Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The itsy bitsy spider

2004 – Tuesday, with the visit of the Château de la Roche aux Moines in Epiré – had been a long day. We had left Tours early in the morning to go to the market in Bourgueil and to cover the well over 140 km distance between Tours and our main destination of the day. We therefore wanted to take it easy on Wednesday and stayed in the neighbourhood of Tours.
After a visit to the Halles de Tours – an impressive indoor market – we decided to visit the nearby Prieuré Saint Cosme where the French poet Pierre de Ronsard (1524 – 1585) had lived. Apart from the permanent exhibition on the life and work of the poet, the ruined priory is known for its exceptional rose garden.

Although there are many signposts showing the way to the priory, we managed to get lost in the intricate net of motorways and bridges around Tours. When we finally found it, there were very few cars in the parking lot and we were almost the only visitors.
I had heard of Pierre de Ronsard before, but I knew very little about his life and work. Apparently some of his best work dates from the time when he met and fell in love with Hélène de Surgères, one of the ladies of the court. He was 54 when he made her acquaintance. Her husband, Captain Jacques de la Rivière, had just been killed in the civil war. Queen Catherine de Médicis, who felt sorry for her lady in waiting, asked Pierre de Ronsard to comfort her by writing some poems. He accepted and fell in love with Hélène in the course of executing his task. One of poems he wrote for ‘la Belle Hélène’ is entitled ‘Madrigal’.

Back to the gardens! The ruins and the rose garden are definitely the most impressive part of the Prieuré. There is, however, also an intriguing medieval medicinal garden with lots of herbs, some popular, some rare. Whilst walking through this garden, I began to feel a horrible pain in my lower right leg … where I had been stung or bitten by the spider the day before. A large red hot circle was forming around the little dot I had noticed before.
Each time I put my full weight on my right leg, the pain became almost unbearable. There were some gardeners tending to the herb garden and my friend asked them if they had some ointment or disinfectant to soothe the pain. They immediately made me sit down in the little ticketing office, while they went looking for an emergency kit in their truck. They came back with a spray, some ointment, band aids and bandages and fussed over me for about 15 minutes cooling down the hot spot on my leg with cold water and applying the spray and the ointment. I refused the bandage as it made my leg feel even hotter.
After this exclusive treatment, the pain somewhat ebbed away and we were able to continue our excursion. By the evening the pain had come back and the red spot had spread to a diameter of about 10 cm. This definitely wasn’t the bite of an itsy bitsy spider!


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