The sun is rising over the river through the window overlooking the gardens. Wood has been placed on the fire and the air is filling with warmth and the crackling sound from the burning lumber. In the distance, I can hear the dogs barking. The dignities are coming from all other the province for the annual hound chase festivities. It is the hunt of the season, and there is none like it in the region. I come down the grand staircase and follow the smell of the freshly brewed coffee. The kitchen is already buzzing. I look outside. The gardeners are at work tending to the flowers and vegetables planted earlier in the spring. The bushes are trimmed to perfection, and the fountains began their never-ending summer melody. I love this time of the year, when the castle is alive again. Pretty soon, the garden parties will start and the ground will be bustling with people.
Fast-forward 500 years, and the castle is now vibrant with visitors from all around the world.
The area of the castles of the Loire Valley extends over three ancient provinces: Orleanais, Touraine and Anjou. Over 60 royal castles were built along the main river, the Loire and its tributaries starting as early as the 1400’s. Today, the region is an important tourism center for France and must be seen.
Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for Francois the first, built Villandry in 1536. Only the keep remains of a medieval castle that was razed in order to make way for the castle as it is today. In 1754, the Marquis de Castellane, who came from a noble Provencal family, purchased the castle and had it redesigned to meet 18th century standards of comfort. In 1906, the castle was bought by Joachim Carvallo, the great-grandfather of the present owner. He created 16th century-style gardens that were in perfect harmony with the architecture of the building. Each room enjoys its own unique view, particularly of the gardens.
Located less than 30 minutes from Tours, the castle is open to the public. Weekends and holidays are extremely busy. Allow 4 to 5 hours to tour the entire property. The gardens took us close to 3 hours. The temporary exhibition gallery provides a beautiful ending to the tour. From April to November, the gallery houses temporary exhibitions by artists whose work celebrates nature or gardens.
Just outside the entrance of the castle on the village square, we found an automated fruits and vegetables stand open 24-hours a day. It appears to be owned by a local farmer. You can buy fresh asparagus, eggs, radishes, strawberries, whatever is in season. I found the concept really innovative. It’s like a mini farmers market open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Genius! I know it seems strange to mention this in the story, but I just felt I had to.
Villandry is, without a doubt, one of the top 10 castles to visit in France, and a must-see.
As always Safe Travel!