Cher, is Chenonceau Château. Although the picture above was taken by yours truly, you may have seen this likeness on calendars and postcards of France.

Chenonceau Chateau 75 - bedroom of Catherine de Medicis

The interior of Chambord was quite sparse. (It was “merely” a hunting lodge, after all.) The interior of Chenonceau, by comparison, is French baroque. The salon pictured above belonged to Catherine de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry II.

Chenonceau Chateau 83

One highlight of my visit to Chenonceau Château was touring the well-tended gardens. After several days of unseasonably warm weather, the skies turned overcast, which helped bring out the colors of the flowers and prolong the seasonal bloom of the tulips.

Chenonceau Chateau 23

An exercise in depth-of-field, part one (above).

Chenonceau Chateau 24

An exercise in depth-of-field, part two (above).

Chenonceau Chateau 51

A series of gravel walking trails led from the château, guarded by sphinxes, and into the woods…

Chenonceau Chateau 44

…and led to a working farm, adjacent to the château’s grounds and like something from a dream. Grass-eating donkeys roamed free and assured that the groundskeepers would seldom need to mow.

Chenonceau town 5

I found something peaceful in this image of a French woman reading the newspaper while waiting for the train into town.

Tours 5

The “town,” in this case, is the lively university city of Tours, 25 minutes by regional train from Chenonceau Château. This pedestrian mall is one of the longest in Europe, and its restaurants were largely Middle Eastern in flare. Fine by moi. 🙂

Chateau de Tours 3

It should be mentioned that Tours (the “s” is silent) has its own château as well, the aptly-named Château du Tours, above. The original furnishings are gone and the château currently houses a rotating collection of photographic art.

Bus ride to Chambord 3

The Loire Valley, with its wide rivers, dense greenery, lively towns, and centuries-old châteaus, is one of the gems of Western Europe, and a high point of any visit to France.

All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food and culture all while weathering the challenges of life in a city with over 20 million people. Life's unpredictable journey has since brought him to Tennessee, where he is close to family and to the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, top ten lists, and travel in general.

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