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

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Ruins, a Crow and a Fox

Since 1985 we’ve visited several regions north of the Loire Valley. In the late eighties and early nineties, our destination was mainly determined by the presence of a ‘character’ hotel with a gastronomic restaurant. This is how we developed a soft spot for a splendid hotel in the village of Fère-en-Tardenois, in the Aisne department. This village with slightly over 3.300 inhabitants is located between Paris and the Champagne capital of Reims, at less than 300 km from Brussels. The largest towns in the neighbourhood are Soissons and Château-Thierry.

The hotel,‘Le Château de Fère’, was one of the first ‘château-hôtel’ in France. It opened in 1956 and was built in the 19th century on the foundations of the outbuildings of the former 13th century castle. The ruins of the latter are without any doubt the best feature of the hotel (banner photo). They are all that’s left of an elegant castle that was built between 1206 and 1260 by Robert de Dreux, grandson of Louis VI, also known as Louis Le Gros (the Fat!), who was king of France from 1108 until his death in 1137.

What's left of the bridge of the Château de Fère-en-Tardenois.

In 1528, Louise de Savoye, mother of François I (yes, the same one who commissioned the construction of the Château de Chambord; you see, the link with the Loire Valley is omnipresent) donated the castle to Anne de Montmorency, who transformed and embellished it by adding the spectacular and extremely elegant covered bridge that gave access to the castle. Later the crown confiscated the castle and the grounds after its owner had been sentenced to death. In 1779 the castle was partly demolished and the furniture and materials were later sold to Louis-Philippe I of Orleans. What is left was confiscated by debt collectors and auctioned in Paris 1793.

We’ve spent several vacations in Fère-en-Tardenois, touring the surrounding countryside. On one of these occasions we visited the nearby town of Château-Thierry were the legendary 17th century French writer Jean de La Fontaine was born. You are probably familiar with his fables, or short instructive stories, in which he uses animals to portray human vices and shortcomings. The most famous fable is probably, ‘La Cigale et la Fourmie’ (The Cicada and the Ant). My favourite, however, is ‘Le Corbeau et le Renard (The Crow and the Fox).

Are you familiar with Jean de La Fontaine’s fables? And do you know what the morality of the ‘The Crow and the Fox’ is? Click on this link to find out!

Jean de La Fontaine's birth house in Château-Thierry is now a museum mainly showing the author's manuscripts and prints illustrating his fables.



chm said...

It is interesting to note that Anne de Montmorency was a man and not a woman as his first name might suggest.

ladybird said...

Chm, Thank you for shedding some light on this, as I wasn't quite sure after reading the page on Wikipedia. That's why I avoided the use of he/she. (An old trick of the trade that I've learned during my training as a translator). ;)