After indulging in these culinary and ‘viticole’delights it was time for a more serious activity. We decided to walk off the extra calories by visiting the Château de la Bourdaisière, near Montlouis, also known as ‘Le conservatoire de la tomate’. I visited this castle which also hosts a luxury B&B in the early years of my Loire Valley travel. What had struck me most during that visit was the huge library with floor to ceiling shelves on which at least a hundred jars filled with tomatoes were on display. The tomatoes all varied in size and in colour and there were some really odd looking specimen among them.
Château de la Bourdaisière: a classy B and B as well.
The castle belongs to the Prince de Broglie, who’s also known as ‘Le Prince Jardinier’, the gardener prince. It is said that the Prince is a keen gardener who can often be found in the ‘potager’ behind the castle, actively helping the small army of gardeners in his employment. A colleague of mine, who visited La Bourdaisière two years ago with her two teenage daughters had the honour and pleasure of meeting the Prince ‘in the flesh’ and getting some useful gardening tips ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ (no disrespect towards the Prince here).
Speaking of horses, we were told by the lady behind the ticket desk in the gatehouse that the collection of jars was now on display in the former stables. A decade ago the stables weren’t open to the public yet, but in the meantime they had been cleaned and repainted in order to accommodate a tearoom and a souvenir shop. I thought the room looked quite nice, with the original boxes still in place, with tables and benches where the horses used to stand. The jars were there too, but as they were spread all over the room, the result was less impressive than it had been so many years ago, when they had all been neatly lined up on the shelves.
A former horse box,
now the decor for a small part of the Prince's tomato collection.
We made the mandatory stop at the souvenir shop, where I bought a small book with tomato recipes. B. and J.L. spent quite some time checking out the tomato seeds that where for sale and enquiring about the growing instructions with the woman behind the counter. She obviously knew what she was talking about and J.L. walked away with three kinds of seeds which will grow into red, purple and white tomatoes, given the proper care and climatological conditions.
Another horse box, the former home of 'Bourbon',
one of the Prince's ancestor's horses.
While we were paying I received an incoming call on my smartphone. I walked outside to take it. I wandered around the courtyard of the castle while talking to my mother – because it was she who was calling me. Afterwards I returned to the gift shop to find that my friends had disappeared. I looked around the tea room and a large hall with a beautiful vaulted ceiling in one of the outer buildings to find it … empty. My friends couldn’t have left the castle grounds without passing through the courtyard, where I would certainly have seen them.
A beautiful, yet empty hall, ideal for organizing social functions.
But with no spot for my friends to hide.