French Chateau, love ‘em on the outside, hate ‘em on the inside! Soulless, bereft of character, mostly empty or with a few artefacts as an afterthought! Here’s a simple comparison before I move on, Dover Castle, Kent, England. No words necessary, just see how they have painstakingly restored the splendid grandeur of some of the rooms to educate and inform visitors what life was like at that time.
The difference is on the outside. Although Dover Castle is fairly intact and was even used in operations related to WWII, most of England’s castles were bombarded to hell by dear old Oliver Cromwell because they were royalist strongholds of the aristocracy. French Chateau had no such nemesis!
But, we love French Chateau, so don’t misinterpret my comparison, if only they would do some recreation work their appeal would be even greater.
Our final day in Saumur was extremely varied, I guess we were “sweeping up” the bits and pieces left on our list that didn’t involve a wine tasting or ticking off something on our Wines 101 Bucket List. A relaxing sojourn in Place St Pierre, a stunning seafood lunch at the Grand Bleu restaurant, before an afternoon trip up to the Chateau. Thankfully, we didn’t have to pay £15 for a couple of hours parking as at Oxford, Bristol, because the French are FREE 12-15.00 for lunch!
“Standing on top of a rocky outcrop, the Château of Saumur proudly overlooks the surrounding town and its imposing silhouette can be seen from beyond the river. A magnificent testimony to princely residences under the Valois dynasty, the château could almost have been plucked from a fairy tale.”
“The first stones were laid in the 10th century by Theobold the Trickster, Count of Blois. It was not long, however, before the château was seized by the impetuous Fulk III the Black who made it the property of the counts of Anjou. It later fell into the hands of the Plantagenets before being won back for the French throne by Phillip Augustus of France in 1203. At this time, four towers were built around the keep, which served as a basis for the current château. In the 14th century, Louis I of Anjou received the château as appanage and transformed it into a magnificent princely residence, as illustrated in the famous Très riches heures du duc de Berry miniatures. New accommodation was built and the towers and outer walls were raised, complementing the height of the chimneys, gables and belvederes. During the reign of Good King René, the château underwent further restoration work when the chapel was rebuilt, complete with a private oratory. The prince and poet embellished the interior to receive the French Court in the sumptuousness he loved to embody. After the king’s death, the Château of Saumur was somewhat forgotten for around a century until the town was ceded to the Protestants.”
Currently the town is pursuing relentless renovation work to restore the château to the splendour as in Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, a French Gothic manuscript illumination which is really a “book of hours” from the 15th Century. Recently the gilded finial at the top of the south tower was replaced by an exact replica of the one in the legendary Illumination.
Externally Saumur Chateau is a magnificent sight whether you are down below in the town or up close among the vines. But this is where I always hesitate in France, to go in or not to go in, will I learn anything, will I discover something new, will I be awestruck by a magnificent interior depicting life in the Chateau from a bygone age? So, ignoring a previous disappointment from almost 30 years ago I left Dr C sitting in the shade of the cafe in the vines, paid my fee, and entered. First impressions of the courtyard and views down to the town and Loire extremely favourable ….. but ….. I wasn’t inside yet! Sadly for me, it was all downhill from now on, nothing to really excite me. An old winding mechanism of some sort by the entrance, then a series of rooms with several wall hangings, each room holding collections of various pottery pieces from a variety of places and styles. NOT what I expected inside such a magnificent building. But I guess it mirrors a similar chateau at Montsoreau nearby which is now stuffed as a museum of modern art! Anyway, here’s a few snaps!