Unique Activities and Exhibits Make This French Chateau a Kid-Friendly Classic
SEE THE HUNTING DOGS, TINTIN AND LABYRINTH MAZE
With so many fantastic French châteaus to choose from, how do you pick one that will please all your people? Traveling with teens in tow can prove a challenge, especially when historical sites and big fancy houses don’t always sit at the top of their list. But I’m here to tell you that the Chateau de Cheverny in the Loire Valley of France was a hit for our whole fam. Even our hard to please teens.
FEEDING TIME FOR THE HUNGRY HUNTING HOUNDS AT CHEVERNY
We had one day and one day only to visit a chateau on our grand European summer road trip stop in the Loire Valley. So when researching which French chateau to choose, I will admit that the idea of seeing feeding time for the hounds that call Cheverny home was a huge draw for our family.
Every day at 11:30 during peak months, an elaborate ritual takes place and allows plenty of spots to see the happy hounds. When we first arrived, the dogs – over one hundred tri-color hounds – were waiting in a holding pen near the kitchen gardens. Surrounded by eager visitors, it was difficult to see the action at first. But never fear, everyone will have a chance to spread out as the handlers move the dogs up top a platform while they roll out wheelbarrows full of chow.
Once the meal is ready, the dogs are let back downstairs into a channel where they must walk behind the main handler. Excited and jumpy, we all wait – the spectators and the animals. Then all of a sudden – release the hounds! The dogs are let out to the long yard with plenty of places for everyone to see them up close. But lunch is not served just yet. The dogs are made to come back and be absolutely silent before finally getting to chow down. It is a spectacle to see.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The hounds will be fed every day at 11:30 am during peak months between April 1 and September 14. Low season from September 15 to March 31st, the dog feeding will take place on Tuesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
The following days will have no feedings: November 20, December 11, January 8 & 22 and February 19.
THE SECRETS OF MARLINSPIKE HALL | LES SECRETS DE MOULINSART
For fans of the Tintin series, this is another big reason to seek out Cheverny when in this section of France. My kids were big fans before moving to Europe, especially my middle son. If you aren’t familiar or just couldn’t remember, Marlinspike Hall (or Moulinsart in French) is the home of Captain Haddock, Tintin’s swarthy, seafaring (slightly alcoholic) sidekick, and best friend. If you saw the feature-length film The Adventures of Tintin, Marlinspike Hall plays an important role.
MARLINSPIKE HALL WAS MODELED AFTER CHATEAU CHEVERNY
The Belgian author and illustrator of the Tintin series, Hergé used the midsection of Chateau de Cheverny as an inspiration for Marlinspike Hall in his books and television series. Now, in conjunction with the Hergé Foundation, a permanent exhibit has been installed in an outbuilding on the chateau property.
NOTE: There is an extra fee to see The Secrets of Marlinspike Hall that you pay when you purchase your ticket to enter the gardens.
INTERACTIVE EXHIBIT FUN FOR TINTIN FANS OF ALL AGES
Inside the 700 square meter exhibit, there are many rooms filled with Tintin memorabilia and interactive displays. Whole rooms are set up to mimic scenes from the epic comic book series. Look out for Tintin himself, hiding stealthily inside one of them. We loved the life-sized model of the shark-proof submarine, which fans will remember on the cover of Red Rackham’s Treasure.
STEP INSIDE THE CHATEAU ITSELF
Cheverny has been in the same French family for six centuries and was one of the first to open its doors to the public in 1922. When we visited in July, part of the castle was set up as it might have been during World War II when the chateau played a big role in protecting precious paintings and ancient artifacts from the Louvre.
At the beginning of the war, directors at France’s most famous museum worked diligently to keep numerous works of art out of the hands of Hitler. Cheverny, and other chateaus around France – including nearby Chambord – kept them safe and protected until able to be restored in the museum after the war.
ENJOY THE BEAUTIFUL AND ECO-FRIENDLY KITCHEN GARDENS
While the castle is fancy and predictably pretty, I will admit I truly preferred wandering through the kitchen gardens at Cheverny. Such beautiful blooms that are supported by an environmentally friendly aquaponics system that uses no chemicals. By circling fish waste to fertilize the flowers, the plants then filter the water that is cycled back to the fish making it a closed loop of loveliness. I’m particularly partial to the stunning French sunflowers.
MEANDER THROUGH THE LABYRINTH OR CRUISE THE ELECTRIC BOATS
Test your internal navigation skills inside the high hedged labyrinth in the gardens. I will admit it was a wee bit too warm on our July visit to challenge ourselves this time but imagine it a fun (and hopefully not frustrating) activity for your kids.
In high season months, you can take a ride around the park from the water in guided electric boat tours. Those who want to see all the grounds but are feeling a bit tired can take a guided ride. Both options only available April 1 to September 30 and come with an additional cost. Due to time constraints, elevated temperatures and compromises with our teens, we did not tack on this extra option.
TAKE LUNCH ON THE TERRACE AT THE ORANGERIE
Across the formal garden full of lavender, butterflies and sculptured hedges directly behind the chateau, you’ll find the Orangerie. Inside is a café where you’ll find French classics like Quiche Lorraine, Croque-monsieurs, crêpes and many kinds of pâtisserie. Picnic areas are available elsewhere on the grounds if you plan to bring your own lunch.
GOOD TO KNOW:
CHÂTEAU DE CHEVERNY OPENING HOURS:
Open 365 days a year
Ticket office hours:
April 1 to September 30 | 9.15 am to 6.30 pm (castle closes 30 minutes later)
January 1 to March 31 and October 1 to December 31 | 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (castle closes 30 minutes later)
TICKET PRICES: (as of December 2019)
Children 7-25 | 9,00 €
Children under 7 and Disabled | Free
Adult | 16,50 €
Children 7-25 | 13,00 €
Children under 7 and Disabled | Free
Children 7-25 | 13,50 €
Disabled | Free
Children 7-25 | 17,50 €
Disabled | Free
* Electric boats and cars are only available from April 1 to September 30
MEANDER THE CHARMING VILLAGE OF CHEVERNY
Outside the castle grounds, the little village of Cheverny is postcard-perfect with little shops and cafes to cool off or have a coffee after your tour. The neighboring village of Cour-Cheverny is another great spot to find a café on the square.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed nearby at a country inn five minutes outside Cour-Cheverny. While we only stayed one night, the grounds were great for exploring with kids with resident peacocks and chickens roaming about. A millpond, goats and ping pong tables made up for the slightly cobwebby outdoor spaces. A lovely French breakfast is served outside each morning in the sun with a coffee, juice, hot chocolate, yogurt, baguettes, and house-made jams was a perfect start to our morning. Our suite was outfitted with a small kitchenette and it would have been a perfect base for a family looking to explore the region a bit more.
Le Moulin du Bas Pesé
275 Rue Du Moulin, 41250 Mont-près-Chambord, France
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See more of our Grand European Summer tour here:
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