Chateau d’Amboise

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July, 2019

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The second château we visited whilst cruising on the barge “Nymphea”:, on the Loire Valley’s River Cher, was “Château d’Amboise”:

Walking up a path lined with purple and white flower beds, we found ourselves in the grounds of the château. The terraces provided excellent views over the roof tops of Amboise and the Loire River. Today’s château is much smaller than the original complex which was trapezoid in shape, and a map clearly showed the difference in size.

In the grounds, we found the gothic St Hubert Chapel containing the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci who was given the privilege of being buried at the chateau by Francois 1. The spire is studded with wooden stag antlers as St Hubert was the patron saint of hunters.

Crossing manicured lawns, we approached the long, narrow château noticing the local white tuffeau stone, elaborate carvings above the doors and protruding gargoyle heads.

Entering the building, via the sloping former foot soldiers’ passage lined with the coats of arms of all the château’s owners from the 10th century onwards, we climbed more steps. At the top a special exhibition was dedicated to the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death on 2 May 1519. This contained many drawings and paintings of the death bed scene, which showed King Francois at his bedside holding his head. However, this was not strictly accurate as Francois had been elsewhere when his good friend died.

We guided ourselves using the booklet provided. As a place of residence for French kings from the 15th to the 19th centuries, the rooms and furnishings were naturally elaborate: many had large tapestries hung on the walls and fresh floral arrangements abounded. Above the fireplace in the Franciscan antechamber were carvings in the tuffeau stone of interlaced ropes, a symbol of the Franciscan order, which looked incredibly realistic.

We left down the cavalier ramp decorated with amusing late 15th century ‘grotesques’. The helix shape allowed horses and carriages to reach the terraces from the town.

We wandered around the extensive, beautiful gardens where lavender beds buzzed with bees, a robot lawnmower appeared to be making little progress on the large lawns and a huge number of low topiary box balls, made us wonder how much effort must go into keeping them so immaculate.

Events are held in the evening and stadium seating was set up for floodlit shows, but we were due back on board the “Nymphea”: for dinner.


Helen Jackson

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