ONCE UPON A TIME

Ex­plor­ing Château de Cham­bord’s con­fer­ence venues

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS -

Adrive of about two and a half hours from Charles de Gaulle Air­port, past a scenic coun­try­side with wind­mills and birds that raced along­side our ve­hi­cle, brought us to one of the most dis­tinc­tive châteaux (cas­tles) in the world. We were in the hum­ble com­mune of Cham­bord. As we closed in upon Château de Cham­bord, the sights and sounds slowly seemed to rewind into another era. Horse car­riages rode on path­ways lined with man­i­cured green­ery and mi­nus­cule lakes, strut­ting to­wards a mag­nif­i­cent es­tate. The French re­nais­sance-style palace we had eyed from afar, fi­nally ap­peared closer. Its ar­chi­tec­ture over­whelmed us, as we took in the mag­ni­tude of what stood in front of us.

Be­fore ven­tur­ing into the fortress, we checked into our vin­tage rooms si­t­u­ated in the right tower of the struc­ture. We were told that while it wasn’t com­mon prac­tice to give out ac­com­mo­da­tion at the château, spe­cial re­quests had been made for our stay. If that wasn’t ex­cit­ing enough, my room had a mes­meris­ing view of the for­est around. I dug out a sweater to keep me warm in the plum­met­ing tem­per­a­tures and joined the group to ex­plore this en­chant­ing royal house.

You can’t en­ter a French château and not delve into its his­tory. Be­fore en­ter­ing the fortress, our tour guide threw some light on its an­tiq­uity. It was built as a hunt­ing lodge for King Fran­cis I, and de­signed by Fran­cis Pom­bri­ant who was or­dered to con­struct it in 1519. Since it served as a hol­i­day home to the king, for many decades it re­mained par­tially un­fur­nished. Af­ter the death of King Fran­cis I, the royal res­i­dence was un­oc­cu­pied for 80 years. In 1639 King Louis XIII handed over the reins of the château to his brother Gas­ton d’Or­léans, who took up the re­spon­si­bil­ity of its restora­tion work — thus sav­ing it from ab­so­lute di­lap­i­da­tion. A series of res­i­dents and trans­fers of own­er­ship fol­lowed for cen­turies.

To­day, this mag­nif­i­cent com­plex at­tracts vis­i­tors from around the world. Apart from fam­i­lies and fre­quent in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers, Cham­bord is known to host avant-garde events of vary­ing scales as well — an as­pect I ex­plored quite keenly on my visit.

The cas­tle has four vestibules that are laid out in the shape of a Greek cross. Our ex­pe­di­tion be­gan at the cen­tral build­ing of the château, also known as “the keep”. This square fa­cade with four corner tow­ers, houses a room called Arms Of A Greek Cross (150 sqm). It prides it­self on the fa­mous “double-helix” stair­case, one of the fore­most at­trac­tions of the palace. It is said to have been con­cep­tu­alised by Leonardo da Vinci, al­though there is no real ev­i­dence of this. The unique stair­case is con­structed in such a way that two per­sons us­ing the op­po­site stairs can see each other through win­dow open­ings, but will never cross paths. Em­bel­lished with ta­pes­tries de­pict­ing sto­ries from yesteryears, this room can ac­com­mo­date up to 600 peo­ple for an event. In winter, fire­places warm up the space, cre­at­ing an idyl­lic at­mos­phere for ca­sual hap­pen­ings.

On the ground floor is one of the event halls, Room Of The Renowned (108 sqm), where we headed to next. Adorned with spec­tac­u­lar chan­de­liers, this white-beamed room dis­plays

por­traits of ma­jor fig­ures from the château’s re­gal past. Gold pan­elling around frames and pat­terned wall­pa­per add a rich touch to the space that can ac­com­mo­date up to 150 peo­ple.

The ground floor of the château also houses Room Of The Game Track­ers (73 sqm). It brings to life the time when roy­alty rev­elled in hunt­ing glo­ries. This sa­lon with its ta­pes­tries and an­i­mated hunt­ing tro­phies can fit up to 80 peo­ple. Room Of The Bour­bon Dy­nasty (115 sqm) and The Com­mons Of Or­leans (383 sqm) are two more rooms on the ground level, while Un­der The Cof­fered Vaults (150 sqm) and The Gallery Of Tro­phies (91 sqm) are ad­di­tional salons on the sec­ond floor.

Our next stop was the en­chant­ing ter­race of the château, where large scale galas can be hosted, fit­ting up to 700 peo­ple. Be­hind us stood an im­pos­ing lantern tower along­side age-old mould­ings and chim­neys, tur­ret-like struc­tures that tele­ported us into an al­ter­na­tive French era. A sala­man­der, the king’s em­blem, made a fre­quent ap­pear­ance in the palace’s ar­chi­tec­ture that has a fairy tale-like am­bi­ence. En­joy­ing this mo­ment of calm, we stared out into the wilder­ness of Cham­bord. The gar­dens, man­i­cured to per­fec­tion, were sur­rounded by the for­est — an end­less pal­ette of brown and green.

We made our way down to the ground floor and re­laxed for a bit be­fore em­bark­ing upon our next ad­ven­ture. Ly­ing down on the South Lawn of the palace, we soaked in the en­chant­ing sur­round­ings — blos­somed flow­ers on shim­mer­ing grass against a back­drop of the de­scend­ing sun.

Soon, it was time to hop on to our des­ig­nated ride for the day. I was told my trip to Cham­bord was about to get even more en­thralling — and I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed. I sat in the back seat of an SUV that drove into the wood­lands of Cham­bord. Due to its ex­ten­sive ar­ray of flora and fauna, th­ese were the pre­ferred hunt­ing grounds of King Fran­cis I. It was thrilling to be amidst the very woods that have been privy to roy­alty at play.

Driv­ing around the for­est, we spot­ted a pair of stags and a few wild boars. Cham­bord’s bird pop­u­la­tion con­sists of 150 species that made their pres­ence felt with in­ces­sant chirp­ing. A charm­ing picnic lunch fol­lowed, as we sat in an ob­ser­va­tory over­look­ing a stretch of grass­land. A herd of deer ar­rived to graze and there­after had a siesta, as we sat in si­lence ob­serv­ing the ways of na­ture.

Din­ner that night was an ex­quis­ite set-up at Room Of The Hun­ters, where we were joined by the château’s man­age­ment. Game tro­phies along­side art­work de­pict­ing the hunt­ing rev­el­ries of the kings made up the room’s decor. Chan­de­liers bright­ened this cham­ber, which came alive with our chat­ter re­call­ing the day’s ex­pe­ri­ences.

Pre­vi­ous page: a stag on the path­way to Château de Cham­bord

Above: a panorama of Château de Cham­bord

Top to bot­tom: the double helix stair­case; wilder­ness of Cham­bord; Room Of The Hun­ters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.