The early-17th-century Château de Cheverny, one of the few in the Loire Valley that has been continuously inhabited for its entire existence by the same family, has added a new attraction to the many it already has: a “Love Garden” featuring six monumental statues by the late Swedish sculptor Gudmar Olovson (1936-2017), who lived in Paris but maintained close connections with his home country.
The statues are displayed along a promenade surrounding a pond inhabited by families of black swans and ducks. It’s an idyllic place to sit and listen to the songbirds, the gentle little squawks of the swans and the quacking of the ducks while thinking thoughts of love inspired by the statues, which evoke the relations between couples, siblings, and mothers and children.
Better not linger, however, if you want to see the rest of the place, a visit to which could easily take up an entire day.
The rooms open to the public in the château (the family lives in one of the wings) are fully furnished and contain many treasures, including paintings of ancestors; two beautiful Italian paintings, one by Titian and the other by Raphael; antique tapestries from Flanders and Gobelins; and precious period furnishings. Some 3,000 books fill the charming little library, and a document signed by George Washington attests to the fact that family members fought on the American side during the War of Independence.
The bedroom, lined with tapestries, has a special piece; a bed that Henri IV slept in when it was in the fortress that stood on the site before the château was built in 1624. The bed still has its original canopy and spread decorated with Persian embroidery,
Much remains to be seen outdoors as well. In tulip season in the spring, the elegant grounds are covered with 150,000 blooms. The forest is home to many splendid and ancient trees, and there is also a small vineyard (a recent addition expected to produce 10,000 bottles of white wine by 2021). I recommend taking the short boat ride on the 18th-century irrigation canals, a peaceful interlude punctuated by sightings of gray herons, kingfishers and other birds.
For more animal life, pay a visit to the pack of over a hundred handsome tricolor hunting hounds (a cross between English foxhounds and French Poitevins), whose kennel is located next to the outbuildings near the entrance. A beautiful vegetable garden can be visited inside the walls around the outbuildings, and there is even an exhibition on Tintin nearby.
For sustenance, there are plenty of possible picnic spots on the grounds and a restaurant in the 18th-century Orangery.
The château is easy to reach from Paris by train or car. Click here for instructions.
If you are lucky, you might run into the château’s current owners, the charming and ebullient Marquis Charles-Antoine de Vibraye and his outgoing wife Constance, who will surely be willing to share a few anecdotes about the history of the château with you.
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