There was one other Loire must-see that we waited to visit until spring, le Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire. This fairytale château plays host to the Festival International des Jardins every year, and we knew we wanted to see the 2016 edition. It’s grounds and château are also home to an incredible collection of more permanent artist installations.
We had heard about the installations and seen some photos, but I don’t think we were quite expecting how much we enjoyed this visit. The domain is huge, and dotted all along the walking paths and throughout the expansive grounds are these fantastical installations. Some appear simply to emerge from nature while others are striking and bold in their statement. The enormous twig huts above were my favourite, they just look so surreal sitting there.
The farm outbuildings are part of the exhibit as well. The old hayloft houses a beautiful recycled metal installation; another of our favourites was a twisting log, made of laminated wood pieces, which winds it’s way through a barn.
We really loved all the water features. There were numerous ponds throughout the domain, each one a different style. As we approached the first one, the kids ran towards the path winding across the pond, and they both jumped in surprise as a fat frog hopped off the pathway in front of them! We stopped to listen, and were amazed to hear the most enchanting chorus of frogs, chirping and croaking in the stillness of the pond. I posted a short video on my instagram, you can see it here if you’re interested.
This year’s theme for the Festival International des Jardins was “Gardens from the coming century”. Artists from around the world are selected to design a garden, and the results are just incredible. We were all impressed by the wide variety of designs, each one beautiful and thoughtful in it’s own way.
Eventually we made our way through le vallon des brûmes, and a much-appreciated respite from the humidity and heat of the day. We had no idea what we were walking in to, which made the experience that much better. Descending into a lush wooded valley, we walked along a manmade boardwalk winding along the forest floor and then up the hill to the mouth of the valley. As we got further into the woods, a heavy cold mist started to spray from below, filling the valley with this incredible curtain of fog! It was so awesome.
All in all, we really loved our day at Chaumont. The château building itself is beautiful, I really love the overly large round towers flanking the drawbridge. The interior is filled with more art installations and some incredible photography. It was modern, cultural, and an unexpected wonderful change from the other châteaux we have visited. While we enjoyed the more traditional Loire châteaux (my very favourite is still Chenonceau!), we had admittedly become a bit oversaturated by the ubiquitous tapestries, furnishings and armour that fill the majority of these grand places.
Le Domaine de Chaumont renewed our excitement for the history and culture of the region. We love the way that a modern approach has been introduced here, seamlessly melding nature, art, and history. I took a boatload of photos that day (a lot, even for me!) so bear with me and I’ll share a few more of my favourite pics here below.