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

Friday, 28 August 2009

Wishing well

2005 - Halfway between Chinon and Richelieu stands ‘Le Rivau’. The history of this castle is closely linked to the Beauvau family. Related to the Counts of Anjou, they had the privilege from the 11th century on to pledge league to their suzerain “with the sword in hand, standing upright and wearing one’s hat.”

In the 14th century the owner received the right to fortify his ‘dwelling’ by adding a moat, ramparts, cannon stands and trenches. Over the 15th and 16th century the castle was frequently remodelled. Later large parts of it were sold off or partially torn down. It took till 1992 for the present owners to re-acquire the last buildings that had passed into strange hands over the years. Thanks to their relentless efforts and restoration work the Château du Rivau is today one of the great castle of the Unesco Heritage Site Loire Valley.

Today the outside walls and the ground floor have been completely restored and the château, sitting in its valley surrounded by fields of bright yellow sunflowers, offers a pristine and bright sight to passers-by and visitors.

When we were there in 2005 the little pond in the yard held a strange collection of stoneware figurines. Between them a small flock of yellow and black ducklings was happily swimming around encouraged by there parents. They seemed to take great pleasure from climbing up a small ladder leading to their nest cage some 20 cm higher up, after which they merrily jumped into the water again, frantically flapping their little wings. This enchanting scene kept us amused for 10 minutes, after which we crossed the drawbridge leading into the castle.

Happy little ducklings!

The ticketing office also acts as a souvenir shop selling mainly garden related objects. The large open door at the other end of the building leads into the castle’s courtyard. By the door stands a large bowl with pink sweets. A sign invites you to take a sweet that you can then either eat … or throw in the wishing well in the middle of the courtyard. Guess what I did?

The upper floors still being under restoration, you only get to see the ground floor. One of the rooms has a large decorated open fire place. A sturdy looking table holding an impressive collection of (fake) fruit and vegetables dominates the room.

Outside again you can visit the impressive gardens. The ‘enchanted’ forest is decorated with the strangest fairytale-like creatures: garden gnomes made of chicken wire, a collection of giant bodiless legs of up to 8 meters tall, called the ‘running forest’, etc.

It was rather chilly that day in 2005 and so we visited only a small part of the gardens. But on a sunny day you can easily spend two hours just wandering around, taking in the beauty of the castle’s gardens, fields and woods, hoping that the wish you made earlier, while throwing the pink sweet in the well, will come true.


No comments: