Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France

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Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France

The Loire Valley is one of the most spectacular castle regions in Europe. Full of what can only be described as French chateaux, the Loire Valley houses some 300 extravagant palatial buildings!! Among the most famous are the immense Chateau de Chambord and the spectacular Chateau de Chenonceau. Spanning the River Cher in a unique castellated bridge, the river literally runs through the castle. Though it has had many owners, Chateau de Chenanceau is really a tale of two women and their rivalry for King Henri: Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. Diane de Poitiers was a noblewoman – beautiful, talented, intelligent and elegant – who fall in love with young King Henri II. In order to take control of Italian states, Henri was married to the much younger Catherine de Medici. Despite his marriage, Henri spent his entire life dedicated to the beguiling Diane de Poitiers and their children, culminating in gifting her Chateau de Chenanceau. Though it took many years of delicate legal manoeuvres to make Diane the true owner of Chateau de Chenanceau, she loved the castle and was responsible for the phenomenal bridge across the Cher, as well as the flower and vegetable gardens. When Henri died in a jousting accident, his jealous widow Catherine de Medici illegally forced Diane to yield her the castle – though she was then forced to offer Diane  Chateau de Chaumont in exchange. Catherine further renovated the gardens and the castle interior, as well as adding new rooms and a service wing (of course she did, she’s Catherine de Medici…). Unlike her more enlightened rival Diane, Catherine was a girlish socialite whose favourite activity was hosting lavish parties at Chenanceau, including France’s first ever fireworks show. Chenanceau’s third notable woman was the enlightened Louise Dupin, who hosted countless literary salons in the chateau – Louise saved the castle during the French Revolution by claiming that it was essential to  commerce as it was the only bridge for miles. Though Catherine may have stolen the chateau from Diane and Louise saved it from demolition by angry hordes, Chateau de Chenanceau remains synonymous with Diane de Poitiers and her love for King Henri.


Pro Tip: Chateau de Chenanceau is far more lovely when visited in the off season – despite the lack of flowering gardens, the lack of tourist crowds allows you to feel the romance of the castle. No car? It’s a short and easy train ride from the town of Blois. 


Visit Other French Chateaux

 

Berlin, Germany

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Love padlocks on a bridge in Berlin, Germany.

Travel to any main European city and you’re likely to see a bridge full of locks scribbled with names. Most ‘Love Padlocks’ started to appear in the early 2000’s. One myth about the origin of love padlocks dates back to Serbia at the turn of the century. Nada, a schoolmistress, was separated by war from her fiancé, who later fell in love with someone else, leaving Nada alone and devastated. She never got over the heartbreak, and died young. Girls in her village wrote their names intertwined with their lovers’ names on locks and affixed them to the Most Ljubavi (a local bridge) to avoid the same fate. Somehow, the tradition made it all the way around Europe, locked onto bridges big and small, famous and obscure, iron, wood and steel. These particular padlocks here are attached to a small, little-known bridge on Friedrichstraße which goes over the River Spree – a stone’s throw away from Berlin’s infamous Brandenburg Gate.