Thursday, September 24, 2009

The nitty gritty on the castles in France..

So, this should be the last post on France (maybe). O.K. give me a break. I don't get out much, and the glory of it needs to last beyond one week, don't you think? So, here we are in France. I'm going to give you a tour of our castles that I did not report on yet.

Welcome to the inside of the L'abbey de Fontenay. It was about an hour northeast of Dijon, France. The above link will give you more information than I can give you hear, but you may find it a bit sterile, compared to my antics. This is the oldest castle on our tour, apx. 1000 A.D.

The mechanical devices used for sharpening (above) and the forge (below) were some of Will's favorite things. The forge was a self-sustaining perpetual motion machine with the assistance of
several long poles connected to a huge
waterwheel on the outside. Great use of natural resources and mechanical genius!
When I shot a picture of the waterwheel, I wanted the back drop of those beautiful colored vines and the actual waterfall. Will's picture is above. Mine is below. Same scenery. Different views.

Instead of there being a huge building with fancy turrets adorning it, the abbey is more like a compound of buildings, each serving their specific purposes.

This tree impressed me. The only other tree that I've ever seen that is this old is the "Charter Oak" in Connecticut. Now, if I think about it, this tree is fairly young compared to the abbey. They have it dated for the year: 1726 (I think).
The inside of the abbey is fairly well preserved and lit by natural light.
This may have to be a painting or a quilt..

And this is the last picture from the Abbey. I love the gradient of colored leaves on the outside of the last building. The car in front tells the real story of why this particular site was a bit of a disappointment. It's not that the castle wasn't beautiful; it was. It's just that it has been taken over by private ownership. That day there was a very fancy (think Paris) wedding going on--complete with expensive cars, skinny women in high fashion couture, men in expensive suits and polished shoes. In a way, it was a taste of what people think of when they think of France. They are thinking of Paris, actually.
I was so intrigued by the beauty of the natural foliage, that I did not even notice all of this other stuff in my picture. What would you have noticed if you were there?

The next castle on the scene is my favorite castle: Chateau de Bussy Rabutin. It was also northeast of Dijon, in the general direction of the Abbey. All of these castles close at 6:00 p.m., so you can do both in one day, if you plan well.

I love this castle because it totally reminds me of what I think of when I think "castle" and it has not been overly commercialized. In fact, the funny thing about all of this "castle hunting"
is that these huge structures are literally "hidden" in plain view. As we were driving down dusty roads, following small (very small) signs to find what looks from the picture to be this ENORMOUS structure, and we drive right up to where the sign says to park, and I think "this is not it... there is no way that there's a castle here"
And so I surmised that we drove all this way, we might as well see whatever is here, even if it's not a huge castle. So, we come up to a gate that is locked because.. of course... we can not (no way jose') have the castle OPEN when it is LUNCHTIME! You uncultured, Americans!! You who wolf down a subway sandwich and call it "lunch"!! So, we were forced (for lack of a better word) to eat lunch because everyone else was doing it, and there was nothing else to do.
How much cheese can a couple eat anyway? So, they finally opened the gate and let the straggling tourists in (all ten? of us) and out pops this HUGE and I mean HUGE thing.
I still don't get it. They hide these things so well, that I'm not sure what makes them more impressive: the fact that they are completely hidden or that they really are that fabulous. Either way, there should be a lesson in there somewhere. If I were Mrs. P, I'd be making an analogy of modesty and keeping good things well hidden. But for now, I'll let the high brow philosophers pontificate on that subject.
As for me, all I can think of is that many paintings inside the rooms of this castle and how they showed the man who owned the castle (Rabutin) and his scandalous stories of women involved etc. Now, I'm not one to laugh at scandal, but I couldn't help think that all of the men had the exact same features of what I've seen King Louis IVX having, and all of the women looking exactly like Queen Elizabeth I. The paintings were extremely detailed in their ability to capture the fiber content of the dresses, and the flowing patterns of silk or velvet. All of the hairstyles were different, but the faces were the same across the board. Often some of the women had very broad shoulders and a stout man-like body, which lends me to believe that renaissance artists were short on female models in this castle.

When people visit museums and castles, I know they always feel obligated to say something snooty tooty and erudite. I always wish I could spout off facts about art history at this point, but no.. I had to let it go..

So, after gazing for a long time at this painting of a manly looking Queen Elizabeth I, I said, "It looks like she could bench press 200".. that caught the attention of an older English gentleman who laughed hysterically. He turned out to be a friend and our photographer for the rest of the tour.

The next castle was also "hidden in plain view". It was the Hotel Dieu or Hospices de Beaune. It was located in Beaune, about a half an hour south of Dijon. If you read this post, we saw this after we enjoyed all of the countryside of the Bourgonge (Burgundy) area.
The unique roofing tiles gives this its reputation. It was a hospital for the sick during the middle ages.
So, here ends the tour of our castle exploration in France.

My other posts about France:

about getting to France (the comments are worth reading on this post)

Thanks for coming along for the tour. I'm actually thinking about writing an organizing post. Don't be too shocked if it happens.


Erin said...

Gorgeous...just gorgeous.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


I think that last one (the Middle Ages Hospital) was my favorite.

So happy you got to see all that!


Mrs. Santos said...

Wow. My children and I were so amazed at the tile roofs...we are going to do a little study on roofs now. I went to Scotland (a lifetime ago) and saw many castles, but nothing like these. Thank you for sharing...and thank you for your visit and comments at my blog. It was such a pleasure to have you stop by.

Mrs. Parunak said...

Drool. Drool. What gorgeous pictures! I especially loved the one you said should be a painting or a quilt. Wow. It's hard to even imagine actually being in a place like that.

...And I liked your little high brow thought in the middle there, too. :)

Kathi said...

Fabulous pictures! I am totally SO happy that you and Will got to go touring together! Praise God for special graces.

Organizing Mommy said...

Julie, that roof was impressive. They were all impressive.

Mrs. P: high brow.. trying.. you could have said it better, I know.

Kathi: the links are up, if your kids want to visit the castles. I know your kids are big travelers.