Sunday, 9 October 2011

Azay-le-Ferron


From Brittany we drove to LaRoche-Posay, and a very pleasant campsite, with large pitches and lots of greenery.. It was right beside the river Creuse - you could walk out through a gate in the hedge along the back of the site and you were right on the river bank.


One direction along the river also took us along the back of the local racecourse. We didn't actually get to see much of the town itself, which was a shame really as when we did drive through it it looked lovely, with some old mediaeval areas. Lots of wildlife around the site - we saw red squirrels several times, and although we never saw them there were certainly owls around, and I encountered a bat one evening walking back from the toilet block. We arrived late and only barely got the tent up before dark, and it was decidedly dark by the time I was trying to cobble a meal together. Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best for the three days we were there, but it didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves. The very helpful site owner gave C lots of ideas of things to see and places to go, and luckily the afternoon that we'd planned to go and see a nearby castle - Azay-le-Ferron -  was the afternoon it poured and poured. We managed a bit of a walk in the grounds before the tour was due to start and before  it started to rain . A short break in the rain allowed the guide to give a brief history in the front courtyard - helpful, as the castle had been expanded from its earliest origins and there were at least three distinct architectural elements. No photography allowed inside, but it was certainly interesting to see. It had been lived in right up to the 1950s, when the last owner left it to the city of Tours on condition that it was opened to the public. There were a couple of very fine parquet floors and an amazing wooden ceiling that had come from an old hôtel particulier in Versailles which was being demolished. I can't now remember how long the guide said it had taken to reassemble the floor, but I think it was in terms of a couple of years.  Also interesting to see was the difference between a large tapestry hanging which had been executed entirely in gold and silk, and how well that had stood the test of time compared to another large hanging woven from cotton and wool, which had faded so much more even though it wasn't as old. There were also some beautiful botanical watercolour paintings around the door in the main bathroom, which if I remember had been done by the sister of the last owner. They were done in an earlier style, though, along the lines of Redouté, and they were so light and luminous that I thought they'd been painted on glass. It was interesting, too, from a "professional" point of view to see the kitchen. It seemed a lot smaller than the kitchen that I had cooked in when I worked in a large old house in Yorkshire, which would have had a similar number of staff in its heyday as Azay-le-Ferron did.
The last owners of the house had been a hunting family for at least a couple of generations; they'd hunted in the parkland around the estate and also on safari in Africa - with all the trophies to show for it. I'm thinking this is also why the weather vanes are as they are.


The tower is the oldest part, dating back to the 15th centrury
 


Some architectural details
 

The library, in the square across the road from the castle

It's quite mild here for the time of year, but very windy. We went on the motorbike to visit my aunt as the windscreen wipers on the car weren't working and I didn't want to chance a 30 mile motorway drive in the rain. Thank goodness the wind seemed to have died down a bit compared to earlier on in the week, but when I went out shopping the next morning I saw a tree down just about a hundred yards from the house, and a large branch fallen from another tree. It's still mild on the whole but I think I'll be buying a tub of fat-balls for the birds next time I go shopping; on Thursday morning it was cold enough that I decided it was time to bring my hats out of storage.

2 comments :

  1. Towers to topiaries - you sure got to to see a lot on your holiday. I'm glad you share the fruits of your adventures. Hope you had a good visit with your aunt. We're into our Indian Summer here this weekend. Had to turn the heat on downstairs last week for the bird - too cold otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't been here for a while and I looked at all your travel photos in one go. I'll come back to look again, for the time being, just want to say the everywhere you went looks fabulous and I am glad you're having a good time, even if the weather doesn't cooperate all the time.

    ReplyDelete