Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci lived out his last few
years in France? Had you ever wondered how the Mona Lisa got to the Louvre
It’s a story worth repeating.
At the invitation of the King of France, in the early part
of the 16th century, Leonardo left Italy and made his way to the Loire
Valley town of AMBOISE. There, he and Francois 1 sat and discussed military
hardware that Leonardo was designing. Such objects at parachutes, tanks and
revolving bridges were germinating in the mind of the great inventor. He had
spent time in the hills outside Florence, developing wings so man might fly.
Francoise recognized the genius of his guest and gave him a large manor
house to live and work in. During the few years left to him, the master
created drawings of futuristic devices many of which have been recreated in
modern times and are on exhibit in the Clos Luce, Leonardo’s home within
sight of the king’s palace. The Mona Lisa was one of three paintings that
Leonardo brought to France.
The Clos Luce is a large, ornate building with large rooms
and beautiful grounds. Today a visitor can reach the rose colored building
on foot from the nearby village where the old king’s castle stands
majestically looking out over the Loire River. It is an area with hundreds
of ancient chateaux lining the river banks and still welcoming sight
seekers. A trip to the area is visual, peaceful and historically rewarding.
The town of Amboise boasts the castle and Leonard’s home
but it also offers quiet walking streets, good restaurants and the short
walk away from the river beside the castle takes you by the ancient and new
cave dweller homes built into the base of a rocky mountain. Here the
troglodytes built simple homes that today have been enhanced to include
gardens, balconies, chimneys, windows and television antennae, not to
mention electric lighting, unknown centuries ago. One has to pass these
ancient dwellings on the short walk to Leonardo’s grand house.
Here you walk through an archway onto flowing lawns with a
view and a building with the same architecture that houses a souvenir shop
and restaurant. To visit the actual residence requires the purchase of a
ticket but its money well spent just to see Leonard’s bedroom and the models
he designed. There is a portrait of Francis attending Leonard’s death in
that bedroom but there is debate by historians as to where the king was when
Leonardo died. Nearby, on the castle grounds is a tiny chapel where
Leonardo’s remains are said to lie. Even if you don’t climb to the castle,
you can see the chapel from below.
Just walking around Amboise is a treat. There is parking
along the river bank and interesting curios, food and souvenirs waiting in
A visit here need not take more than half a day but there
are so many visual treasures in the area, you’ll be happy you chose the
region. To the east is Blois and a castle filled with intrigue in the center
of a charming town. Here you can see spiral staircases in the courtyard
designed by the master and farther east at Francois’ hunting lodge you can
visit Chambord with 365 chimneys and a double helix staircase that allowed
lovers to climb to the roof without being seen by others coming down.
Here too you can see costumed riders, showing trim Arabian
horses every day. But had you gone west from Amboise instead of east, you
would have seen unforgettable Chenenceau built across the Cher River with
beautiful gardens and spacious halls. Even the old guard house is still
there only today it doubles as a souvenir shop. The restaurant on the
grounds allows you to have a snack or a complete meal while seated under a
sun umbrella watching people meander through the gardens with the chateau as
a beautiful backdrop. It is almost fantasy-like but in modern days it served
refugees an opportunity to span the river and escape into Vichy France
where, for some, it was safer.
From there, heading west it’s a short drive to Tours, once
the French capital. Here you will find a bustling city with wide boulevards
and spacious squares containing an amazing number of gourmet restaurants.
Don’t go to Tours without an evening on the Place Plumereau. The Elizabethan
beamed buildings bring back memories of the once English construction styles
and the feather merchants who occupied these buildings.
There are many hotels for all tastes in Tours and for
shoppers it is a Mecca.
But don’t stop there. Take a day or two to head farther
west. A visit to the Loire is incomplete without Azay Le Rideau that smaller
gem done to a woman’s delicate taste. Walk around the building as the scene
changes from every vantage point, especially near the rushing water fall.
Farther a field you will discover Usse which reminds one
of Cinderella’s castle. And nearby you can walk through some of the most
sumptuous gardens in France at Villandry. The admission price includes the
châteaux and gardens. Every season there are changes, so any time you go,
you will be delighted.
There are other chateaux in various states of disrepair.
You can continue west through Chinon and all the way to the Atlantic coast.
The delights are overwhelming. It will be a holiday you’ll never forget.
Paris is not the only place that’s a ‘moveable feast’.
ARNIE will be taking a group of interested travelers on a
tour of france from Paris to Bordeaux with a tour of Amboise and the place
where Da Vinci died. There is still time to register. The tour is May
12-26th anf costs $3449 + only the air tax. We can work out something so you
can fly from your home town. Call now while there are spaces left. The group
is limited to 32 people and registration has begun. He can be reached at 514
484 8603 in Montreal, Canada. Email below///
Drawing by author.
Note: The story of Leonardo’s inventions and work in
Amboise is expanded in Arnie’s recent novel A Man of Taste. For more
www.postcardsforyou.com or write to him at
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)