Monday, July 4, 2011

The fast path across France.

On Sunday morning, we left Le Pigeonnier with Jackie and Des waving goodbye from the door of the manor.  Our plan was to get going early enough to get to Chinon and then be able to see the fortress there, eat dinner and then go on to the chateau at Azay le Rideau to see the sound and light show that would start after 10p.  As usual, adjustments were made by a committee vote.  

Photos from the road:

We hit town about 2:45, ate some lunch and headed for the fortress.  The fortress was situated high on the rock outcropping above the town and the river and commanded a sweeping view in all directions.

It was occupied from roughly 900 to the early 1400's when royalty decided that they didn't need to live in draughty old stone castles and started building chateaux like Versailles and Fontainebleu.  The site had 3 different stages of building, each one introducing whatever new developments had occurred in that time period. Most noticeable was the style of defensive loupe or keyhole openings in the window towers.  The early ones had a niche in the wall in which the archer stood.  Think of a V shape opening in a 6' thick wall.  The opening on the outside was about 6' wide and the legs of the V opened out from that point.  It really meant that the archer was wedged into neck of the V with a small range of motion or coverage.  With the later ones, the walls were less thick so the archer stood at the opening, allowing for more range of motion at the opening slit.  

As you can see from the pictures, not much of the original buildings are left on the site.  The French revolution caused the first round of damage and after that the site was pillaged for building materials in the 19th century.  UNESCO named this a world heritage site a while back and they have reconstructed the dwelling that was used in the 12th - 15th centuries.  For some odd reason, I don't have a picture of this.  We had a one hour walking tour in English so I must have been distracted by this.

About the time of Henry II (portrayed in "Lion in Winter" by Peter O'Toole, they built new cook house that was housed in a horseshoe shaped tower across the compound.   I was thinking that the food didn't arrive piping hot in the winter.  

Henry II was king of the northwest quadrant of France and became the Duke of Acquitane when he married Eleanor of Acquitane after the King of France divorced her for adultery. Then the King of England died and he acquired the English throne though his mother's line.  He made his home base at Chinon and travelled to England as needed.  

This was the period of time when England had it's largest holdings on the continent.  It didn't last long though.  His son, Richard the Lionhearted went off to fight in the Crusades leaving his brother Prince John in charge.  The French King took advantage of this and began picking off pieces of England's territory resulting in the Hundred years war.  Read more about it here if you are interested. 

Our plan unfolded pretty well until we were at the end of the fortress tour and we were pretty tired.  We decided that we would eat dinner, pass on the sound and light show and then go to bed early so that we could get an early start and visit the chateau of Chenonceaux before we left the Loire valley.  These pictures were taken walking through the little medieval town of Chinon before and after dinner.

Interesting artwork seen in a gallery window.
So, if the mailman can't read Roman numerals, you don't get your mail.
Can't remember if this was a handle or a door knocker.
This sign politely asks us to refrain from putting advertisements in their mailbox.  I saw quite a few of these.  You have to wonder 1) if they work and 2) would this work back at home?

After sitting and having some wine in what we thought was a brasserie, we discovered that they stop serving food after 12 noon on Sundays.  So we popped right over to the pizza restaurant next door and had a very nice meal.  I have discovered pear sorbet.  It is absolutely wonderful.  I'm going to have to find a recipe and make that at home.  Hayley went all out and got the banana split after dinner and she says it was gooood.

Step Count for today: 8,743
Cost for a gallon of gas: $5.86  (what a bargain)

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