Chateau Saumur … a love-hate experience!


Chateau Saumur

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.

Dover Castle interior

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!

Chateau Saumur, Loire, France

“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!

14 thoughts on “Chateau Saumur … a love-hate experience!

  1. Reply from Danell in Italy: In terms of Bologna, Lambrusco is considered the proletariat grape because it’s excellent value for money, so I would start there. It’s a red frizzante wine that goes well with nearly every dish. Different types are Lambrusco Di Sorbara, Grasparossa di Castelvetro, salamino di Santa Croce and Di Modena. Another important grape varietal is Albana from Romagna, a white wine made in dry, sweet and appassito versions. Or there’s Pagadebit, made with the white grape Bombino Bianco, that’s easy drinking and probably quiet cheap. The regions are basically divided into different hills called “Colli” in Italian. Each “colli” produces their version of regional and international grapes. Regional grapes to look out for: Pignoletto, Fortana, Trebbianino Romagno, Sangiovese , Croatina, and Barbera.

    And he MUST try Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. It’s a very particular wine vinegar, and I highly recommend it even if it might cost a bit.”

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  2. Twenty years ago I won a competition in the Times Newspaper. The prize was a weekend at the Chateau de Mercues near Cahors. Here I am with the complimentary bottle of wine. I’m afraid I am quite unable to explain the jacket or the tie!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I seemed to go the other way! After I retired and focused on some very serious mountaineering, I mostly wore outdoor clothing, jeans, etc etc. most of the time. Then when I stopped that at 60 I swapped again with my daughter calling me “the man from Del Monte as I wore light suits in summer and smart leather jackets in winter. I nearly always wore bow ties when we went out to wine bars and restaurants in Cheltenham at weekends. Shirts from Jermyn Street of course.

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        2. I blame the low cost airlines. No place for stylish clothes within a 10k baggage allowance. Maybe I will travel in my linen suit and panama hat when we go to Italy in two weeks time or maybe I will just wear my grungy stuff! I confess that I struggle to achieve a half decent knot in my tie anymore! I get my shirts from Primark!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Being unable to tie ties anymore was precisely why I switched to bow ties, clip on of course. I bought some cracking bow ties on cruises. You get plenty of baggage allowance in business class though.

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        4. Wouldn’t know! We stick to BA and Virgin as much as we can. But to be serious, one of the worst flights we ever had was with Monarch to Lanzarote. Airline and staff were great, it was the kids and parents that were the problem. When BA or whoever have business or Premium we might go back!

          Liked by 1 person

        5. I have general knowledge of Italian wines but nothing like my detailed knowledge of France. So, I’ve just emailed my sommelier friend in Italy and asked for the best cheap, house, typical wines around Bologna. I’ll get back to you ASAP

          Liked by 1 person

        6. Reply from Danell in Italy: “In terms of Bologna, Lambrusco is considered the proletariat grape because it’s excellent value for money, so I would start there. It’s a red frizzante wine that goes well with nearly every dish. Different types are Lambrusco Di Sorbara, Grasparossa di Castelvetro, salamino di Santa Croce and Di Modena. Another important grape varietal is Albana from Romagna, a white wine made in dry, sweet and appassito versions. Or there’s Pagadebit, made with the white grape Bombino Bianco, that’s easy drinking and probably quiet cheap. The regions are basically divided into different hills called “Colli” in Italian. Each “colli” produces their version of regional and international grapes. Regional grapes to look out for: Pignoletto, Fortana, Trebbianino Romagno, Sangiovese , Croatina, and Barbera.

          And he MUST try Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. It’s a very particular wine vinegar, and I highly recommend it even if it might cost a bit.”

          Like

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