Chambord: Lavishness is the theme
The lush forest-like park filled with wild deer leading to the vast Chambord estate makes an impressive first statement. You almost expect to see horse carriages at the huge car park, as you alight. Interestingly, the palace-like proportions of the chateau evolved from what was once a modest hunting lodge and it was finally designed to meet the lavish needs of 16th-century French monarch François I and many more later kings. Louis XIV is also believed to have stayed here briefly. Every inch of this royal residence oozes grandeur. In fact, it is impossible to cover all 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 85 staircases, stables for 1200 horses, and a seemingly endless park that is bound by a 22-mile long wall. The most fascinating feature is a central double-helix staircase designed by Leonardo Da Vinci, which is a testament to the architect’s engineering genius. Two staircases twisting up to the roof, are hidden from each from view by an optical illusion, and visible only in through the interspersed tiny windows. Two can play a lovely game of hide-and-seek right here, trying to crack the Da Vinci code. The rooftop, adorned by chimneys, turrets, domes and balustrades offers inspiring views of Versailles-like grassy grounds merging into the woods in the distance. French aristocracy seeps through every inch and the impact is unforgettable. Thanks to exquisite chateaux like Chambord, the exotic appeal of Loire Valley rivals the castle-rich Scottish Highlands.