Thursday, 31 May 2012

Almost 80 degrees and snow?...

Driving out of Barrou on the road to Lesigny we had to do a double-take as it looked as if we were approaching snow on the grass verge and trees. Not sure what it was but it was certainly too hot for snow.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Here are our first beers of the year on the terrace at the restaurant at Barrou - a sure sign that the good weather has arrived!

Good place to sit and watch the petagne players strategize .

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Cande wrapper...

After the tour of the inside of Chateau de Cande yesterday I thought I should give you a look around it from the outside and gardens. The design of the chateau is an odd mix of styles which actually combine, if not historically accurate, to give it a certain uniqueness. On the left of the top photograph you can see the viaduct of the Bordeaux railway line as it crosses the lovely Indre river valley, just to give you a feel for its setting, here is a closer shot - quite stunning! 

The original chateau was built in the early 16th century by a former mayor of Tours,François Briçonnet. This was at a time when Touraine and indeed the Loire Valley, as the place to live, was the choice of kings and noblemen.

The Neo-Gothic building you see today was commissioned by Santiago Drake Castillo an Anglo-Cuban painter in the late 19th century and entrusted to a local architect Jacques-Aime Meffre who obviously had a lot of fun with it! Why have only one style of tower when you are spoilt for choice?

Its a bit of a melange but all the more interesting, we think, for that.

In the renovated Orangery,which is also the ticket office,you will find objects, accessories and gourmet products symbolising the “Touraine way of life”.There is a selection of gardening books and tools alongside the Touraine area’s best saffron, jams, honeys and poires tapées (dried pears). There is also a collection of small kitchen and wine tools and a unique selection of creations from local artisans.

The estate of the chateau covers an area of 250 hectares and  includes a marked path and lake. There are also vegetable gardens and an orchard, so you have all the elements for a good day out.

Monday, 28 May 2012

A walk around...Chateau de Candé

The Chateau de Cande, which has its own unique fairytale look, will not be on most Loire Valley visitor's 'must see' list but I think that, for British and American visitors especially, it should be! I say this because whereas the wonderful Chateaux de Loire will forever be linked with the French Royals and their colourful history, here we have an important link to to the history of the British Royal family and a scenario that was to change its course forever. For one thing Colin Firth would never have won his Oscar ('The king's speech') but more importantly Britain would have missed the influence of its 'Queen Mother' and 'Elizabeth II'. The event which was to change the country's history was that of the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales to the American divorcee Wallis Simpson on June 3rd 1937.Well actually his abdication on the 10th of December the previous year did that - but it was to this end.

Wallis Simpson had come here to escape the harassment of the press who were making life very uncomfortable for her where she was staying with friends in Cannes.Her friends were also friends of Fern Bedaux the wife of the owner of Chateau de Cande here in the Touraine. Her husband a rich American industrialist had bought the chateau 10 years earlier. Fern gave over her apartments here so as Wallis could get some peace. It seemed the obvious place to have the marriage.

As soon as you walk through the front portal you are met with the grandeur one would expect of any grand chateau of the Loire Valley but this is different in that it was neither built by, or used by, royalty. 'The man who would not be king' Edward , Prince of Wales would be the closest it would get. 

The main reception room of the chateau is referred to as the 'Red Sitting Room' reflecting the red silk fabric adorning its walls.It has a ceiling more reminiscent of a Tudor castle than a French chateau.

The dining room is quite dark due to its dark panelled and leather lined walls It was in this room the Windsors' buffet would have been laid out. Certainly large enough to cope with the sixteen people sent by the English court as representatives.

It has a rather splendid fire place and ceiling.

The library of the chateau is delightful and it is here that the mayor of nearby Monts performed the civil part of the wedding to conform to the laws of the country. The religious ceremony was performed in the 'music room' of the chateau.

On one of the panels to the right of the fireplace is engraved with the words 'Ed was here' - only joking it is in fact the signatures of  Edward & Wallis.

At the opposite end of the room there is an American made 'Skinner' organ one of only twenty left in the world and one of only three in working order. Interestingly the organ, with its 1,878 pipes, was classified as Monument Historique by the French government in 1993.

The bedrooms are as you'd expect but the bathrooms on show (two of the eight) are a surprise...

.beautifully tiled with coloured glass mosaics.

Off one of the bedrooms there is a charming spiral staircase leading to a roof terrace which is unfortunately out of bounds- would have loved to have seen that.

The dressing room has a display of outfits from major designers of the time plus there's a small selection from  Wallis' wardrobe. Her panther jewels from Cartier are on display, her painted luggage,elegant handbags, and some of the gowns made for her. 

It is interesting to see she had a little crown designed into her bags - perhaps in anticipation (wrongly) of becoming 'royal'

  Last but not least we have the 'Music room' where the couple were married in a religious ceremony.

A copy of the dress Wallis wore is on display beside a copy of the Cecile Beaton photograph marking the occasion - in which Wallis looks decidedly unhappy.

To visit the chateau is to step back in time and sample a little piece of its history.
It is also great value at 5 euros but note - it is closed Monday and Tuesdays except during July and August

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Church on Sunday...La Chapelle-Blanche-Saint-Martin

L'église Saint-Martin is tucked away up a narrow street as you enter the village of La Chapelle-Blanche-Saint-Martin (quite a mouthful*) on the D50, heading for Tours. Its stark exterior,the result of the rebuilding in the 16th century of the original 12th century church, is not inviting in the least and taking a walk around it does not increase its appeal! Apparently the slab on the right was where they rested coffins to be blessed prior to entering the church - don't think I've noticed this at other churches -but will look for them in future.

It appears rather 'cobbled together', again probably the result of the restoration work through the centuries.

       It was actually 'restored' in 1922**though not sure as to how successful or sympathetic that was!

There are some ruins behind the church with no indication as to what was there - there was a church dedicated to St Peter here prior to the 12 century so may have some thing to do with this.He was demoted in favour of Touraine's favourite son St.Martin de Tours.

Inside is fairly plain though it does have a rather ornate alter...

and side alters.

The church has three of its windows depicting scenes from St Martin's life - and death.

Where's Joan?


* There was a La Chapelle-Blanche-sur-Loire so the village added the 'St.Martin' so as not to be confused with there or they dropped their 'Blanche' so as not to be confused with here - hope this doesn't confuse you!.
** I struggle to find much information on these churches during my research but a good source is the great French blogsite where the author has done some great work on the towns and villages of Touraine