Study Abroad Paris Style # 4: Castles and Gardens in the French Countryside


It looks like this post is a bit of a long one today. Traveling in the French countryside brought us to Close Luce Castle, Chambord Castle, Chartres Cathedral, and Monet’s Garden.  I could easily write a post about each of these places individually, but I have decided to go ahead and create one big long post about our class travels around the French countryside.


In the second week of our study abroad  tour our class boarded a bus, left the busy city life of Paris, and headed  for the beautiful French countryside.  On two separate days this bus turned into our  rolling classroom. The big challenge of riding in this bus was staying awake during the class lecture. The hum of the bus and the rocking of the road was trying hard to pull everyone into sleep as we rolled past endless views of green rolling hills,   rivers, and the occasional castle.  Castles on a hillside are not something I get to see much of on road trips in the US.

Clos Luce Castle   


Close Luce Castle, Leonardo Da Vinci’s bed, and the view from Leonardo’s bedroom window.

This castle was once home to Leonardo Da  Vinci and has now been restored and  turned into a museum  of his endless inventions and ideas.  In 1516 Leonardo  came to stay at the Clos Luce Castle by invitation of King Francis I, who wished to have him close so that he could enjoy conversations with Da Vinci. The King lived at the near by palace at Amboise, now the final resting place of de Vinci.


These are some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions in the museum and gardens of Close Luce Castle.  I believe the one on the left is an idea for a  helicopter. The gardens are large with lots of hands on inventions to pay with. This is one location on our trip that I do wish we were given more time to explore.


The outside wall of the Palace at Amboise, home of King Frances I. We ate lunch in the little  town outside of this palace, but did not tour the palace on our trip.  Guess something had to be saved for my next trip to France.


On the walk between Close Luce and the palace we passed a row of cave houses that are built right into the side of the hill. This one was under construction letting us all have a view of how it fits into the hill

Chateau de Chambord


After lunch our day of discovering Da Vinci continued with a visit to see Chateau de Chambord.  This is the largest castle in the Loire Valley and was built by King Frances I in 1519  to serve as a hunting lodge. The Chateau is built in both a Medieval French and Italian Renaissance style with 440 room and 365 fireplaces.


Leonardo Da Vinci died before the castle was built, but his design for a double-helix staircase is one of the main features  of the castle. The unique design allows  two people to ascend in sight of one another, but never meet.



The rooftop  details and view of the 13,442.53 acres game reserve park.

Chartres Cathedral

chartres-1The High Gothic architectural style of Chartres Cathedral sits in the town of Chartres 40 miles outside of Paris.  In the center of the floor of this cathedral is a labyrinth. unfortunately  it was covered by chairs when we visited preventing us from walking it, or taking great photos. But you can find a photo of it ( with no chairs) at this Labyrinth link.

chartres-2One element Chartres is known for is its rich colored stain glass windows. When we visited, the cathedral was in the process of being cleaned and restored. The photo on the right show what color the stone was back when the cathedral was built.  White! The gray colored stone that most cathedrals have today are gray due to the hundreds of years of dirt that cover them. I learned cleaning a cathedral is a big and expensive task.

Claude Monet’s Garden 



The final stop on day 14 of our tour was the beautiful gardens of Impressionist painter  Claude Monet. His garden in Giverny is actually two separate gardens, one a flower garden, and the other his water garden that he designed in a Japanese style.  His house is also open for viewing along with his collection of Japanese prints, and paintings from his famous friends.  I felt one of the most impressive rooms in his house was his large yellow dining room. It must have been the biggest room in the whole house with his long yellow dining table that can seat 15 people. And windows that look out over the beautiful colors in his garden. Unfortunately no photos were allowed to be taken  inside the house, but this room  must have been the center of social life in his time.


LMB standing on the walkway that leads to the French painter Claude  Monet’s pink brick house.


The water garden was really a delightful treat. Here I was face to face with the real inspiration for Monet’s famous Water Lilies paintings. Just the day before I had gone after class, with our two professors,to the Musee de l’Orangerie  to see the Nymphéas series ( Water Lilies)  in person. Together this experience   made up a very special treat I don’t think I will soon forget. Plus our day away from the city was a refreshing teat right in the middle of our art history study program.


Our two Academy of Art professors standing on Monet’s Japanese bridge.

4 thoughts on “Study Abroad Paris Style # 4: Castles and Gardens in the French Countryside

  1. Pingback: Hopping Around the World 2015 | Hopping Around the World

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