Boasting a coastline on the Channel at the mouth of the River Somme, and a border with southern Belgium, Picardy is a region that has staked a claim in European history for hundreds of years. Today, however, it is home to some of the finest châteaux and medieval cathedrals in France. River tours that wind their way through this often overlooked part of the country introduce the discerning visitor to a huge array of its highlights, including some incredible châteaux. One of the most beautiful and intriguing is the stunning Château de Chantilly, and it is definitely worth a visit Introducing Château de Chantilly Resembling a fairy tale castle, this incredible building is sublimely beautiful, with towering walls that you just know could tell a thousand stories. It is said that King Henry VI described the castle as “the most beautiful house in France” and few of its visitors today would disagree. It truly is one of the historic icons of France. River tours in Picardy offer you the opportunity to take a look for yourself and you shouldn’t miss it. History Royalty has been the main influence in the history of the château, but one man in particular was responsible for its preservation and transformation into an informative museum: The Duke d’Aumale. The fifth son of Louis Philippe of Orleans, the duke inherited the castle before he was even 18. For a time he was banished from the region by Napoleon III but he maintained his connection to the building and organised for the château to be guarded for his return. When finally he did return in 1871, his loyalty to the château was borne out with its restoration. He spent his early inheritance, which was equivalent to £200 million euros today, on all the mod cons, including hot running water. It was unfortunate that the duke had no children to whom he could leave the castle but he was determined that the legacy of this stunning place should live on, so he left it to the Institut de France. Passionate as he was about the building, the duke made it very clear to the institute that the artworks he had collected and stored at the castle were never to be moved from the castle, or indeed from the place in which he put them. To this day his wishes have been honoured and the museum is the second (after the Louvre) most important museum in France. River tours that cruise through the Picardy region usually include a visit to this fascinating château that doubles as a museum and you would really be missing out if you didn’t go along and witness this wonderful piece of history for yourself. When booking any kind of holiday in France, river tours included, it is recommended that you use a reputable tour operator. There is no substitute for local knowledge and good old experience so rely on the experts and your trip will become more than just a holiday. Author Plate Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s go to experts and most respected provider of all-inclusive luxury barge holidays. If you’re looking to experience the best of France, river tours are the way to do it. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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