2019 was a momentous year for the Loire Valley and for French Renaissance history, as it marked 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the birth of Catherine de Medici, and the laying of the very first stone of Château de Chambord. We take you on an incredible journey around the Loire Valley, taking in its fairy-tale châteaux, rolling green countryside and peaceful, riverside trails and show you how you can enjoy this significant year in French history.
Celebrations began at the home of the Renaissance, the Château de Chambord. This impressive château was commissioned by King Francis I and was designed to be a grandiose symbol of his power after his victorious return from the Battle of Marignan in 1515. The influences of Leonardo de Vinci can also be seen throughout the château and its grounds, making it magnificent not just in size but also in its artistic opulence. The Château de Chambord consists of 426 rooms, 60 of which are open to the public. Its grounds of over 5,440 hectares, offer the perfect opportunity to discover the remarkable variety of flora and fauna – including deer, boars and eagles – by bike.
Build a visit to the Château de Chambord into Headwater’s Chateaux of Loire Cycling trip and discover the beauty of the rest of this region and its stunning variety of Renaissance architecture. With 300 châteaux set amongst the glorious, verdant Loire countryside, you will frequently spot characteristic turrets peeking out from the landscape, as you enjoy a leisurely cycle along the quiet country lanes. The charm of the Loire Valley and its elegant châteaux can also be enjoyed at a slower pace, on foot, with the Chateaux of the Loire Walk.
Alternatively, take a tour of the region with Loire Gastronomic Cycling and celebrate the Renaissance with a little degustation at the local vineyards. Also offering the opportunity to visit Château de Chambord, this tour is taken at a relaxed pace with plenty of time to taste all the region’s speciality dishes.
2019 also marked 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci’s death and we can take a unique glimpse into his last years by reflecting on his influences at his last residence, Amboise. Both the Chateaux of Loire Cycling and the Loire Gastronomic Cycling stop at this endearing French town, and if you are partaking in the Chateaux of the Loire Walk, you can enjoy 2 nights here at the boutique Hotel Le Pavillon des Lys. The bustling market town of Amboise straddles the Loire River and is overlooked by the impressive Château Royal d’Amboise; the resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. Nearby is le Clos-Lucé, where Leonardo de Vinci resided for his last three years and where many of his spectacular creations can be seen.
A trip to the Loire would not be complete without a visit to the Château de Chenonceau, a favourite residence of Catherine de Medici. This château is unique, not only in the circumstances surrounding its ownership, but also in its remarkable location. Built on bridges over the Cher River, the Château de Chenonceau appears to perch gracefully on the water, making for stunning reflections on a bright day. The Chateaux of the Loire Walk allows for a full day here, giving plenty of time to take in its intriguing history.
Now that the crowds have dispersed following the 500th anniversary in 2019, 2020 is a great year to visit the Loire Valley and discover its enchanting châteaux, fine food, renowned wines and picturesque, poppy covered countryside.