I’ll never understand why the French are happy to put up with squat toilets. Beijing I understand but the French? It’s beyond me. But that’s what greets you at Chateau Villandry. The house and gardens are so lovely that it comes as a bit of a shock when you finish and find something out of the dark ages behind the toilet stall door.
Still, I shouldn’t concentrate on the ancient when we visited such a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture as Villandry.
Actually it was originally completed in the Renaissance but then fell into the usual disrepair over the years as well as having various people remodel it in ways that were both ghastly and unpleasant. Then along came the Spanish scientist, Joachim Carvallo and his American wife Ann who, in 1906 decided on two things. Firstly they would restore Villandry to its former glory and, secondly, he would become a Catholic.
And what a splendid job they did. The whole place is amazing. The rooms are bright and airy, the gardens a wonder. As you wander around it’s almost like you can feel the love that Joachim and Ann had for the place oozing from the walls. Even the kitchen is lovely.
But as lovely as the house is, it fades into a distant second place when viewed in one corner of the extraordinary garden.
When you realise that the massive gardens were restored in 1906 along with the house, it is just even more amazing. The whole thing looks so old and established it’s hard to believe that it’s only 116…at the most.
One of my favourite things about the Chateau is the fact that the original designer decided against the usual symmetry you find in these things. He called it the ‘monotony of symmetry’ and so purposely added little touches to keep it from going too even. For instance, as you stand at the entrance to the main courtyard and look towards the building, the middle of the three sets of windows in front of you is not in the centre of the wall. Also the two wings of the chateau are uneven. It all pleased me immensely though I could almost hear Nicktor’s disapproval.
I think Chateau Villandry is my favourite of all the chateaux we’ve seen. It even had a St Sebastien hanging in one of the rooms…always a bonus.
It was, however, time for lunch so we popped into the patisserie next door for a baguette and cake before heading for the Dordogne.
And it was a long and sleepy drive south. Poor Mirinda was struggling to stay awake to the point where we stopped at a services for a disgusting coffee and a packet of sour sweets to keep her eyes open. Oh, and I was forced to buy a new hat and throw my old, ratty one away. It was a bit sad. I’ve had that hat for a few years now and it had a bit of Freya mud on it. Mind you, throwing a hat away makes a change from losing it like I normally do.
Eventually, though we reached Chateau de la Cote near Biras, our home for the next five days. And what a quiet place. Snuggled up in a landscape devoid of anything but nature, it both looks and feels the perfect place for rest.
We found our room and settled in before heading down to the restaurant for a lovely dinner though I feel it important to mention that fact that the waiter had no idea what soda water was. Even when Mirinda told him the French for soda water, he had no idea. I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s completely bizarre. It’s hardly rare.
Still, that was just a blip. Everything else was perfect.