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

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Blow your horn!

Every month the Loire Valley Tourist board sends me an e-mail listing the current and upcoming events in the Touraine region. Even when I don’t have any immediate travel plans, I like to browse through the information to see if there is anything interesting that I should know about or that could be useful for my next trip.

The most recent newsletter had a short, yet interesting article about an upcoming event in the courtyard of the Château d’Amboise. On November 6th on the occasion of he feast of Saint-Hubert, patron saint of the hunters, (although the official day is Nov. 3rd), hunters in full riding gear and their horses and hounds will assemble in front of the castle to the sound of the hunting horns.
The tradition of the ‘chasse à courre’, as it is called in French and meaning ‘hunting on horseback’, goes back to the 16th century when noblemen used to assemble around their king to go big game hunting in the surrounding forests and fields.
The article reminded me of a funny thing that happened to us in May, when I was visiting the Loire Valley with my friends B. and J.L. On Monday, we spent a large part of the day with blogger friends Susan and Simon who live in Preuilly-sur-Claise and who take tourists on guided tours of the châteaux in their vintage Traction Avant Citroën car, lovingly called Célestine. Towards the end of the day, Simon showed us an unusual view of the Château of Chenonceau, from the banks of the Cher somewhere in the woods.
A view of the Château of Chenonceau
that very few tourists get to see for real.
Thank you Susan and Simon!
While we were shooting photos, we suddenly heard the sound of a hunting horn. It was hard to tell were it came from. At first it sounded as if the horn player was standing on top of one of the castle’s towers. A few seconds later, however, the sound came from the woods on the other side of the river. And it seemed to come closer. This was very unusual, as the official hunting season only starts in September. Were we about to be overrun by a pack of hounds and hunters on horseback?
As soon as we had finished our photo shoot, we jumped in the car and counted on Simon to drive us into safety. Although we were heading for the main road, the sound of the horn became louder and louder. And then we saw were it came from! There was a little white van parked on the banks of the river with a man in hunter’s uniform and horn standing beside it. He was facing the river and didn’t even hear us coming as he was concentrating on blowing the large copper hunting horn in the traditional and ceremonial way. There wasn’t a hunter, horse or a dog in sight!
The horn player is behind the van.
Notice the speed at which Simon is driving to get us into safety!

A week later, after we had returned home, I received the recurrent newsletter from the Touraine tourist board. One of the upcoming events for the month of June was … a ‘Concours de cors de chasse’ - a competition for hunting horn players, in the grounds of Chenonceau! The man we had seen that day in the woods had probably been practicing his musical skills. Why was he there, all on his own, in the middle of nowhere? Be honest; you wouldn’t want your neighbour practicing his hunting horn playing skills in his backyard, would you?



chm said...

I love the sound of trompes de chasse, but I hate hunting for whatever reason.

ladybird said...

Chm, The sound of those horns always gives me goose pimples. I don't know why. I suppose it has the same effect on the animals!