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THE GARDEN OF France
Nature has given the Loire Valley a majestic river and a light, lustrous variety of limestone whose fine grain is much appreciated by sculptors and stonecutters. During the Renaissance, when great artists like Leonardo da Vinci came to this region of rolling hills as guests of the French princes, they immediately saw the stone’s potential for sculpting mantelpieces, pilasters to frame castle windows and medallions to adorn their façades. In just a few years, a rich and unprecedented architectural heritage was created, in which in each stone is imbued with the history of nations and the history of art. Azay le Rideau is a marvel mirrored by a reflecting pool, Chambord is a tour de force, Cheverny a lesson in elegance, Chenonceau a feminine “Château des Dames” gazing into the waters of the Cher River.
A land of pleasure for the senses and the soul, the Loire Valley has hosted the lives and loves of the kings of France and inspired artists as diverse as Rabelais and Balzac. Still today, strolling the gardens of Chambord Castle, one can imagine François I greeting Emperor Charles V on these very paths with a bevy of young girls dressed as Greek divinities sprinkling the ground with petals. Or chance upon a masked 18th-century élégante in the French-style park of Villandry, where the topiary box trees and yews celebrate human emotion in four gardens dedicated to tender, passionate,flighty and tragic love.