In celebration of National Castle Month, today’s Got Wanderlust picture is of Château Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France. The lush rolling river valley, just two hours south of Paris was once nicknamed the Playground of the Kings, as many of France’s Renaissance kings and queens built sumptuous, over-the-top castles along the Loire and Cher Rivers.  Chåteau Chenonceau just celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2013 and is best known for its sprawling gardens and elegant arches spanning the River Cher. It is nicknamed the Chåteau des Dames, as seven women consecutively owned and operated the castle beginning in 1547 when King Henry II offered it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. During World War II, the great gallery served as a military hospital spanning the river that divided occupied and free France. Visit during a summer evening to see a magnificent light show depicting the history of the chåteau.

Wanderlust Tours owner and docent, Shawnie Kelley, studied architectural history and worked as an architectural historian for both Historic Scotland and English Heritage. She conducts tours through many of Europe’s great castles and cathedrals, including a new “Playground of the Kings” tour.