My obsession with Mary Queen of Scots dates back to the month before we moved to Geneva, when I boarded a plane with my dear plant Nigel to relocate him to his co-parent’s home in Cleveland, Ohio. It would turn out that the co-parent’s cat would try to eat Nigel and he would have to be relocated yet again, but that’s a story for another day. The main point is that my friend got me hooked on a CW show called “Reign” about Mary Queen of Scots during that visit, and thus when Gui made our itinerary for the Loire Valley of France he knew that visiting the castles that Mary had lived in was a necessity.
Our first stop was Chenonceau, the castle of Henry II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers, which eventually belonged to Catherine de Medici (Henry’s wife) after he died. Catherine de Medici was the mother of Francis II, who was married to Mary before dying very young, and hence Mary also lived there for a time! This was my favorite castle of the trio we saw during our Loire Valley road trip, not only for its fairy-tale beauty but also because it is known as the ladies’ castle for all the cool women who owned it.
After Chenonceau we drove to Amboise, which was one of the main residences of the French kings, including Henry II, and was also where Mary grew up! (The castle is also the site of Leonardo da Vinci’s grave, as he served in the court of Henry II’s father, Francis I, which was an added surprise). Sadly, the building in which Mary was raised is no longer standing, but the view from the castle high above the town was really something.
Our final stop was Chambord, which was built by Francis I. No real Mary link there, but the castle is absolutely enormous and we had the unfortunate luck of visiting when entry was free for local residents so it was slammed with families. A highlight is the double helix staircase designed by da Vinci, which apparently allowed the mistress to leave via one of the interwoven staircases undetected while the wife ascended the other. So very French.