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

Monday, 26 October 2009

15th century castle, jokes and eggs

Loire Valley 2008 - The photograph of the charming cottage with the red shutters that I’ve posted some time ago sits in the grounds of the castle of Fougères-sur-Bièvre, some 20 km south of Blois. We visited this 15th century castle and the grounds last year.

Arriving at the ticketing office, which is situated in the above cottage, we were greeted by a man who looked like a professional boxer. The sleeves of his black shirt were rolled up, exposing his hairy underarms. While we paid the entrance fee he asked us where we were from. This is customary when you’re visiting historic and other sites in France. That way you go down in their statistics which are probably used to justify expenses and investments.

When we said we came from Belgium, the man immediately and with a genuine smile replied: “I knew I had recognized the accent”. “I have some relatives who live in Belgium, in the town of Mechelen … maybe you know them …” and he mentioned their name. Funnily enough, we often get that reaction. People easily assume that, as Belgium is a small country, we are bound to know everybody! There are over 10 millions inhabitants in Belgium, 75.000 of which are living in Mechelen. And I’ve been to Mechelen only twice in my life. The chances of us knowing the man’s relatives were therefore nil!

One thing led to another and half an hour later we were still chatting with the man who had a vast repertoire of jokes about the Belgians. My friend, who probably knows just as many about the French, was a worthy opponent. As I know most of these stories by heart, I quickly lost interest in their conversation and started browsing through the books that were on sale in the ticketing office.

The cover of the booklet with the great egg recipes.

Most of them were about the Loire Valley castles and their royal residents. There was one book however that caught my attention. It was a cute square booklet about the history of the egg! What made it so interesting were the many unusual recipes using eggs as a main ingredient. I couldn’t resist buying it, a decision I haven’t regretted, as most preparations proved to be very easy to make and excellent to eat.

When we finally made it into the courtyard of the castle, we found that two wings were closed due to renovation work. Except for the former chapel and the tower there was very little to visit. So we decided to have a look at the gardens. There is a beautiful medieval garden and a vast lawn with a very peculiar pergola-like structure. In the distance you can see another, more recent castle or manor house. From the gardens you also get to admire the renaissance adornments that liven up the originally austere medieval fortress.

Part of the Château de Fougères seen from the gardens.

The castle of Fougères-sur-Bièvre is one of the lesser known Loire Valley castles, and therefore attracts fewer tourists. We were the only visitors there that morning, except for a small group of schoolchildren and their teachers. All in all we had a very pleasant visit and were happy to have made the detour.

Maybe you should put it on your to-see-list the next time you are visiting the Loire Valley. I suppose that by now the renovation work is finished and that you’ll get to see the whole castle. Don’t forget to have a look at the gardens and the Bièvre, the small stream that runs through them.



Leon and Sue Sims said...

Love the photo of the chateau. Sometimes the smaller ones are the most interesting. We visited Toulouse Lautrec's Chateau and met his great niece (or something like that) dressed in an old oilskin coat and rubber boots who dragged us in by the arm. A marvelous memory. Then there was the Montresor Chateau, we were the only one's there. The gate keeper looked very much like the painting within the grand room, obviously a relative.
When he asked where we were from, he commented, "Australian, humm, yes my favorite movie is Crocodile Dundee".
Look forward to your next blog.

chm said...

I've known Fougères-sur-Bièvre for a very long time. I even told Ken and Walt not to miss that chateau if they had a chance, which, as you said is one of the lesser known, but is very attractive.

The first time I was there, some fifty years ago, I had all the chateau for myself. Not another soul. No renovation either. So I went all over the place and enjoyed myself. Felt like it was the Middle Ages.

The name of the river, Bièvre, suggest there were beavers (castors in French) there at one time in the old days. I think they're gone now.

ladybird said...

Leon, LOL. That gate keeper must have been quite a character! Love Crocodile Dundee too, but my favourite Australian actors are Brian Brown and Peter Finch.

chm, We didn't see any beavers. That's a pity, because I think they are just too cute.