Sunday, May 23, 2010

La belle au bois dormant

Absolutely lovely day yesterday! My friend Laurent & I headed out in his mum's convertible (I felt very oh là là) to the Chateau d'Ussé, also known as the Chateau de la Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty!) This is because the French writer Perrault, the originator of lots of fairy tales like Cinderella, was inspired to write the story of Sleeping Beauty by his stay at the chateau. Talk about a fairy tale location in every way! The chateau is about an hour's drive from Tours, set in grounds near the forest of Chinon and the Indre, Loire, Cher and Vienne rivers.

The chateau is still owned by the nobility (um, yeah, there's still nobility in France, how does that work?) It was always the property of the Ducs de Blois, and I think it's still owned by the same family although I think the present Duc has a different title, can't quite remember. So yeah, not too sure how they managed to swing that with the Revolution, I'm presuming they lost it and got it back somehow when France went monarchical again.

Most of the rooms are filled with mannequins wearing costumes from the chateau's collection, which makes for some hilarious tableaux, especially since many of the mannequins had crazy makeup/facial expressions. There are also re-enactments of the Sleeping Beauty story, complete with annoying Disney music. One crazy French lady was obsessed with trying to remember the names of the three good fairies in the story - she asked me and Laurent once, talked about it loudly as we traipsed around the narrow passageways behind us, asked everyone else in earshot and then her husband asked me again in a different room... Don't think she ever did figure it out.

After seeing the chateau and gardens (we were probably there for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours), it got to closing time (7 pm and still warm and sunny) so we headed to Chinon, a nearby town that is just full of history. All the buildings are made out of the local chalk, so they're all white and pretty and pretty much all of them seem to date back centuries. It's amazing to me to think that people still live in buildings constructed in the 14th century... We were on a mission to drink rosé and eat merguez sausages (things you can do anywhere, but Laurent had a craving and that made me want them too. I love merguez), we accomplished the rosé (local AOC Chinon variety) but couldn't find merguez so settled for a charcuterie platter - French bread topped with local ham, which was pretty tasty even for me who doesn't like ham, brie, and rillettes de Tours (a kind of pork pâté, a speciality of the region). These were not all on the same slice of bread FYI. Everyone has been telling me I must try rillette, the speciality of Tours, and it was pretty nice. I'll take that over andouillette any day.

It was really nice sitting out in the main square eating and drinking and watching the world go by, great lifestyle! Today I felt really lucky to be here living in France. I hate when people go 'oh you're so lucky' because it wasn't one of Sleeping Beauty's fairy friends who gave me this opportunity, I made it happen for myself & there's a lot of other things you miss out on when you make these kind of choices (family & friends, money, stability etc. etc.) But you know, today I did feel very privileged to be here living in a place that so many people dream their whole lives about just getting the opportunity to visit. A perfect day!

PS photos in the post below (lots). And today is lovely as well, already midday I must get out, thinking picnic in the park. And I have Monday off as well, because apparently it used to be a public holiday and now it's not, but French people won't stand for that kind of nonsense, so we get the day off anyway, and it doesn't even come out of annual leave. Ah, this country! Although whose idea was it to put all the public holidays in May? Can't complain with this gorgeous weather, green countryside, everything in bloom and the smell of grass and flowers in the air :D

7 comments:

  1. Never mind the belle au bois - what's the trout fishing like in all those rivers?

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  2. Isn't there a song about andouillette - you know "andouillette, gentille andouillette, andouillette je te plumerai" etc....

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  3. Rubbish an alouette is a french helicopter

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  4. n alooette is a french helicopter

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  5. French Quiz! Which anteater helped the french in the hundred years war?

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  6. And the answer to the French Quiz is..............

    Joan Ardvark

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