France’s Loire Valley is home to hundreds of châteax (plural for château…yeah, it’s much easier to just add an s like in English, but them’s the rules here). These are, in general, amazingly beautiful buildings that range from small castle-like homes built by lesser lords when kings lived in the valley to massive, grand palaces. When the seat of power returned to Paris, these essentially turned into country homes (kinda like Litchfield County, Connecticut, minus the Friday traffic).
The Loire châteaux are a veritable who’s who of the rich and famous. One is said to be the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle; one look and you’ll see why. Another hosted Leonardo Da Vinci and is where he is buried today.
And don’t forget about the soap operas: King Henry II gave Château Chenonceau (one of the more beautiful and interesting ones, as it’s built over a river) to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. But upon Henry’s death in 1559, Henry’s widow Catherine de’ Medici forced Diane to swap Chenonceau for a lesser château: drama!
While the elaborate displays of wealth are astonishing today to us middle-class citizens, I shudder to think of what the peasants thought back in the day…no wonder many châteax were trashed during the French Revolution.