Travel & Leisure India & South Asia

NATURAL SOPHISTICATION

ON MY LAST TRIP to France’s Loire Valley, back in March 2019, I did something I’d never done before: I visited several châteaux. The statement sounds ridiculous because castles are as common in the region as grains of sand on a beach—it’s hard to not stay in one. But as a wine writer, I’m usually tromping around vineyards with a winemaker, crouching down to study gray whorls of elderly grapevines and asking, literally, about the dirt. Holing up in fairy-tale castles? Not so much.

This time, I found myself standing in the highest tower of the Château de Chambord, built by King Francis I as a hunting lodge in the 16th century. It was some lodge: 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, more than 13,000 acres of land. It took 28 years to build. Francis spent less than seven weeks there, total, before he died.

Obviously, a lot has changed since the 1500s, but what’s remarkable is that in the

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