Our 2nd from last stop in France was the Loire Valley, famed for its Chateaux, elaborate gardens, historic towns, and vineyards AND as of 2000, the central valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Glorious Chateaux and Gardens. On our way to Amboise to meet 1 of the barge trip couples, we stopped to tour Villandry Chateau’s Gardens. Reputed to be the most beautiful formal gardens in France, its colors, shapes, layouts, fountains, variety of shrubs, flowers, and trees were breath-taking! The next day the other couple and we walked to the Chateau du Clos Luce and Parc Leonardo DaVinci, celebrating the 500-year anniversary of when DaVinci lived here for 3 years with a special exhibit of some of his sketches, paintings, etc. The most fun aspect of this lovely house and park was seeing some of DaVinci’s life-size reproductions and wooden models of widely varied equipment (water mills, machine guns, etc.).  On our own the next day, we first visited 500-Year old Chambord Chateau with its storied double-helix staircase rumored to be designed by Da Vinci. King Francois I built this huge, architecturally-beautiful complex and gardens shortly after the death of his friend DaVinci.  Then we drove to Chateau Chenonceau, aka “The Ladies’ Chateau” because so many women influenced its history. King Henry II originally gave it to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who in addition to her excellent decorating taste added a ballroom extension over the adjacent river to enable easy access to hunting grounds. More somber in taste, Henry’s widow Catherine de Medici, removed Diane then created the stunning gardens remaining today.  Throughout Chenonceau, each room had the most gorgeous flower arrangements, which sometimes included fruit, vegetables, and seed.  Amazing! Both Chambord and Chenonceau are in the top 3, must-see chateaux in Loire Valley.  See OUR TRAVELOGUE for more details.