From forbidding fortresses to charming castles, the splendid structures of the Loire Valley reflect lives of intrigue and opulence.
Medieval strongholds built for defense with moats and towers gradually gave way to spectacular Renaissance pleasure palaces. Sumptuous elegance, rather than physical comfort, was the primary design principle of the châteaux. Ornamented with paintings and sculptures and surrounded by reflecting pools and perfectly manicured gardens, they make the mansions of today’s rich and famous appear austere by comparison.
Distinguished Professor of Art History, Janetta Rebold Benton, Ph.D., a former resident of Paris, showcases these romantic and historic dwellings, and sets them in the context of French history.
12–1 pm: Luxury and Liaisons along the Loire
The château of Chambord, with a miniature village on its roof and a double spiral staircase, is the largest castle in the valley. Chenonceau, the “château of the ladies,” was Henry II’s gift to his mistress Diane de Poitiers; when Henry died, his wife Catherine de Medici forced Diane to switch palaces and move to Chaumont.
1–1:30 pm: A French-inspired snack break
1:30–2:30 pm: Renaissance Gardens
Examine the history, plans, plantings, and symbolism of gardens in the Loire Valley at the châteaux of Réaux, Langeais, Clos-Lucé in Amboise, Chenonceau, and especially the grand and glorious gardens of the château of Villandry.