This was the first image I ever sold, a full page spread in the Spring 1998 edition of France Magazine in their then regular section for single photographs titled “Villes et Villages” (Towns and Villages). I had submitted a few photographs before to numerous magazines but this was one of the only ones which published photographs that were not illustrative of an article. The format of the magazine has change since then and I’m not sure they still publish single photos. The magazine is now published by the French-American Cultural Foundation from offices in Washington DC.
The Loire Valley region of France was a favorite vacation destination for me, one which I very much miss since moving to the US. Only a couple of hours from Paris, the historic towns, beautiful Chateaux and rolling hills covered in vineyards and orchards are a photographer’s paradise. One of the best web-sites to learn about this region of France is ExperienceLoire.com. Some of the main attractions are the 300 Chateaux providing something for everyone! These are some of the ones I have visited:
Chateau de Chenonceau, (without the ‘x’, unlike the nearby village Chenonceaux) spanning the river Cher, is the most visited and photographed chateau of the Loire Valley in France. Chateau des Dames as recorded in the French history books, Chenonceau owes a large part of its charm to women: it was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, then made even more attractive by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis, and saved from the rigors of the French Revolution by Mrs Dupin.
With its combination of beauty and the fortress like appearance, it is believed that Perrault wrote his famous story, “Sleeping Beauty,” based on Chateau d’Usse . Of the structure Perrault wrote, Chateau de la Belle au bois dormant. This is one of eleven fairytales he wrote in a collection called, Les de ma mere l’ Oye.” The Chateau’s battlement tower is surrounded with glassed-in rooms showing wax figures in scenes from the “The sleeping beauty”.
If the Loire Valley is known as the garden of France then at Chateau Villandry we must have the garden of the Loire Valley . Villandry and its gardens is probably one of the most family orientated chateau within the Loire Valley in that it has a children’s maze (not terribly difficult!) and play area as well as the chateau and gardens for the adults. If you only have time to view a couple of chateaux on your visit to the Loire Valley make sure this is one of them.
Resting on an island in the river Indre, chateau Azay-le-Rideau is one of the loveliest and most visited chateau of the Loire Valley. It was built during the reign of François I in the Renaissance style by Gilles Berthelot on the site of a former small fortified castle, its turreted façade is reflected in the still waters of the river making time itself appear to stand still.
For those looking to capture the atmosphere of French Life, there is no better place than the local market. Most towns and villages have their own market, any of which will enable you to understand the French psyche a little better. As with anywhere in the world, the local French market is a morning activity, and the earlier the better. However, several towns hold evening markets throughout the summer with the additional delight of music and street entertainment.
What better way to finish off a wonderful day than to sample the delights of a small french bistro and indulge in some of the wine the region is so famous for!