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Frankie Goes to Hollywood

It turns out billionaires haven’t changed that much. I’m 24 years old, I’m richer than God and I want a massive house. François 1er’s Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley is as Californian as architectural folly gets.

The guide books will tell you otherwise, but if you really want to understand the chateaux of the Loire, you need to look beyond dates and dynasties to more modern parallels. It may have 3 stars in the Michelin green guide and be designated a UNESCO world heritage site, but Chambord is more like a rock-star’s beach house, both architecturally and financially, than a page from the history books. François got Leonardo Da Vinci to build him a cool hunting pad, replete with double-helix stairwell and diverted river, and then proceeded to spend fewer than 2 days a year there on average for the rest of his life. The 20km journey from Blois must have just been too much of a drag.

Chambord is French renaissance, a period when styles and flavours from the Italian renaissance are extremely à la mode, and beginning to find their way into French architecture. As my friend the art critic, François 1er-fanatic, occasional Trufflepig tour guide and gallery owner David Lewis explained to me, the French do the renaissance backwards: they go from fiddle-de-dee extravagance in the 16th century to stark classical simplicity in the 17th, rather than the other way round. François, with his habit of putting either his own initials or bas-relief sculptures of salamanders (he totally digged salamanders) literally everwhere, is definitely of the former camp.

Chambord resembles what we have come to think of as a ‘normal’ Loire chateau (elegant white tufa stone, expansive park, gentle feminine form etc) right up to the roofline, where he turns up the funk. Turrets of all shapes, sizes and architectural modes break through the otherwise smooth elegant rooflines. The effect is almost of two different buildings sitting one on top of the other. The roof terraces up top are like a sculpture garden with one of everything. The nooks and hide-outs created must have been great for court intrigue, gossip, watching the king ride out to hunt with 250 close friends, and the other things that rock stars got up to in the 1540’s.

I’ve laboured under the impression that the Loire Valley is boring for quite a while, but David, more than the Michelin guide, has changed my mind.

Jack knows how to live like a rock star, be they from the 15th or 21st century, so if you’re looking to get hooked up like one get in touch

Chambord is more like a rock-star’s beach house, both architecturally and financially, than a page from the history books.

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