I had prepared a two page program, listing castles, abbeys, gardens and museums to visit in la Touraine. It wasn’t difficult to come to an agreement, as B. has never been to the Loire Valley and J.L. was still a young boy - ‘en courte culotte’ (in short trousers) as he puts it – when he was there with his parents.
However, we did add one château that wasn’t on my initial list because I didn’t think it would interest them. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly you may remember that J.L. is a keen photographer and that he likes growing orchids. What you didn’t know – and neither did I – is that he’s also a keen gardener. So when I mentioned a château hosting a ‘conservatoire de la fraise’ (strawberry museum) he was immediately interested. I’ve never visited the place myself and therefore had to admit that I couldn’t tell much about it. However, I have visited the ‘conservatoire de la tomate’ at the Château de la Bourdaisière near Montlouis.
2003: Château de la Bourdaisière in Montlouis
My friend and I were there in 2003. The castle belongs to the Prince de Broglie, who’s also known as ‘Le Prince Jardinier’ (the Gardener Prince). In order to pay for the upkeep of the castle, the Prince has turned it into a hotel. The rooms are named after famous historic figures and the rates range from 170 to 300 euros per night. It is also available as a setting for movies and television programs. I vividly remember one reality show on Belgian television that was shot at the château.
The Prince’s pride and joy, however, are the beautiful gardens and the ‘conservatoire de la tomate’, a museum paying tribute to this delicate fruit. In a library-like room of the castle, the walls are lined from floor to ceiling with shelves on which sit hundreds of glass jars containing preserved tomatoes in all sizes and colours. In the greenhouses in the vegetables garden, rows and rows of tomato plants are competing in size and shape. And if you want to have a go at growing some of the exotic varieties yourself, you can drop in at the souvenir shop and buy the seeds of your favourite species.
I tried that some years ago and got a nice harvest of juicy and sweet yellow pear-shaped miniature tomatoes. But that’s another story!
When I told my friends about the castle and the tomatoes, they immediately decided to put the Château de la Bourdaisière on our to-see list. I’m now going to finalize the program by splitting it up in two parts: 1) the musts and 2) the alternatives. And a lot will of course depend on the weather conditions.
Have you ever visited La Bourdaisière or tried your hand at growing tomatoes?