Château de Chambord

Evening view of the 16th century Château de Chambord.

Deer on the tree-lined path

A deer on the tree-lined path leading to the Château de Chambord.

Lantern Tower at the Château de Chambord

The Lantern Tower at the Château de Chambord.

Drink to the Good Life

If you are familiar with the French commune of Chambord, it's probably for one of two reasons. You've seen pictures of the incredible castle, or have had a drink made with the eponymous black raspberry flavored liqueur that is produced here. Perhaps after too many swigs, you've had visions of being at the incredible château. Make the dream a reality.

The château de Chambord is one of the most recognizable château in the world, known largely for being an almost perfect example of French Renaissance architecture. The building is the largest château in the Loire Valley, and that says a lot considering the area is filled with an abundance of big and beautiful castles. Originally built as a hunting lodge for Francois I, there has been some debate as to who the original architect was, and some even suggest that Leonardo da Vinci may have had a hand in its design. After the death of Francois I, the building remained unoccupied for 80 years when King Louis XIII gave it as a gift to his brother. Now operating as a historical site, the château hosts many art exhibitions and offers walking tours of the home and surrounding gardens.

The château lies in a park of more than 13,000 acres, and is enclosed by a wall that stretches nearly 20 miles. Within the walls you'll find a forest abundant in flora and fauna, lakes and streams and spots for quiet contemplation. Make like a king (or queen) and have a seat.

Chambord is also the home of its very own liqueur. Produced here since the late 17th century, the elegant spirit is made from raspberries, blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and cognac. The legend goes that King Louis XIV enjoyed an elegant meal followed by Chambord as an apertif, and thus, Chambord saw an increase in its popularity. Today, the bottle is easily recognized on liquor-store shelves: spherical and purple, a filled highball easily brings you back to the Loire Valley.

Chambord may be the biggest castle, but there are plenty more to see. And the train is the best way to visit these homes of hegemony. Tours is an excellent base. Just 2 1/2 hours from Paris and then about 50 minutes from Blois –one of the nearby train stations for Chambord.. Tours was home to Balzac and French spoken in its truest form.

From Tours, it's an easy 30-minute ride to the château of Chenonceau. Built as a gift from Henry II to Diane of Poitiers, a French noblewoman, the châteaux is famous for its incredible gardens and art collections. In just 20 minutes, be in Amboise, where the castle was once home to Leonardo daVinci.

For such a small geographic space, you'll find a bounty of beautiful palaces. With your Eurail France Pass, you'll cover much magnificient ground. Chambord is just one piece of this sweet life, flavored with raspberries.

To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident

Contributed by: Justin, Call Center Supervisor, Lived in London for a summer during college.

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