Chateaux galore

Tonight we had the best meal this trip. It was during an evening pootle that Mirinda spotted a sign to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. One of the few pootling rules dictates that once a pootler has found something worth investigating then the pootler must make every effort to locate it properly…so it’s not like we could ignore it.

Not only did we (eventually) find it but it was open as well, although there was a bit of confusion when the owner tried to explain that they weren’t ready for business for another 15 minutes. Still, it all made sense after the production of a sign that said it plain and simple.

It was well worth the wait. What a delicious meal. They even served Liverot as part of the cheese course. I was in taste bud heaven. It was pretty much the opposite of last night’s repast in the Celestial Palace.

And the serendipitous nature of the restaurant’s discovery made it even lovelier. We’d spent most of the day wandering the many rooms of the Chateau at Blois which we followed with some chateau hopping pootling so finding the sign was mere happenstance.

Not so Blois, which was only found after some deliberate navigation through one-way streets and sharp turns, amid some awful and impatient French driving. Unlike most chateau we’ve seen, Blois is not obvious until you’re standing in front of it, really. The modern sprawl of Blois has seen to that. I think you could probably glimpse it from the Loire but you’d need a flat bottomed boat and good eyesight.

The view from the chateau to the river

The view from the chateau to the river

Still, eventually we found the very handy underground car park built specifically for the chateau, parked Coco and went hunting for a place to lunch. We hadn’t started off very early from our B&B because it was so lovely sitting beneath the trees, by the long lake, reading. At least it was before the sun heated it all up.

We’d already walked around the property, accompanied by Ginger, the dog and felt we’d earned a lie down and read. The grounds are lovely and stretch for about an acre and a half along either side of the lake which the original designer of the house had included in the build. This was back in the 18th century and now, with the mature trees it all looks perfectly natural.

Not so Blois which sits like some fantasy of stone and gravel, showing the lengths to which the rich went in order to impress each other in other, less enlightened ages. My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek as I typed that. Of course people still do that it’s just they don’t have to be rich any more, just foolish.

The history of the chateau at Blois goes back to the late 900’s and Thibaut I, nicknamed the Cheat by those that hated him. He built a wooden tower which eventually became the stately manor we visited today. Actually, there was a chapel to St Calais on the site before that and, even earlier, some count’s castle but there is nothing known about who he was.so it’s best to start with Thibaut I. Incidentally, when Thibaut I’s son, Eudes I took over the family business, the king was called Hugh Capet and he had a mate with the wonderfully unlikely name of Fulk Nerra.

But I don’t want to start chronicling the entire history of Blois chateau. That would even bore me! Let’s fast forward, instead, to one of my favourite silent movies of all time. It is about the assassination of the Duke de Guise. It happened in the King’s apartments at Blois and effectively ended the awful Wars of Religion which had gripped most of western Europe for the latter half of the 16th century.

For those that don’t know: The Wars of Religion was a thinly disguised power struggle between the House of Bourbon and the House of Guise for the control of France. In order to get everyone to kill as many people as possible, the protagonists dressed the whole thing up as Catholics versus Protestants (or Huguenots, as the French call them). It was an awful period of French history during which an awful lot of people were killed because they thought their Christian god was being undermined by another Christian god.

The Duke of Guise, a rather gung-ho sort of chap with a sword arm that just wouldn’t stop and a bravado that not only bordered on the foolhardy but also wandered aimlessly into foolishness quite regularly, was a staunch Catholic while the Bourbon King was Protestant. The king, according to the movie, was a bit of a panto villain who had his special guards to surprise and stab Guise to death. Then the king stepped up and gave Guise a bit of kick for luck.

There’s no need to feel sorry for Guise, he was an evil bastard who pretended to be righteous in order to win the throne and forget about the Bourbon king because he was assassinated in turn by a disgruntled peasant a little while later.

We sat and watched the film in the room where Guise was stabbed. It was gloriously melodramatic and a great opportunity to rest up during our long, long tour of the place.

That makes it sound dull but it was anything but. We thoroughly enjoyed it (if you ignore the oppressive heat) and gladly add the Blois to our Chateau we have seen list.

The see through staircase of Francois I

The see through staircase of Francois I

Leaving Blois drenched in violent history, we started our pootling half of the day, heading around the Loire countryside, spotting chateau and an abbey as we went.

Pontlevoy Abbey - photo for Bob

Pontlevoy Abbey – photo for Bob

These chateaux are for future reference and cannot be included on our list because we haven’t, actually visited them. However, they all looked pretty good from without the closed gates or perched high on hills.

Chateau Chaumont

Chateau Chaumont

Naturally, it leaves a lot of places to visit for next trip…and the one after that.

While we were visiting Blois, Mirinda had a text from Lisa begging off the proposed dinner (they’d dragged the kids around Chenonceau for four hours and would have had a revolt on their hands if they’d asked the kids to get back in the car for a drive to dinner) which is how we managed to find the splendid eatery we did. So, thanks Lisa, Jack, Anna, Sam and Maggie. My taste buds and my tummy thank you very, very much.

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1 Response to Chateaux galore

  1. hankyoyu says:

    That was a wonderful day.
    Love mum xx

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