12 Days of Christmas – day 7

Chenonceau Chateau is the second most visited building in France after the Palais de Versailles. However, on a hot summer’s day in July, we were entranced more by its magnificent gardens and spectacular setting.

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It was built in 1513 by Katherine Briconnet and successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers then Catherine de Medici. It has an exceptional collection of  Old Masters’ paintings, as well as an extremely rare selection of Flanders Tapestries. But we loved the gardens created by its two leading ladies, the original layouts of which have been preserved.

When Diane de Poitiers was gifted Chenonceau in 1547, it only had a modest garden. Over the next five years she created sumptuous flower beds and a fountain situated upstream, on the right bank of the River Cher, protected from river floods by raised terraces. Catherine de Medici then sought to outdo her predecessor with subsequent works in the gardens which included a maze, an aviary, a menagerie, a sheep barn, a man-made cave and a rock fountain.