Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE(more…)
The French Loire Chateau of Chinon isn’t the first FrenchChateau that usually pops into the minds of popular imagination.
Sad, but understandable. when you consider the heavyweight competition from it’s French Chateau neighbours. Consider: The “oo-ah” factor of Chenonceau. Bascially a stone bridge over the untroubled waters of the Cher.
The architectural magnificence of Chambord. The Da Vinci connection of Amboise. And, not to be forgotten, the “under age girl marries a King” ambience of Langeais.
Like it’s “cousin a coté” – Chateau Ussé – Chateau Chinon – is in the Touraine region of the Loire valley. And while a river does run past Chinon -it is the Vienne. Not the Loire.
And in the Touraine, you will be bombarded at hotels, bars, wine caves and all other manner of commercial establishments with the name: Rabelais. (Pronounced: Rab-lay) You can get the Rablelais story here.
Chinon’s other Historical milestone, is it’s connection with the girl who was the guest of honor at her own bar-b-que. Yes, Joan of Arc.
Her Chinonian presence is commemorated with a plaque and a dangling rope, at the spot where she tied up her horse back on the 25th of Februray, 1429.
Joan met for two days with Charles 7 . Seeking supplies and material to help in the seige of Orleans.( NOTE: Charles, while in Command at this time was not technically the “King” , but the Dauphin – as the throne , as usual, was being contested)
While it is undoubtedly the classic example of a sprawling medieval chateau(and that’s sprawling with a capital “S”) – Chinon has something going for it that’s truly unique.
That “something” is the palpable medieval ambiance of it’s old city. (le vieux Chinon) Yes, yes I know – EVERY city , in every corner of the World with a historical building has a tourist brochure that proclaims: “As you walk down the centuries old cobblestone streets,..you’ll be transported back and time and feel….yada,yada,yada…”
For me, Chinon’s “vieux ville” makes good on that unstated promise. You can catch my Chinon vibe, albeit, second hand, in THIS VIDEO.
Virtually every French Loire Chateau has -as do almost all French Chateaus – a marketable feature. A unique “something” (or something presented as such) designed to snare the attention of Chateau surfers. Something more than the age of it’s stones or how many nobles were born, died or murdered there.
Chenonceau – The rivalry between Catherine di Medici and Diane de Poitiers. Islette – The tempestuous romance of Rodin and Camille Claudel. Amboise – The Leonardo di Vinci connection.(Now the town’s major industry.) OK – you’re getting my drift. Are you not?
But, for me, the French Chateau that takes the cake(and the topping cherry) in the Chateau Marketing sweepstakes is the Chateau du Ussé.(rhymes with “Lucy”) While it’s not ON the Loire, it is in the Loire Valley in the neighbouring district of Touraine. (Pronounced “Tor- En”)Famous for it’s woodsy Gamay Wines.
Although a river does not run through it. A small but pleasant one, does run parallel to it on the opposite side of the road .
But clearly, those facts, fascinating as they may be, do not make Chateau Ussé the King of the Chateau marketing hill.The one that does begins with those classic advertising copywriting words : “Legend has it.”
And in for Chateau Ussé in particular “Legend has it” that Charles Perrault, the Author of the classic tale of the unstoppable power of love – “Sleeping Beauty” was inspired to, and did in fact, create said tome at Chateau Ussé. (You probably guessed Walt Disney, right?) )
And yes, high atop the Chateau, there is an entire chambre devoted to the re-creation of the Prince placing his Princely lips, ever so tenderly, on those of the Sleeping Beauty. Sadly, you can’t enter this glassed in scene. But you can ooh and ahh through the glass.
But wait -there’s more! A whole lot more. Continuing to vamp on the “Life in the 19th century” theme, throughout the Chateau mannequins faithfully attired in 19th century costumes are presented in a variety of scenes. From drawing room to laundry room. And beyond.
Truly one of the most imaginative and authentic representations of “Life in another time” I’ve experienced in my not unsubstantial French Chateau travels.
I think visitors(and I include myself here) reasonate particularly with these presentations, because they allow us to view “Life in another time” that is much closer to ours. Not dusty,unconfirmed “legends” from 500 years ago; that soul stirring/imagination firing as they may be, don’t make the same connection.