Last year I visited the town of Vinci in Tuscany, where the famous artist and inventor was born. Now, I am in Amboise on the river Loire, and it is here where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life in Clos Luc, at the invitation of Francois I.
My visit to Clos Luc does not go well. First, I am left waiting outside in the cold damp air for quite some time while the lady in the ticket office takes a phone call. Then, when I try to enter via the first floor balcony, I discover that the door is still locked and on descending back to the ticket office I am told by the same lady that she doesn’t have the key! When I finally gain entrance, it soon becomes clear that, although decorated with period furniture, tapestries and paintings, none of them seem to be original pieces from the house. Also, several key exhibits are missing or misplaced. One of the key rooms, the Oratory, is closed for repair work, and the construction noise from within is a rather unpleasant distraction.
In the basement there are scale models of Da Vinci’s inventions with screens projecting working images. There are his military creations (tank, cannon and machine gun), engineering constructions (bridges and cranes), and transport (bicycle, motorcar, aircraft and submarine). But most intriguing is the tunnel in one corner, said to lead to the Chateau of Amboise and through which Francois I visited Leonardo.
Before entering the gardens I think about warming up with a cup of coffee, but the prices are ridiculously expensive so I don’t bother. The gardens themselves are expansive and dotted with some working replicas of Da Vinci’s inventions. In the military area, children can climb inside the tank and work the machine gun until smoke appears. Unfortunately, the water based inventions don’t function due to a lack of water. The ponds and streams are just muddy pools and the gardens are covered with rotting fallen leaves and discarded sweet wrappers. All in all, I’m very disappointed and when I try to tell this to the lady at the ticket office, she doesn’t seem to care.