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.

1 comment:

  1. I can't even start to tell you how green with envy I am that you should be blessed to have something like this within an hour from your house. Europe is amazing. thanks for the vivid description - in a small way I feel like I was there too!