I have visited the magnificent 16th century Chateau of Chambord three times but my first visit was in November 1999 with my daughter, who was just into her first year of living in France after college. With the majority of tourists off to warmer climes, we often found ourselves alone in the 130 rooms open to visitors.
And, yes, we visited them all, reaching the various floors by walking up the double-helix marble staircase supposedly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. I loved placing each foot in the shallow spots worn away by centuries of royal occupants climbing up and down as they plotted murders and bandied about with mistresses.
The roof top with all its minarets and spires is every bit as mysterious in person as it looks in photos. Author Henry James remarked that Chambord’s “towers, cupolas, the gables, the lanterns, the chimneys, look more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building.
Driving down the tree-lined avenue leading away from the chateau, a wild boar came out of the mists and stopped momentarily in the middle of the road ahead of us. How magical.
A later visit in 2009 brought the additional surprise of dozens of mannequins dressed in opera costumes posed throughout the interior.
Dubbed as “Alain Germain dresses the Chambord’s opera,” costumes from renowned couturiers, such as Franck Sorbier, Nathalie Germain, Pascal Bordet, and Olivier Bériot, were displayed within the castle. Breathtaking!