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While Paris is beautiful and fun to visit, I prefer the majestic palaces and ornate gardens of the Loire Valley. Many parents might think that palaces and chateaus are not the most kids friendly of places; however, they are often more accommodating than you might realise. When visiting the large homes of the Loire Valley you have to pick and choose which ones you want to explore the inside and which ones you will be content with seeing the gardens and which ones you really want to see both! After seeing some of the other lovely Chateau’s in the Loire Valley, we decided to have a day that would be a lot more kid-friendly. We decided on the interior of the Chateau d’Usse and the gardens of Chateau de Villandry.
Chateau d’Usse - Welcome to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
This majestic palace sits on the edge of a forest and has huge turrets. If you are looking at the photo and thinking it looks familiar, it’s because it is one of the European palaces that gave Walt Disney inspiration for his fairytale castles. The popular French version of Sleeping Beauty, written by Perrault, was actually inspired by this magnificent Chateau.
Luckily for us with families, the Chateau d’Usse has decided to run with the fairytale theme and goes above and beyond to appeal to families.
What makes this place wonderful is that the whole story of Sleeping Beauty is set up in different rooms in a palace tower. There are so many places to visit in the Loire Valley, but we specifically chose this one because we knew that the kids would enjoy the Sleeping Beauty scenes. There was even music played. In some areas you had to peep through a window. It didn’t disappoint as our kids loved it.
Be aware the staircases are very narrow and tight, but for us that added to the atmosphere. After visiting the Sleeping Beauty tower you can visit the rest of the Chateau. The king's bedroom is really impressive. While this was not a King's palace - it was required by dukes and other nobility to have a set of rooms ready for the King or other royalty for possible royal visits. There are more mannequins throughout each of the rooms and on the stairwells which are dressed according to seasonal themes. What’s great is that you get to see clothes from different periods in a variety of scenes. It feels like you have stepped back in time. There is a stunning garden as well that you can visit and if you have time, there are also some stables and a small chapel.
We spent the morning at Chateau d’Usse and then we continued on to nearby (about half an hour drive) to Chateau de Villandry.
Chateau De Villandry
For us, we skipped the lovely gardens of Chateau d’Usse for the ones at Chateau de Villandry. It was wonderful for our kids to wander around the magnificent gardens here. Built in the 1500’s this Chateau passed through many hands and underwent significant changes until it was finally bought by Joachim Carvallo and Ann Coleman. This husband and wife team set about restoring Villandry to her original renaissance glory. What’s most significant are the amazing gardens. Think geometric patterns and colors. The gardens are separated into different themed areas and terraces- for example the kitchen garden. You can walk through the Garden of Love with love heart hedges or the garden of Music. We spent the entire afternoon wandering around the gardens- taking photos of the beautiful patterns and flowers. While we did not go in the restored Chateau, if you have time, it has been lovingly restored.
We had a wonderful day out with the family at both of these Chateaus that catered to the whole family. It also made the kids more patient when visiting the other Chateaus.
Dreaming of a trip to France? Start planning and if you love Castles then add the Loire Valley to your list!!
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