Amboise This place in France is where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his last years
I hop off an aeroplane, jump into my rental car at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, and drive 230 km to Amboise, changing gears many times…
Today, we take such aspects of science and invention for granted. But, imagine dreaming up these ideas in the 1500s, when most believed the earth was flat, and suggesting the science behind the scheme of things was considered blasphemous!
For me, Amboise is a pilgrimage because here lies Chateau du Clos Lucé, the final abode of the original Renaissance man — Leonardo Da Vinci.
Da Vinci had arrived at this Chateau (in Loire Valley, France) in 1516, and lived here till his death on May 2, 1519. François I, the king of France who invited him was, apparently, a great admirer of Da Vinci's ideas and works. He's said to have treated Leonardo with great honour, and appointed him ‘First Painter, Architect and Engineer of the King'.
He'd made the Chateau Clos Lucé as well as a generous pension of 700 gold Ecus a year available to him. The king had paid for his work, and asked nothing in return, but the pleasure of hearing him speak daily. Da Vinci'd thrived in the affection showered on him by the king and his sister Marguerite de Navarre, and lived the final three years of his life happily painting, and giving shape and design to the thousands of ideas that crowded his head.
I walk around Clos Lucé in sheer fascination — through rooms Leonardo Da Vinci walked, drew, painted, created and slept in. His bedchamber has a lovely view of the Chateau Royal D'Amboise close to Clos Lucé and the king's residence. Da Vinci'd loved the view from his bedchamber, and his drawing of this view is today a part of the Windsor collection. I also see St. Hubert's chapel, part of the royal chateau — it's in this chapel that Da Vinci lies buried.
I move to the model room, and it blows my mind — helicopters, geared systems, an armoured tank and a parachute are among 40-odd models based on his drawings. He'd even thought out the concept of a bicycle and tricycle, propelled using gears — much like what cars today use! It's impressive that the Chateau has brought these models to life by making them using materials from the 16th Century. What's more riveting is the screen above each model, showing, through 3D animation, how the model was imagined to work!
Next, the gardens around the chateau. One part houses huge blow-ups of Da Vinci's drawings, including the famous Vitruvian Man. Another part includes life-size models of his inventions such as the squirrel cage rotor and the Archimedes Screw and the cannon with multi barrels — the machine gun's predecessor!
The last stop is Terrasse Renaissance — a bistro. The food served is a tribute to the time Da Vinci lived there — the ingredients are fresh, the recipes, ancient. The waitresses are in period costumes; and the crockery and cutlery reflect what eating might have been like, back then.
Clos Lucé takes you to a time the great thinker lived, and gently reminds you that the man had the ideas, but, unfortunately, the industry that would give wings to his ideas was 400 years in the future!
FIND YOUR WAY
You can book your hire car in France at www.avis.co.in or call 1800-11-2525 (toll free)
You can download the Clos Lucé application for the iPod from iTunes. It makes an interesting companion to walk around the Chateau with