Chateaux of France- Puppy, poppies and flowers.


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June 29th 2006
Published: July 3rd 2006
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I promised to start this time with Puppy, so here she is in all her summer glory outside the Guggenheim Museum in Balboa. As she lives there permanently I’m not sure how she is clothed in winter but she was a beautiful sight the day we were there.

After visiting with her (and the rest of the artworks in this wonderful museum) we headed north to Guernika. By expressway it was about 50 kms but we took the slow way through torturous coastal mountains and it took us nearly 3 hours to get to this small valley town. Guernika is the Basque town that was unexpectedly bombed heavily by the Germans in 1937 on a market day as a practice run by Goerring. The bombing was targeted on the market, the school and the town not on the factories or the strategic bridge through the town. The heavy loss of life was mainly women and children.

The Peace museum in Guernika is one of the most memorable places we’ve been. It is simple and factual in its reporting of past and present Basque history and problems and in particular it presents a moving account of the 1937 bombing of the town, told by witness accounts and clever multimedia imaging of events as they unfolded on that day. Picasso had been already been commissioned to do a painting for the Spanish World Fair pavilion and he began to work on it the day after the bombing - no wonder it had such impact on him and resulted in his pivotal painting “Geurnica”.

It was a quiet drive that afternoon as we were both deeply affected by what we had seen and neither felt as if the world has made much progress towards ‘peace’. It also made us look forward to visiting Normandy and seeing the impact of the war there and going to the Peace Museum in Caen.

Back into France and it was time for us to head to the beach. On the French Atlantic coast we found an apartment across the road from a nice big sandy surfing beach in the tiny beachside town of Mimizan Plage. It reminded me of Surfside Avenue at Surfers Paradise, when we holidayed there as kids, with the sand blowing across the road and hearing the surf all night. It was great to relax and brave the reasonably cold waters of the ocean.

After this mini break it was time to head north and work our way up towards Paris. Where better to set up a base but along the Loire at Amboise where we could collect the requisite number of visits to chateau’s. Picking those to visit is an art-form in itself. Amboise has two including Clos Luce Chateau where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his last years and within a thirty km radius there are over 30 others to choose from.

Chenonceau Château, also known as the “Castle of the Lady”, took our fancy as it looked lovely poised over the river Cher. King Henry 11 gave the castle to his mistress Diane de Poitiers but after his death his widow (Catherine de Medicis) moved Diane out to a lesser castle and took over Chenonceau herself and ruled France from here. It seemed even then that French mistresses were well looked after!

Interestingly after centuries when various royals used this chateau for fun and pleasure, in WW1 it became a hospital and in WW2 it marked a crossing point on the river between the occupied areas and the free zone!

The grounds and gardens were
Basque coastlineBasque coastlineBasque coastline

Rugged and spectacular
a picture as were the floral arrangements inside the various rooms. Out of each window you could watch the river flowing past beneath you.

Chambord, our next choice, was where we could see the royal apartments of Francois I and Louis XIV. It was begun in 1519 by Francois after he had re-conquered the Italian province of Milan and the medieval plan was therefore heavily influenced by the Italian Renaissance. It is built of tufa, the soft white stone, widely used in the Loire which we had seen at Margaret and Michael’s in Poce and which allows elaborate carving and decoration.

Chambord has an amazing double spiral staircase that winds around a hollow central column. It links the three floors of the chateau and supports the lantern on top of the building. The whole place is a geometric masterpiece that is quite overwhelming.

Next, we had our own small château experience, thanks to Michael Conder’s recommendation of Chateau de Rouillon on the Seine near Fontainebleau. Peggy, our host, was charming and made us feel very much at home. When we arrived she made us a cup of tea and served it in the formal garden. She remembered
Sand and surf in FranceSand and surf in FranceSand and surf in France

It was lovely to listen to the sound at night and to be able to walk on the sand and swim!
Michael and Christiane (the artist) and said that she gets many Australians staying at her lodging. Interesting it was built for the mistress of Henry IV but Peggy says that now they only get an apartment in Paris!

Vaux-le-Vicomte, Nicholas Fouquest’s estate, was probably our last chateau of the trip. He was Louis XIV’s Lord high treasurer who made the big mistake of building an elegant masterpiece that was too grand. Louis who could not bear to be outdone was irritated enough that he got rid of his treasurer by setting him up with false charges and then ensuring that he was jailed for life. Louis then took Vaux le Vicomte’s inspiration and the three key figures (builder, designer and landscape architect) to build Versailles).

After you do the chateau you can spend hours wandering the huge grounds designed by Andre Le Notre. Everything designed to amaze the eye and the senses and a real foretast of Versailles.

We rounded out this section and the whole journey by returning to Ambonnay, near Epernay in the champagne area to the place we stayed on our first night in France. We had to go back to pick up the seventh car seat that we’d left behind with Alaine in April so that we had enough room to fit in our own and Deanna and Gerd’s luggage. It felt almost like going home as he wanted to know about our trip and what had happened since we last met up. Our drive the next day into Paris was made very easy by the GPS system as the little lady took us directly to the tiny street and our petite apartment near St Germaine de Pres and then we drove the car back to Citroen and after nearly 13 000 kms we handed it back.

The trip up from Bordeaux was very pretty as the wildflowers and gardens were in full bloom and everywhere we went we saw beautiful gardens and displays. Poppies are out in all the fields and I just have had to keep taking photo’s of them.

There may be just one more blog left in me I think before we set of for home and what a one to finish on as it will be about Paris and Normandy. So until then enjoy this taste of summer and the chateaux and flowers of France.





Additional photos below
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Chenonceau Chateau displayChenonceau Chateau display
Chenonceau Chateau display

Every room was set up beautifully with flowers from the gardens on display
Chenonceau againChenonceau again
Chenonceau again

The combination of floweres and the table top looked great
Approaching ChambordApproaching Chambord
Approaching Chambord

Threatenign skies added to the drama!
Chambord towerChambord tower
Chambord tower

We couldn't get to the top where the spiral finishes
Chambord sporting trophiesChambord sporting trophies
Chambord sporting trophies

What one did when visiting the castle! There were rooms of trophies on display.
Bordering country roadsBordering country roads
Bordering country roads

Poppies were everywhere
...and in the towns...and in the towns
...and in the towns

Col got used to pulling over for the mad photographer to get another shot!
Vaux le VicomteVaux le Vicomte
Vaux le Vicomte

view from the gardens
Vaux le Vicomte gardensVaux le Vicomte gardens
Vaux le Vicomte gardens

A section of the 82 acres of garden. Parterres,pools, fountains,canals, grottoes and sculptured box trees adorn the vista
Vaux le Vicomte canalVaux le Vicomte canal
Vaux le Vicomte canal

The canal fed by the diverted river)is over 1000 metres long!
Driving the estate carDriving the estate car
Driving the estate car

Knowing we were handing back the Citroen Col just had to test drive this one to see if it could be a replacement!
Catering for a crowdCatering for a crowd
Catering for a crowd

John - the challenge is out- this one is even larger than the one you constructed on the day of the wedding
More catering More catering
More catering

There must of been big families in those days!


6th July 2006

what memories
Thanks for enabling me to be a voyeur on your fabulous trip. I am holidaying in the Breakfast Point Mansion, garden much smaller than the chateau but well kept. see you soon Ros

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