Monday, June 17, 2002

Villandry / Azay-le-Rideau / Langeais, France

This was the first of the castles that we visited on the biking portion of our trip. There is an actual moat around the chateau (French for castle), but most of our time was focused on the incredible gardens. They are not strictly ornamental -- the vegetables grown in the kitchen garden are sold and the proceeds are used to help with the upkeep of the chateau.

Imagine a clandestine rendezvous in one of these arbors, enveloped in the delicate fragrance of the perfect roses... ah, l'amour!

One of the gardens at Villandry was this carefully designed maze of hedges. We took this picture from the platform built in the center of the maze -- yes, we made it in and out (although the out was much simpler than the in!!!).

This is the large drawing room, decorated in 18th centruy furnishings. We walked in here and all the sudden I had felt the need to rush home and work on my dollhouse -- just shrink these pieces down, and they'd be perfect!

This was taken from one of the rooms in the chateau. These are the gardens of love -- each of the four main squares (of which only two are clear in this picture, both on the left side of the picture, one on the bottom, the other in the middle) represent a different type of love (tragic love, inconstant love, tender love, and passionate love).

This is taken looking back at the chateau from a walkway overlooking the gardens of love.

The furthest end of the grounds at Villandry were occupied by this water garden and several swans.

This castle was surrounded by a moat on three sides. No swans swimming here, but we did spy some rather fearsome fish -- descendants of a former moat monster...?!

Just a beautiful old bridge... at least, that's what we could think AFTER we had ridden across it.  It was rather narrow and heavily traveled, sometimes only inches came between us and the rather large trucks headed into Langeais!

This is what remains of the oldest stone structure in France -- built aroung the end of the 10th century by Foulques Nerra. Today it stands behind the chateau at Langeais (somehow we didn't manage to get a picture of that castle from the outside -- only a picture of one of the rooms inside. Sorry!)

This is the one picture we got of the chateau that is still intact at Langeais. On December 6th, 1491, Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII were united in marriage, unequivocally uniting the French kingdom and the duchy of Brittany. One of the rooms upstairs in the chateau is decorated to depict what the ceremony must have looked like -- complete with models of the Duchess, Charles VIII and the Pope. It was quite extraordinary to be standing in a room where history was taking place a full year before Christopher Colombus set out on his voyage that led to the "discovery" of the Americas!

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