July 2, 2012

SHADOWS, BEAMS AND THE LAUGHTER OF CHILDREN

The inside of the Château at Fougères was just as delightful as the outside.

We arrived at the same time as a coach of young children, something that always makes me nervous.  Not only do we dread the guided tour, but we also dread having to climb over clusters of noisy little kids all the time to see what we want to see, scurrying ahead of them to keep out of their way.

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On the first count we were lucky.  The entrance fee was very modest and we were pleased to find we could wander round by ourselves.  The ladies in the office were extremely helpful, handing us a pamphlet in English, storing our jackets and motorcycle helmets so we could explore unencumbered and pointing us in the right direction to start the tour. 

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There were numerous displays inside showing how the structure was built.  It was fascinating.  Everything was beautifully and intelligently displayed.  We could see that an awful lot of thought and work has obviously gone into getting it right.

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On the second score we were also lucky.  The children were very young and well supervised.  This little group were all dressed up to take part in a little play.  What fun that must have been.  We never did anything like that when I was that age.  You will notice that my posts about châteaux are full of images and ambience but short on history.  I love history and it fascinates me but the way it was taught when I was at school bored me rigid.  I dropped it as a subject as soon as I could and looking back I am certain that was the influence of the individual teachers concerned.

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When I was at grammar school (from age 11) our history teacher was called Miss Northrop and I can see her now, standing at the front of the class, arms folded over her ample proportions, immaculately turned out in tweed skirt, twinset and pearls.  I can’t remember a single thing she taught me and she seemed to spend more time ticking us off for not wearing the right length of socks or being seen in town with our blazers unfastened and having our berets stuffed in our pockets instead of on our heads than teaching.

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I think that’s why I took up science subjects instead.  The physics/chemistry teacher was a real nutty professor type, with untidy hair, remnants of his breakfast still on his tie and his jacket buttoned up wonky.  He was a plump middle aged eccentric, a piece of chalk permanently behind one ear, not afraid to perform very risky experiments in class and I worshipped him. 

This is almost certainly why I spent my whole life in male dominated activities, doing the stuff boys do and shunning the girls’ activities.  Making explosions in the lab was much more fun than learning how to sew or make macaroni cheese !!  Although I do love macaroni cheese.

(I suppose having vast numbers of male cousins in a village where there were hardly any girls of my age could also have something to do with it.  During the school holidays it was a case of go out and play cricket, climb trees and catch newts, or stay indoors by myself !!)

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There were lots of different levels to explore inside the château.  The lighting was designed to display the features of the building to their best advantage. and, like the outside, it was a photographer’s paradise.

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There was interesting furniture everywhere and lots of curiosities such as this model of a château near Paris.

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Then there was this shadow mobile.  I’m not sure of its purpose but I seem to remember it had a room all to itself, !!  It’s interesting how often we see things like this in France, but rarely in the UK I think.

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There were only a handful of adult visitors that day, including ourselves, and it was actually quite nice to hear the laughter of little children coming from another room somewhere in the château. They were very well behaved and the ambience of the place was such fun that hearing their chatter and giggles was just right.

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We have visited many French châteaux, ranging from the small and crumbling to the enormous and very grand, but this has to be one of my favourites so far.

A place to become thoroughly absorbed in its atmosphere and let your imagination wander.  A magical place and we were there midweek when there were no crowds, just a group of very happy and very lucky little children to share it with us.

20 comments:

  1. We also had the most boring history teacher ever and I hated history at school, now I find it interesting. We did though also have a terrible science teacher as well so that was also a no no. I stuck to geography (which has changed so much now!) and art. Love this post and what an interesting place to visit. Great photos. Diane x

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    1. Diane, history has great potential to be boring, just a list of dates and events, unless it is taught with enthusiasm, which is a shame.

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  2. It sounds and looks a truly magical place, Jean.

    BTW, I share your experience of the grammar school (in my case, a convent school) history teacher..

    Miss Green (Yes, complete with tweed skirt, twin set and pearls and only one step removed from a nun) was enough to put anyone off history for life, bless her!!

    I can still remember the texture of the tweed as she brushed past my desk but I remember nothing of the subject matter!

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    1. C&E, it would be worth a trip over from your place, you would love it. It hasn't got the size or impact of the big châteaux but it has plenty of character and charm.

      Our two misses could be sisters by the sound of it - probably both trained in the same methods of boring the students to death !!

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  3. What excellent photos to give a real sense of the place. I love that last door! I had the same experience of history education as you and now am completely fascinated by it. The shot of the kids running up the stairs is wonderful.

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    1. Mitchell, the little kids were very sweet and made good subjects for a photo.

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  4. I was extremely fortunate with my history teachers. I don't think I ever had one that didn't inspire me to learn more. It also helped that my parents were interested, too.

    This chateau is amazing, Jean. Definitely a good one to know about -- and how nice to hear that the staff were so friendly and helpful.

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    1. Broad, I hated all those dates and events and could never remember them in the right order !!

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  5. Your description of trying to stay ahead of the school children made me smile, because we did exactly that when we visited Amboise castle almost a month ago. Despite all our efforts some managed to catch up with us while we were going down the stairs, almost over-runnning and pushing us aside. Maybe I should visit the region in July or August when the little darlings are at the seaside with their parents ;).

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    1. Martine, unfortunately some of the little darlings stay inland to annoy the other tourists, in my experience !!

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  6. Thankfully, neither Niall or I had your experience with History teachers [now there's a surprise ;-)] and in my case I had a mother who was passionate about art history as well so I was spoon fed from an early age and have always loved it.

    Having read this post and seen your fab photos we're now champing at the bit to get a chance to go a visit it ourselves!

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    1. stunning!
      absolutely stunning

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    2. N&A, you should go asap, you would love it !!

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    3. John, it was indeed stunning.

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  7. Did you know that the layout of our vegetable garden was inspired by the kitchen garden at Fougères-sur-Bièvre? I'll bet you didn't!

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    1. Walt, funny you should mention that.....you're right, I didn't, but I bet I could see the resemblance now !!

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  8. The shadow mobile's been bugging me and I think I know why--looks very like the Disney/Buena Vista logo... Antoinette

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    1. Antoinette, you're dead right, it's almost exactly the same. I thought I had seen it somewhere before myself.

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  9. Super photos and a great post, Jean. I thought at first you meant the chateau at Fougeres in Brittany, which we keep promising ourselves we will visit one day, but a bit of googling put me right. :-) I loved history at school, having been lucky enough to have an excellent teacher, and still do.

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  10. re your last post; isn't that 'bird cage' really a 'Gloriette'. That's certainly what I'd call it.

    That pinnacle is fan-bloomin-tastic.

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