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Friday, November 29, 2013

The Castle of Joan of Arc: Chinon Castle - Exploring the Castles of the River Loire Valley #6

The Fortress of Chinon in the River Loire Valley is a very interesting building to visit on your travel in France,
but is it a castle or a "chateau"?


What is a Chateau and what is a Castle?

The Castle of Chinon, in the River Loire Valley, along the river Vienne is not probably the famous and neither the most elegant chateau of the area.

If we use the word "chateau" not just as the translation for the English word "castle", but in the more specific meaning of the word, we may decide not to consider Chinon Castle a Chateau like the others of the river Loire Valley, or, better, we would consider Chinon a "Chateau" in both meanings of the word.

Wikipedia offers for the word "Chateau" the following meaning:

"The Chateau is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions".
and then also:
"The word château is also used for castles in French, so where clarification is needed, the term château fort is used to describe a castle, such as Château fort de Roquetaillade. Care should be taken when translating the word château into English. It is not used in the same way as "castle", and most châteaux are described in English as "palaces" or "country houses" rather than "castles". For example, the Château de Versailles..."
The beautiful walls of the castle. 
The Vienne River and the Castle of Chinon




What is so special about Chinon Castle?

Chinon is a castle, a chateau fort, a castle. It is still possessing the original medieval walls, the towers. It is not just a stunning residence as for example the Chateau d'Azay le Rideau. (click here to see the Chateau d'Azay le Rideau)

It is a building that still have an architecture made to protect more than to astonish the eyes of the visitor for its beauty and its elegant lines.
This said, with its grandness and its position above the town and the river Vienne, surrounded by beautiful French countryside, Chinon castle is absolutely astonishing for the eyes of the modern visitor and exactly because it is so different from the others chateaux of the river Loire Valley it is certainly worth a visit, and then Chinon Castle has also a special story to tell...

Three more views of the castle: the Main Gate, the old palace in ruin and the tower. 




Why Chinon Castle is the Castle of Joan of Arc?

Chinon Castle is strongly connected with the life of the French heroine and Saint Joan of Arc.

It was when Joan of Arc arrived at Chinon Castle that she claimed to hear heavenly voices that said that King Charles of France would grant her an army to relieve the siege of Orléans (the town of Orleans, in France, not far from Chinon was sieged by the English during the Hundred Years' War, later Joan of Arc relieved Orleans from the English siege and this was Joan of Arc's first major military victory and the first major French in the Hundred Years War)

During her staying at the castle Charles met with Joan of Arc two days after her arrival and then sent her to Poitiers so that she could be cross-examined to ensure she was telling the truth.

Joan returned to Chinon in April where Charles granted her supplies and sent her to join the army at Orléans, leading the French to an amazing victory.


An interesting exhibition in Chinon Castle studies the influence of Joan of Arc in the modern era.


Who is Joan of Arc?

Joan d'Arc is one of the most famous female heroes of all time, she is a Saint for the Catholic Church and a heroine for France, but why?

Joan of Arc born to a peasant family in north-east France.

Claiming divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War against the English.

She was eventually captured and given to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais for heterodoxy and was burned at the stake for heresy when she was only 19 years old, this make of her a national hero.



This post has been made thanks to the great help and support of Caroline and Gilles Lemerle from St Michel sur la Loire.

If I have to choose, what are the other castles of the River Loire Valley I should absolutely visit?

All the castles of the River Loire Valley, but time and money suggest you should make a choice.
We selected for you an itinerary, so to give you the widest sight and prospective about these beautiful chateaux, so unique and so different one with the others.

Here the links to the other castles we absolutely suggest you visit:

Exploring the Castles of the River Loire Valley #1 - The Castle of Nantes




What else should I visit in France?

Read our page Visit France for more posts and destinations.






How can I follow this site and be informed of the new 

posts published?


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau: one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture. - Exploring the castles of the River Loire Valley #5

The beautiful entrance of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, situated 40 minutes away from Tours is one of the most amazing castles along the river Loire in France.

Why the Castle of Azay-le-Rideau is one of the most famous castles of the River Loire Valley in France?

There are many good reasons for the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau to be one of the most famous castles of the River Loire Valley:

1. Its setting:
the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is situated on an island in the middle of the Indre river, surrounded by a beautiful park, the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is one of the most scenic in the Loire Valley.

2. Its architecture:
the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture.
The writer Balzac, who lived nearby, deeply admired the building, describing it as 'a facetted diamond, set in the Indre'.

3.Its history:
the original medieval castle fell victim to the rivalry between Burgundian and Armagnac factions during the Hundred Years' War. In 1418, the future Charles VII passed through Azay-le-Rideau as he fled from Burgundian occupied Paris, angered by the insults of the Burgundian troops occupying the town, the dauphin ordered his own army to storm the castle.
The 350 soldiers inside were all executed and the castle itself burnt to the ground. For centuries, this fate was commemorated in the town's name of Azay-le-Brûlé (literally Azay the Burnt), which remained in use until the 18th century.



What is inside the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau?
(from www.wikipedia.com)

The Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is made up of several drawing rooms and stately apartments, most of which are decorated in the neo-renaissance style popular during the 19th century.

Many of the rooms of the the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau display 16th- and 17th-century Flemish tapestries.

The most famous tapestries are the 'Scenes from the Old Testament' woven in Audenarde, and the 'Story of Psyche', which was created in Brussels.

The château also houses a significant collection of artwork, including a 'Dame au Bain' (possibly depicting Diane de Poitiers) by François Clouet, and several portraits of French monarchs, including Francis I, Henry III and Catherine de Medici.



Azay-le-Rideau is just the castle?

Although the little town of Azay-le-Rideau is certainly famous because of the castle, Azay-le-Rideau is not just the castle.

It is worth to wonder around the beautiful little town of Azay-le-Rideau, with its beautiful houses and cottages,

It is a picturesque little town of around three thousands habitants and its still preserve its medieval style and architecture.



This post has been made thanks to the great help and support of Caroline and Gilles Lemerle from St Michel sur la Loire.

If I have to choose, what are the other castles of the River Loire Valley I should absolutely visit?

All the castles of the River Loire Valley, but time and money suggest you should make a choice.
We selected for you an itinerary, so to give you the widest sight and prospective about these beautiful chateaux, so unique and so different one with the others.

Here the links to the other castles we absolutely suggest you visit:

Exploring the Castles of the River Loire Valley #1 - The 

Castle of Nantes




What else should I visit in France?

Read our page Visit France for more posts and


destinations.




How can I follow this site?

LIKE OUR PAGE ON  FACEBOOK so that you can read our posts when we will update this page

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER  so that we can tweet you updates

BECOME OUR FRIEND ON GOOGLE+1, clicking on the G+1 button on the right column of this page

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR FREE NEWSLETTERinsert your email on the box on the right column on this page, so that you wil receive the updates by email (note that when you subscribe you will receive an email from "feedburner email subscription" asking you to confirm your subscription. Remember to confirm it and be aware that most of the time your email's filters will consider the confirmation email spam and so to find it and reply to it you have to look on your spam folder as well).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Visiting Langeais on the traces of Fulk Nerra, the Black Knight - Exploring the Castles of the Loire Valley #4

The impressive gate defending the entrance to Le Château de Langeais.

Where is Langeais and what is to see there?

The town of Langeais, in the region of Indre-et-Loire along the river Loire, is famous for its castle.

The Château (Castle) of Langeais is famous for its amazing architecture and because the great hall of the château was the scene of the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII on December 6, 1491 that made the permanent union of Brittany and France.

About the life of the Duchess Anne of Brittany we have already published a post visiting Nantes Cathedral, so we decide to approach the visit to the Château (Castle) of Langeais from the point of view of a different character: its founder.

The Château de Langeais is a medieval castle, rebuilt as a château, built on a promontory created by the small valley of the Roumer River at the opening to the Loire Valley in 992 by Fulk Nerra.


Who is Fulk Nerra?

Fulk Nerra is a less known but certainly not less interesting character in history.

He had the good and the bad in himself, he was a chevalrious knight, but he wasn't just a good night, his name Fulk III, Count of Anjou, was changed at his times in Fulk Nerra, Nerra meaning "Le Noir", "the Black" for his temeperament.

Richard Erdoes (an important historian of Fulk) describes him: 

"Fulk of Anjou, plunderer, murderer, robber, and swearer of false oaths, a truly terrifying character of fiendish cruelty, founded not one but two large abbeys. This Fulk was filled with unbridled passion, a temper directed to extremes. Whenever he had the slightest difference with a neighbor he rushed upon his lands, ravaging, pillaging, raping, and killing; nothing could stop him, least of all the commandments of God".

Fulk had a violent and pious temperament at the same time.

He was keen to acts of extreme cruelty. In his most notorious act, he allegedly had his first wife, Elisabeth of Vendôme, burned at the stake in her wedding dress, after he discovered her in adultery with a farmer in December 999. 

This said he also act as a pious man: he made four pilgrimages to the Holy Land in 1002, 1008, and 1038 and, in 1007, built the great abbey at Beaulieu-lès-Loches

Fulk Nerra was certainly a powerful man: in his life he had more than a hundred castles, donjons, and abbeys constructed.

Another fact definetely shows his nature:

In 1025, after capturing and burning the city of Saumur, Fulk cried: 

"Saint Florentius, let yourself be burned. I will build you a better home in Angers." 

However, when the transportation of the saint's relics to Angers proved difficult, Fulk declared that Florentius was a rustic lout unfit for the city, and sent the relics back to Saumur.

Below you can find some photos of the Castle and of the town of Langeais, a short history of the castle and some useful tips to visit it.

We hope you enjoy!

The impressive walls of Langeais Castle...
...as you can see in the pictures below not much is changed in the last two centuries.

This particular from this XIX Century painting of the Castle of Langeais shows how little is changed in Langeais
(photo thanks to Caroline Lemerle from St Michel sur la Loire) 

A larger picture of the Château (Castle) of Langeais, conserved at the Fine Arts Museum of Rouen - Musée des Beaux Arts de Rouen (photo thanks to Caroline Lemerle from St Michel sur la Loire) 

The beautiful gardens of the castle overlooking the town of Langeais.

The beautiful gardens of the castle .

The beautiful gardens of the castle with the remainings ruins of the medieval walls.



A short history of the castle 
(from www.princeton.edu)

The Château de Langeais was originally built as a protection fortress in the 10th century by Foulques Nerra of Anjou

Under the Plantagenet kings, the chateau was fortified and expanded by Richard I of England (King Richard the Lionhearted). However, King Philippe II of France recaptured the château in 1206. Eventually though, during the Hundred Years' War, the English destroyed it.

King Louis XI (1461-1483) would rebuild it into what today is one of the best known examples of late medieval architecture. It is especially noted for its monumental and highly decorated chimneypieces.

After nearly being totally destroyed during the Hundred Years' War, the chateau was rebuilt about 1465 during the reign of King Louis XI. Located on a cliff overlooking the Loire River, the Château appears dark and ominous, but the interior rooms are richly decorated.

The great hall of the château was the scene of the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII on December 6, 1491 that made the permanent union of Brittany and France. However, the fifteen-year-old Duchesse Anne, not happy with the politically arranged marriage, arrived for her wedding with her entourage carrying two beds (!!!).

In 1886, Jacques Siegfried bought Château Langeais and began a restoration program. He installed an outstanding collection of tapestries and furnishings and bequeathed the château to the Institut de France which still owns it today. The château is open to the public.

It is listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

From the tower of the castle there are great views above Langeais.

Langeais is beautifully kept and certainly worth a visit.

One more sight of Langeais

More sights of Langeais from the castle.

More sights of Langeais from the castle.


Some useful tips to visit the castle of Langeais:

1. Read carefully the openining times of the castles of the Loire Valley, each castle has different opening times and one or more different closing days. All the castles seem to close quite early.

2. The Chateau de Langeais is a castle that is most certainly worth to visit inside, where a rich collection of old furniture (although not all original of the castle) will make you feel back at the times of the castle.
Many castles of the Loire Valley are nearly empty inside, although their architecture is still amazing, the empty rooms look quite soulless. In Langeais Castle you will feel included in the castle's life.

3. Take time to visit also the little town of Langeais around the Chateau.

4. Visit also the Castle of Azay-Le-Rideau not far from Langeais Castle.

5. Allow at least three hours to visit the Langeais Castle and the park.


A great thank you goes to Caroline and Gilles Lemerle from Saint Michel sur la Loire for their huge help, support and for their great sense of humor (and love for the medieval fashion)!


What is to see in the area of

Langeais Castle?

Here you can find some posts about monuments and town to discover in the same area of Langeais:





Want to read some posts about French 

typical food and drinks?

Read:









Planning to travel in France?

Read our page Visit France for more posts 

and destinations.





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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Saumur - An amazing castle - Exploring the Castles of the Loire Valley #3

The beautiful Castle of Saumur is the main sight of the town and it is one of the most scenic castles along the river Loire.
Saumur is a beautiful and elegant town along the River Loire and marks the entrance to the most famous and popoular part of the Loire Valley, the one where the most known castles are situated, running from Saumur to the West till after Tours.

Instead to head straight to Saumur, we recommend to visit first Nantes Castle (click here to read the post about Nantes Castle) and Angers Castle (click here to read the post about AngersCastle), they are imposing and visiting them will help you understand better the amazing history of the valley.

Undoubtly Saumur Castle is one of the most beautiful castles of the Loire Valley and the little town of Saumur is certainly worth a visit.

The Castle is situated in the town of Saumur on the highest rock, dominating the village and the river Loire below.

As soon as you will come near Saumur you will see the huge castle dominating the landscape, like a king dominating his kingdom.



What to do and see when visiting Saumur:

1. Take time to walk along the river Loire first and enjoy the great views of the castle from there.

2. Then walk in the old town, wonder around in the little cobbled streets before finally ascend towards the castle.

3. Admire the castle from the different prospectives: from the town, from the vineyards and take a coffee at the bar next to the castle for a very nice and relaxed view of the castle.

4. Finally if you have time visit the castle, but remember the best sights of the castle are certainly from outside, its architecture and its tall towers rising against the sky are certainly the main feature of this wonderful building.

5. Consider that a full day is more than enough to visit Saumur and the castle.

We absolutely recommend to admire Saumur Castle from different sides and prospectives as the decorated façades are all different one from the other one and all very impressive. Here the main gate of the castle.

It is also the position of the castle to make it special. Saumur Castle overlooks the old town and the river Loire and offers wonderful views above the valley.

On the East Side of the castle vineyards are still exisiting exhalting the unique mix of the Loire Valley: Castles and Wines.

Again a different sight of the castle, this time as seen from the old town below

It is worth to pay the ticket and visit inside Saumur Castle?

Frankly, if you want our opinion, no!

Let's be clear every amazing building like Saumur Castle is worth a visit, but if you are visiting the River Loire Castles and you dont' have time to visit all of them, we definetely believe that other castles along the river deserve much more a visit inside than Saumur Castle.

Saumur Castle is certainly much more impressive from the outside, for its amazing design, its position along the river and the beautiful surroundings.

Instead than spend your time inside the building, use it to walk around the castle and observe it from different position admiring the panorama around Saumur.

In any case below you find a short history of the castle and a short description of the castle to decide yourself if to visit or not Saumur Castle.


The Castle as seen from the other side of the river
The view on the river Loire from the Castle
   
                            


A short history of the Castle and what to see inside the castle:


Saumur Castle was a Fortress during the 13th century under the minority of Saint Louis.

Later became residence of the dukes of Anjou.

In 1480 the town and the castle of Saumur returned to the estates of Louis XI, King of France, following the death of King René, the last duke of Anjou.

The castle successively became a residence for the town governors, a prison and a munitions depot.

The monument has been the object of a meticulous restoration campaign and  houses the municipal museum since 1912.

The beautiful pieces of the collections are displayed in the Château and in the Abbatial hall.

In the Château du Saumur you can visit the dungeons and the tower and also the Musée des Arts Decoratifs and the Musée du Cheval which are inside the castle buildings.



What is to see in the area after Saumur and Saumur Castle?

Here you can find some posts about monuments and town to discover in the same area of Saumur:




Want to read some posts about French typical food and drinks? 
Read:






Planning to travel in France? Read our page Visit France for more posts and destinations.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two days in the Maine Loire region. What's to see around Angers?

The pretty town of Segré in the region of the Maine-Loire in France is situated next to Angers.
Take time to walk along the river and enjoy the views from l'eglise de la Madelene, the beautiful church at the top of the hill.
Angers is a wonderful pretty French town in the region of Maine and Loire (Pays de la Loire) at the beginning of the Loire Valley.

We really like Angers and we dedicated a post to its beautiful castle and the little medieval town surrounding it (click here to read it).

But you will probably find that a day is enough to visit Angers, so what else to see in the area?

We propose the pretty village of Segré, around 20 kms away from Angers.

Why to visit Segré?

We think Segré is a typical French village, that it is still possess the slow pace and the love for daily life that many other French villages have lost through the time and the increasing number of tourists invading the Loire's Castles region.

Segré is also very enjoyable to walk about. 

Apart for the few shops along the main street, it is along the river that you can have an enjoyable stroll surrounded by the beautiful French countryside.

And if you want a broader, wonderful view climb to the church at the top of the hill an enjoy the surrounding panorama from the viewpoint in front of l'Eglise de la Madalene.

From Segré you can walk, or better cycle, along the quiet country lanes and visit the little hamlet of Louvaines and the local production of organic apple juice and cider (click here to read more about).

Hope you enjoy this post and the photos below, read the captions below each photo for more useful info to plan your travel in trip in Segré and Louvaines.

Below, at the end of the post, you can also find some useful links and a map of the area to plan your trip.

Enjoy a nice walk in Segré along the river and look carefully at the center of the river to discover a little and funny surprise...

Who is dividing in the river??

With the old bridge over the river Oudon, the colourful flowers and the church at the top we think Segré is one of the most charming villages in France.

Panorama of Segré from the viewpoint in front of Madelene's Church.

Circuit entre Pierres et Pommes... litteraly translates: Toristic circuit between stones and apples. The area is famous for both things but we absolutely recommend to take time to visit (or at least taste) some wonderful apples products locally and organically made.

The little village of Louvaines, there is no much to see but we absolutely recommend the short cycle from Segré (6 kms one-way)

The Chateau next to Louvaines.

A huge thanks goes to Jean-Louis and Marie Agnes Lardeux from Louvaines near Angers for their generous help and support.


Some useful links ready for you:

Want to read more about this beautiful part of France?
Read the other posts about the Loire Valley:

Exploring the Castles of the Loire Valley #1 - The Castle of Nantes



Want to read more posts about French typical food and drinks? 
Read:






Planning to travel in France? Read our page Visit France for more posts and destinations.

Follow us:
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