Easter Sunday in Château country

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It hardly seems like a year ago that we got the keys to Closerie Falaiseau, our 400-year-old Renaissance house in Blois in the Loire Valley. We decided to take the weekend off and visit some more châteaux. We thought that if we went to Azay-le-Rideau around noon on Sunday, there wouldn’t be many people. Well, that was a big mistake!

Front entrance to Azay-le-Rideau on Easter Sundy

Front entrance to Azay-le-Rideau on Easter Sundy

It turned out there was an Easter egg hunt for the kids. In France, there is no Easter bunny – the church bells bring the eggs. I’m not sure how they are then supposed to get hidden in the château and gardens but the kids were obviously keen. The whole family seemed to be there, including all the grandparents and great aunts, which didn’t make it easy to take photos, to my great regret.

Reconstruction of Renaissance bed at Azay-le-Rideau

Reconstruction of Renaissance bed at Azay-le-Rideau

I’ll write another post on the château itself but would just like to say that there is the most wonderful exhibition in one of the bedrooms. A Renaissance bed and its covers and trimmings have been reconstructed, based on paintings of the time and using traditional methods. The walls are covered in braided rushes and a video explains how all the different elements were made. Fascinating!

Orangery restaurant at Azay-le-Rideau

Orangery restaurant at Azay-le-Rideau

We had a little trouble finding somewhere to eat afterwards because everyone else seemed to be on the same timetable as us! We finally found a pizzeria cum brasserie doing a brisk business and had the set menu (entree + main course) at 13 euros. Nothing remarkable but quite edible with an unlimited buffet entree. The Orangerie in the château grounds offers salads and an amazing variety of quiches for 7 or 8 euro but the room is entirely open with no heating and at 4°C, we were not tempted. I’m sure it’s wonderful in summer though.

Brocante at Azay-le-Rideau

Brocante at Azay-le-Rideau

I had seen a sign saying brocante but we could see not sign of it. We went to the tourist office and were directed towards the river. It was in a lovely setting and the sun was out. We wandered around looking for a metal bucket for our fireplace ashes. We happened across two old engravings of Blois at 25 euros a piece that Jean Michel got for 40 euros for the two. I then proceeded to drop the bag containing the framed engravings but fortunately it didn’t break!

Sellers at Azay brocante on the 5th Sunday of the month

Sellers at Azay brocante on the 5th Sunday of the month

We found a copper bucket and also some wide lace sold by the metre to use as a table runner. The sellers were very friendly and explained that the brocante is held in Azay on the 5th Sunday of the month, which works out to about 3 times a year. They also go to the one in Blois on the 2nd Sunday of the month that we went to last Easter Sunday. I had actually seen the lace the last time we were here in March.

Suspension bridge over the Loire in Langeais, built in 1849

Suspension bridge over the Loire in Langeais, built in 1849

After debating about whether or not to visit Château de Langeais because of the possible crowds we decided to at least go and take photos of the outside since there was such brilliant sun. After crossing the suspension bridge over the Loire, built in 1849 and rebuilt no less than 4 times, we drove straight to the parking lot we knew from our previous visits and there didn’t seem too many people. When we got to the front of the château, we checked that our favourite tea room/pâtisserie was open and were distracted by loud laughter.

Innocant le Bel at Château de Langeais

Innocant le Bel at Château de Langeais

In front of the castle keep was a guard in full mediaeval regalia – codpiece and all. I called out and asked him if he was real. After being reassured that he was not a wax model, we mounted the steps and Innocent le Bel explained, in mediaeval French (well, more or less) that there was a special event going on the castle – the wedding of a young lady called Raoulette and a man whom she had never seen, chosen by her upwardly mobile parents for his wealth.

Wedding party at Château de Langeais

Wedding party at Château de Langeais

Inside, other actors were interacting with the public and we were able to watch the wedding ceremony and reading of the marriage contract. After seeing the portrait of her new husband after the ceremony, Raoulette burst into tears and stormed off. We came across her later on in an upstairs bedroom, where her mother was trying to explain to some young visitors why Rahoulette couldn’t choose her own husband!

La Maison de Rabelais in Langeais

La Maison de Rabelais in Langeais

After a stroll around the grounds, we finished off the visit in Langeais at La Maison de Rabelais with some excellent pâtisseries that had far too many calories. Oh well, we don’t go there often …

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7 Responses to Easter Sunday in Château country

  1. Susan Walter says:

    Isn’t the Philippe Lesbahy bedroom fabulous?! We took clients there the other day — I meant to tell you about it and forgot. I had no idea it was going to be this fab. I knew the bed was off being restored, but assumed it would just reappear with hangings in due course. I thought the explanation of their sources for the reconstruction were excellent. In my job in heritage conservation in the UK I had a rush mat maker on my list of suppliers, so I was able to tell the clients quite a lot about it.

    I don’t think Innocent’s nether regional arrangement qualifies as a codpiece, btw. It’s a flap on his hose that he can lower when necessary. There may be an equivalent at the back — medieval working class and artisanal men were famous for going around with their back flap undone — yes, builder’s crack is that old a concept! I’ve seen the inside of slightly later breeches, and the area that the genitalia sits in is padded, just like modern cycling pants. You could still see the imprint of the testicles on the ones I saw 🙂 Innocent looks fantastically authentic, I love it!

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      When you didn’t mention Philippe Lesbahy’s bedroom, I assumed you musn’t have see it. It’s truly the best thing I’ve seen in a château for a long time!

      I didn’t realise that codpiece was such a specialised term! Braguette isn’t nearly as specific. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t have a flap at the back. He was a wonderful actor. We had the most enlightening discussion with him.

  2. Antoinette says:

    Susan’s right; also often codpieces were far more elaborate padded affairs and could be OTT [think Henry VIII, 16th cent] . An ‘ordinary’ guy’s everyday wear at the time of Langeais [late 15th] would be hose with flap such as the ones this chap has.

    BTW by the 16th cent they even had armoured versions as add-ons to the the suits of armour worn –some had wee faces!

    Love the way they did the whole “marriage”. What a great way to ‘feed’ history to kids.

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      I’ve seen the armoured ones. You and Susan are certainly experts in the field!

      It was extremely well done. The actors were excellent and ad libbed wonderfully. It was most entertaining. There are also treehouses in the grounds as well as the mediaeval scaffolding. All the kids certainly seemed to be having a great time.

  3. Pingback: Château d’Azay-le-Rideau | Aussie in France

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