With steamy weather blanketing most of the Americas, I thought I’d feature a cool, tranquil view as the photo of the week. But not just any view: we’re looking out one of the centuries-old windows of Château de Chenonceau, perhaps the most majestic of the grand châteaux in France’s Loire Valley. (Hint: click on the photo to see it full-size).
Chenonceau is called the ladies’ château because of the powerful women who lived there. The list includes Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henri II, and Catherine de’ Medici, the king’s widow, who ruled all of France from this house after his death. And being ladies of considerable means, they spared no expense to make the château beautiful. It’s a Disney-like confection, with graceful white spires, beautiful gardens and an arched gallery stretching across the Cher River, toward the cool forest where the ladies could go walking on a hot summer day.
And it was a hot summer day, just like this one, when I visited Château de Chenonceau. But wandering through its dozens of luxurious rooms, I came across this lovely view, with the gallery on one side, the cool waters of the Cher below and the green of the forest beyond. Catherine de’ Medici might have looked out this same window on a hot afternoon while pondering the affairs of France. And with air conditioning still hundreds of years off, she must have given thanks, not only for the beauty of the scene but for a breath of fresh air.