Stay at Le Château de Chambord!
South of Blois in the Loire Valley, the 18th-century Château de Chambord rises at the heart of over 5,000 hectares (12,000+ acres) of ancient forest. Chambord was the personal chateau and hunting sanctuary of King Francois I, and today is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe.
Our first encounter with Chambord destined our return. We attended the light show — “les clairs de lune de Chambord” — a fantasy light show production created to recall the hunting of deer and boar, fox and pheasant by guests of King Francois. We arrived shortly before sunset to stroll through the grounds surrounding the Château. Couples shared ice cream or light snacks under an outdoor arbor. Others dined on the patio of a hotel restaurant.
Wait – hotel? There is actually a quaint hotel overlooking this magnificent chateau? With little hope that it would be affordable or available for the one night we would have between gite rentals, we had to check. When we were able to book a room at a reasonable $75 rate, we felt as if the king himself had invited us to his retreat!
Prior to the show, we watched families gather on the lawn with children, couples take to rowboats to enjoy an end-of-day outing. France bestows these blessings on a public entranced by history and tradition. Chambord’s information pamphlet reinforces this gift:
“It is to the passion of Francois I for hunting, that we owe the existence of Chambord, designed both as a meeting place and a belvedere for observing the hunt.”
Alas, when we returned a few days later, Francois was not on hand to greet us. Still, we wandered the grounds and imagined the privileged guests and game hunting of 300 years past. Visitors biked and hiked through the many lanes that lace through the forest. Others gathered for the equestrian and falcon shows.
This night, we would see the light show from our dining table on the terrace. Indeed, with our exceptional bottle of local Vouvray and delicious French fare, we felt like guests of the king! When the park closed, only the hotel guests and Château staff shared this enormous sanctuary. Chambord remains a national hunting reserve and home to an abundance of wild creatures that roam free. No, we didn’t encounter a graceful stag or menacing boar, but the crisp night sky offered us millions of stars to illuminate our stay.
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