What to paint, what to paint, what to paint? How about a castle?
What? No castles in your neighborhood?
If you find yourself craving a castle view this year, do what the kings and queens of France have done for centuries: head to the Loire Valley. For centuries, the lush Loire has been the playground of royalty. From Catherine de Medici’s Chenonceau, to Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo de Vinci spent the last days of his life, the Loire is home to more than 300 stunning chateaux.
And here’s a secret: you can stay at some of them. Ok, not the famous ones like Chenonceau, but many small chateaux and manor houses in the region are privately owned properties with stunning views and gardens — and you’ll have plenty to paint without ever venturing outside the main gates.
Here are a few that are quite close to some of the best chateaux in the Loire:
Château de Troussay A small château that dates back 6 centuries and is open to the public due to its historic significance; rooms are available inside the main castle and there are lovely cottages for rent on the grounds, which are quite paintable!
Château de Gizeux Built in the 14th century, this massive property is quite majestic and has its own art gallery filled with 17th century paintings!
Château de l’Herissaudière Built in 1640 on the hunting grounds of Diane de Poitiers (mistress of King Henry II of France and life-long rival of Catherine de Medici), this is another small property with lovely grounds. Both rooms and cottages are available.
The Loire gets fairly busy and crowded during high season, so if you would like a quieter place to stay, check out of my favorite chateau accommodations not far away: Chateau de Beaujeu is located in the heart of the Sancerre wine region (just outside of the Loire to the southeast). Set on an impossibly green expanse of vast lawn that runs downhill to the lazy, meandering river at the bottom of the valley, the views from the bedroom windows alone are mesmerizing.
Originally built in the 16th century, it was purchased from Marie Antoinette’s lady-in-waiting by an ancestor of the current owners. The outbuildings are also full of intriguing history and lovely, graceful architectural elements that cry out to be painted. And after a long day of painting, you can enjoy a lovely meal (prepared by the chatelaine) and a good night’s sleep in one of the charming bedrooms (furnished with beautiful period antiques and historic artworks.)
One thing to keep in mind iff you plan to paint some of the more famous public castles in the region from inside the grounds: you will definitely need to secure advance permission (talk to your concierge, visit the tourist office web site, or contact the ticket office of the château directly). Many are so large and imposing that you can set up nearby and still get a great view!
For more details on where to paint in the Loire (for yourself or a group), look for our Guide Book (to be released in March 2019!