August 14, 2014

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

one of those days

Thursday was one of those days, a day when things didn’t turn out quite as we expected.   

It was threatening to rain so we thought we’d head down to the Brenne and take a look at a château we had not seen before.  I had picked up a leaflet about it somewhere.

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The château is called Le Bouchet and it’s near Rosnay which is not far from Martizay.  We had never been there before so off we set.

There was a small bistro in the village square at Rosnay so we thought we might as well stop for lunch, it being by now about 12.30 and according to the leaflet the château closed for lunch between 12 and 2pm.

The menu in the window listed several things we fancied but once inside it was obvious that it was “menu du jour” or nothing.  This consisted of salad du chef, cuisse de canard with frites or haricots verts, followed by chocolat fondant or ice cream.  The frites were good – big fat ones rather like home-made chips.  The duck was fairly crozzled but tasty and all in all it was pretty good for 12€ each including a glass of wine.

While we were inside having lunch the heavens opened and it absolutely tipped it down for about twenty minutes.  We wondered about abandoning our trip but by the time we were ready to leave the sun came out so we decided to carry on to the château.

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Now I wonder how often you have seen a crayfish crossing the road?  Personally it was my first time.  Nick spotted it and we got out of the car to have a closer look and take its picture.  It didn’t seem too keen but we took it anyway.  It seemed to have climbed out of a stream by the roadside and was walking across the road, backwards.

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The next thing we encountered was the Red Sea.  I bet you didn’t know there was a red sea in the middle of France but there is.  A lake called “La Mer Rouge” was on our way to the château so we stopped to take a look.  The earth around and about was definitely reddish, with a red/brown coloured rock everywhere.

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It was a pretty spot and we thought we could go back one day with Lulu for a nice long walk along the path around the lake.  It was just beginning to rain again so we dashed back to the car and continued onwards to the château.

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We hesitated at the gate when we saw that it was a “visite guidée”.  We have had so many bad experiences of guided tours but we thought that as we’d come all this way and it was a wet Thursday afternoon how bad could it be?  There didn’t seem to be many people about so we thought we might fare better in a smaller group.

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The château is built partly from the same red rock as was in the ground around the lake.  We had been told to wait in the courtyard for the guide to collect us for the next tour and I have to say the place did not look at all appealing.  I thought it could easily be used in a film set as an old prisoner of war camp and wondered if in fact it had been used as a military hospital or German base.  We had seen several others in France that had, Allo Allo fashion.

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We could hear voices coming from inside as we waited outside – the people on the previous tour were asking lots of questions.  I was reminded of other guided tours in other châteaux and wished we could just go round by ourselves!

There were some wasps buzzing around – horrible, huge and nasty wasps that kept swooping and diving around us, like fighter planes.  A few more visitors turned up and it started to rain again.  Then it thundered and the rain pelted down.  We took shelter under an archway with two elderly ladies and the rest of the visitors crammed into an open doorway.  The wasps followed us into our little shelter and the two ladies fended them off with their umbrellas! 

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As the previous tour finally emerged from inside the sun miraculously came out and the château looked much less intimidating in the sunshine.  There were nine people on the tour.  Five French, two Austrian ladies and us.  As soon as the guide mentioned there being English in the group one of the French ladies immediately piped up that she could help with translation, which was very helpful indeed since the Austrian pair could only understand English and no French at all.

The guide began his talk in the courtyard and the skies clouded over.  It began to rain again.  I thought this might put him off and he would cut short his introduction but no, on he went!  As the umbrellas came out and people shivered he continued to point out the interesting features in the walls and give little stories and anecdotes about the château’s past.  We were desperate to get indoors, out of the rain!

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In the event we probably understood more of the guide’s French and than of the French lady’s translation.  It was immensely kind of her to do this but we then had to interpret her translation and pass it on to the two Austrians, so that at each point in the tour we were about five minutes behind the guide in his talk.

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The château was a strange mixture of twentieth century domesticity and medieval history.  It being a dull, wet day it was extremely dim and gloomy inside and the guide didn’t put any of the lights on.  I wondered if he simply forgot, or if they didn’t work, or if he’d been told not to in order to save on electricity.  The gloom, the threadbare carpets and dusty furniture gave the château an air of frugal and everyday use, so different from the glitz and glamour of the more popular châteaux of the Loire.

This had nothing like the affluence and extravagance of say Chenonceau or Chaumont, or the chic mediaeval style and clever displays of Montsoreau or Fougères.  Yet in a way I rather liked it.  It was like being shown round someone’s house – someone who had just left the room but hadn’t dusted for a while. 

We were ushered into what was called the trophy room.  There were stuffed birds and animals everywhere, the heads of wild boar and deer hung on the walls along with dozens of deer’s feet.  Portraits of previous occupants of the château stared down at us.

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The gallery was much lighter and brighter and there were modern paintings display on the walls, all quite jolly and with price labels on.  They were of hunting and horse racing scenes.  It was nice to be in an airy and cheerful room again.  I can only stand so many stuffed birds and animals!

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Next we were advised to retrieve our umbrellas and we stepped out onto the terrace.  As the rain poured down and the guide explained at great length the view and how many departments you could see from the terrace – none of which were visible today – I looked at Nick, he looked at me and we laughed.  We wondered what on earth we were doing there, in the pouring rain, with the stuffed animals, the guide with his unfeasibly huge umbrella and the lady doing the translation clinging to him under it for shelter.  The group were a cheerful lot but after another soaking I could see that their enthusiasm was wearing a bit thin.

The next part of the tour was to splash though the puddles in the courtyard, through the entrance with the broken door and up the steps in the tower.  I thought I had heard the guide say there were sixty something steps when we started the tour outside.  We declined.  We’d had enough.  So we made our excuses, thanked the French lady, said goodbye to the rest of the party and slid away.  As we walked down the drive there was a shout coming from above and we looked up to see the two Austrian ladies waving at us from a window high up.  “We’re in the tower!” they shouted.  “Good for you” I thought!

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As we arrived at the car park the rain stopped and the sun came out.  We caught up the two old ladies who had also had enough and left before us.  

In the next village we stopped the car again to take the picture of a goat standing on a wall.  It had definitely been one of those days!

18 comments:

  1. Aargh! It's an American Signal Crayfish! Kill it! Aargh! Delicious with Rocket!

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    1. Pauline, I doubt it got across the road safely, I expect someone else ran over it. There were several more in the shallow stream and I didn't know they could breathe air, not that I've ever thought about that before.

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  2. Sigh. What an un-exciting day. Sorry you didn't get a better tour.

    Oh, wait. This wasn't one of the places you were thinking of buying, is it?

    Blessings and Bear hugs.

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  3. Better luck tomorrow! We know the chateau but not that it's possible to visit. We won't be in a rush to discover more, either.

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    1. Gaynor, on a fine day it's probably quite appealing. The rain and the gloom did it no favours.
      It's always nice to have a nosey round these places and probably more so the ones that are recently or still lived in. You get a better impression of what it's like to own a crumbling old building.
      So I would actually recommend it. And it wasn't expensive, 5€ each.

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  4. Of course, it would be worth buying...
    all those rooms to do up...
    the wonderful views...
    carp frites every day at the Maison du Parc just next door...
    Red-Clawed Crayfish that you could fish and eat with impunity...
    [still trying to find a recipe for impunity....]
    lovely....
    ....
    ....
    hold on...
    you'd need to win the Lottery five times just for the upkeep....
    and another five for the renovations....
    perhaps not?!!

    The crayfish, as Pauline says, is an alien pest and is killing the native White-clawed...
    needs to be killed and eaten...
    The "Mer Rouge" is the place where Susan gets pix of exciting things like Night Herons....
    and all we see are Chocolate-headed Landgulls and perhaps a couple of Great-crested Grebes....
    The Maison du Parc is where we go to eat Carp Fries with a peppery Fromage frais dip....
    and the ice creams!!
    The red stone is Carr Stone and is the same carr stone as that which comes out in West Norfolk and is used for building around Kings Lynn and Sandringham...
    We are the other side of that ancient sea.

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    1. Tim, thanks for all that.
      It's a lovely area, right on our doorstep, that we've never explored before.

      I do fantasise about owning and doing up a château. If I ever win Euromillions I will look for one just like this. It reminded me of the château at La Celle-Geunand, which we were lucky to see inside when it was for sale. The cost of renovating and keeping these places going is beyond my imagination, so credit to the owners of La Bouchet for letting the public see it.

      If I did win the lottery, the first thing I would buy is the other side of the Rue du Four Banal in Le Grand-Pressigny. One side has been renovated while the other, with the lovely tower, is gradually crumbling away, which is a tragedy. On the good side of the street one of the residents is making a fabulous job of renovating a house. It's lovely to see it evolve.

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    2. My recommendation... keeep bleeeedin' fantasisin'!!!
      I wasn'y joshin' when I said you needed to win the lottery twice!

      And I agree about the Rue du Five Bananas... that house is beginning to look just the ticket...
      you never know, it might be just the push that gets other people doing the same thing?!

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  5. "...someone who had just left the room but hadn’t dusted for a while." You could have been at my place! :)

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    1. Walt, they hadn't dusted for much, much longer than that!

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  6. Brave little crayfish! Hope he made it safely to the other side of the road. I' putting this castle on my to-see-list, with a special mention to visit it on a sunny day ;)

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  7. LOL! Your road crossing crayfish made me smile.

    We've seen the chateau from a distance but like Gaynor, didn't know you could visit it. The thought of the cost of restoring and then maintaining a building like that would give me nightmares!

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  8. I quite enjoyed your guided tour. I too have visited La Mer Rouge and have seen the château from afar. That was good enough for me. As for the crawdad, with just one you'd not have much to pinch and suck on. You'd need a bigger mess of them.

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  9. At least you could say it was a varied day out, Jean. :-) I rather like looking round stately homes that aren't National Trust neat, so I think I would have enjoyed this tour of a dusty, but lived-in, chateau. Now don't tell me it's given you ideas for your house search...

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  10. I enjoyed your tour, perhaps more than you did.

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  11. Sounds like an adventure! Bon weekend

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  12. This Chateau was once the property of the Duke of Mortemart the father of Madame de Montespan the mistress of Louis XIV, she visited quite often in those days, looks like it has gone through a lot of neglect since.

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    1. Laurent, there was very little of any former grandeur left and it was rather a sad place.
      I got the impression the current owners were fighting a tough battle with the cost of upkeep.

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