Saumer

18 03 2012

Chateau Saumer

Chateau Saumer was another accidental find. Built on the high ground in the town of Saumer overlooking the Loire Valley, the remnants of the original castle walls can be spotted in the town below. When we visited the castle was under renovations and hence large sections were off-limits, but it was interesting to see the walls undergoing a “before and after” process. As with many of these castles, the initial approach is up a staircase that was originally a drawbridge. Saumer is built on a square, and there is a spacious courtyard in the centre of the building. The large underground kitchens / dungeons were open for inspection.

What appears to be an Orangerie (a building into which fruit trees such as oranges were moved to protect them from frosts and snows in winter) has been transformed into a restaurant and gift shop.

More information on the castle and the town can be found here.

a fairy-tale castle

overlooking the town of Saumer and the River Loire, in the Loire Valley

overlooking the town of Saumer and the River Loire, in the Loire Valley

the church next to chateau Saumer

from under the drawbridge


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
An unknown Chateau
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived
Pretty pictures en France





Château Langeais

18 03 2012

We happened upon this castle – and it really is more a castle than a château – by happy accident. It is situated in the midst of the town of Langeais on the River Loire. Built of a dark grey stone it has sheer walls and high towers – truly a medieval-looking castle to keep invaders at bay.

The castle is now restored for tourists and features life-size tableaux made up of mannequins depicting important scenes in history that occurred on the site, such as the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII. Like many of the restored châteaux, the original elaborate tiles are on the floor, the patterned wallpapers are exquisite and the original furniture and tapestries are gorgeous. Unlike some of the royal châteaux, there is less gilding, marble and ostentation and more beautifully carved wood, stone and generally the detail is in the fixtures such as the furniture and tapestries rather than in the actual structure. Having said that, there is also detail carved into the stone door frames, the edges of the roof and around the windows.

If you happen to visit it, of note is an excellent chocolatier across the road from the entrance.

one of the many original paintings

feasting table set in front of a stone fireplace

gothic furniture and elaborate tapestries - the tapestries kept the rooms slightly warmer through blocking drafts and providing a level of insulation to the stone walls

elaborate patterned tiles on the floor

view of the town from the castle courtyard (presumably the original castle walls would have blocked this view)

the only remaining part of original "keep"

my continuing obsession with the geometry of spiral staircases

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top - the chocolatier is under one of the red striped awnings

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

door into the internal courtyard

Across the road from the castle - not the chocolatier, but a boucherie (butchery)


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
An unknown Chateau
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived
Pretty pictures en France





Another mystery château

12 03 2012

view of the château from the driveway

On a personal note, I am amazed that I have managed to remember the names of most of the many châteaux, villages and other sites we visited in our recent trip to France, particularly given that…

a) I didn’t write the names down
b) some of them were places we just came across and stopped, so they weren’t planned visits
c) some of our photographs were accidentally deleted by a small child, so some of the place-markers may have been deleted.

However, my memory has failed me on this one.

What I think I know……

In my photographs, this set of photographs comes immediately after Château de Jumilhac and immediately before
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac

The château was set up on a hill with the carpark at the bottom of the hill.

It was quite large and had very large dungeon/kitchens underneath.

There was an historic chapel that was a part of the main structure of the château .

Is that enough to go on? I am sure someone will know the name of this château – if you know the answer, please put the name in the comments section below.

Meanwhile, enjoy!

the approach to the château, featuring what used to be a drawbridge and a dry moat below

What to do with a dry moat? (viewed from the drawbridge)

in the dry moat

the chapel

elaborate gardens viewed from the château

elaborate gardens viewed from the château

corridors between the rooms and sections of the château were open to the elements. But I love the geometric perfection of the smooth stone arches.

gardens viewed from the château

view from the château

view from the château


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
An unknown Chateau
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived
Pretty pictures en France





Pretty pictures en France

23 02 2012

Amboise

As well as the many sites we visited, there were some photos that, while not fitting into any particular story, are gorgeous. So here are a few!

near Ferriers en Brie

Chartres

Brest

near the village of Lascaux


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived





Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues

16 02 2012

ornate gates to Fontainebleau

We loved Fontainebleau even more than Versailles for one major reason (the title may have given it away): no queues.

Fontainebleau was the official hunting lodge of the French Royal Family. Apparently it was originally a log cabin in the swamplands. Those days are long gone however, and in scale and in decor it now rivals Versailles, with many wings built around courtyards, long galleries and elaborate interior decoration. The French royals had no fear of adding patterns to patterns, gilding anything that didn’t move and painting scenes in any spare piece of flat wall or ceiling. Even the bedrooms are a riot of colour, detail and gilding – quite how one slept in there is difficult to imagine.

The forest of Fontainebleau remains, albeit considerably smaller than previous centuries, and apparently is home to many endangered species. I have to say in the time we were in France we saw very few wild animals – one rabbit, one baby deer and a couple of pheasants is about it. Coming from Australia where our wildlife unfortunately wander out onto the road, and where walking through a national park would undoubtedly bring you into contact with native animals, even if only snakes and lizards, this was really noticeable. Anyway, I digress.

The château is, as with most of these monumental buildings, the work of many generations. The original structure was built in the 16th century by Francis I. It is located about 55km from the centre of Paris and is easily accessible, although parking can be a problem.

We didn’t have time to explore the gardens here, but the château itself is magnificent. The electronic talking guide is worth the effort, so that you understand the history of the amazing pieces on display – Napoleon’s baby carriage, uniforms and field kits, for instance. The stories behind each piece are out of the history books.

We really enjoyed being able to see everything, not being rushed through, and have the peace and quiet to contemplate the surroundings and atmosphere of the château. And not having to queue to get in. However, it isn’t Versailles – Versailles does have that particular place in French history.

Hope you like lots of photos! (And there are more links to some other postings about our trip to France at the bottom of the page)

carved ceiling detail in the entrance

Guess who? Yes, Napoleon's coat and hat.

some of Napoleon's possessions

Napoleon's field kit

gorgeous funriture that I want in my home.....

view of the front of the Chateau from the first floor

elaborate gilded ceiling

view across the rear lower terrace from the ground floor

view across gardens and lakes from the ground floor

stone fireplace

pannelled walls and stools for courtiers

carved ceilings

carved ceilings

elaborate stone carving on the wall. The central piece represents the salamander, the emblem of the royal family, said to be able to survive fire.

domed ceiling

elaborate ceiling

view of one of the courtyards from an upper floor

elaborate ceiling

interior balcony for the royal family in the Chapel

view over the gardens at the back of the Chateau

another of the internal courtyards

elaborate painted ceiling

elaborate gilded ceilings

elaborate carved and gilded ceiling

the famous library at Fontainebleau

another view of the library showing more of the ceiling

stools for the courtiers and supplicants

throne room

bathroom

the chapel

the chapel

in the chapel

in the chapel

gate down the road from Chateau Fontainebleau - appears to be a private residence


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac





The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac

15 02 2012

Maison Fort de Reignac is a 14th century fort clinging to the side of a vertical cliff. It is a combination castle/fort which towers about five or six stories of uneven floors, winding staircases and at the top, ladders. It is a miracle of early architecture that it has managed to stay upright over the centuries.

The people who lived in this castle/fort were nobles. One of the rooms was done up as a lady’s room, complete with tapestries on the walls and the comforts a noble lady would expect. Quite how she climbed the stairs in her skirts is another matter.

At the back of the fort was a cave which was being excavated by archeologists. The items being removed showed that this particular cave had been in occupation since Neanderthal times. The fort-dwellers were simply the latest in a long line of peoples who had found the cave in the cliff-side to be an excellent vantage point to spot oncoming enemies and perhaps herds of game. A number of items from the digs were on display.

One of the upper rooms also had a display of curios brought back from all over the world – dried puffer fish and turles, shells – and a collection of shrunken heads. Another room was used as a holding cell with a special hole z-shaped hole in the wall for passing food through so that the prisoner and the guard could not see each other directly.

This unique site also featured a memorable exhibition of torture equipment, complete with quite explicit explanations of how the equipment was used. Humans can be really horrible to each other and the types of suffering inflicted by human beings using these machines on other human beings was eye-opening. And I thought I knew a lot about medieval torture. In the end I actually walked out of this display halfway through. Luckily they specify no children and no photography in this room so hopefully over time the memories will fade. This was definitely not for the squeamish and you might want to give this particular room a miss.

view of the fort from the carpark

view from the entrance of the fort - great place to spot approaching armies

base of the fort

base of the fort - upper levels are less conventional in appearance

entrance to the fort

displasy of items dug from the back of the cave behind the fort

displays of items dug out from the caves at the back of the fort

paved floor

view from one of the lookouts

looking down at the carpark

torture cage - for humans

display of curios including shrunken heads

view from the lookout at the top of the fort - a very long way up the cliff


If you liked this post you might also like some more posts from France…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe





the amazing gardens of Château de Villandry

11 02 2012

I find geometric designs very attractive – almost mesmerising – so one of the more memorable châteaux we visited in France was Château de Villandry in the Loire Valley (Vallee de Loire) which boasts the most amazing geometrically designed gardens.

As with all the Châteaux we visited, there were two ticket prices – Château , and Château + gardens. In this case the gardens are very much worth the visit, although their true spectacle is probably best viewed from the upper floors or rooftop of the Château. The gardens are not only ornamental, they are also symbolic (many of the designs symbolise various aspects of love) and functional – many of the plants are vegetables. One can only assume there is a team of gardeners employed year-round to keep these gardens in such amazing condition.

Enough chit-chat – these gardens speak for themselves!

we arrived at the châteaux on a murky morning luckily it cleared up quite quickly.

the gardens have a series of canals stocked with large gold and black fish


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….

Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived