A disconcerting silhouette of gray and sober stones, stands out among the tops of the black poplars that grow along the Cher River. In the distance and by car, it is hard to believe that this is one of the most beautiful castles in the world. Will it be one of those sites that for years have exploited and exaggerated the tour operators? Halfway between doubt and expectation, we follow the road to the castle of Villandry.
Between the weighted roofs of the houses, the geometric tower of the castle stands out, closer and closer. We approach the parking, duly indicated, located near the entrance. Among groups of tourists of all ages, we find the “entrance” sign, located next to the enclosure wall. A sign shows schedules and rates. The opening in summer months is from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and in winter from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The fee for the individual ticket is 7 euros to access the gardens and 11 if we also want to visit the castle. We opted for the second one.
Entrance to the gardens of Villandry
It is only necessary to cross the gates of Villandry to reach the parade ground. You do not have to take many steps to understand, now, because this is one of the most beautiful corners of the world. The smell of roses, strategically located at the beginning, is the true gateway to this world of sensations. Like the tailor who chooses his best fabrics, the gardeners of the castle of Villandry order and masterfully compose a tapestry of bright colors. Nothing is left to chance. Each flower is born, grows and twists to offer its greatest beauty. It is inevitable to think of Versailles and the school of Le Nôtre, although Villandry has managed to find his own style among the rigorous lines.
We follow the channel that strictly divides the garden in two. To the southwest the main gardens, of French court (as it could not be of another way) and to the northeast the fôret, a wilder mound where ways of walk. It is easy to see birds of all kinds that come and go from the gardens, protecting themselves from the sun or tourists.
On foot, it is possible to walk the gardens with ease even on the busiest days. We improvised a route to the orchard, where fruits and vegetables draw a picturesque landscape. If you want to take a souvenir home, you should know that in the castle shop you can buy jams and compotes made with the fruits of this garden. Also, you can do with seeds of the roses at the entrance. All a detail.
Model of daring
After the straight lines drawn with compass and bevel, Villandry hides stories of passion and romance. It is only necessary to remember the courtly past of these castles, where appearances and good looks used to mask the most carnal desire. Although of this already some centuries ago, the owners of the castle recovered an important part of that dual cosmos of formalities and feelings. Without going any further, each plot has been composed to explain a story: love, war, peace, …
We can not hide how much we liked the gazebos. Located in each street of the garden, they are a space of idyllic rest. Without a doubt, it is a perfect place to take out the watercolors kit and let yourself go.
If you visit Villandry, it is worth paying something more and being able to access the castle, especially if you have not yet seen any castle in the Pays de la Loire. Inside, you will find perfectly decorated rooms, following the French romantic style, as well as more details about the gardens and their history. Cutlery, crockery and furniture are the most evident testimony of the lifestyle of the time. It never ceases to amaze us that this castle, which passed through several hands (including those of Napoleon’s brother), would end up being bought by a Spaniard, Joachim Carvallo, who saved him from abandonment. Since then, the castle has been privately owned and its owners have watched it for generations for its excellent conservation.
Although the visit to the gardens and the castle can be done in just 2 hours, it is advisable to dedicate the attention it deserves and avoid the rush. Each corner is the fruit of years of dedication, patience and savoir faire. Its flowers, hedges and fountains have inspired artists from all over the world and probably also you;)