Obsessed By a Magical Chateau.
Have you ever been somewhere and seen something during your travels—a waterfall, perhaps … or a dramatic mountain like the Matterhorn … or a building, not necessarily a big one—and something about it resonates deep within you? I find that that’s how I am with a chateau in the small French town of Azay-le-Rideau.
I’ve been to Azay-le-Rideau twice, the last time for three days. It’s a small town, typical for the area with stone building on narrow streets. The meandering Indre River flows through it.
I went to the chateau on each of those three days and paid admission each time. Toured the building, walked around the grounds and, most of the time, just sat and contemplated this marvelous structure.
Construction was started in 1518 and took nine years to complete. The chateau was built by Giles Berthelot—that is to say, he paid for it—but his wife, Philippa, actually directed the work on a day-to-day basis. That must have been quite unusual 500 years ago.
Some of the features are quite interesting. For instance the bannisters or railings—is that what you’d call them?— on each side of the board stone stairways we carved out of the blocks of stone that formed the walls. Interestingly, most of the other people touring the building just reached for them as they negotiated the stairways without noticing how unique the were.
But you’re struck by the real beauty of the place when you stroll around the grounds and get to the opposite side of the building—what an inadequate word!—and see how a part of the Indre River was diverted to form a reflecting pond that creates a stunning effect.
Azay-le-Rideau is about 165 miles southwest of Paris in the Loire Valley. By the way, this little town of some 3,500 people offers us a great example of the public transportation system in France. Azay-le-Rideau has its own railway station and, with a connection in Tours, four trains a day will take you there from Paris. Two other trains will take you to Tours and the connection there is a bus. It’s about an hour’s ride to Azay-le-Rideau.