Monday, November 14, 2011

Future Home of Victorian Swag: Château de Chenonceau

Is there any location more whimsical and quintessentially fairytale-esque than France’s Loire Valley?  I think not.  Is there a château more romantic than the one that spans the River Cher at Chenonceau?  Again, the answer is no.  That is exactly why Victorian Swag is has decided to set up shop in its tapestry-decked halls for a cozy autumn spent in front of roaring fires.  We won’t be the first ladies to call this château home.  In fact, it has a rather illustrious history as the favorite house of many a French noblewoman.  We consider ourselves in good company.  
The Château de Chenonceau (a renaissance gem that guards much of its original furnishings) began as a manor in the first part of the 15th Century.  It changed hands several times and was expanded under the watchful eye of Katherine Briçonnet in the early 16th century.  The masterpiece that is there today was chiefly the vision of Diane de Poitiers, mistress to Henry II of France, and was completed sometime after 1547.  After Catherine de Medici (Henry’s WIFE) kicked Diane out, she took over the house and its grounds for herself. It soon became her favorite residence.  (Sorry Diane, but the Queen always wins.) Catherine loved to throw a good party (what a coincidence, so do we!) and the house became the royal party residence of the 16th Century. 

At Catherine’s death, the property was left to Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, wife of Henry III and then to Gabrielle d’Estrees (Henry IV’s mistress) in 1624.  Passed from family to family – and mostly woman to woman - for a few hundred years, it survived every significant date in French history from the Revolution to the Enlightenment, all the way to the Second World War when it was used as an escape route for the French fleeing Nazi occupiers.  This house has a history and we can’t wait to get in on it.  

Now let's look at the scores:
Location: 9 – You really can’t get much better than this part of France, especially during the fall (think lots of mist and velvet cloak kind of weather).  I literally get goose bumps just thinking about this place.  It’s magical. Literally.  
Landscape/Exterior: 8 - We seem to have a thing for impressive water features. This château, forms a working bridge over the River Cher.  The formal gardens are beautifully landscaped in the Italian fashion of scalped lawns and whimsical patterns, (even if they are a little contrived).  The grounds themselves make for delightful moonlit strolls with Prince Charming .  There is even a yew maze (also good for strolls with your Charming, whoever that may be).  Need I say more? 
Interior: 7 – This chateau is extremely impressive.  Who doesn’t love the French renaissance?  Once you get past the stark stone interior and the fact that you may have to live without a modern convenience or two (like central heating and air), you’ll learn to take in its charm and appreciate your time spent in your cozy private living quarters. The house comes complete with a giant fireplace in every room (this place can be a bit drafty), spiral staircases leading to the towers and upper rooms, and the windows boast AMAZING views.  I will admit it is lacking in the technology department.  Not to worry, our guys are coming sometime next week to hook up the Internet and the DVR.  Necessities are necessities, after all.  And while candles don’t provide the only lighting anymore, we’ll be instituting “Candle Only” evenings for special occasions.    
Overall Design: 9 – The entryway graces you with a beautiful ribbed-vault ceiling, the bedrooms feature original wall tapestries and comfy four-poster beds fit for princesses (how convenient), and the kitchen has the coolest stove and best set of copper pots since Top Chef.  Peek inside the ballroom and look out the window for a view you won’t get anywhere else. There is also a really awesome tower and probably to coolest macabre bedroom ever - where Louise de Lorraine mourned the death of her husband, King Henry III with black paint, silver tears, and lots of imagery.  I call this room! 
Creativity/Originality: 8 – High marks for the “let’s build a castle on top of a river” idea.  Even for the renaissance, architect Philibert de l’Orme was pretty out-of-the-box. 
Party Hostability Factor: 10 – Assuming you can get to France for our next masquerade, this house is the perfect venue.  If Catherine de Medici can throw a party here, certainly we can manage.  Lots of room for outdoor entertaining, huge kitchens for preparing delectable feasts, a 60 foot ballroom spanning a river with the coolest black and white checkered floor, and plenty of extra rooms if guests are unable to make the carriage ride home. 

(Grand Gallery Ballroom, EEP!)
Le Château de Chenonceau begs you to come inside, light a fire, and start on that historical novel you have sitting on the back burner.  We can’t wait to move in!  


  1. This place was *made* for Sleeping Beauty and if we move in, I'm NEVER going to leave! What care I for modern technology when Prince Philip will be able to find me there? Even the tree lined avenue leading up to it is magical! And the hot air balloons they were launching by the river the day we visited? Come on! Hands down my favorite château! The Loire Valley doesn't get a 10?! Such high standards! Is it only a version of France where peanut butter exists and smiling is socially acceptable that gets a 10? Sidenote: IF ONLY THAT VERSION REALLY EXISTED! OMGZ. Now pardon me while I go play hide and seek in our new digs!

  2. I say we all set up camp here and NEVER LEAVE. This is the kind of Victorian Swag place one can only dream of. Lets host a masquerade with fireworks, champagne, chocolate, and a few handsome princes. Oui?

  3. this was my favorite chateau!!! complete with anne of green gables canoe!

  4. Yes, now all that is needed is some very lovely hunky frenchmen (who speak some english! Not all of us speak very good French) to bring in the wood for the fireplaces and it will be all set. I agree this is a fabulous place!