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France Farewell

semi-overcast 19 °C

The Château de la Bourdaisière has had 65 owners, some royal, some rich and some just hoping to make a franc or two, since it was originally built in the middle of the 14th century to protect the nearby city of Tours from the English. In the 16th century the enormous chateau was the home of two royal mistresses, though not at the same time. Marie Gaudin, said to be the most beautiful woman in the land, was the mistress of King Francois I while Gabrielle D'Esrees was the mistress of King Henry IV. What shenanigans went on in these lofty halls? Oh the passions that must have played out in front of this roaring fire on wintry evenings...

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But wait a minute. That was in the 16th century. In the 18th century the Duke of Luynes had the whole place demolished and the stone carted off to build another castle. The only bits left are parts of the moat and the enormous caves that were hewn out of the hillside in order to provide the stonework...

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Today's chateau was actually built in 1802 by the local mayor and it has been a retirement home; a Nazi headquarters; a military school and a hotel owned by a 'prince' of the defunct French monarchy. Taxidermy foxes, boars and peacocks are scattered throughout the chateau but we found it a little odd to have a taxidermy deer standing at the door of the dining room with venison on the menu...

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Hold on – what venison; what menu? We knew in advance that the dining room would be closed on our first night but we were really looking forward to the finest haute cuisine that the chateau proudly boasts. Imagine our dismay when we checked in and were informed that the chef was having an 'off' week and our best option was the cafeteria at the hypermarket 12 kilometres away. The other option was to raid the tomato garden...

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The Château de la Bourdaisière is home to the French National Tomato Conservancy and more than 650 varieties are grown in the gardens. The chateau also boasts a dahlia garden with more than 400 varieties. Despite the chateau's shortcomings we enjoyed our stay but now our time is France is coming to an end and we are spending our last few days in Orléans where there is no shortage of excellent restaurants. There is also a constant reminder that this is where Joan of Arc beat the English in 1430 when she was just an 18 year old farm girl who claimed to have received guidance from God...

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Statues of France's heroine are everywhere and inside the magnificent cathedral there is an entire chapel devoted to her. Joan was burned at the stake by the English in 1831, (and the French have never forgiven them). However, the medieval streets of old Orléans welcome many Brit visitors today and most of the locals like to practice their schoolday English. The half-timbered houses from the 16th century are particularly attractive...

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And the thousand year old soaring twin spires of the cathedral are simply stunning...

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The nearby 16th century Groslot Mansion was once a royal chateau but it was turned into a municipal building following the French Revolution of 1789 and became the city hall from 1790 to 1981....

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The city's mayors must have felt very honoured to have ruled over the city from this room where King Francis II died in 1560 in the presence of his wife, Mary Queen of Scots...

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The Dordogne and the Loire have been so fascinating with so much to see that we've not had time to talk about the amazing meals, the incredibly friendly people and the automatic baguette and pizza machines that dish out freshly cooked goodies 24 hours a day. France seems to be following Scandinavia: everything is being automated and everyone now takes credit/debit cards. Cash is quickly disappearing and you can no longer get money from banks – only from ATMs.
Next stop - Istanbul. By the middle of next week we will be in Uzbekistan and we already know that life will be very different there!

Posted by Hawkson 11:35 Archived in France

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Comments

Thank you for the tour of the chateau. A bit of a downer with the chef having a bad week. Hope you found a substitute.

Looking forward to Istanbul and the next adventures.

by Sue Fitzwilson

So did you travel 12k for the nearest restaurant or eat the tomatoes? Or did you go hungry?

by Janet

You should have asked for the key to the kitchen. I'm sure Jim could have whipped up something even better than the "off" chef.

by R and B

Enjoyed blog travelling with you,
Miss you both,
Travel Safe

by Linda

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