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Château de Chambord
The largest of the Cha¢teaux of the Loire, Chambord was begun by Frana§ois I in 1518 although it was still unfinished at his death in 1559. Its scale is immense. The plan is feudal, with its central keep and four towers, but the architecture and decoration is Renaissance. It was a building intended for pleasure, not war. The name of the architect is not recorded but the famous double staircase was certainly designed by Leonardo da Vinci who was living in exile at nearby Clos Lucé. After Frana§ois I, kings used it regularly and ironically it saw the end of the monarchy in the 1870s: the would-be Henry V lived there during a final failed attempt to restore the monarchy. In the royal apartments and public rooms paintings, tapestries and furniture are on display and the roof terrace with its intricate maze of lanterns, chimneys and windows gives a fine view over the surrounding parkland. This park of 5,440 hectares is the largest enclosed park in Europe and is home to deer and wild boar. Frana§ois I was initially attracted to the location because of the hunting opportunities. As well as touring the Cha¢teau, visitors can also take a boat trip on the moat, watch a dressage show or in the evening watch the son-et-lumia¨re. These last two are available in the summer months. Opening hours and access are on the website. The park is free. The Cha¢teau and park were inscribed on the UNESCO World heritage site list in 1972, and are now part of a wider designation which includes the Loire from Sully-sur-Loire to Chalonnes.