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

Friday, 15 January 2010

I never promised you a rose garden …

… but I can tell you where to find one!

In April 2001 we saw on television how the north-western rampart of the Château de Saumur had collapsed due to a gigantic landslide following a heavy rainstorm. The damage was important and experts foresaw that the restoration would take several years. It also implied that part of the Château would be closed to the public while the heavy building work was being done.

Today, we know the actual rebuilding work on the ramparts only started in April 2004, as it took three years to reconstruct and stabilize the part of the bluff that had been thorn away by the landslide. In April 2008, seven years after the disastrous rainstorm, the ramparts were finally restored to their former glory.

In view of the 2001 events we decided to skip our visit of the Château de Saumur, and look for some other interesting sites to see in the area. This is how I came across the website of ‘Les chemins de la Rose’ in Doué-la-Fontaine in the Maine-et-Loire department, some 20 km south of Saumur.

We were staying at our usual hotel in Tours at the time, and the drive took well over an hour. In Saumur we caught a glimpse of the damage caused by the recent landslide. Seeing the size of it, it was a miracle that nobody got killed or hurt.

The nearby village of Doué-la-Fontaine has lots to offer: the above mentioned ‘Chemins de la Rose’, an animal park with the largest collection of exotic birds in Europe, numerous troglodyte dwellings and restaurants, … Having a very busy schedule – that’s what happens when you are on ‘vacation’ - we only had time to visit the rose garden.

In the vast park which covers over 4 ha, more than 13,000 rose plants are competing to catch you attention. Their colours and fragrance are overwhelming. It was a rather chilly June day and there were no other visitors. The only noise we heard was the clipping of the hedge shears of one of the gardeners. The surface of the small pond in the centre of the park was covered in white and pink water lilies

'Les Chemins de la Rose' - Doué-la-Fontaine:
view of the pont before the heron appeared.

While we were sitting on one of the benches near the edge of the water, we noticed a slight movement between the flat leaves of the water lilies. All of a sudden, there was a little splash and a small green frog jumped out of the water, landing agilely on one of the leaves. Although we sat very still in order not to scare it, it must have noticed our presence, as it looked furtively around and leaped into the water again. Only then did we notice the grey heron that was circling over the pond. Poor little frog, no wonder it had hopped away so quickly.

In spite of our presence, the heron landed on the other side of the pond and started scrutinizing the water. Nothing stirred, however, and pretty soon it lost interest in his potential lunch and disappeared between the reeds at the edge of the pond.

By the time we had finished the tour of the garden, it had started to drizzle. We sought refuge in the souvenir shops, where we bought a bottle of lovely rose water, a small jar of rose petal jelly and some rose scented ‘falun’ or shell marl. Over the years this marl has proven to be very useful to fight the smell of cigarette smoke. It’s very easy to use. Just put a thin layer of it in an ashtray and sprinkle some water over it. The marl releases the rose scent and neutralizes the smell of the burned ashes. By the way, I don’t smoke but some of my friends do …



Ken Broadhurst said...

Back in 1992 Walt and I drove along the Loire all the way from Nantes to Orléans. It was January and cold, and I had come down with an awful head cold in Brittany a few days before.

At Saumur, we drove right up to the château, parked the car, and had a lunchtime picnic -- in the car, because it was too cold and damp outside. Back then, you could do that and get a great view of the building but also of the river below.

Jean said...

We have passed through Doue-la Fontaine a few times. We will stop and have a proper look around next time.

ladybird said...

Ken, I suppose that would be out of the question nowadays. Regulations are so much stricter now. Although maybe it's better this way ... Can you imagine the traffic jams it would create in full holiday season :)?

Jean, Please do so, as the village has enough to offer to spend a full afternoon there.

Dedene said...

I love the whole Loire valley. Saumur is a special place, and happily it restored to its grandeur.
We couldn't go near the last time I was there.

ladybird said...

Dedene, Saumur is a very grand place indeed and it has a very rich and complicated past. At one time it was even used as a prison.