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





Troglodyte village of Rochemenier

11 03 2012

Rochemenier is a tiny above-ground village in central France but it has an amazing tourist attraction in the centre of the village. Until 1920, some of the rural-dwellers of this village lived underground in caves. Troglodyte living – literally meaning cave-dwellers – occurs all over the world (notably in Coober Pedy in South Australia, where, to escape the heat, much of the town is built into underground caves).

The caves at Rochemenier are not quite so modern as the dwellings in Coober Pedy, but they show a functioning farm and several houses which formed the cave-dwelling community, including communal halls, wine-making presses and enclosures for the animals. Photographs on display show large families in full 18th century dress, weddings and other community gatherings. They might have lived in caves but their lives were probably not so different from other rural folk at the time.

The dwellings and halls were built into caves in the walls of a very large pit in the ground. Various holes and openings allowed light in and smoke out while protecting inhabitants from the worst of the elements. The paths and open spaces between the dwellings were open to the sky. The front of the houses were built across with stone, leaving doors and windows (the latter were glazed), but the inner rooms had rough-hewn walls of stone, where the caves had been extended and cut back into the rock.

The caves have been restored and are open for tourists to visit. A quiz for children is available at the front counter, with a prize for children who complete the questions. In the photographs above and below, ground level is usually at the top of the picture (they were taken from the bottom of the pit within the village). Surrounding the caves on the ground level was an orchard which belonged to the original form, and the village of Rochemenier.

The website for Rochemenier ishere.


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





Where Da Vinci lived

23 02 2012

Da Vinci spent his last few years in the picturesque town of Amboise, where he was provided with a house and gardens by his patron. This property is now preserved as a tourist attraction providing interesting insights into the many and varied inventions of Da Vinci – and a copy of the Mona Lisa!

The house is set in a large well-kept gardens. While the house itself is furnished much as Da Vinci would have known it, the basement area is full of replicas of some of his inventions – some which were not made in his day, but built from his drawings. Notably a large number of these are weapons of some sort – more accurate long-range cannons, machine gun, etc. Presumably this was at least in part due to who his funders and patrons were at the time, and the type of inventions they required of him.

The gardens feature a number of large working models of other inventions which are sturdy enough for children to play and experiment with, as well as some posters of his diagrams of anatomy.

Da Vinci was trained or self-taught in many areas of endeavour – anatomy, botany, engineering, art, geometry. In an era where we are encouraged to specialise in one area of study from mid-secondary school, he is a salient lesson in following your interests, and the intersection of many fields of endeavour.

screw-based helicopter

replica tank made up as a children's roundabout

screw pump for raising water

wheel for lifting heavy objects

poster displays of Da Vinci's anatomical drawings

two layered bridge to combat the plague (waste went across lower level, people on upper level)

working kitchen garden


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





Theme Parks, French style

23 02 2012

Travelling with children meant we tried to mix up the type of sites we went to: famous landmarks, educational sites, impressive historic castles – and theme parks. So we managed to get through a few of them. Here is my somewhat jaundiced summary of the parks we visited.

Paris Disney

Cheshire Cat in the Middle of the Alice in Wonderland Maze, Paris Disney


In my mind this is still Euro-Disney, but they seem to be making an effort to rebrand it. We had heard quite negative things about this outpost of the Disney franchise (dirtiness, smoking, poor service), but I have to say they seemed to have cleaned their act up. If you like Disney – well, it’s a Disney. Personally, having visited Orlando, it all seemed very deja vu. So Haunted House, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice in Wonderland, teacups, fewer roving characters than we saw in Orlando, all the same merchandise stores. They do have creperies as an option within the park (small carts) for that French flavour, and the show in the afternoon (it was a show not a parade, so we were seated in exactly the wrong place) was in French. Yes perhaps we should have expected it but since the rest of the park was bilingual, we thought the show would be too.

Summary: if you like Disney, you’ll like this. If you are over it, you will be over this too.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou Viking story - this boat slid down the hill (this was not the one that rose out of the water)

This medieval theme park was pretty interesting, and seems to be the focus of great pilgrimages by people who are into medieval dress-ups. We stayed in the park hotel – little cabins built out over a lake – very nice. We ate in the hotel dining room – frankly pretty ordinary food and a limited range (despite the buffet). I’d give it a miss next time. The theme park itself has lots of olde worlde crafts and trades on display (live blacksmithing was a hit for us) and also has some historic shows which are really well produced and quite surprising. The viking show features a viking ship rising out of the lake complete with fire torches and live people on board. Love to know how they did that!. The Roman circus (in the Colosseum) featured live animals (lions) and a chariot race. The Joan of Arc show (it wasn’t called that) featured stunt riding and a massive mobile set. And another section had life-size automatons producing music and song. The merchandising is in theme – the salted caramel biscuits and violet-flavoured boiled lollies in the shape of delicate flowers were exquisite.

Summary: Even if you aren’t into medieval dress-ups, this is an interesting and suprising place to visit.

Asterix Parc

Asterix Parc

A great hit with the French – Asterix is a national hero! The great thing about Asterix Parc was that there were virtually no queues! After the queues at Disney, this was a great relief. Asterix Parc features a wide variety of rides including log-rafts, the swinging ship one, rollercoasters, and rides for smaller children. It is well set-out, the grounds are clean and the entire place is themed in the style of the various cultures of the Asterix books. The merchandising is also Asterix themed – we bought a selection of Asterix books in English (one of many languages available in the stores). NB: The Tom-Tom had difficulty locating Asterix Parc as a feature until we were in the local town.

Summary: a smaller park with fewer queues, but a great day out.

Futuroscope

Futuroscope

Futuroscope is another place the Tom-Tom had difficulty with it kept sending us to the staff entrance. As with anything labelled “Future”, it probably has difficulty living up to its name and hence had a sort of Jetsons feel about it, but having said that, there are a range of activities available, and some of them are even educational! The planetarium features shows about the origin of the universe. But there were also fun rides. Dancing with Robots involves sitting inside a robot contraption which then shakes you around, turns you upside down. Arthur and the Invisibles was a simulator ride that was an enormous hit with the children (but the queues were very long). And the biggest hit was a boat ride where you squirted water at the boats in front and behind you. Great shrieks of delight!

Summary: good day out, lots of quite unique attractions and rides, but the best ones all have long queues. Be prepared.


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

17 02 2012

Every Francophile (and everyone with basic geographical knowledge of France) knows that Paris is built around the River Seine. Stretching east-west through the city, the Seine cuts through the most historic – and it has to be said – touristy sections of Paris. And while streetscapes are lovely, a streetscape with water reaches a whole different level of loveliness. And the many bridges that cross the river are decorative and have a history all of their own.

When travelling to france we were recommended to try the hop-on-hop-off tourist boats as a different way of seeing the city and also a convenient way of travelling. Unfortunately my travelling companion did not understand the concept of hop-on-hop-off, and so we did the full tour in one go.

Here are a few of our photographs of the Seine. (More links to other Paris photos at the bottom)

view of the Louvre across the Seine

view of the Seine from near the Louvre

looking up at Pont de Arts - the bridge covered in love padlocks

Pont des Arts (again)

view from Notre Dame

view from Notre Dame

view from Notre Dame

narrow channels around an island

Notre Dame from a boat on the Seine

The dots on the end of the island here are people sunbathing.

busy tourist traffic on the river

one of my favourite photos

looking across the Seine from Eiffel Tower

from Eiffel Tower

from Eiffel Tower


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





Chartres

16 02 2012

Chartres is a city located 96km south west of Paris. We travelled through Chartres on our way to Mont Saint Michel on the west coast.

We were lucky enough to find our way out of the industrial area and into an historic area below the famous Chartres Cathedral. This is a hilly area with narrow laneways and tiny rivers in between beautiful tudor-style housing, all overlooked by the cathedral at the top of the hill.

The restaurant we had lunch in was gorgrous – very traditional French and not very touristy. Our restaurant-French was still quite rusty at this stage so we somehow ended up with frog as one of the main meals (not so different from chicken), but the food was delicious. When I got home and showed the photograph of the restuarant to a work colleague she recognised it as the same restaurant she and her sister had dined in some twenty years earlier!

So here are a few photogrpahs of Chartres (I promise many fewer that my last posting!. Enjoy!

(Links to more photographs of France are at the bottom of the posting)

an abandoned church

an abandoned church

the restaurant - amazing food, picturesque setting and excellent service - very patient with our restaurant French!

gardens next to the restaurant

The Cathedral overlooks the older parts of the town

looking up the hill to the Cathedral

steep roads

Chartres Cathedral from a distance


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





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