Azay le Rideau

Azay le Rideau is a lovely little castle that can be found in France's castle-filled Loire Valley. Set on an island in the middle of the Indre River, this pretty Renaissance structure enjoys a wonderful setting, especially when you also consider the surrounding park and woodlands. It also enjoys a relatively significant role in the history of France. Azay le Rideau was one of the first buildings in the country to exhibit the French Renaissance style, and this has a lot to do with the fact that it is a listed historic monument.

The Chateau d'Azay le Rideau rises out of the Indre River waters creating a very beautiful scene. Often times, the surrounding water is calm, and when it is, the reflections of the beautiful edifice are nothing short of spectacular. This castle exhibits great attention to detail, its corners capped by majestic cones and its slate roof providing excellent contrast to the mostly creme-colored exterior. Inside, visitors can admire the grand central staircase, which was a novel idea at the time that it was built, and other highlights include a dazzling collection of tapestries, artwork, and period furnishings. Also worth taking note of when exploring the Azay le Rideau interior are the fine sculptural details found throughout. The entire edifice is a delight to behold, and many notable personalties, Honore de Balzac among them, have sung its praises.

The history of Chateau d'Azay le Rideau starts in the 1500s when it was built during the reign of King Francis I. The king's Treasurer-General, Gilles Berthelot, began the construction process, and his intentions were to replace a medieval chateau. The original chateau burned down during the Hundred Years War, which pitted France against England.

Gilles Berthelot would not see his beloved Chateau d'Azay le Rideau finished, as he was forced to flee the area due to suspicion of embezzlement. The year that he fled was 1528, and as a result, Azay le Rideau Castle was presented to a high-ranking solider by the king. As is true of many French castles, Azay le Rideau changed hands on several occasions over the years. This all came to an end when the French government assumed possession and began a restoration process. Today, the castle is open to visitors and essentially serves as one of France's many museums.

Chateau d'Azay le Rideau is certainly worthy of a visit, as is true of other Loire Valley castles, such as Amboise Castle and Loches Castle. It is open daily, save for a few major holidays, and should you visit on a July or August evening, you can enjoy the Dreams and Lights display. This display sees the gardens illuminated in grand fashion. As you might imagine, the village of Azay le Rideau is where you can find this namesake structure. This village, it is worth mentioning, is a prominent French wine center, specializing in white and rose wines, so you might sample the local product when you're not enjoying a tour of its renowned castle.

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