Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Le Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

Of all the many marvels Loire Valley is legendary famous for  Le Chateau Azay-le-Rideau is one of the very best.

It looks like in August the powerful,  eager and unstoppable stream of tourists descends like Niagara Falls on Chambord  and as a powerful mountain river boils up onto Chenonceau and softens somewhere at river Cher.

Leaving crowds behind  we continued further down the picturesque roads, and briefly passing  a  historical city of Tour paying homage to its majestic Cathedral, certainly worth of more prolonged visit, we stopped at Azay le Rideau.
The tiny village surrounding the castle is so beautiful and serene, the views are so bucolic and peaceful, the scented air, the murmur of the  small seething river  covered with water lilies at bay, the narrow bridge and enchanted forest.

You move and breath differently. Everything slows down.  Except for a couple of restaurants and a café fully packed with visitors anticipating night show, there wasn’t a soul around.

Later on when night descended they all came together at the castle court for the Son et Lumiere show traditionally performed around the dreamy castle under the starry sky.  The audience  was  mostly all French as to compare to myriads of foreign tourists in other places.
It  was colorful and simple show as a Sunday market place petit performance  mostly  meant for younger kids and our son surely had fun.

Unfortunately due to lack of language  the jokes addressed to parents slipped away from us, we couldn’t get it but it was completely all right as soon as surroundings were beautiful, the park of centuries old trees  was mysteriously shadowed and the castle coming out in different hues was stunning and a bit surreal.
While after the show the audience pretty fast disappeared in the nearest parking lot, only the rustling of gravel and  chirring of cicadas  among giant trees filled the heavenly soothing air.

There was a bittersweet feeling of time gone with a wind and only castle remained to reach out in all its glorious beauty.
The next morning it opened  the Rideau (Curtain in French).
A stunning picture of a fairy tale castle emerging from the water with all those spiky towers, the court, the decorative staircase, chimneys and gabled windows, the bridge and the best of all the reflection in the still water. It’s a breathtaking view!

At the beginning of the 16th century with the genius of Italian architects it was lovingly rebuilt from medieval fortress into a Renaissance  leisure castle  by the owner of the time  the successful financier Gilles Berthelot. He couldn’t possibly finish such a huge undertaking  as soon as  an accomplishment was obvious he lost his luck.

The king Francois 1st , the usual story, crusaded onto his  most bright and successful subjects with charges, prosecutions and confiscations without any fair trials. What an easy and dreadful way to fill up a treasury.  Hard to say if there were reasonable grounds for those mass accusations but historical pattern is very distinctive. For a while he didn’t know what to do with Azay and entrusted it to his captain of the guards.
It remained in private possession until early 1900s when was purchased by state from financially strained marquis de Biencourt family and gradually restored to its full glory both outside and inside. Beautifully laid out landscaping and interiors with historical furnishings, portraits and tapestries are open for visitors to admire.

In enchanted places like this you have to constantly pinch yourself to make sure you’re not daydreaming.

Sheer admiration.

All images copyright by Natalie Rapoport


  1. Des photos magnifiques qui nous entraînent dans une majestueuse promenade...
    Ce château est vraiment superbe et la région me semble un écrin de verdure à découvrir.
    Merci pour cette belle publication.
    Gros bisous

  2. Ce chateau est vraiment superbe, vous avez raison. Merci beaucoup Martinealison.

  3. Oh my, enchanting indeed. Your photography is unbelievable and the images all stunning!!

  4. I have never visited Azay-le-Rideau and have enjoyed this visit today. Thank you for taking us there. It seems most foreign tourists have not discovered it yet. Certainly a great tip ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  5. Thank you Designchic and Veronique. France is proudly taking care of its unique heritage and it's great to see how kids from early age are introduced to the very best in these beautiful and genuine places.
    And we all can enjoy. Unforgettable visit.


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