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King of the Castle

Jonathan van Bilsen



December 21, 2021

King of the Castle

Travelling is of course, still an issue for most people due to rules and regulations, which continue to change. Fortunately, I have managed to get the odd trip in, but nothing like I would like to.

I was looking through some photographs and came across a couple of castles, which I have had the pleasure of visiting. I thought it might be nice to highlight a few, and share my impression of them.

These are not ranked in any order, nor are they the world’s best. They are simply a selection of some of the ones I have seen, and thoroughly enjoyed.

The very first one is Versailles, the regal home of the French kings. It was built as a hunting lodge, by Louis XII in 1623, and sat empty during the French revolution, until it was occupied by Napoleon during his reign. 

The furniture was destroyed or sold, and the French government has been buying period pieces over the past 150 years, in an effort to restore the palace. The gardens are starting to once again become regal, after the devastating storms of 1999 destroyed most of the greenery.

Peles Castle, in Romania, is definitely one of my favourite. This summer home of the royal family has been used in numerous films, including at least three or four Hallmark Christmas movies.

I was fortunate my guide had connections, and we were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the private apartments with their lavish furnishings. King Carol, of Romania, fell in love with the mountainside of Transylvania, and commissioned a hunting lodge to be built in 1873. Today, the fairy tale castle, in the heart of the Carpathian mountains, is on lease to the government by the royal family.

Another favourite chateau is Neuschwanstein Castle, in the heart of Bavaria. King Ludwig II built this massive, picturesque castle in 1869. The king went into immense debt building this palace, and was deposed for ‘medical’ reasons. He mysteriously died shortly after.

Walt Disney visited Neuschwanstein in the 1950s, and decided to build his Cinderella castle at Walt Disney World, in similar style.

Next, we head over to England and Hever castle, which is well worth the visit. It was the family home of Anne Boleyn and was frequently visited by Henry VIII.

About ten minutes from Hever castle is Selsdon Park, a large manor house which was purchased by King Henry, so he had somewhere to stay when visiting the love of his life.

I had the pleasure of visiting several times, and twice stayed in the actual room where Henry VIII slept. It was quite an honour, until I learned it was haunted. Of course, I do not believe in such things, but slept with one eye open all night, just in case.

Another beautiful palace, which emerged out of Europe’s grand royalty, is Kronborg castle in the town of Helsingør, Denmark, about an hour north of Copenhagen. Immortalized as Elsinore in Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the castle dates back to the early 1400s.

Hamlet was performed in the castle for the first time, to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, with a cast consisting of soldiers from the castle garrison.

While visiting India, I was very fortunate to stay in several palaces, built by maharajas, before independence. My favourite is Devigarh, located deep in the southern part of Rajasthan.

Built in the 1700s, today it is considered one of India’s finest hotels. The grandeur of the royal residence is found throughout. The service was exquisite and my suite consisted of a large sitting room, a bedroom as well as a bathroom with two of everything, including toilets and bidets. The entire room is made of marble, including the bed, It is accented with blue lapis lazlo, and has unbelievable views of the countryside. Believe me when I say, I did not want to leave.

The old saying, ‘a man’s home is his castle’ is very accurate, but for a few of the wealthiest people in the world, the saying rings true.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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