Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Friday April 21 - Châteaux of the rich and famous - Cheverny and Chaumont - part 1

Portrait of a couple waiting for lunch by Lynn Dosch
Did I mention that the Loire Valley is the summer playground for the rich and famous French folks from the Renaissance to the 19th century? And who could blame them? Getting away from Paris where sewage was dumped into the streets and the masses were huddled in dingy quarters of poverty, and traveling to the nearby Loire Valley, the wealthy could breathe fresh country air, see vistas of productive farmlands, including seas of vineyards, and walk beautiful gardens designed by famous landscape artists. With 629 miles of length, the Loire offers plenty of property options for those with means. Kind of like us, n'est-ce pas? Well, we can at least see how life might be if we had the means.

Cheverny and Chaumont are the farthest afield for us (more than 2 hours drive) and therefore nearer Paris than others we've wandered. Caravaning in two cars, lunches packed, we set out early (for us), heading our usual easterly direction.

Cheverny is set in a huge manicured park of lawns, alleys of trees, and gardens. It is still owned by descendants of the original builder, and except for a brief time in the hands of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henry II of France, the property has remained in the private hands of the Hurault family. Well, except for 20 years during the Revolution when the people claimed ownership and threw out the family, who later re-purchased the property during the Restoration. But at least the château was spared from destruction during this time. The château was opened to visitors in 1922, one of the earliest private châteaux to allow visits by the public.

The lifestyles of the rich and famous continues to modern times and Cheverny offers twice-weekly opportunities to hunt with their pack of 70 hounds. We didn't look into how one might do that, as I expect our horsemanship wouldn't hold up to a hunt.
It's a good life here at Cheverny

Lounging in the sun after the morning meal

Supporting the estate is a large farm managing the lawns, shrubs, flowers and vegetable gardens needed to feed the family and awe the visitor.
Barns at Cheverny. The silo-looking building is called a "fuye" or dovecote. Today it is a water tower providing water for the gardens.

Barns at Cheverny

The château itself is a 17th century example of pure classical style, sporting symmetry and understated elegance for a country home.
A young couple with pure classical style and understated elegance. They could easily be the owners of this estate. Oui? Non?

Side view of Cheverny 
It is a narrow rectangle, at times only one room wide. Because it has been in the same family for 600 years, the decoration and furnishings are in remarkably good condition. Here's what's inside the house:
To the right of the main entrance is a hallway with the dining room behind it. You can see from the front to the back of the house through the doorways. with Christie Dosch

You can see that every surface of the walls and ceiling are painted. Even the inside window shutters are painted with lovely motifs.
decorated window shutter

The dining room has elegantly carved oak sideboards.
sideboard in dining room
Christie and Alex in the dining room with the rope - oh, wait, we're not playing Clue?

Scenes from Don Quixote are painted on the wood paneling.
Scene painted on wood paneling. 

A huge gilded fireplace at one end could warm the room which could accommodate 30 dinner guests.
Dining room fireplace

After mounting the large stone staircase with straight rise and landings (rather than the medieval circular stairs in a tower), we entered the private apartments (on the left side of the building looking from the front). Like the dining room, there is a hallway at the front of the building with rooms opening off the hallway.

The Birth chamber is where mothers would present their new-born babies. Wouldn't you love to have this mahogany cradle in your family?
Birth Chamber with mahogany cradle

The nursery showed toys the children of the family would have played with. But the Lego dogs?  That seems a bit out of place in this period decor.  But they are cute replicas of the estates hunting dogs.

The hounds of Cheverny - created in Legos
In the Bridal chamber, we saw the wedding dress worn in the 1994 wedding of the Marquise de Vibraye (wife of the current owner)
Bridal dress worn in 1994

At the end of the hall, where the château is deceptively wider, there are two rooms from front to back. One is a small family dining room for more intimate meals.
Family dining room - I'm not too sure about the deer head center piece
It connects to a small living room.
sitting room

Crossing the center hallway, we entered the arms room where swords and lances and spears fill the walls. Suits of armor, travel trunks and an 18th century sedan chair complete the room's decoration. I expect this room, the largest in the château, was created to impress. I was more impressed by the dining room.
The sedan chair in the arms room

From the arms room, we entered into a very dark but sumptuously decorated Kings bedchamber. Remember that the gentry had to have a room available should the King of France stop by for a visit, In most cases, the king never visited. I wonder if they used the rooms themselves....
The king's bed - entire room is hung with tapestries - made to impress and to keep out the drafts

Fireplace in the King's Bedchamber

Paintings on the ceiling of the King's bedchamber

Oratory for prayers - you kneel before the carving of Christ on the cross - in the King's bedchamber

Going up one more flight of stairs brings us to the chapel of the house, under the eaves of the central roof.

Back down the stairs, we visit the formal reception rooms on the left side of the main floor. Entering the vestibule, we see another Lego masterpiece - this time a replica of Cheverny château.
Once more the grand Salon takes up the entire depth of the house and you can see out the windows to the front as well as the back gardens of the house. Beyond the Salon are several smaller, more intimate, but equally decorated rooms.

Outside, most tour the gardens but I choose to knit on a bench next to a soothing fountain and garden shrubs. Most pleasant.
This is where I sat while the others explored the grounds. So peaceful here.
The rear of the château seen through the wisteria

We meet up again at some benches near the front of the house to eat our lunch and take photos with the large frame set up for our photo pleasure.

A quick check on the dogs in their kennels and the kitchen gardens and hunt room and we're off to our next château - Chaumont.

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