Troglodytes


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Europe » France » Centre » Amboise
July 30th 2019
Published: July 31st 2019
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I take my now daily routine stroll down to the boulangerie to pick up a bread stick. We’ve both commented on how distinctly French all the streetscapes are here in Amboise. If you got dropped in here from outer space you’d be in no doubt at all as to which country you were in, even if you’d never been to Amboise before. If you got dropped into the middle of Melbourne and you’d never been there before, you wouldn’t know where in the world you were.

We decide to visit Chateau Gaillard which is only a fifteen minute stroll from the hotel. We read that this was the brainchild of King Charles VIII, who visited Italy in 1496 and found himself a bit taken by a villa in Naples. When he came back to France he managed to convince 22 Italian artisans to come with him to help him create something similar near Amboise. The artisans included a Franciscan monk who was renowned as a master gardener. The Chateau has had a succession of owners over the centuries, but eventually fell into disrepair, and at one stage even managed to slip off the French registry of historic buildings. This seems almost impossible to believe. A French businessman visited the site in 2011 and found it lying in ruins, so he bought it and started the long restoration process, which is still ongoing.

The Chateau sits in the middle of a large estate surrounded by formal gardens and a forest. It is apparently renowned for its orange trees, which grow on a terrace and in a greenhouse in a cave under the terrace, and these are a re-creation of the orange trees that were grown here when the garden was first developed by the Italians. The Chateau itself sits against a vertical cliff, and the rooms at the rear of the chateau, which include the kitchens, are caves cut into the cliff. These are referred to as troglodyte rooms. I always thought that if you called someone a troglodyte it was derogatory and it meant that you thought that they had the intellect of someone from the Stone Age, but here in France it just refers to someone who lives in a cave, irrespective of how intelligent they are. A lot of wine growers here are apparently troglodytes because they live in caves with their wine barrels, and I think I’d be in serious trouble here in the land of wine if I said anything derogatory about any of them. We wander through the forest above the cliff behind the chateau where we get great views over the formal garden and the surrounding rural countryside. As I learnt yesterday, Issy likes chateaus that have forests, and it seems that she really likes this one. The Chateau itself feels a bit more homely after the over the top opulence of some of the larger ones we’ve been to.

I leave Issy at the hotel creating priceless artistic masterpieces while I go for a wander through the backstreets of Amboise. I briefly considered visiting another chateau, because we’ve only been to seven, which means there are 313 in the Loire Valley that we haven’t been to, but I’m starting to feel a bit chateaued out. Instead I follow some signs up a steep hill to a “vue panoramique”; the view is a bit underwhelming unless you like rooftops. I see signs to another “vue panoramique”. This is even more underwhelming; I get to it and I don’t even realise that I’m there. I briefly wonder whether I should have gone to another chateau after all.

I give up on the panoramic views and follow signs to the village cemetery, which is usually good for a few happy snaps. It seems to be right next to the hospital. Whilst I’m sure this is an effective way of reducing the undertaker’s petrol costs, I’m not so sure it’s a particularly great advertisement for the standard of care provided by the hospital. There’s a sign at the entrance to the cemetery that says it opens at 9am, but nothing about when it closes. It’s now 5.30pm. It looks a bit creepy, and I’m not too keen on the prospect of spending the night here. It’s surrounded by a very high stone wall, and I wouldn’t like my chances of being able to climb over it if the gates were locked when I tried to leave. I follow a very old lady in. She looks like she might have been here before and might know when it closes, so I keep a close eye on her and decide that if she leaves I should too. That said I worry that perhaps she mightn’t be as fussed about spending the night here as I am, as she would presumably have her long since departed husband as company; Issy by contrast was well and truly alive and breathing when I left her back at the hotel. The cemetery is huge, and I’m sure there must be at least as many dead Amboise citizens here as there are live ones still living in the village.

I walk back down the hill past some signs that might cause some raised eyebrows if they were displayed back home. The town’s lawyer is a gentleman named Monsieur Dupe, and one of the prominent cafes is called Bigot’s Creperie and Patisserie.

I follow signs to the Saint Denis Church which was built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier fourth century church. There’s a busy market in progress in the square next to the church. The church door is open so I go in. It’s pitch black inside, and I think someone might have forgotten to pay the electricity bill. I think there are other people here but it’s too hard to see to be sure. I narrowly avoid tripping over some chairs as I try to feel my way around the area near the altar, so I decide that I probably should leave before I manage to cause any carnage.

We enjoy our final meal here in a small courtyard behind the main church. I‘m going to miss crusty French bread.


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6th August 2019
Amboise

Nice blog
Great street scene.
6th August 2019
Amboise

Street scenes
Thanks. I love street scenes. Reckon they make great photos.

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