January 2, 2014

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Happy New Year !!  I know I’m a day or so late and I have no excuses. 

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Not only that, but I am also about to show you pictures of Christmas decorations.

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However, these are not just any old Christmas decorations.  They’re at the Château de Chenonceau.  Our friends Jim and Pauline posted about them a few days ago and I felt compelled to go and have a look.  They’re on display until this coming weekend.  I suppose like everywhere else they’re taken down on twelfth night.

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I first visited the Loire in 1994, twenty years ago.  In all that time I have only been to Chenonceau twice before.  Three visits in twenty years isn’t a lot for somewhere so magical.

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On both of my previous visits I was completely blown away by the flower displays in all the rooms, so I knew the Christmas decorations would be amazing.  I can definitely say it was worth making the journey.

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It was also very good value for money.  At 11€ each to see the house and gardens it was a similar price as the fee to look round most châteaux, many of which have nowhere near as much to see.

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Every room was filled with the glorious perfume of fir trees and lilies.  The flower arrangements were huge, almost architectural, yet imaginative and tasteful in the extreme.

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We were lucky with the timing of our visit too.  It was not exactly deserted but relatively quiet when we arrived just about 1.15pm.  I imagine a lot of people were still having lunch ~ it was a Saturday.  On both my previous visits it was midsummer and heaving with visitors.

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We were able to wander round in relative comfort and with a little patience could get all the photos we wanted.  Just as we completed our tour of the château, what seemed like hundreds of visitors swarmed down the drive towards the house.  Several coachloads of oriental people had just arrived.

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While they piled into the house we wandered around the garden, having it almost (not quite) to ourselves.

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Chenonceau is one of those places where you never see everything first time round.  You would have to be there for hours to notice every detail, apart from the fact that if it’s busy you physically can’t get to see it anyway.  It’s stuffed full of little treasures such as this jelly mould, which was in one of my favourite rooms, the kitchen.

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In a lot of rooms there were real fires burning in the grate.  I can’t imagine ever seeing such a thing in say Chatsworth, or a National Trust property.  It must break many health and safety rules at once, but what a lovely touch it was on a cold winter’s day.

So, as I said, no excuses.  But plenty of reasons.  I’ve been busy enjoying our current stay in France!  I hope 2014 brings you lots of good times and good things.  Your visits to the blog and comments are very much appreciated.

17 comments:

  1. The displays are wonderful. We took some friends last Easter and the floral displays were eggcellent.... Sorry!

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  2. Those times when there are few others around are indeed magical. I get anxious and cranky when there are hoards of visitors, so I really appreciate those moments. Great shots! You seem to be getting the hang of the new camera. :)

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  3. Wow! The one on the pier table in the entry hall and the one on CdM's desk in her library weren't there when I last visited. They were just putting the main tree in the long gallery up when I was last there. The displays are always spectacular and it impresses me that they really push the boat out with the Christmas ones even though visitor numbers are so low you can be absolutely alone in every room.

    Re the fires: it's not so much the H&S that is a consideration, it's the heritage conservation. Fires are dirty and they change the temperature and relative humidity, which causes old object to crack or warp. Curators have to think long and hard before they do it. The reason you rarely see fires in NT houses is because the NT traditionally closes its houses during the winter so they can be cleaned and conserved. Spare a thought for all those conservators freezing the winter away doing delicate cleaning jobs so that the objects in the collections survive. The NT will light fires on special occasions and the punters love it. Chenonceau never closes and quite frankly I have no idea how they manage their conservation cleaning programme. Chenonceau also has an advantage over the NT in that very few objects in the collection have any provenance for the place. They are of the right quality and period, but have been purchased by the Menier family to dress the set. It's why they can do such extravagant flower arrangements too. The crude bottom line is that if a vase falls over and ruins the carved renaissance chest below it, or smoke damages a tapestry, it's sad, but its not a heritage disaster because it wasn't Catherine de Medici's chest or Diane de Poitiers' tapestry. The NT can't afford to take such risks as it is bound by act of parliament to care in perpetuity for collections which have always been in the houses and the objects are as important as the buildings. Perpetuity is an awfully long time.

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    1. Susan, that all makes sense. We are NT members and very much appreciate the care taken with our heritage.
      I know about the freezing temperatures as our neighbour is a volunteer at Hardwick Hall. She and her colleagues work incredibly hard all through the winter and occasionally they have dress-up days for themed visits - she dreads those as she has trouble getting her thermals on under the costume!

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  4. Jean, in France it is bad form to wish somebody a Bonne Année before January 1 has dawned. And politesse says you have until the end of January to make your rounds and express your meilleurs vœux to everybody. So you are right on schedule from a French point of view — or even early! Happy New Year to you and Nick and thanks for everything.

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  5. Ken, in GP everyone seems to wish everyone else a "Bonne Fin d'Année" for the whole week after Christmas... very many times!!

    Love the pix Jean... especially the teddies!

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  6. The Christmas decorations in our local store, including all the painted windows, stayed put until after Easter last year so I am not sure about 12th night!! Lovely photos and Bonne Année, Diane and Nigel.

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  7. What wonderful displays! That must be a full-time job just doing the designs, ordering the materials, you'd have to be part artist, part quantity surveyor. The teddies and lilies are amazing - which way round would they do it, match the ribbons to the lilies or the lilies to the ribbons? P.

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  8. Happy New Year to you, Nick and Lulu! The photos are stunning!! But I bet the real thing was even better. Glad to hear you had a fun time and enjoyed your New Year's Eve in the company of good friends. Hope we can meet up soon ... Martine

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  9. Super photos - what a great display. We went a couple of Christmases ago taking my niece who was over from the US and we all thought it was fabulous!

    Like you we loved the fact that it was quiet, was beautifully 'dressed', had open fires and, as the icing on the cake, you could take photos without the hordes. :-)

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  10. We had a fantastic time here a number of years ago. In fact it must have been more than ten years ago...and we still talk about it.

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  11. Such a beautiful "little" place! Thanks for sharing the photos. Wishing you a very happy new year!

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  12. @Tim, what French people say before Christmas until Jan. 1 dawns is "Bonnes fêtes" or "Bonnes fêtes de fin d'année" -- not "Bonne Année" which means "have a great year" and you can say that only after the new year has started, not before. I know, it sounds too nit-picky, but c'est comme ça. Bonne Année !

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    1. Ken, I now realise that is exactly what I have heard French people say. I didn't quite pick up on it before. We regularly make mistakes like this in our conversations with Mme André but she is too polite to point them out!
      I shall try to remember the difference for next Christmas!

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  13. I hope your 2014 is splendid, and the best one yet !

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  14. We visited this chateau once but had our dog with us so couldn't look inside the house. The grounds were lovely though. Thanks for bringing back the memory of what was a lovely day out. Vx

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  15. What a lovely look around th Château. Quite astounding that people could and did live there.

    Best wishes for 2014. Blessings and Bear hugs, too!

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