The Château de Saumur, originally built as a castle and later developed as a château was originally constructed in the 10th century by Theobald I, Count of Blois, as a fortified stronghold against Norman predations. It overlooks the confluence of the Loire and the Thouet. In 1026 it came into the hands of Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, who bequeathed it to his Plantagenet heirs. Following its destruction in 1067, the castle was rebuilt by Henry II of England in the later 12th century.
In the early part of the 13th century, Philip II of France made Saumur part of his royal domain. The page for September in the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry depicts the Chateau as it looked in 1410. It changed hands several times until 1589 when the Protestant King Henri IV (of France and Navarre) gave the castle to Duplessis-Mornay.
In 1621 the castle was converted into an army barracks. Nearly two centuries later it was converted into a state prison under Napoleon Bonaparte. In the first part of the 20th century, the city of Saumur acquired the castle and began a restoration program to house the museum of the decorative arts. In line with the Saumur area's equestrian tradition and its famous "Cadre Noir", the castle also serves as a Museum of the Horse. The castle has a dungeon and watchtower, and houses the Musée de la Figurine-Jouet, a collection of very old toys and figurines of soldiers, kings of France, and clowns.
The Château de Saumur has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862. As of 2008, there are a total of 46 buildings and structures in Saumur which are designated a Monument Historique - see the French national database Mérimée. Most of the monuments are built in the lovely soft local stone known as tuffeau. Amongst the most important monuments are the great Château de Saumur itself which stands high overlooking the town, and the nearby Château de Beaulieu which stands just 200 metres from the south bank of the Loire river; designed by the renowned architect Jean Drapeau, it is recognised for its light and elegant architecture. Amongst the other Monuments Historiques are the church of Saint-Pierre in the Place St Pierre in the centre of Saumur, and the Château de Briacé which is located on the north side of the river.References:
Claude Monet lived for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926, in Giverny. With a passion for gardening as well as for colours, he conceived both his flower garden and water garden as true works of art. Walking through his house and gardens, visitors can still feel the atmosphere which reigned at the home of the Master of Impressionnism and marvel at the floral compositions and nymphéas, his greatest sources of inspiration.
In 1890 Monet had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, famous for its rectangular Clos normand, with archways of climbing plants entwined around colored shrubs, and the water garden, formed by a tributary to the Epte, with the Japanese bridge, the pond with the water lilies, the wisterias and the azaleas.
Today the Monet's Garden is open to the public.