In July last year we paid a second visit to Palluau-sur-Indre, a village with a lovely privately owned château – I wrote about it first in 2010 here.
The château at Palluau-sur-Indre.
The château had been sold in (I believe) 2010 and the new owner was carrying out major improvements and opening it for visitors. As it happened, we turned up only a couple of weeks after it had re-opened in 2011. You can read more about the history of the château here.
There was a modest entrance fee and we could see that things were not really too well organised yet but in we went, dying to have a closer look in the courtyard and hopefully inside as well.
Unfortunately, we dropped a clanger and ended up on a tour guidée, the last one of the day.
We have a general rule that we don’t do guided tours, only those where you can wander round freely at your own pace, the tour libre. This is because our French is not good enough to keep up with most of the tour guides.
If they are aware they have non-French speakers in the group, some guides will make an effort to speak more slowly and clearly, or even repeat some of the information in English at the end of each section. This is always most helpful and very much appreciated.
However, we have endured many a miserable hour trapped inside a château, having been locked into the room with the rest of the group, well out of our depth in terms of understanding anything. The guide will open the door with a key, herd all the visitors in and lock the door again so no-one can escape!! Presumably this is to prevent visitors from wandering around by themselves and getting up to some sort of mischief.
Unfortunately, on this day the lady who meets and greets visitors led us briskly towards the little chapel where a tour was already under way. As we sped across the courtyard we said that we didn’t realise it was not a visite libre and couldn’t we please just wander around by ourselves.
She assured us that not only was this out of the question but it was no problem, the guide spoke good English so we would be in good hands.
Well, if he spoke any English at all he certainly didn’t try while we were there. There were only four other visitors, all French, and he completely and totally ignored us, making no contact with us at all, not even a welcome, never mind establishing whether or not we could understand anything.
The walls of the chapel were painted with a beautiful fresco, depicting the story of the nativity and the life of Christ in chronological order. The guide spoke very quickly and directly to the other visitors, completely ignoring us and answered interminable questions such as what kind of paint was used, how the painting survived the damp and so on. After spending thirty minutes listening to him explain every brushstroke in great detail we were losing the will to live and whilst his back was momentarily turned, we made our escape. We couldn’t face having to struggle our way through the rest of the tour.
We wandered around the courtyard and enjoyed the beauty of the place and the peace and quiet of its lovely setting but we were disappointed we had lost out on the opportunity to see inside the château. It’s a shame, because the inside looked from the outside as though it would be really interesting.
After a while the “meeter and greeter” strode purposefully in our direction and enquired exactly what we were up to.
So we will be a bit more canny next time we visit a château, remembering to enquire whether the visit is by guided tour or free visit - until our French is a lot better anyway !!