Friday, August 24, 2012

Château du Clos Lucé, Loire Valley

This post outlines some of our adventures on our Spring Trip in April/May 2012.

Here we are at the Château du Clos Lucé. This castle was built in 1471 and has the honour of being the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. (As well as home to other Kings and royalty beforehand, but what did they ever invent? Yeah, exactly.)

Chateau du Clos Lucé, castle entrance, Loire Valley, France

In 1516, King François I, a huge fan of Leonardo's, invited the scientist to come and live at the castle (the King lived at the nearby Château d'Amboise).

The gardens of Chateau du Clos Lucé in the Loire Valley, France

Leonardo live here for the last three years of his life with an allowance and his works financed by the King.

A bust of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Lucé
Leonardo da Vinci

A true admirer, all the King asked for in return was to be able to talk to Leonardo, which he apparently did nearly every day.


Guess which painting Leo brought with him when he moved in?

The Mona Lisa
Oh yes he did

The castle is nicely decked out in period furniture:


In the basement is the model room, which shows scale models of some of Leonardo's many inventions.

A model of a military tank designed by da Vinci.

In the basement there is also the secret passage that's said to lead to the Château d'Amboise. The King would use it to pop in for a visit when he couldn't be bothered getting out amongst the peasants.


The castle is indeed lovely, but the highlight (especially for the kids) is the extensive gardens around the residence. Parc Leonardo da Vinci contains several life sized versions of his inventions, set up for interaction.


Here's the tank again, this time built as one of those merry-go-round things you sit in and spin until centrifugal forces push your brains out your ears and vomit out your nose. Fun!


Leonardo was a prolific inventor. Just a small portion of his inventions are represented in this room of little models, just outside the castle.

Can you imagine how awesome a sewing machine Leonardo could invent were he alive today?

Quite the architect (as well as artist, engineer, twelve-time strip poker champion) Leonardo was also keen on designing staircases. Although not proven, most folks think that he designed the famous double helix staircase at François I's Chambord castle.


Another of Leonardo's designs, this time a bridge over a pond:


Where this poor duck and her mate were being harassed by a rather vicious fish:


At exactly 11:55am the two ducks hopped out of the pond:


And waddled over to the café next door just in time for lunch at midday.


After lunch, we spent the afternoon wandering through the gardens:


I loved this 15th century pigeon house in the grounds.


Square on the outside and octagonal on the inside, it has 1000 little niches for pigeon pairs to live in.


Pigeons were serious chi-ching back in the day. You could eat or sell the pigeons and their eggs, plus they produced lots of quality fertiliser for the owner's veggie gardens.

The kids got a good work out on the playground:


We all played 'spot the Leonardo invention' as we went around:


I suggested that perhaps we also get a life size drawing of a naked man to hang in our garden, but my suggestion didn't make it through the committee.


I'm just trying to bring more science into our lives, that's all.

Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine

So, that was the Château du Clos Lucé - a visit definitely recommended for families and those interested in the fascinating life of the great Leonardo da Vinci.


Susan said...

Fascinating! What an awesome pigeon house! Every home needs a Vitruvian Man! It might inspire some more exercise!

Anonymous said...

Tes photos sont magnifiques - merci pour ce "post" intéressant. ça fait toujours plaisir de lire ton blog!

Meilleures salutations

Omma Velada said...

This one does look like a great one for kids, especially with those gardens. When we went to Versailles castle recently, my kids were stifled inside (it was a cold day, so lots of layers, but inside with all the crowds it was boiling!) and only perked up once we got them out for a run-around!

Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts said...

Merci beaucoup, Stéphanie, et merci pour ta visite!

Mark said...

I would have been on your side for the life size drawing just so you know.
Thanks for that tour. Never knew about that place before. I wonder if I can get my grass looking that good? I suppose if I roped it off like they do, it would!
Have a great weekend!

Salley said...

Love those green wrought iron cafe chairs. Nice tour!

verobirdie said...

Wow, how exciting. All the pictures are beautiful. Thank you so much!

Unknown said...

Fantastic post. Very informative and hysterical. Thank you so much for posting this.

Megan said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, the fascinating stories and the great visuals!

It's something I otherwise never would have seen!

Ali said...

I'm thinking that next time you go to Paris you should stop at the Rodin museum. Maybe the Thinker would pass though the committee for garden statue. WE didn't get to see this chateau (so many chateaux, so little time), so thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog at "Blacksheep's bit of the Web". Paris/France and the french culture were a favourite at our home, but after a bad week in Paris in June this year(which included a food poisoning case with my husband) I'm trying to have my husband to make his peace/like Paris/France again. I will show him your blog this weekend. This is as very good example of how France can be remarkable!
Thanks (

Marg said...

I would have seconded your motion re: naked man!
Love the bridge over the pond, great design.

Katy Cameron said...

Hmm, wonder if I can find a benefactor that can support me in my art in fabulous surroundings all in exchange for a chat each day... ;o) Still, looks like a fab place to visit, and I'd also like a naked man in the garden. Wait, I'd need a garden... hmmmm

Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts said...

Thank you - and thanks for dropping by. I hope your husband can forgive Paris for her behaviour! Better yet, why not avoid Paris altogether and come down to Provence for your next France trip? It is just beautiful down here and quite different to the Paris experience. There's lots of old posts under my Travel tab that he can look at and see for himself. Good luck! x

American Mom in Bordeaux said...

Wow, such a great review...I will have to definitely add this castle as a must see to my list. I have always loved the Loire Valley - but have not traveled it extensively. Leonardo Da Vinci is one of my favorite Renaissance men!

blandina said...

Apparently my parents took me there when I was very little and we still lived in Limoges (not that I have any recollection).
You may know that Leonardo was born in a tiny village near Florence, Vinci, where there is a museum that...I never visited! Shame on me.

Sharon said...

I'm seriously coveting one of those sewing machines!

Sara Louise said...

Maybe you can't have a naked man in your garden, but anytime you want one in your kitchen again, I'll send G over x

Wendy said...

What a beautiful and fascinating place! I must confess, I'd never even heard of it before now. You are definitely having the adventure of a lifetime with your sojourn in France, what a wonderful experience for the whole family.

And if you wanted to commission some naked man artwork for the garden, there are lots of Olympic swimmers who probably have time for some modeling work at the moment. Just saying. I'm all for the advancement of art and culture. ;) said...

It looks like a good time was had by the entire family.

midge said...

i had no idea that LdV was such a whizz at strip poker. the things you learn. greta post kirsty

Fig and Fishbone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AL said...

As always, a fun and educational post...with great pics as well. I always leave your posts feeling that I have to go to France and spend at least a few months touring around. Merci Kirsty :-)

Delana@dujour said...

Great photos, Kirsty. da Vinci is one of those people in history that I would love to meet. I'd look like a buffoon next to him but hey! Those ducks made me laugh. Most definitely French ducks.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What a delightful visit, a great way to introduce children to the amazing Leo. In the fantasy dinner party, I would definitely include Leo.


PS - Naked man in the garden, yes!

Anonymous said...

Naked Ventruvian man with Hugh Jackman's face...oh, hello, fantasy world!!

I just discovered your blog and spent the past 2 days reading the entire thing...which has made me terribly keen to spend a decent chunk of time in France, and even tempted me a little to do the expat thing again (I didn't think I'd ever say that, but the idea of being an expat somewhere with fully functioning infrastructure definitely appeals! Never mind cheese and chandeliers!)
Anyway, I love the blog - the gorgeous scenery and craftiness in equal doses!!!

Poppyprint said...

Totally missed this post, sorry! This ties in beautifully to our recent visit to Science World in Vancouver for the Leonardo exhibit! Super fun to see photos of the actual castle he lived his last days in. The exhibit had replicas of some of his notebooks (under glass) and I was fascinated by his tightly spaced diagrams, mirrored writing and ideas. They looked like my university study notes (in reverse). My kids thought it strange how much he packed onto one page - the idea of paper being a precious commodity had never occurred to them, of course. I absolutely marveled at all of the things he created and invented and was interested to learn about all of his 'machines of war', which I hadn't realized were his ideas. My 13 y.o. daughter's favourite? The mirror cabin, of course. Nothing like seeing yourself reflected to infinity.

Thanks, once again, for sharing your gorgeous pictures. France really has it all (with the possible exception of vegemite?).

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