Magnificent Mansions of the Loire Valley

November 26, 2012

World-famous chateaux are only a part of the glorious Loire Valley, which also includes privately-owned chateaux owned for generations by some of France’s oldest and most prestigious families. Lynda Kelly and her husband are dedicated Francophiles, and over the years, have immersed themselves in the history, architecture, and culture of France. In Kelly’s latest class, “The Other Loire Valley“, she exposes us to the world of privately-owned mansions that are available to the public. We asked Kelly to tell us more about her upcoming class.

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about your class?

Kelly: The Loire Valley is, after Paris and the Ile-de-France, the most important region of France from a historical perspective.  Many of the finest 15th and 16th century chateaux were built by financiers and other wealthy bourgeois who held important positions at court.  In my class last spring, I discussed the famous chateaux of Blois, Chambord, and Chenonceau.  In this upcoming class, I will present some equally grand, but less well-known chateaux.  Most of them are privately-owned and open to the public.

WIH Reporter: What were the most interesting events occurring in that region that still reverberate today?

Kelly: In 1429, Joan of Arc liberated Orleans and other towns on the Loire, which began the process of booting the English out of France. If she hadn’t come along, English might have become the official language of France.

In 1519, Francois I persuaded Leonardo da Vinci to come to live in France. After Leonardo’s death, the king acquired several paintings that Leonardo had brought with him to France, including the Mona Lisa and the Virgin and Child with St. Anne, which are now in the Louvre.

WIH Reporter: What are some of the most interesting tidbits about this area?

Kelly: The old quarter of LeMans is popular with film makers because it has over 100 half-timbered houses and many beautiful stone Renaissance mansions. Among the films made in Le Man are “Cyrano de Bergerac” with Gerard Depardieu and “Les Trois Mousquetaires” with Emmanuelle Beart.

WIH Reporter: It sounds like your class offers a lot more than history and architecture, and includes films, photos, culture, and more.

Kelly: In my lectures, I tend to focus on history and architecture, but I also talk about culture, cuisine, places to stay and restaurants.  The lectures are illustrated with hundreds of photos taken by my husband, architect Frank Kelly.  He contributes immensely to my courses with his superb photographs.
In 1966-67, we spent a year living in Paris and travelling around France.  That experience fostered a life-long interest in the country’s rich history and architectural heritage.  We marvel at the diversity and sheer beauty of the French landscape.  We are fascinated by the French food culture and love to visit and photograph markets.  To experience the pleasures of the table in France, one doesn’t have to spend a fortune at a three-star restaurant.  We have had outstanding meals produced in less-renowned kitchens.  In short, Frank and I are unabashedly Francoholic.  I try to communicate this enthusiasm for France to the students in my classes.

This course, L’Autre Val de Loire: The “Other Loire Valley: begins on March 13, 2013.