Two weeks into my stay at Le Mans and we were taken on a day trip to Amboise to see two of the different beautiful chateaux in the Loire Valley.
Chateau de Clos Lucé
First off, we drove an hour and a half to Chateau de Clos Lucé, a small castle that was home to Leonardo Da Vinci between 1516 and 1519, where he lived at the time of his death. The exterior of the castle looks relatively modern considering its history dates back to the middle ages, made of red brick and freestone statues. Upstairs the rooms have been preserved from when Da Vinci lived and died there and you can even see the room where he passed away, wooden beams, stone walls and velvet bedding intact. Downstairs you can explore Da Vinci’s many inventions, including models of his infamous flying machine.
The gardens are large and spacious; leaves flow from willow trees like waterfalls, large canvases of Da Vinci’s art hide amongst the them and in the centre of it all is a placid green lake that you can take a paddleboat out on for only a few euros.
Da Vinci and Francis I
Francis I was the king of France between 1515 – 1547 during which time the French Renaissance was in full motion. The king became one of the first patrons of the arts, being extremely enthusiastic about art and sciences. He became a patron to Da Vinci, giving him asylum after his exile from Italy and offering him the Chateau de Clos Lucé for his enjoyment.
It was Francis I that allowed Da Vinci the freedom and money to pursue his scientific and artistic exploits, even commissioning the most famous painting in the world, The Mona Lisa. During the period of Da Vinci’s stay at Clos Lucé, a secret tunnel was created between there and the King’s dwelling, Chateau d’Amboise, where we visited next on our beauty-filled day trip. This secret tunnel allowed Da Vinci and the Francis I to meet on their own terms.
Our next stop was Chateau d’Amboise, a five minute drive away. We parked right next to the river Loire and walked along its banks towards the centre of town. Within minutes I was transfixed by this town, everywhere you looked you could see flowers, flowers, flowers- every colour under the sun. My camera and I had an absolute field day; as the group veered off into the city square I ran across the main road to take pictures of this adorable flower-woven metal structure, under which sat a little wooden bench. The perfect place to sit and watch the boats sail by on the river.
The town was adorable at that hour, the lowering sun made the white stone buildings gold-washed. French shutters, and rustic lanterns lined the streets that were full of open-air cafés and restaurants. We ate at a small outdoor restaurant where we had a meal of a savoury galette, sweet crêpe and a glass of cider for under 10 euros. The cider was absolutely divine and we ordered a bottle of it after being enticed by the taster.
La Prophétie d’Amboise
When the sun went down, we went into the Chateau d’Amboise to see the multimedia outdoor show centred around the history of French royalty during the 16th century. The show includes projection mapping onto the walls of the castle, much like the Nuit des Chimères in Le Mans. The show follows the story of Francis I, the prophecy leading up to his reign, his friendship and patronage with Leonard Da Vinci and finally the war that ensued during his time on the throne. Although the show was performed completely in French I was really proud that I could understand the plot and everything going on… I’m so excited to get better and better at my language skills!
On the way back to the coach, I again had to leave the group to sprint to the river bank and take pictures of this beautiful sunset glowing over the horizon- the perfect goodbye to a perfect day in Amboise visiting its beautiful chateaux and exploring its rich history.
Much love <3