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There are castles and then there are French castles, actually châteaux or châteaus. Regardless of the label in English or French — all are manor houses or residences (often country houses) of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications. Rich in either present or former opulence and history, they remain testimonials to the lives and peoples who both built and lived in them - be they royal or humble.
Many of these châteaus were built during times of wars as the need for protection for the kingdom grew. They often took advantage of locations where there were natural defense features in nature, such as cliffs, hills, or where they were surrounded by water. Castles in France used the three main kinds of castle design: motte and bailey, stone castles, and the concentric castle design. Often some of France's most epic castles were a combination of all three architectural designs.
Here are some of the finest castles in France:
The châteaux or châteaus (plural) in France is the epitome of beauty and art and stylistically some of the most wonderful Medieval architecture you'll ever see throughout Europe.
Château d'Amboise - Loire Valley, France - for over three years Leonardo DaVinci enjoyed the French style luxury of Château d'Amboise to the very end of his life. You can also say the same for his eternity, as he was buried there and this where his tomb is still preserved today. To visit this castle today is to take in the entire breath of opulence.
Château d'Angers, Anjou, France - having survived history that included heavy damage during both WWI and WWII, an ammunition dump explosion, and a devastating electrical fire in recent years - what remains is of extreme interest now is a wonderful museum of oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world. This Château is a true survivor of French castles who can proudly claim the royal title of “never surrendering to invaders.”
Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, River Indrie, France - To say that Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is a castle on an island in the Rivet Indrie is an understatement — what’s particularly unique is its fully restored garden of trees that were for the time period planted and considered exotic — trees that came from around the world. Serenity, understatedly spectacular, and a surprisingly a French castle experience not to be missed
Palais des Papes, Avignon Castle, Avignon, France - it’s hard to imagine the splendor and privilege built into the Papal Place until you see it in person. It’s the world’s largest Medieval castle and France’s most treasured Gothic in architecture venue making it “the castle” to see. It’s actually two castles joined together and filled to the brim with luxurious antiques and Papal mysteries.
Château Royal de Blois,Blois, France is certainly all about art and architecture which considering the fact that no less than seven French Kings and ten French Queens called Château Royal de Blois home (Each one putting their unique spin and imprint upon it) — makes this French castle definitely one not to be missed.
When the poet Gustave Nadaud lamented he’d never seen Château Comtal, Languedor, Aude, France — he certainly knew what he was missing, but do you? “They tell me every day is there Not more or less than Sunday gay: In shining robes and garments fair, The people walk upon their way. One gazes there on castle walls, As grand as those of Babylon, A bishop and two generals! I do not know fair Carcassonne, I do not know fair Carcassonne!”
Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France — nothing like being at the top of a Ricky peak with your face towards the bay below to ensure no surprise attacks from enemies. This castle might have started out as an abbey and destination for Christian pilgrimages, but Mont Saint-Michel has become a French jewel when it comes to most beautiful palaces.
CHÂTEAU DE CHENONCEAU, Chenonceau, France - is one King’s lesson on the ways of a woman scorned and having the last word. When he died his widow Catherine de Medici promptly showed his mistress the door and claimed the castle for herself. Both ladies, however, left their stamp of good taste upon the castle on the River Cher in Loire.
Surely Charlemagne choose the site for Castle Roquetaillade in Mazères, Gironde, France for its advantages as a fortification and never in his wildest dreams could imagine the ruins of his castle being now an estate with two separate fortresses and two castles and one of them still being in the same family for seven centuries - that’s 21 to 28 generations.
Château de Fontainebleau, Fontainebleau, France - a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a waltz into history that could make any historian thrilled with the sheer size (1500 rooms) and the secrets of “if walls could talk” that could be revealed. Just the art work and decorations alone will have you spellbound in wonderment.
CHÂTEAU DE JOUX la Cluse-et-Mijoux, France - A castle, a prison, and now an impressive museum of arms, containing rare weapons and other artifacts - one of the most fascinating museums in France.
The likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and French playwright Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), lived there along with King Louis XIV of France. Perhaps it was above all the gardens that inspired both artist and poet. Chambord Castle is massive with 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 84 staircases. No exspence was spared, even the horses had guest quarters for 1200 horses. Don't forget to check out the spiral staircase!
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