Last year, however, the road works were finished and the monster trucks and bulldozers had gone. The parking lot was once again accessible and we decided to pay the place a visit.
Although the internet site promised a lot of interesting and entertaining activities such as boat rides on the pond at the foot of the Pagode and gourmet picnic hampers to be enjoyed on the vast green lawns, the actual site had clearly suffered from the lack of visitors, and had apparently been somewhat neglected. When we arrived at the ticketing office, the place looked deserted. The young lady behind the desk was obviously relieved that finally someone had turned up and that her day at work was not a complete waste of time.
She immediately informed us that there would be no boat rides for a while as, due the recent long dry spells, the ground water had gone down to a level that was insufficient to naturally supply the pond with the necessary water. Moreover, the lack of water had also destabilized the foundations of the Pagode, which was beginning to look like the leaning tower of Pisa. For security reasons, only the first floor of the six floors high Pagode was open to the public.
The 'leaning' Pagode of Chanteloup
In spite of these restrictions, we nevertheless decided to take a look around. The Pagode, which was built between 1775 and 1778, is the only remaining edifice of what was once the sumptuous Château of the Duke of Choiseul. Etienne François de Choiseul (1719 – 1785) was a well respected military officer, diplomat and statesman in the service of Louis XV. However, he somehow managed to displease the king’s mistress, Mme Du Barry, and was exiled to Amboise. During his military and diplomatic career, and because of the many intrigues he had been involved in, he was very well known and had many friends. The Duke’s Palace at Amboise, became the favourite meeting place of the great of the earth.
In an attempt to outshine the king, Choiseul embellished his palace to the point that it became even more grand and beautiful than the king's prestigious residence in Versailles.
After Choiseul’s death in 1785, his widow, the beautiful Louise Honorine, daughter of the Marquis de Châtel, sold the palace. It was completely demolished in 1823 by the ‘Bande Noire’, a notorious group of stealing and scheming ‘brocanteurs’ who unscrupulously sold the furnishings and building stones of the Château to the highest bidders.
In the remaining ‘Pavillon du Concierge’ copies of old plans and drawings give the visitor an idea of the splendour and beauty of the former Château. In 2008, there was another temporary exhibition of oriental furniture going on in a side building. It reflected the spirit of the 18th century in which the Pagode was built, as ‘Chinoiseries’ were very much in vogue in those days.
When we left, a coach bus full of tourists had arrived at the entrance gate. The young lady at the reception desk was in for a surprise!