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

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Mystery forest

2003 - Spoons, poles, birdcages and plastic tunnels? What do all these have in common? The annual ‘Festival International des Jardins’ at the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire in 2003. This yearly event is really worth a detour. It is organized from the end of April till October, but the best time to visit it is the second half of June and all through July, when the gardens are at their best.

Within the castle’s grounds the festival park is divided in 26 allotments of 240 m² each. They are separated by birch and hornbeam hedges. Since 1992 the festival hosts the creations of contemporary garden designers. Those who make it to the festival have been selected from over a hundred entries from all over the world. Their creations are regarded as prototypes of the gardens of the future. They are playful as well as marvellous, and a source of inspiration for hobby and home gardeners.

We had already visited the Château itself in 2000, and accidentally found out about the Festival in 2003. Trying to avoid the steep climb to the main entrance, we found a parking area near the back gate. After a ten minute walk we reached the ticketing office. The entry fee was 8 euro. At the end of a path stood a hollow tree trunk with the sign ‘entrée’ (entrance) above it. The opening was very narrow and we were wondering where this was leading to. Inside the trunk was a staircase, winding down into the semi-darkness. It was all very mysterious and intriguing. We saw some light at the bottom of the stairs and carefully ventured down.

When we came out in the daylight, we found ourselves on one side of a hang bridge over a shallow gully that was overgrown with ferns. Walking over the bridge we noticed the white mist floating between the ferns. It was as if we walking on a bed of clouds. When we reached the other side the mist clouds dissipated. We marvelled over this little ‘wonder’ until we understood that mist was created artificially. To test our theory, we stepped back unto the bridge. The mist reappeared! Looking more closely, we noticed the mist guns that were cleverly hidden between the ferns. It was us crossing the bridge that had triggered them.

Slightly disappointed we continued our journey, walking up the path that was leading into the mystery forest. On our way we came across some very strange, yet artistic creations made of rusted wrought iron. Was this all there was to the famous Festival International des Jardins?

More to come …


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