Chateau de la Bourdaisiere A Magnificent French Castle
One of my hopes on our trip to France was to spend a night in a “real” castle like Chateau de la Bourdaisiere. By happenstance we learned about this castle when we came upon a little tourist information booth along a country road in the Loire Valley. It happened to be staffed by an English-speaking young woman.
After reservations were secured by phone at Chateau de la Bourdaisiere, we traveled some distance through the countryside to our accommodation not knowing exactly what was in store for us.
I was thrilled when we pulled up to an impressive stone gate controlling entrance to the chateau’s estate. On the other side of the imposing gate, the castle revealed itself at the end of a very long lane and was situated at the top of a low rise. It looked magnificent! Chateau de la Bourdaisiere was our home for the next two days, and we were going to be made to feel like a king and queen.
The Chateau de la Bourdaisiere is a stately castle dating from the XVth century. It is designated as a monument historique, or a National Heritage Site of France. Little did we know of the sordid history of the place. It began life as a fortress but changed hands several times over the centuries.
In 1520, the King of France, King Francis Ier, had a new castle constructed on the site, built for his mistress, Marie Gaudin. After her death, the property remained in the family’s hands. In later years, Marie Gaudin’s great-granddaughter, Gabrielle d’Estrees, was born in the chateau and went on to become mistress to another king, Henry IV of France.
Lavish decor greeted us as soon as we entered through the grand doors of the palatial edifice. I immediately recalled the black and white tiled floors of Versailles that so impressed me.
Opulence existed everywhere I turned, and I was quick to embrace the grandeur of the place.
Being free to explore the endless corridors, secret staircases and expansive rooms of this regal castle, Bob and I felt as if we owned the place. No other guests were booked to arrive, so we had the whole place to ourselves.
While Bob unpacked some of his belongings, I roamed about the vacant hallways and hidden stairwells. I was inspired by the wavering shadows and mysterious nooks to investigate around every corner.
A peek into the scullery revealed a homey, warm atmosphere, but nary a maid to be seen.
The hostess, upon our arrival, had generously given us an upgrade to a suite located on the third floor. Our room, like the others, was spacious and decorated in the spirit of taste and refinement demonstrated by the women who made history there. It was bright and inviting and afforded a panoramic view of the traditional French gardens from the twin paned window.
After a luxurious bubble bath, I settled in for a dreamy sleep…until a mosquito came buzzing around my ears. No establishments in France, or other parts of Europe as far as I know, utilize screens on the windows, and we had ours flung wide to let in the fresh, aromatic night air. The mosquito was quickly dispatched, and Bob and I drifted off with thoughts of royalty that had once slept in that very room.
We had opted for breakfast at bedside where we basked in early morning sunshine in our private retreat.
Our room faced east overlooking the front terrace at Chateau de la Bourdaisiere.
With breakfast completed, it was time to explore the 55-hectare property and to enjoy the quietude found in the heart of the park-like setting.
Although modest in comparison to the extensive property at Versailles, it no less impressed us with the regal flair of symmetry and precision.
I couldn’t get enough of the ambience that surrounded us nor the history visible at our every step. Beside each stone archway, brick wall and ivy-clad facade, I could feel shadows of the past walking with me.
As I mentioned already, Chateau de la Bourdaisiere was originally a medieval fortress that overlooked the Cher and the Loire Rivers. The walls of the moat still remain in tact, and it was easy to imagine how they served to defend the castle from English invasions at the time. As part of our self-guided tour, Bob and I walked through the now dry moats on both the north and east sides of the chateau.
The moats were divided into sections by substantial buttressed walls and archways, while simple plantings of trimmed and shaped shrubs nicely edged the garden space that now exists within the confines of the moats’ walls.
It was between 1518-1522 that Philibert Babou transformed the medieval fortress into a Renaissance Castle with large windows, reception rooms and 3 drawbridges to the terrace. Philibert Babou was the husband of Marie Gaudin who was the mistress of King Francis I. As such, Philibert received numerous charges and honours that brought a huge fortune to the family.
The Chateau de la Bourdaisiere is located near the biggest castles in the Loire Valley and in the middle of the vineyards of Montlouis and Vouvray, but when wandering through the giant woodlot on the property, we could’ve been miles from anywhere.
Our walk took us to the furthest reaches of the property where we found the original stone wall that secured the castle proper.
In our next blog posting, we will delve into the management of the gardens and the castle that now follows the principles of sustainability. The present owner is actively working to conserve ancient species in both the vegetable and flower gardens that were both impressive in and of themselves. In fact, in 2011, the chateau’s gardens were a finalist for the European Garden Award bestowed by the European Garden Heritage Network.