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Pays de la Loire

Ussé Castle - Château d'Ussé

Ussé Castle - Château d'Ussé

Ussé CastleIt's a fairy tale castle that befits the tale of "Sleeping Beauty" by Charles Perrault marvelously.

A strange kind of poetry emanates from this little jewel trimmed with machicolations, turrets and tall chimneys, with pointed roofs and dormer windows, all of this set into the backdrop of the Indre river and the Chinon forest.

Indeed, the combination of such diverse styles as strict Classical, High Renaissance and ostentatious Gothic contribute to the magic of the building.

At the transition between the medieval defensive style and the residential comfort offered by the Renaissance, this chateau was built in the 15th century on the former site of a fortress from the 12th century, by Jacques d'Espinay, Chamberlain to Louis XI and Charles VIII. Today, the chateau is private property.

The part that is visible to the public is made up of the 17th century staircase, the antechamber with its 16th century Italian cabinet and furniture from the 18th century, and the galleries on the first floor (gun collection, Dutch tapestries from the 18th century) and the second floor with its paintings.

The chapel, which is hidden away in the park, contains stalls from the 17th century, a ceramic Virgin Mary by Luca Della Robbia (15th century), a series of Aubusson tapestries (17th century) and a Tuscan triptych from the 15th century.

How to get there: 15 miles from Tours, on the banks of the Indre river.

Loches Castle - Château de Loches

Loches CastleBuilt on a rocky outcrop (on the site of a Gallic oppidum) the chateau towers over the town and its outer walls conceal a beautiful medieval city.

Taken back by the English and Philippe Auguste in 1205, the city was besieged in vain during the 100 years war.

The heir apparent to the throne, Charles, took refuge there and then came the historic moment when Joan of Arc begged him to go to Reims to be crowned king.

Once he had become Charles VII, he went back to the chateau with his "Damoyselle de Beauté", Agnès Sorel, the first "official mistress" of a king of France.

Louis XI enlarged the fortress and made it a state prison, while Louis XII built the second wing of the Royal Residence, on the northern wing of the outer wall, which contrasts with the southern wing, which looks more feudal with its turrets, watchtowers, and its parapet.

By visiting the more recent Royal Residence, you can admire the stone filigree on Anne de Bretagne's oratory, you can visit the Romanesque dungeon from the 11th century, which is 120 feet high and also admire the view of the rest of the building.

The new tower and the Martelet, in which you can visit several levels of underground dungeons, still has some of the traces of its famous prisoners such as Ludovic Sforza (Duke of Milan), the Count of Saint-Vallier, and the Bishops of Puy and Autun.

If you leave the chateau by the Porte Royale, you can continue your visit by taking a tour of its fortifications.


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