After we did our peep over the wall visit of Chateau d’Usse (The Sleeping Beauty Chateau) we then drove onto our main interest of the day, the iconic chateau at Azay-le-Rideau.
Famous for the surrounding mirror lake that makes it look like the house is floating or on an island, Azay le Rideau is your typical charming and turreted French chateau and is often featured as an example of how a French chateau should look. Its symmetry is beautiful.
Sadly on the day we visited, it was very overcast first thing and difficult to get nice photos. When we came out after viewing inside, the sun was out, but it was shining right into the camera, so again, pics were difficult. The lake surrounding the castle was in bad shape and nothing like the photos you usually see. It was full of weed and a lot of it was brown and dead, so no chance of getting one of those nice photos of the castle reflected in the water.
It was built in the early 16th Century by Gilles Berthelot and Philippe Lesbahy after they razed to the ground the original property in 1518. They skillfully combined the art of French construction while adding Italian and Flemish influences.
The main courtyard is framed by an L-shape building. The two facades overlooking the courtyard are made from tofu, a limestone from the Val de Loire region.
The staircase is built on a model borrowed from Italy – a straight staircase, known as a “dogleg staircase”. This was very modern in 16th Century France! The staircase is built in the centre of the main building, NOT as a spiral staircase in an adjoining tower, like they all were in the Middle Ages.
The landings are constructed as loggias where you are able to see out but also are able to be seen. It’s amazing that everything is so open. This huge staircase is the center of the building yet there are no windows and the wind and rain must howl through during bad weather.
On the ceiling of the grand staircase are antique medallions representing the Kings and Queens of France, fantastic characters and animals.
And then we went inside for the tour which was simply awesome. ALL of the rooms are furnished with lots of furniture and there are paintings and tapestries on the wall. It’s the most complete inside with gorgeous period furniture and decoration. The carpets, wall papers and fabric wall linings, the drapery – all stunning. Deby was in her element looking at all of the period fabric pieces.
This is different from lots of the other chateaus as some of them have no furniture at all. This is where it was sold off for cash or to pay taxes. Or maybe it was a royal residence where the royals and all their servants and hangers-on travelled between the chateaus and royal palaces and they took most of their furnishings with them.
The kitchen was nice but rather bare compared to some of the other living rooms.
And as you went from room to room you get to see a transition of the house through time as different decorating periods and styles are represented.
And finally, in the chateau, we went up into the fantastic attic. The incredible framework is in oak, which Francois the 1st authorised to be cut from the Forest of Chinon in 1517. Still gorgeous and in beautiful condition today.
The whole chateau was surrounded by an impressive arboretum with trees from all over the world, and fantastic flower beds in the ‘English Country Garden’ style.
We had a fabulous time and really enjoyed it at the Azay-Le-Rideau Chateau. It’s packed with interesting things to see, but not so big that you get worn out or bored before you have seen them all.
The visit wasn’t cheap, it costs €10.50 per person and the audioguide is an extra €3 although we shared one and found it was loud enough that we could both hear comfortably.
We stayed a number of miles away in a motorhome parking area, in a field that was privately owned by a lovely French couple.
The coordinates of the parking area were 47.329817 and 0.480401 and the site is HIGHLY recommended.