Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our visit to Chinon

Today we have an entry by Rebecca for your reading pleasure!

Having talked and planned this visit for several weeks, we set out bright and early this morning to visit the fortress of Chinon, carefully bagging little Céline as we went by her house.

It was not long before we arrived.  The town in itself is worth the trip as there is a medieval part which is dominated by the fortress looming overhead.  It is called, in fact, the « flower of the garden of France » — the « garden » being the Touraine region, just south of where we live.

One of Chinon's greatest claims to fame is definitely Joan of Arc (« Jeanne d'Arc »).  Now let me tell you the story...

« There was once a king of France (Charles VI) who was insane.  His charming wife, Isabeau de Bavière, thereupon assumed the regency and invited a well-to-do friend of hers to help her govern.  The two of them conspired together and signed a treaty which stated that at the death of Charles VI, the throne of France would be handed over to the King of England.

Unfortunately for him, this Queen had a son, also named Charles and his mother's betrayal of him left him quite depleted of any hopes to the throne.  In due time, of course, the king died and the English came down upon Paris to take over their rightful power.

But there was a girl in France who would not have it this way.  Young Joan, a little shepherd girl, feeling led by God, set out to stop it.  She rode to Chinon, where the French prince was staying, and managed to get a private interview with him.

To this day nobody knows what she told him exactly, but she apparently convinced him of her mission.  Taking his soldiers, she then broke through the British lines at Orléans, and pressed on to Rheims.  There, according to the custom (French kings were always crowned at Rheims), the dauphin became, thanks to her, Charles VII.

There is to this day an expression in French which apparently dates from Joan's time : « bouter les Anglais hors de la France », i.e. To kick the English out of France. »

Back to our visit: The weather was beautiful!  There wasn't very much indoor castle left to see (much of it having fallen to ruins at some point during the past thousand years of its existence), and what there was were simply bare rooms (since nobility always travelled with all their belongings, including wall-hangings tapestries, beds, furniture, carpets, etc.).

But it was still very pleasant to roam in, up the winding stairs of stone towers, to inspect the enormous fire-places that you could easily walk into, to explore all the little nooks and crannies, the little passage-ways into small, hidden rooms where we could easily imagine a plot, a treasure or a gentle lady doing embroidery while waiting for a certain knight in shining armour!

We went down into the dungeon—the very creepiest I had ever been in.  It seemed to go down for ever and ever.  There was a mysterious pit about half-way down, and we never did see the end of it because it was blocked up by a gate.  We explored the tower that Joan of Arc slept in while she was at the castle, the big moats and the small bridges that crossed to them.

There was an animation about mid-afternoon for the children, re-enacting part of the castle's history, and very fun it was indeed.

But the most interesting thought for me about this place was that it had been the home for a time of Richard Cœur-de-Lion Plantagenet and of his family, probably my very favourite of English kings—at least the most exciting!

 Luckily Dad had his camera handy and was able to catch a picture of Richard Cœur-de-Lion and his young mother Aliénor d'Aquitaine!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Château de Beauregard

This morning, while reading my email before breakfast, I ran across an advertisement for  a place I'd never heard of before: The Château and Park of Beauregard.

Claire was with me so we quickly checked an online map and found that we could be there in an hour.  Since it was Wednesday (often a quiet day in July) I decided right on the spot to make it the object of a day-trip.

We got the others up with this proposition, which was enthusiastically received, and by eight-thirty we were ready to go and we were the first ones in the gates when the place opened at ten.

Claire and Rebecca are going to pick up the story and tell you all about it.

The castle of Beauregard is near Blois, not very far from here, so we suddenly decided to go there for an all-day trip today the 27th.  It's not a very big castle, but it's surrounded by 40 hectares of gardens, with woods, and sweet little benches and portraits of diverse kings and queens of France.

The castle used to be U-shaped but as one side was falling into ruins, it was demolished to avoid it falling on the owners' heads.  It is now L-shaped, and you can only visit about half of it since the rest is lived in.

The first room we visited was a small, square antechamber.  Against one of the walls was a big and imposing cupboard out of wood, sculpted all over, of course.  In one corner was a statue of Saint George finishing off the dragon with his lance, and in another corner was a most beautiful grandfather clock.

This year, it's turning three hundred years old.  It tells the hours, the minutes and the seconds as well as the day of the week, the month and the day of the month.  It used to tell the phases of the moon too, but that part broke down.  I must say, to the honour of the Dutch that it was made in Holland.  On the front of the clock is an image of the port of Amsterdam, and the boats sway back and forth with the pendulum.

But what really dominates this room by its high position and its imposing size, is an enormous bone.  It looks like it comes from a dinosaur or a mammoth, but it's actually the jaw-bone of a whale.  It's hanging from the ceiling between St George and the clock.

The next room we visited was a long beautiful room with very old furniture in it amongst which was a large oaken cupboard, sculpted all over with no knobs or handles to open it.  This is where the kings used hide precious documents because an enemy would not know how to open it.  The guide showed us the secret: on each of the two drawers was a sculpted little angel making a sour face.  To pull out the drawer, you have to push on their tongue.  There are similar devices for the four little closet doors.

We then entered into a little room that had been built a long time ago for one of the owners to work in.  All the walls are covered in wood and there is a secret passage way that could take this man directly to his bedroom.

But the room that interested Becky and I the most, by far the most, was the next one we visited.  It is a long gallery, 26 meters long and 6 wide with all four walls covered in portraits of kings, queens and important people from Philippe VI de Valois (1328) to Louis XIII (1610).

This portrait gallery was designed by one of the former owners of the castle, whose name was Paul Ardier.  After having served under three kings (Charles IX, Henri IV and Louis XIII), he finally retired in this castle at the ripe old age of 73.
As he was fascinated with history and probably had more money than he knew what to do with, he designed this room with 327 portraits in it!

He had the floor tiled with "faïence de Delft", little white square tiles with paintings done in blue by hand by the Dutch.  On each tile is a soldier, so the whole room made an army.
Paul Ardier, knowing how fragile these porcelain tiles were and how easily they could break, had them made a lot thicker and ordered two times more than he needed, so that he could replace them if they broke.

The ceiling is even more impressive being painted in all sorts of motifs, the dominant colour of which is blue.  It has never been restored because of the material used to make the blue paint.  Paul Ardier, in his love of luxury, used lapis lazuri, a precious blue stone worth seven times more than gold.  He needed three kilogrammes of it to paint the ceiling.

In this room, which took 60 years to make — and which Paul Ardier never saw completed, since he died at 93 — all the portraits are arranged in chronological order of when each person lived, from 1328 to 1610.  The kings of France are always at the top, just underneath the ceiling, and underneath and next to them are their wives or other important people of their time.  This was our favourite room.

Last of all we went to the kitchen. It is quite a big room with stone walls, a stone floor and a stone ceiling to avoid fires.  There are two fireplaces and a sink, that is, a stone basin with a hole in the bottom.  In the middle is a big table with lots of things on it, and hanging along one of the walls is a whole array of copper saucepans of all sizes.  This kitchen was still in use till 1969.

After having visited the whole castle, we went to eat lunch.  They had a restaurant at the castle, in the room where they used to store wood for the fireplace.  We sat outside under a parasol and got some salads and sandwiches and drank a bottle of ice-cold, locally-produced rosé wine.
At the top of this entry are our tickets and a card Dad picked up with the wine.  After lunch, Becky and I went back in to look at our favourite room while the boys messed around and rented bikes.  We left at around four o'clock and arrived home at five thirty, after a very enjoyable day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pray for Libya

I just got this newsletter which sums up my own feelings so well.

July 19, 2011 Western powers and certainly Western media are working overtime to suppress the fact that Libyans themselves do not share this view of their leader. . . are Libyans showing their support?  To NATO?  Certainly not: this is Libya on the ground. . . the question of being "pro-Gadhafi" or "anti-Gadhafi" is irrelevant when it comes to supporting Libya and Libyans, and to understanding what these NATO missions are accomplishing is the personification of cruelty, injustice and ultimate greed: "Libya is a Rich Man's War!"

"Humanitarian war" is an oxymoron of the utmost proportions.  Western military and imperial powers need to stop playing their high-stakes PR game of "monkey-in-the-middle," pitting themselves as self-appointed "saviours" to the Libyan people against their heavily propagandised version of Gaddafi as the universal "evil-doer". . . Full story:

Comment: For the International Criminal Court, whose "arrest warrant" for Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi was soundly rejected by the 53-member African Union, their last shred of self-proclaimed credibility has been rendered moot! Colonel Gadaffi is a noble servant loved by his people.  The alien-controlled US government on the other hand is ignoble, and the apostate (once) Protestant United States is the image to the Judaeo-Catholic beast that will kill all who refuse to serve or receive Rome's trinitarian doctrine which is the "mark of the beast" (Revelation 13:15-18).  As Plato said, "One of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors".

I have no further comment to this but think that his advice to "pray for Libya" is good and all we can do for now.

God help us all, what have "Christian" nations become!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to bring up girls

Here's a shot Raph, always good for a laugh, took of little Caroline last Sunday.

Friday, July 01, 2011


Raph writes, "For David's seventh birthday, we biked down to Cap Ferret and found this lovely little restaurant right on the port overlooking the Dune du Pilat."