Amboise - so much has been lost, (fourteen or so buildings are now gone), but what remains is beautiful and dramatic looming over it's village on a stormy afternoon or under the bright light of a full moon.
And the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci, all alone in that stiking chapel perched high up on the walls, alone with that is with just me, (low season tourist) and a little red-breasted bird flitting about from the alter to the high internal arches.
A warm fire in the huge hall and again just me, (husband off doing the audio tour), sitting in those stone walls on that historic chair just looking out at the pretty autumn garden as a storm rolls over the chateau where kings and queens lived for centuries.
After seeing six of the so-called "top ten" chateaux this is still a favourite.
Cheverny - though not "Royal", important enough for the Queen Mother to make a visit - and she important enough that it closed for three hours just for her, one of only three times it's been closed since the 1920s.
Such furnishings - same family for generations - and yet some Royal connections, once owned for a while by Diane de Poitiers as she had work done on Chaumont-sur-Loire after Catherine de Medici took back Chenonceau.
(And very familiar to all Tintin fans as the inspiration for Captain Haddock's home.)
Chambord - big and bold sitting in it's grounds, perfectly reflected in it's still river water.
Full of tourists even at this time of year, but big enough to make the crowds look sparse.
An official property for the French President to invite guests to hunt, so despite it's grounds being as large as central Paris, only six ways in or out, and gendarmes stationed there.
More fires in the fire-places, (Chenonceau also, which also makes a feature of fresh flower displays in each room), which helped as it is so large and bare, really best from the outside and on the roof amongst all those chimneys.
Chenonceau - most visited chateau after Versailles, six to ten thousand tourists a day! (Yes a day.) In high season. As beautiful as it looks in it's photos, but suprisingly perhaps, the absolute best historic kitchen I've ever seen. If you like copper cookware this is the chateau for you.
Chaumont-sur-Loire - another favourite. Went around twice and didn't see another soul, felt like it was mine or something. Pretty from the river, dressed up with overflowing flowers on it's drawbridge, the location of Europe's best stables back in it's heyday.
Richly decorated rooms, with others bare and empty, and yet others in the attic rooms full of dusty bits and pieces too historic to throw away, but not able, at this stage anyway, to be restored.
I had only four days in the Loire, and didn't do any planning or research, so was suprised how much I got to see, as three of my days I just walked and used the local trains.
Some interesting insights from a local who explained why the Kingdom of France, (always much smaller than the country of France), located it's power centre here for so many centuries.
All to do with first the hunting, which the kings did a lot, then the soft easy to work local stone for building all these marvellous buildings, the river at a time when road travel was not possible, and all the forest, as wood was really the only material available to heat at that time.
Finally D'Azay-le-Rideau - not Royal, but pretty, pretty, pretty sitting on it's island with it's autumn trees drapped around, and it all reflected in the river.