Loire Valley #5: On the way home

A few weeks ago, I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (last one!). Hope you enjoy!

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We’re finally at the end of the trip.

I. Tours Cathedral

Tours is the biggest city in the part of the Valley where we were staying and while we didn’t spend much time there, we did pop into town to see the cathedral. It’s not as big as Chartres, but it’s still quite impressive. Tours also took almost 400 years to build, compared to Chartres’s 55 years, to put Chartres in perspective. As a result, there are many different architectural styles visible in the building. Obviously the dominant style is Gothic, but some of the buttresses are Romanesque and the tops of the towers are early Renaissance. 

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The interior of the cathedral is extremely light (it wasn’t even sunny outside when we went), much lighter than Chartres. It also has some exceptional stained glass windows and the tombs of the young children of King Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany.

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To the left of the cathedral there’s a cloister and small collection of stone sculpture from the long history of the cathedral. The best part of the cloister was the delightful group of gargoyles.

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An alarmed knight, frozen in chainmail for 500 years.

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A dog scratching a centuries’ old itch.

 

II. Valençay

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One of our last stops was Valençay, most famous as the home of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord in the 19th century, though the oldest parts of the building date from the 16th century. I must have had photo fatigue by the time I got to this château because I didn’t take very many pictures of it. Despite this, it was another one my favorite châteaux of the trip. I’m partial to early 19th century homes (I read a lot of Jane Austen as a child) and the ticket desk provides guests with a whole binder of information about the château, its residents, and the furnishing.

III. Langeais

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Last but not least, we went to Langeais. Actually, this wasn’t the last stop we made, but I saved it for last because it illustrates perfectly one of the many reasons I like to travel. The 15th century château became famous as the location of the secret wedding between King Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany (the couple whose children are buried at Tours). It’s quite large and has quite a bit of Medieval furniture (though it’s not arranged in the most engaging manner — unlike Valençay, not much information is provided and you have to guess what’s going on in a lot of the rooms).

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But for me, the best part of Langeais is the crumbling wall in the garden from which I took the photo above. It’s all that’s left of the fortification built by Fulk Nerra at the end of the 10th century.

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I loved Montrésor because I could feel so many layers of history in one place. Langeais provides a similar experience, standing between the château and the ruined castle. Standing on top of the wall, you wonder what Fulk Nerra — once one of the most powerful people in France — saw when he stood in the same place over a thousand years ago. Looking at the ruin from the windows of the château, you imagine how Charles VIII felt when he looked upon the same ruins, then almost five hundred years old. The feeling reminds me of Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias,” the fear, respect, and awe we feel for the passage of time and the people who have come before us, who sink gently to the bottom of time just as all of us will do one day.

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I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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