The 16th-century Château d'Azay-le-Rideau was created as a literal fairy-tale castle. When it was constructed, the nouveau-riche treasurer Gilles Berthelot decided he wanted to add tall corner turrets, a moat, and machicolations to conjure up the distant seigneurial past when knighthood was in flower and two families, the Azays and the Ridels, ruled this terrain. It was never a serious fortress—it certainly offered no protection to its builder when a financial scandal forced him to flee France shortly after the château's completion in 1529. For centuries the château passed from one private owner to another until it was finally bought by the state in 1905. Though the interior contains an interesting blend of furniture and artwork (one room is an homage to the Marquis de Biencourt who, in the early 20th century, led the way in renovating château interiors in sumptuous fashion—sadly, many of his elegant furnishings were later sold), you may wish to spend most of your time exploring the enchanting gardens, complete with a moat-like lake. Innovative son-et-lumière shows are held on the grounds nightly in July and August, beginning at 9:30 pm.