While in the Loire Valley, we decided, rather late in the afternoon, to visit Villandry. It was such an unexpected joy to find this to be another gem in the Loire. Similar to Azay -le- Rideau , we had not planned on visiting here and therefore I had no historical context- which is challenging for me as I like to imagine the what has happened before my time at the places we visit. However, this experience was profound. The Surreal gardens were so evocative of Alice in Wonderland – felt otherworldy.
As we arrived late in the day, we only had a little time to rush through the Chateau itself which was spectacular. It was again, a palace which one (or at least I) could envision living in. Large elegant rooms with painted wood paneling and high ceilings. It was surrounded by channeled water which was home to many and overfed catfish who responded to shadows of tourists overhead by opening their mouths in anticipation of food.
We did have a chance to climb up to the tower however, (the turret in the back of the chateau pictured above) which commanded an unbelievable view of the gardens.
These boxed hedges contained lettuces which have been historically grown by monks. It is worth noting that from every window of the chateau the view is of these gardens, which actually has a great influence on the feel interior spaces as well. It brings a great deal of elegance and distance.
The gardens were broken up into rooms, similar to those in the English garden we visited, Rousham, but on a totally different scale and were created to have a very different feel. The French Renaissance style seems to be all about conquering and dominating nature, while the English style was about working with the natural landscape. (what Capability Brown was famous for.)
Even the trees had been tampered with- they were pollarded which is a process in which the new branches are continuously trimmed back and shaped every year.
The lake was majestic- there was even a perfect pair of white swans floating in it.
This garden was truly a testament to human’s ability to shape and form the natural landscape to its will. While I loved it and was so glad to visit, I am not sure I would be so presumptuous to assume that nature could be so easily tamed as this garden appears to do. There is always rain…