As I have fallen behind, this blog is being written a week after the fact, but I would just like to note that today is the day I officially decided that chèvre makes all things better.  Ham on French bread?  Decent.  With chèvre?  Best. Sandwich. Ever.  Hot chèvre salad?  Best salad ever.  A little chèvre anywhere you’d use cream cheese?  Or just for added creaminess in a sauce?  Indeed!  And chèvre here isn’t like the pungent, smelly, strong-tasting stuff I’ve tried in the US.  They *have* that, but there are numerous varieties of chèvre as it turns out.  I’m actually quite a fan of the 2 Euro chèvre wheels from Intermarché.  Yes, in France you have bargain 2 Euro cheeses!

For somebody who can’t eat cow dairy without getting sick, even if it just sneaks into something without my knowledge, the land of chèvre is a dream come true!  They put chèvre on pizzas, foccacia bread, salads, in McDonald’s wraps even!  In fact, my tomato sauce with couscous and breaded turkey fillet seemed like it could use a little hot chèvre to make a sort of “parmigiana” . . . although, realistically I could make a real one with mozzarella!  If I thought it would keep, my suitcase would be packed full of chèvre and water buffalo mozzarella when I returned home.  As it is, I will be venturing back into the land of cheese when I return home to find some good US chèvre (or imported if it comes to that).

While I didn’t get tired of seeing chateaus, I’ve have grown a bit tired of writing about them!  On that note, I bring you the FINAL chateau blog:

Chateau de Chaumont
I wanted to love this chateau and I did, but not for the reasons I expected.  Upon arriving, it was love at first glimpse.  Now this is what a castle should look like!  The fairy tale castle come true!  The first chateau was burned down in 1465 for a revolt against the King, but this one started construction in 1468.  It was still a defensive castle then.  Additions in 1498 were Renaissance styled and more decorative.  During this entire period, the chateau was owned by the d’Amboise family.

Once I entered the castle, the courtyard area was a bit uninspiring, but the Porcupine of King Louis XII was on display!

The view of the Loire River was stunning though!  You really can’t beat the gorgeous river property the chateaus were built on; however, this view didn’t exist until 1750 when the North Wing was knocked down.

Upon entering the chateau as instructed, I immediately realized that my guide was indicating I should start in a room that I clearly was not in.  I should have been in the Historical Apartments, which reflected the period when Catherine de Medici bought the chateau in 1550 – it was supposedly here that an astrologer told Catherine that the Valois line would end with her sons.  This chateau also played a role in the Catherine-Diane saga since Catherine traded this property for Chenonceau after Henri’s death.  Diane did not like this property though (crazy woman!) and rarely used it.

After flipping through the guide a bit, I discovered I was starting in the last room.  These were the “private apartments” decorated by the Prince and Princess de Broglie, who were the last private owners of the chateau from 1875 to 1938.  My first (and last) thought on the room was, “man, they packed a lot of stuff in here!”

Two of the next three rooms I quite enjoyed though – the billiards room and the library!  I had to photograph the “indiscret,” which is the little 3 seated couch from the time of Napoleon.

Upon reaching the end of this area, it wasn’t immediately clear how to continue on to the Historical Apartments, so I headed up the stairs toward the designated art display.  It was immediately clear that this was housed in a part of the chateau that clearly had NOT been renovated and had been altered during some later period in history – in one section you could see where the old, huge fireplace had been walled off in a narrow area.

At this point, other than the exterior, Chateau Chaumont was pretty much a bust for me.  The newer apartments were decent, but reminded me more of 1920s New York than France.  This area though!  I admit I have strange tastes in some ways because I was fascinated by walking through the areas full of items that hadn’t been restored for use yet, stored in rooms that were dusty and neglected.

The views from two of the windows were well worth having this wing open as well!  Neither view was available from the “planned” areas.

Having spied the interesting structure from this window, I decided to find it . . . after trying to locate the mysterious Historical Apartments.  I wandered back toward the entrance area where I realized I had missed the chapel.  *sigh*  Another chapel . . . wait, what?!?  If you’re looking at the below and thinking, “what EXACTLY am I seeing?” you are not alone in that sentiment.  It appears that the un-renovated wing isn’t the only place that random art was being staged.  If you see the stained glass hiding back there somewhere, it is from 1888.

I guess that’s one way to avoid your chapel looking like every other chateau chapel :-O  It was about this time that I learned that I had not taken a wrong turn somewhere . . . the Historical Rooms were CLOSED for restoration work.  Ok, I understand that these things have to happen, but really to allow people to buy a ticket without mentioning it?  It is nowhere on their site, at the entry, etc and no discount is given for the fact that literally HALF of the area normally available is closed.

Time to find the unusual building I guess.  It turned out to be stables with the side building being a riding arena.

 If you ever wondered what the stables of a French chateau look like, here’s the tack room and where the pampered horses lived:

There was also an area with historical carriages that were stored and saved.  From left to right: the Ladies’ Phaeton, the Vis-a-Vis (a promenade carriage), le Landau (used by the Princess for trips to Paris) and the Omnibus (used for more local trips requiring luggage, such as to the train).

The riding arena was also interesting to see and to note the viewing area above where parents would watch their children below.  Ignore the giant black things, which are also “art” of some form.

As I wrapped up my day at Chaumont, the later afternoon was also a perfect time to visit here without it being very busy, so the timing at each had worked out perfectly!  I finished up my trip with one more photo of the stunning exterior and of the model gardens.

PROS: Truly looks like a fairytale castle, interesting history, decent English tour pamphlet, having the unrenovated areas open for exploring (or art display), parking is free

CONS: some of the modern art & placement choices are just bizarre, there is an extra fee to enter the actual gardens (nearly the cost of entering the chateau), the most interesting rooms (aka the historical apartments) were closed with no discount or notice to the public prior to buying a ticket

Basically, if the un-renovated areas hadn’t been open for me to wander through (and I didn’t enjoy that sort of thing), this would have been a bust for me, even with the idyllic exterior.  Half of the decorated rooms were closed and some of the historical areas that were open (kitchens, chapel, stables) had modern art bizarrely placed so it really interfered with the actual historical space.  Some of it was well done in terms of planning and placement, but some of it, well, I’m not sure what they were thinking.