My Travel Blog

The Unrivaled Grandeur of Chambord

Of all the chateaux in the Loire Valley, Chambord is the largest and most ostentatious.  King Francois I started construction in 1519, and after 28 years it was never completed.  The designer of the chateau is still up for debate though Domenico da Cortona, Philibert Delorme and even Leonardo da Vinci are all possibilities.

Chambord was originally built as a hunting lodge.  It has 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 84 staircases.  There is a twenty-mile long wall that encloses the 13,000-acre park that surrounds the chateau.  You could say it was a castle fit for a king, but apparently Francois didn’t particularly care for it.  He only spent seven weeks there during his reign. With its over sized rooms, high ceilings, and open windows it was never intended to be used year round.  The heating costs alone would have been much too high.  For those reason it was left unfurnished.  All of the furniture, wall coverings, eating and cooking utensils had to be brought in, and set up for each hunting trip.  Because there wasn’t a village in the area they didn’t have an immediate source of food either.  All of the food had to be brought in for the king and roughly 2,000 of his groupies.  Between the lack of furniture and food the castle was a logistical nightmare to use. Chambord is still unfurnished and a little creepy.  The rooms are so over sized there’s nothing intimate about the place.  It’s huge stonewalls and massive ceilings.  The one thing I did like was the double helix central stairway supposedly designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

Now that’s what I call a nice hunting lodge.

Da Vinci’s double helix staircase.

Note the detail workmanship.

A beautiful bridge over the Loire River.

Some flowers in the garden.

A busy bee.

While in the Loire Valley we had to take a ride in a balloon.  I had visions of floating peacefully over grand chateaux while waving to the tourists below.  Unfortunately that’s not what we got.  I suggest that if you decide to take a balloon ride make sure you inquire as to what there is to see.  I realize there are no guarantees, but the operator should be willing to give you a pretty good idea.  We ended up flying over lots and lots of farmland.  It wasn’t even the incredibly beautiful farmland we see next to the canals.  It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the ride it was just that it wasn’t what we had hoped for.  We ended up landing in a farmer’s freshly planted field.  As we were packing up the balloon the farmer drove up.  He was not happy.  A lot of arm waving ensued as the farmer and our guide discussed the infraction of landing in his field.  Apparently they settled their differences, as the farmer ended up sharing a glass of champagne with us. You have to love the French.

Inflating our balloon.

Flying over the countryside.

More pretty countryside.

Packing up the balloon.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave” – 
a Chuck Palmer Adventure novel


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.