Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chateau Villandry, Loire Valley, France


The second photo in my blog's banner is a view of Chateau Villandry. This palace is one of more than 20 castles found in the valley of the Loire River. The valley itself is considered the garden of France and produces the famous and luscious wines of Vouvray, Sancerre, Chinon and Anjou.

On a cool day in April, we began to wander the castle grounds. To escape the increasing drizzle, we ducked inside the chateau for shelter. Completed in the 1530s, it is the last great Renaissance castle built in this part of the country.

Climbing up the grey stone steps to the keep, I stopped to look out the window overlooking the gardens. From that vantage point I discovered why the magnificent gardens surrounding the chateau are its major attraction. The view is spectacular.

The 10 acres of Italian Renaissance gardens, laid out in geometric mosaics, are a gardener's dream. Here, in the best garden in the Loire Valley, one finds over 250,000 flowers and vegetable plants. Over 11 miles of low box hedges border the multi-colored sections.

'Gardens of Love' are four enormous squares, each planted with symbols representing a different aspect of that emotion: Tender, Passionate, Fickle and Tragic. It is my favorite part of this park-like setting.

Chateau Villandry is a World Heritage site.

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