August 20, 2018

Collegiale Church of Notre Dame de Mantes la Jolie!

Now let me tell you about one from my old territory of the Yvelines dept 78 in the region of ïle de France. This is the farthest from Paris but also a Royal town of France. Why because king Henri IV in a letter to Gabrielle d’Estrées, his mistress, who resided in Mantes, the king wrote to her: “I come to Mantes, my Pretty” ,and so it stuck as Mantes-la-Jolie!

Mantes la Jolie

And we spent lots of time in the city because of its wonderful market, and the train line from Paris Saint Lazare for my oldest son restaurant/hostellerie studies in Mantes. Therefore, even if wrote before on the city, it really deserves to be written on its most beautiful emblem , the Notre Dame Church.

Several posts on the city but took one for reference here: Mantes Royal town of France

And now let me get up to the Collégiale Church Notre Dame of Mantes!

The Collegiale Church  Notre-Dame de Mantes-la-Jolie is a gothic Church of the 12C and 13C located in Mantes-la-Jolie, on the banks of the Seine river in the department 78! Yvelines, in the region of Ïle de France. The total length is about 68 meters and the length of the nave and choir about 58 meters; the total height of the towers is 61 meters. The collegiate Church of Notre-Dame consists, beyond the massif  facade, of a nave of seven arched bays of  warheads flanked by collateral vaulted with quadripartite warheads. The high nave is on three levels with large arches in broken arcs resting on an alternation of weak buttresses and strong pylons, arched grandstands of quadripartite warheads and broken cradles, and finally broken arch windows. The bedside, which supplements the composition, was not originally gifted with any Chapel. The radiant chapels, as well as those of the aisles, are additions to the 13C and 14C. The western façade is pierced by three large carved portals surmounted by a rose, crowned by two towers, the appearance of which was profoundly altered by 19C restorations.

Mantes la Jolie

The Collegiate Church Notre Dame of Mantes la Jolie  is one of the top 3 Churches of Île-de-France by its size and its seniority, one of the flagships of Gothic architecture  from the 12C and 13C. It is a simple nave, framed from a low side, without a Transept, which ends with an apse surrounded by an ambulatory and 9 radiant Chapels built in the 13C and 14C. The west-facing façade is pierced by 3 large carved gates surmounted by a rosary.

Mantes la Jolie

More than 800 years of history, begun towards 1150AD, it was completed towards 1350AD  after several work campaigns; the South tower was built towards 1250 and the North Tower by 1510. At its construction, the Collegiate Church reflected the power of the Capetian against the Norman Dukes. This rivalry explains the construction of a building of such imposing dimensions. Integrated into the defensive system of the city, it has been the subject of constant attention of the Royal family.  Philippe-Auguste himself will take charge and the title of Abbot of Mantes.  Built in the place of an ancient church attested before the 10C, the Collegiate Church was included within the walls of the Royal Castle of Mantes , which was destroyed in the 18C. Seat of the mighty Brotherhood of merchants known as the Assumption  in which the aldermen had traditionally been chosen, the Collegiate Church also possessed the title of Royal Chapel. The kings of France themselves or their closest relatives, up to Philip Augustus, were regularly appointed secular abbots of the Church. It was certainly under the joint impetus of the merchants and bourgeois of Mantes and the king of France that the reconstruction was decided and carried out from 1140.

Mantes La Jolie Mantes la jolie

During the French revolution, the Collegiate Church is severely damaged. In particular, numerous statues of the façade were mutilated in 1794. The central portal dedicated to the Virgin was damaged . The Church was then converted to a temple of reason , then became successively a factory of saltpeter and an Arsenal. After the signing of the Concordat in 1801, some emergency restoration work was carried out, an important restauration was carried out in the 19C as well. The restoration of the North tower is carried out from 1851 to 1855.

Some important aspects to see while here are

The portal of the Resurrection in the west façade, is the oldest work of the Church. It was allegedly directed by 1150-1175 using white stone of Vernon or blonde of Ile de France by the workshops that worked in St Denis and Paris. This portal is dedicated to the resurrection of Christ. Sculpted in a more archaic style, it shows less technical mastery of the artist.

The portal of the Virgin, the main entrance of the Collegiate Church dedicated to Mary and her assumption. The portal of the Virgin is considered a masterpiece of Western sculpture. It consists of 2 sets designed to be 10 or 15 years apart. The lower part, below the level of the base of the lintel, had to be executed very shortly after the portal of the Resurrection. The whole upper part  vaulted and eardrum, is noticeably posterior.

The portal of the Aldermen, located to the right of the façade, this very richly decorated portal was built by 1300-1325  at the request of the aldermen of the city. It resembles its composition and style at the south portal of the Rouen Cathedral. It was severely damaged during the French revolution. It lost notably the statues of the jamb in the lower part and part of the decoration of the eardrum where the heads of the statues disappeared.

The highest gothic nave of the 12C with an elevation of the nave is divided into 3 floors of substantially equal height, the large arcades of the ground floor, those of the grandstands and finally the high windows. The layout of the nave is largely due to its 3 vaults of 6-pointed warheads , each embracing 2 spans. The tall Rosary of Mantes is one of the oldest in France. The oldest signs go back to the vicinity of 1210. It represents the Last Judgement. The central Oculus is occupied by a mandorla where the judge Christ sits, detaching himself on a blue background populated by red stars. He is surrounded by an angel choir whose winged busts come out of the clouds. The first circle, which obeys an axis of vertical symmetry, is that of angels and Intercessors. The blue background of the quad is opposed to the red on which the decorative rinses that complete each compartment are detached.

Mantes la jolie

At the south side of the Church, the Chapel of Navarre or the rosary, is undoubtedly the most famous. It was founded in 1313 by the wish of Marie de Brabant, second wife of Philip III le Hardi. Her wish was to equip the Collegiate Church with two Chapels dedicated to Saint Paul and Saint Louis. It is a double chapel, the result of the meeting of two chapels between 1352 and 1364. Four 14C sculptures, saints and donor queens are affixed to the walls. Traces of polychrome and a set of fake red-seal fixtures on a white background are still visible today. The weapons of Navarre painted in red on a yellow background, are observed on some batteries. A piece of funerary slab was reused in the steps. It now celebrated from the initiative of Queen Jeanne of Evreux and of  France, Queen of Navarre, to have this Chapel called of Navarre in the 7th and 8th bays of the lower south side.

Mantes la jolie Mantes la Jolie

No archive has been kept on this subject; only the architectural analysis shows today the chronology of the construction. The 1st, which marks the beginning of the reconstruction, sees the setting up of a platform, destined to catch a gradient located in front of the facade of the old collegiate, and the foundation of the first level of facade wall of the new building. Destroyed, with the tom tom of 1794, only 4 heads were found in 1857. The eardrum set in 1180, strongly mutilated in the French revolution, represents in a style and iconography very close to those of Senlis Cathedral, the coronation of the Virgin surrounded, in the covings, by the tree of Jesse.

Mantes la Jolie Mantes la Jolie

The 2nd Construction campaign saw the buttresses of the high nave and the vaulting of the lower sides and the ambulatory set up very quickly. The 3rd phase of construction corresponds to the setting up of the grandstands throughout the Church, with the exception of the bays closest to the façade still under construction, and to the particular design of their vaulting. The setting up of the high-level windows and the high-nave vault towards 1200 marks the completion of the major work.

The Church, partially unfinished, will be taken over 15 years later by the construction of the upper levels of the facade massif. It was towards 1220 that the façade was connected to the nave and the towers were elevated. Additions and modifications followed until the 14C the right portal, offered by the mayor and the aldermen, was installed towards 1300. Depicting scenes from the childhood of Christ and Passion; Radiant chapels were added to the choir between 1300 and 1325 . During the second half of the 14C, lateral chapels were installed on the southern flank of the Church, and large windows were arranged in the grandstands of the aisles of the nave, while the vaulting was altered.

Some webpages in addition to those in my blog posts (some migtht be repeated) will help you plan your trip to this wonderful Collegiale Church of Notre Dame in Mantes, a detour is recommended.

The tourist office of dept 78 Yvelines on the Cathedral (French):

The city of Mantes-la-Jolie on the Cathedral (French):

Site on the organ of the Cathedral (French):

The parish webpage of Mantes on the Cathedral (French):

There you go another gem of my belle France. It is easy does it from Paris Saint Lazare to Mantes la Jolie station at  place du 8 mai 1945 (not to take the Mantes Ville station) ,there are two here. On the road ,take the A13 out of Paris direction Rouen (autoroute de Normandie) exit/sortie 11. Follow signs for city center, and will come to it.

And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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August 20, 2018

Cathedral Saint Julien, Le Mans!

In my humble efforts to showcase the wonderful historical architecturally stunning places of my belle France, I come to you to a fabulous city and great Cathedral.  I admit that I came here for the 24hrs auto race and the museum, but once touch base with the city, I came back for more to see it up close and personal; it was fantastic.

I like to tell you about the Cathedral Saint Julien of Le Mans; it too, deserves a post of its own. Here I go, bear with me please. The fortified city of Le Mans is in the Sarthe department 72 in the region of Pays de la Loire. The city has a great public transport system with bus, tramway, and a great train station direct with Paris which I have passed and do connections in it. By car, best underground parkings are Jacobins and pl de la République. The autoroute A11/A10 from Paris is the easiest if toll road or get on the A13 direction Rouen , go down on the A12 direction Rambouillet and there take the N12 direction Dreux continue until Alençon and there take the A28 to Le Mans for free.

For reference my previous family trips to Le Mans here

Le Mans in the Sarthe and the 24hrs

The world comes to Le Mans

And now let me tell you a bit of the history and architecture of this wonderful Cathedral of Saint Julien.

The first Cathedral was built in the 6C and the very famous Gothic choir was begun around 1220. To show the Romanesque parts of the Cathedral as clearly as possible let me tell a bit.

The nave has five double spans. The vault is Gothic the vaults of the collateral have been rebuilt. The pillars are composed of half columns engaged on a quadrangular nucleus with balusters. The elevation has three levels: the large arcades, the triforium with alternately open and blind arches, the high windows. The large arcades are in a broken arch but the archivolt is distinguished from the Romanesque nave of the early 12C. The walls of the collateral are Romanesque. The first level is decorated with blind arches. The tower of the southern end of the transept dates from the middle of the 12C. The gate of the knights, name due to the relief of Samson recessed above. The window pierced above the gate also had a defensive role. The West façade. completed around 1110-1115, the two large buttresses were built around 1160 to counter support the vaults of the nave that did not originally exist; the pediment is bicolored (rousers/limestone) The large window has decorated archivolts falling on balusters.   The South gate of the nave. Although it can be counted among the portals of the first Gothic art, it retains the traditions of the Romanesque sculpture the roman Christ of the Apocalypse of Saint John, a novel theme par excellence. These stained glass windows are from the 12C: 2nd and 3rd Quarter: The window of Ascension; the cycle of Saint Etienne ;Saint Etienne lead out of the city been stoned, and Saint Gervais flogging as well as the gorging of Saint Protais.

Le Mans

Moving on to the history and architecture.

The Cathedral of St. Julien is one of the largest buildings of the Gothic-Romanesque period of France and unique in the west of France. It is a medieval testament to the architectural style of the Gothic Angevin. Begun around 1060 by Bishop Wulgrin, it was completed in its current form around 1430. It houses the tombs of Saint Julien and Charles d’Anjou. Located on the Butte du Vieux-Mans( a hilly area of the city), the building has a tower culminating at 64 meters, making it the highest building in metropolitan area of Le Mans and dominating the country around Le Mans.

Le Mans

Le Mans

Le Mans

Le Mans

The Cathedral is located in the city center of Le Mans, north-east of the Cité Plantagenet. It is surrounded by the Place de Cardenal Grente in the north, the Place Saint-Michel in the west, the Psalette and its gardens to the east and below to the south of the Place du Jet d’Eau. It marks the end of the Grande Rue which is the main street of the Old Town.

Le Mans

Le Mans

Le Mans

The cathedral has on its western flank a rare piece attesting to the ancient presence of megaliths. It is a sandstone menhir (standing stone) with a height of 4.55 meters. This menhir dates from prehistoric times and was installed in the Place Saint Michel in 1778, following the destruction of the Dolmen de la pierre en lait ( dolmen of the Stone with milk).

Le Mans

The Cathedral’s architecture combines two major arts: Romanesque art for the nave and Gothic art for the choir and transept. The stained-glass windows that adorn it are the symbol of this fusion of genres. The exterior length is of 134 meters, and the interior nave is of 57 meters. It is a true museum of the art of stained glass, the cathedral is home to the oldest stained-glass window on site, the window of Ascension

Le Mans

Le Mans

The large organs, located at the bottom of the south Cross of the transept, were carried out between 1529 and 1535 by the factor Pierre Bert in a Renaissance style buffet, designed and sculpted according to the instructions of Symon Hayeneufve. In 1634, the brothers Jean and François de Héman restored the organ, which then had 42 games. In 1848, the division of the narrative is enlarged and that of the crankset is reinforced by the brothers Claude who carry the number of games to 46. From 1959 to 1963, Pierre Chéron began a restoration the instrument was inaugurated by Gaston Litaize in 1974. It is again restored between 2016 and 2018.

It is well recommended to see it by yours truly and of course if in Le Mans impossible to missed it. Some of the webpages available to help you plan your trip here are

Official webpage of the Cathedral St Julien , Le Mans:

Tourist office of the Sarthe dept 72 on the Cathedral St Julien:

City of Le Mans on the Cathedral :

Region Pays de la Loire on the Cathedral :

Enjoy it as much as we did. And remember ,happy travels ,good health, and many cheers to all!!!




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August 20, 2018

Cathedral of the Trinity , Laval!

Ok so let me tell you about some of the jewels of my belle France spread all over the Hexagone as we commonly call our French Republic or France. In my trips around France I have encountered with numerous wonderful surprises of great beauty, and this one is one of them. Ah yes ,the city of Laval is in the department of the Mayenne no 53  in the region of Pays de la Loire.

Just for reference my previous blog posts on Laval here

Laval in Pays de la Loire

And we Laval in the Mayenne

I came here because one of my previous boss was a native here and spoked gladly of his native city. This gave me to look up Laval, and as not too far from me decided to come. I have written before a nice spread out on the city, but need to make justice on their greatest assets, the Cathedral of the Trinity or Cathédrale de la Trinité de Laval.


Raised by the monks of the Couture of Le Mans around 1070, the Trinity was originally a dependency of the priory of Pritz. Having acquired the status of Parish Church of Laval in 1160, it then acquires a nave covered with imposing vaults of warheads of domed shape responding to the Gothic style Angevin or Plantagenet.


The Trinity experienced a phase of enlargement between 1485 and 1595, materialized by the construction of a left collateral illustrating the transition from the flamboyant Gothic style to that of the Renaissance. Becoming Cathedral of the Diocese of Mayenne in 1855, the Trinity sees its plan regulated by the addition of a portal of neo-Romanesque style, the laying of a frame with metal frame and the elevation of its cross-tower on the model of Saint-Germain des Prés of Paris. The Cathedral is located in city center between the squares Place Hardy de Lévare and Place de la Trémoille.


During the French revolution, the Church was looted, but the destruction remained minimal. The prosecutor of the Municipality of Laval, presides over this devastation and its transformation into a Temple of reason for the worship of Reason and a Supreme Being: it is said that he took pleasure in hitting the statues and ornaments himself, to break them. Among the statues that decorated the Trinity inside and outside, that of the Blessed Virgin alone is spared. It was transformed into a Statue of Liberty.


Some of the wonderful details on the architecture I can tell you are

The cathedral presents an irregular Latin cross plan. The nave kept its dimensions from the 11C, but it was largely altered in the 12C, with the addition of Gothic vaults. It has only one vessel and three square bays. The remains of the 11C Church are scarce, and the Cathedral has few Romanesque traces. The last most visible elements are the arch separating the nave from the transept, as well as the berry passages that frame the present transept dating from the 16C and 19C. It is not in the same location as the Middle Ages transept, which disappeared during the extension of the choir. Indeed, it was behind the grand arc Romanesque, while the present transept is in front. It therefore reuses the last span of the nave, which acts as a cross-aisle of the transept. The chorus is the result of multiple extensions and it is the part of the cathedral that has the least coherence. There are only a few pillars of the Romanesque bedside, and the general structure is given by the bedside built in the 15C. The bell tower, of square construction, is located on the crossroads of the transept, a place it occupies since the 11C. The current building dates to its lower part of the 12C instead, a top floor was built in 1905. It is granite and it is also opened by geminate berries, but they are wider than those of the 12C.



The big Gate. In 1597 a monumental portal was built with the use of ancient pilasters, Columns, pediments…etc. The original statues, which disappeared during the French revolution, were replaced in 1853 by work made in terracotta of the Agêts, and representing Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard, the Popes Saint Léon the Great and Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose. These statues were replaced in August 2010 by copies for conservation reasons. At the foot of the gate, a double-flight staircase was built in 1734. Six tapestries of the manufacture of Felletin, end of the 17C, cover the walls of the nave. They illustrate Judith’s book.  The central picture represents the mystery of the Holy Trinity: three equal globes arranged in a triangle illuminate the Virgin kneeling, surrounded by the 12 apostles.  Below in a niche, the Holy Trinity: God the Father Blessing, the son holding a cross and above them the dove of the Holy Spirit. On both sides, in niches, Saint Peter carrying the keys and St. John the Evangelist. On either side of this altarpiece, built in the middle of the 17C, are the terracotta statues of St. Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi of the 17C as well. These tapestries were made during the second half of the 17C they were probably made for the Benedictine convent which was in the Place de Hercé before the revolution.



The portals of the transept are the most remarkable. The 16C presents the transition between Renaissance art and Classical style. It presents ancient registers and ornaments, such as Corinthian columns and enlargements, but also medieval details, as the Romanesque arch that overcomes the Cathedral door has a number of elements of the 18C, such as the Tribune, which dates from 1770. It supports the organ and has a wrought iron guardrail on Corinthian columns. Underneath, the oval baptistery in red marble dates from the same time. The crucifix that faces the pulpit is also of the 18C, it is made of polychrome wood. The chair dates from 1803. The Cathedral contains a second marble altar, dating back to 1554. This is perhaps the first marble work ever done in Laval the Tribune organ is a gothic-styled Coll. It was purchased after a subscription launched in 1852. The original great organ was sold.



Before the French Revolution, the Trinity Church had thirteen altarpieces. Only the great altarpiece has survived the great altarpiece is characteristic of the Laval school which developed in the 17C and radiated throughout the west of France. It has three floors, the big work in limestone, while the columns and inlays are in marble. The ensemble consists of terracotta statues representing St. John, St. Peter and the Trinity. The set is eight meters high.



Some webpages to help you plan your trip to the Cathedral are

Tourist office of Laval on the Cathedral

City of Laval on its history

A wonderful piece of Cathedral that should be visited in nice medieval Laval, department of Mayenne no 53, and region of Pays de la Loire. Enjoy it

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


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August 19, 2018

17th Edition Saint Christophe old vehicles show at Bignan

Ok so busy day today lol!! This is the third of a series today on the town of Bignan.  Sunday is usually calm and family time here. However, I am on vacation finding places to go and things to do without too much preparation as I am in no mood to do that. Therefore, I saw the 17th edition of Saint Christophe old Vehicles show at the Domaine de Kerguéhennec in Bignan and off we went.

This event is done every year and this time organize by the Avrbignan association. Its Sunday so what the heck get out of the house we did and glad we did it. The association site of old antique vehicles is here in French:


We love cars so been to several of them here and elsewhere. Even in my town there are every year. The freedom of the road is unequal and never replace. Put your pedal to the metal and rock!!! Of course, always with moderation, we are even going down to 80 KPH rules in France on one way lane department roads like the one today on the D767 ! OF course ,even if the death on the road increase again…of course is not speed but they get plenty of money from it last read the government racks in more than 700M € in fines!!!

Bignan Bignan Bignan

So let’s get to the old slow cars (even if new they went faster than today).

The 17 edition of the Saint Christophe was one of the zillions of events held at the domaine nowadays. It was an all day affairs even if we only stay for the antique old cars display show at 14h. The cars left from Baud to Bignan, there a Mass in the tent at Kerguehennec by 11h then lunch at 12h30 for 11€ including ham, cold cuts, fries ,cheese, fruit tarts and coffee. By 14h the exhibition of the vehicles were shown all parked behind the stables out to the left of the Castle. By 16h30 there were prizes given to the best show and at 19h another dinner 10€ without drinks but kir Breton offered for free, live music by Kelt ha Breizh, celtic Breton songs of course.

Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan

Again, the webpage for the Domaine (and Castle) of Kerguéhennec is here:

The site is in French , so I put the above webpage on the page of agenda and cultural events coming up on it. Hope it helps.

There you go a nice old fashion old car show nearby on a beautiful surroundings, perfect Sunday. Hope you enjoy it too

And remember, happy travels, good health, and  many cheers to all!!!


August 19, 2018

Domaine de Kerguéhennec at Bignan!

As mentioned in my previous post, Sunday is usually calm and family time here. However, I am on vacation finding places to go and things to do without too much preparation as I am in no mood to do that. Therefore, I saw the 17th edition of Saint Christophe old Vehicles show at the Domaine de Kerguéhennec in Bignan and off we went. I will post the Domaine here and the car event on another separate post ok.

Bignan Bignan

On the Domaine which is gorgeous and worthy of the title the Versailles of Brittany (smaller of course), I have written a piece before. It is now a center for contemporary arts spread all over the property as well and a great area for picnics and just family outings.  Here is my previous post on it

Now a bit more on the domaine.

The Château de Kerguéhennec, (Domaine for the whole , the Castle is in the middle of the property) nicknamed the Versailles Breton, is an 18C castle located in Bignan in the Morbihan 56.. It is about 20 km north of Vannes, in the direction of Pontivy, the castle of Kerguéhennec was built in 1710 for two wealthy Swiss financiers from St. Gallen but settled in Paris, the Hogguer brothers, shareholders of the company of the India.

Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan

Thereafter, it goes thru a period of inheritance of different families such as in 1732, acquired as a land of agricultural and forestry by Guy-Auguste de Rohan , Count of Chabot, famous for having ordered taken prisoner Voltaire, who did not reside there. His son, Louis-Antoine de Rohan-Chabot , duke of Rohan, was to be separated shortly after the French Revolution. The estate was acquired in 1802 by the Count Louis Henri de Janzé , then, sold by his grand-son Count Louis Albert Henri de Janzé in 1872, then by Paul-Henri de Lanjuinais, the 3rd Earl of Lanjuinais, deputy and President of the General Council of Morbihan, his cousin, who then lavishly restored it.  It is also , Count Lanjuinais who made the park of 170 hectares The surroundings of the castle are treated with a French style gardens , while the north of the estate is arranged in the English style. It also houses an arboretum.

Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan Bignan


The estate will then pass by inheritance to Marie Louise Marguerite Lanjuinais, daughter of Paul Henri Lanjuinais and wife of Arthur Espivent de La Villeboisnet. Finally, the eldest daughter of the latter, Elisabeth Anne Marie Espivent de la Villesboisnet, became Countess Pierre Humières in 1933, who will inherit it herself by way of In division in 1943. It is she who on January 19, 1972 will sell the Château and Domaine de Kerguéhennec to the Department of Morbihan.

In 1986, an open-air sculpture garden was built in the park. In 1988, a contemporary art center was installed in the castle’s dependencies. The estate also houses a cultural meeting center that hosts musicians and composers in residence. Always something going on here.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Official webpage of Kerguéhennec:

Tourist office of Brittany in English:

Tourist office Morbihan :

Central Morbihan tourist office :

Golfe du Morbihan tourist page :

Another nice outing in my neck of the woods all wonderful, beautiful and the weather helps a lot. The beaches are still full of visitors and locals alike. And tomorrow is Monday wow what are we going to do??? Yikes!!!

Enjoy the photos which will be many, so will do another post for the cars event with plenty of more photos in the next post. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!




August 19, 2018

Little Bignan in the Morbihan Breton!

Well, normally Sundays are quiet days around here and we follow too. However, this is Summer vacation times and we are always finding places to go and do. there was a big event at the Domaine de Kerguehennec (see next post) ,and we decided to go there and passed by the town of Bignan.

I have written briefly on the town in previous posts of the Some News from the Morbihan series but never a one shot post on it. Well today it their day in my blog. This is Bignan fierce Breton.

One of those previous blog post that I talked a bit on Bignan is here:

Now let’s get with the new story.

Bignan is located in the Morbihan department 56 of Brittany. The castle of Kerguéhennec (more on this next post), sometimes dubbed the “Versailles Breton”, is one of the most visited places on the town. The town rests on the moors of Lanvaux (forest). Bignan is located between the towns of Locminé and Saint-Jean-Brévelay., and is only half an hour from the main cities of Morbihan: Vannes, at  25 minutes , Lorient 30 mins, and Pontivy 20 mins aprox. I am about 25 minutes from it. The best way for visitors is to come from Rennes take the N24 to exit with the D181 road direction Bignan city center, there panels will tell you the different sights to see. From Vannes take the D767 direction Locminé to the D115 at Colpo and then the D150 to Bignan. There is no train /bus stations. Of course, I took the back roads even the D1 and D16 in the country.

Bignan Bignan

The bit of history I like is short for a village town simply Bignan was a very active center of Chouannerie from 1794 by the action of Pierre Guillemot, called “The King of Bignan”, Lieutenant of General Georges Cadoudal. All leading figures in the fight against the French revolution and re establishment of the monarchy in France but especially in Brittany. The castle of Kerguéhennec, sometimes nicknamed the “Versailles Breton”, served as a warehouse for the Chouans to subtract the crops from the law of requisition of grains applied by the Republican administration.

Things to see

Château de Beaulieu ,19C, covered alley and dolmen of Kergonfalz, the fountain of Saint Eloi, A Cross in city center from the 16C, and the Cross of Treuliec from the 17C, the Chapel of Sainte Noyale and fountain of Sainte Nolwenn, the farm of Pierre Guillemot at Kerdel commune of Bignan. The most famous of it all the Domaine de Kerguehennec now a center of contemporary arts in the Castle of the 18C , a park and arboretum with great picnic areas. 42 calvaries in and around the town from simple Cross to Monumental in size. In a couple there is an inscription I translate as , “The stone will be used, the Cross will stay, and the sons of Bignan will not surrender” (evidence of the fierce resistance to the French revolution and its reign of terror.

The one, I  will tell you a bit more is the Church of St Peter and St Paul .The Church is located at the Place de la Chouannerie  in city center of Bignan. It was built in the 18C to replace a roman Church in ruins. The first stone is laid in 1787. Interrupted during the French revolution and the exile of Abbé Nemati, (who refuse to submit to constitution of the French Republic) , the work resumed in 1801.  Abbé Pierre Nemati was buried there when he died in 1804. New bells were melted for the Church and received  them in 1807. The steeple is built between 1824 and 1857.

Bignan Bignan Bignan

The Church is built of stones, according to the Classical  style,  and a Latin Cross.  The bell tower to which the arrow is missing, is built to the east, on the narthex side. Square pillars separate the nave from the aisles.  The high altar, which dates from the 18C , supports a Christ in the Cross surrounded by the statues of St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist, an angel hanging from above. The original canopy still overlooks this altar. A stained glass window, dated from 1625, represents the interrogation of Yves Nicolazic (on the apparitions of Saint Anne see posts on Sainte Anne d’Auray ) by the Bishop of Vannes that same year.

The city /town hall of Bignan in French has a lot more on the monuments and history here:

I will do a separate post for it and an event there today, but the webpage for the main tourist attraction here is here:

A bit of detour and fall right into a very true history of France ,in just a small town in the Morbihan Breton, love it as a history buffs or lover or enthusiast or just plain history nuts.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!





August 19, 2018

Chateau Museum of Pau!

And I bring to a place our family gathered for many years, first on my dear late wife Martine’s side for the Tour de France, and later us just even staying there as a base to see more of the region. This is Pau, in dept 64 Pyrénées-Atlantique in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.  Wonderful Pau is only  about 200 km from Bordeaux and Toulouse and 250 km from Zaragoza in Aragon,Spain. We have come by car always so know they have a train station quite nice and an airport nearby; the roads are super and we have taken them all such as the A64 La Pyrénéenne, A65 autoroute de Gascogne, N117 and N134 and as well the great beltway of Pau the D817 with lots of speed radars so check the sites to avoid them ::)

I have written several post on it, I leave you with my favorite post …on Pau. Wonderful Pau

In the city center of Pau, in old Béarn, there is the old Castle of Pau (and museum too), famous for having seen the birth of the king of France and Navarre, Henri IV. It is accessed by the Pont de Nemours. Its position allows to control the passage on the Gave de Pau (river canyon) located further south below.  The Castle estate is made up of a park, stretching westward along the gave, and by the buildings themselves, located on the east side, whose interior houses a museum. The east entrance of the Castle overlooks the Boulevard des Pyrénées which connects the castle to Beaumont Park!

Begun by the Viscounts of Béarn in the 11C, and in particular by Centulle le Vieux, the castle was gradually built throughout the Middle Ages. It is above all a military work of a typical castle, built at the top of the small hill that dominates the Gave delimited by the ravine of Hédas. In the 12C and 13C, successive dynasties of the Viscounts of Béarn built three towers at this fortress, which were named Mazères, Billère and Montaüser.

Gaston III de Foix-Béarn, better known as Gaston Fébus. This warlord, in a delicate situation since, by his possessions, under the rule of the enemy kingdoms of France and England, makes the Béarn, a united and autonomous region. He developed a network of strongholds in order to defend this territory. The Château de Pau was thus strongly transformed in order to become a imprenable citadel. Fébus built the Brick dungeon, which was thirty-three meters high, and engraved the inscription: “Febus Me Fe” (“Febus Me Fit”, in Béarn language). It also makes the Tour de la Monnaie and the south wing of the castle.

In the Renaissance, the installation of the Court of Navarre in 1512 significantly altered the appearance of the castle. Of fortress It was initially, it becomes a residence of pleasure. Henri Albret resides there accompanied by his wife Marguerite of Angoulême, sister of king François I, and better known as Marguerite of Navarre, author of the Heptahedron. The two sovereigns are at the origin of the development of a terrace in the south as well as the courtyard of honor, the construction of the staircase of honor in place of the old kitchens, the installation of the new kitchens in the north wing and the development of the gardens. The future king Henri IV was born at the château on December 13, 1553. The fame of this king, cradled as a child in a preciously preserved turtle shell, gives the castle, which saw it neither grow nor die and where it made no embellishment, a particular taste.

After the illustrious passage of the future King Henry IV and the death of his grandparents, no ruler will reside in Pau until the 19C. The castle was entrusted to the care of the Gramont family, and was thus maintained, but its ceremonial furniture was gradually removed and a large part of its estate was amputated under the constant pressure of the sprawling city. As to preserved it from demolition under the French Revolution, the castle arrives in a pitiful state when Louis-Philippe decides to fully restore it (same idea for Versailles). He therefore had the idea of restoring from 1838 the castle of the one who reconciled Catholics and Protestants to make it a royal residence, but it will not reside there however. The exterior of the castle is also strongly remodelled with the addition of a mock tower to the West (Louis-Philippe tower) by symmetry to the Mazères tower, the transformation of the fore-guard into a chapel and the destruction of the old fortified corridor. Louis-Philippe, renovator of the Castle as he was of Versailles, exiled in 1848 in England where he died two years later, could never stay in this place.

The restorations of the château stopped in 1848 are taken over in 1852. In 1859, we start the demolition of the East building, then we build the portico. The two medallions representing Henri of Albret and Marguerite de Valois placed above at the same time the construction of the buildings connecting the portico to the Montaüser tower. They restored the chapel, reinforces the staircase of honor, takes over the facade of the wing of the middle (aile du midi), establishes a library in the living room Bernadotte to install the six thousand books bought in 1867 by Napoleon III to the former mayor of Pau. The castle received the visit of Napoleon III but also those, more numerous, of the Empress Eugénie during her multiple cures in the southwest. In 1868, it was the Queen of Spain, on the run, Isabel II and her suite, who lodged at the castle. The Third Republic made the castle a presidential residence before becoming, in 1926, the National museum that it remained and which houses the works preserved since the time of Henri IV and especially during the restoration operated by Louis-Philippe. Indeed as in Versailles, a wonderful castle museum to be seen a must..

Let me tell you about the architecture, which is very rich, will be brief.

The main entrance takes place on the side of the city, by a bridge of bricks and stones built during the reign of king Louis XV, to replace the medieval drawbridge. A three-arch portico was built between 1859 and 1864 in the Renaissance style. Cour d’honneur , the courtyard of the castle has an original form, punctuated with sculptures and medallions at the doors and windows.



Towers of the Castle:

The Gaston-Fébus tower in the southeast, also called the dungeon. The latter was completed by Fébus in the 14C, it was built almost entirely in brick on a height of 33 meters. It had like the other towers, a slate blanket that was removed after a storm in 1820. In the part currently facing the Parliament of Navarre, the President of the States of Béarn proclaimed the name of each newly elected sovereign. The tower served as a prison until 1822.

The Mazères and Louis-Philippe Towers at the West End,start with the Mazères Tower is the oldest of the castle since it dates from the 11C while that of Louis-Philippe Tower was built in the middle of the 19C to echo in its twin tower. The two Towers measure each 22.5 meters. The Mazères tower refers to the village of Mazères-Lezons, on the other side of the Gave de Pau.

The  Montaüser tower to the north, the tower was devoid of stairs to its origin in the 12C. The garrison was, thus, tasked to mount the tower with ladders which were withdrawn after climbing. This tower was once a well to forget in which the criminals were locked up.

The Billère Tower in the north-west of the castle refers to the village of Billère in which the good king Henri IV was fed in the Lassensàa house. This tower measures 30 meters high, counting the attic, it was built in the 12C

The Napoleon III Tower, this one was carried out at the end of the 19C under the orders of the emperor in front of the Gaston-Fébus tower. It ends the castle at its northeast end.

Pau Pau

Pau Pau Pau

Blessed in 1843 by the Bishop of Bayonne, the present Chapel was set up in 1840 in the old drawbridge door built in the early 16C. It was located in a small room on the first floor of the south wing of the castle


Three walls surrounded the castle in order to protect it from the external aggressions constitutes an advanced defense for the castle. It was built by Fébus below the castle in the south, and was used to watch over the Gave de Pau, the Pyrenees and Spain in the distance.

In the 16C, the family of Albret created an exceptional set of gardens and parks around the castle the kings of Navarre thus develop a warren, an orchard, a chesnut grove, a vine, a small and a large park (named lower-level and high-level) the Haute-Plante (high level) is transformed into a public place (present Place de Verdun) as well as a cemetery. The lower level is, in part, preserved and the gardens become accessible to the public in the mid-19C. The lower level now occupies 23 hectares in the heart of the city with parks and gardens, as well as a forest. The present place Gramont occupies the other part of the original lower level.

Pau Pau PAu Pau Pau

Let go inside shall we, again briefly.

The Salle des cent couverts (room of the hundred utensils) has vast proportions allowing to accommodate a rich tapestry décor and a huge table of oak and fir in the large living room The Grand Salon or large reception room of the castle created with the present waiting lounge a large room in the castle where the court (assembly of nobles and clergy) of the Béarn was gathered in the Middle Ages. From the end of the 15C it became the throne room of the kings of Navarre. The coffered ceiling sees the golden figures of the fine gold of Henri IV’s grandparents

Chambre du roi or King’s bedroom,that actually was to be born King Henry IV was probably in the present family lounge on the lower floor. The Turtle shell, the first cradle of the future sovereign, is a central element of the legend of the good King Henri IV. Since the 18C, the latter has been the object of a cult in Béarn, it is solemnly worn during processions in the streets of the city. During the French revolution, a local collector, Mr de Beauregard, decided to substitute the turtle shell with a similar turtle shell that he possessed. He was helped in his company by the concierge Lamaignère on the night of April 30, 1793. The very next day the false shell was burned in the public place. Fortunately the real shell was finally made it in 1814 to king Louis XVIII, many testimonies confirmed the identity of the legendary Cradle.

Apartments of the Empress originally built for the wife of Louis-Philippe, Queen Marie-Amélie, these apartments were finally occupied by the Empress Eugénie. These apartments include a boudoir, a bedroom, a bathroom, a wardrobe, a maid’s room and a dressing room. The empress came many times in the castle of Pau during her travels between Biarritz and the spa resorts of the Pyrenees .

 Family Lounge, this piece was conceived in the 19C in order to be a meeting place for the relatives of the sovereign, family and friends in particular.

The staircase of honor, or grand staircase, serves all the great apartments of the castle. It was made at the beginning of the 16C by the grandparents of Henri IV. It is a Renaissance-style realization, close to the staircases of the castles of Bury ,and Azay-le-Rideau. Marguerite of Angoulême and Henri Albret signed the staircase of their initials H and M throughout the building. Two large vases of red porphyry adorn the bearings, these are gifts made by the King of Sweden Charles XIV Jean, born in Pau, to Louis-Philippe.

The Château de Pau concentrates one of the most important collections of tapestries outside of Paris. It gathers 96 pieces, coming from 17 different draperies, but mainly woven by the Gobelins in Paris. Several main themes are covered by this collection: The hunting scenes, the works of the fields, the noble leisure’s of the 16C, the Royal  parties and, of course, the life of Henri IV. It was only from 1860 that two paintings by Charles-Gustave Housez  and Eugène Giraud on Henri IV were installed in the family lounge, judged too austere.


Some of the webpages to help you plan your visit to this wonderful castle are

Official Castle webpage :

Tourist office of dept 64 on the castle :

Tourist office of Pau Pyrenees:

Nice info in English on the Chateau de Pau:

There you go another gem of my belle France so many right, yes! And as a base, Pau is great even going into Spain! Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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August 18, 2018

My travels in the Morbihan, LXVIII

I am back on my wonderful department 56 Morbihan of Brittany. It has been hotter around 25C or 77F but clouds and sunshine in and out. We in general, have better weather than the rest of France and it shows. We have been invaded by folks from all over France and some European countries like the most, the UK, and Germany but also,Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy as well. It is said , Brittany is the third most visited region of France ,behind Ile de France 1 and PACA 2.

The locals like me knows how to get around this and avoid the expressways or N roads here. However, had a former boss friend from Paris visiting me with his wife last night and coming from the Rhuys peninsula not far from me usually is 40 minutes, took him almost 1h10 due to heavy beach traffic on the N165 expressway or as we call here voie express. Anyway we had nice rosé wines from Corsica and pizzas of different flavors at my house with a bit of whisky, porto, and vodka aperitifs (apéros) before meal drinks. Lots to catch up and we had a pleasant evening. We did get a nice gift from the Camargue , rose wine which is nice. Pluvigner

Then ,today our regular errands day while not traveling. And traveling nowadays is hard as do not have my second half anymore (Martine passed away last April 30th due to cancer) we are content to just be with us , glued together and share moments. I tend to go back to old posts and revive them again for the memories. The public gets the benefits of more information on traveling the world with me.

Amongst the many associations and institution I support in France and Spain especially are those dealing with cancer here. The Ligue contre le Cancer du Morbihan and the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale.  Their webpages to follow

Now back to the errands of today.

We did some cleaning around the house, and left to have lunch out. We have not been for quite a long time to a chain we have visited before so we decided to go today. This is the steakhouse US style (but smaller steaks) Buffalo Grill at Ploeren just outside of Vannes. The webpage is here;

Vannes Vannes

Here we had the new menu Tennessee Burger with barbecue sauce and a potato patty that was very good and a good deal. We got it down with a bottle of Côte de Provence rosé from Masfleurie 2017 and had desserts base on ice cream Coupe America. All came in for 23.30€ per person ,which is about average.

VAnnes Vannes VAnnes

From there we walk to the nearby favorite office supply store for printer ink HP at Bureau Vallée. The store webpage is here:

We continue to do my car wash and gas up/petrol at E Leclerc hypermarket in Vannes, where we ,also,did our groceries as usual. Loading up on all essentials the quick way I am afraid. All in one spot shopping!  Webpage here:


By this time we had it all done and were back at home ready for our late evening TV and meal which nowdays is light and plenty of liquids glory of France! And of course, my FB, my LK, My Blog and my Whatapps…..keeps me busy and entertain nowadays. Thank you for your loyal support.

Tomorrow is a quiet day for us. Probably just a ride out to just say we were out of the house. Monday due some administrative errands and then go on to the Loire for wine tastings!

And remember, life is beautiful but can be short, enjoy it now. Happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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August 18, 2018

Château de Blois!

Now lets talk castles, but not just any castle. This one has been with the history of France and Europe for hundreds of years and many international events. I have written before on the town and the castle but think a deserves a single post on the Castle alone. So this is it. Bear with me it will be long.

I actually came here searching for Houdini, yes the magician it has a nice presence here and we love it; eating just across from it while glancing at the castle. Of course, we came here several times so eventually we went inside the Royal Castle of Blois. It is a must for any visitor to this region of my belle France.


My previous blog post on the touristic side of BloisBlois, the Castle and the Magic

The Château Royal de Blois, located in the Department of Loir-et-Cher no 41, Region Centre-Val de la Loire, and part of the Chateaux of the Loire. It was the favorite residence of the kings of France in the Renaissance. Located in the heart of the city of Blois, on the right bank of the Loire river, the Royal Castle of Blois gathers around the same courtyard a panorama of the French architecture of the Middle Ages in the classical period which makes it a key building for the understanding of the evolution of the architecture over the centuries.


A bit of history I like, well excuse the length but think is important.

During the reign of Charles the Bald, in 854, the site of the Château de Blois, built on the banks of the Loire river , was attacked by the Vikings. The rebuilt fortress is in the heart of the region of which the Counts of Blois, powerful feudal lords in the 10C  and 11C, whose possessions extend to the region of Blois and Chartres, and to the Champagne, are masters. The first fortress, the or Big Tower, was raised by Thibaud le Tricheur ( cheater) in the 10C. Around 1080, a charter shows Thibaud  III rendering Justice in the fortress of Blois, in the courtyard, behind the palace, near the tower, on the floor situated between the fire rooms (heating) of the palace.  In the 13C, the castle was rebuilt by the Burgundian family of Châtillon. The last descendant of the family of Châtillon, Guy II of Blois-Châtillon, sold in 1392 to Louis d’Orléans, brother of king Charles VI, who took possession in 1397, on the death of Guy II. When Louis d’Orléans was assassinated in Paris in 1407 by order of Jean sans peur (John the fearless), Duke of Burgundy, his widow, Valentine Visconti, moved to Blois, where she died the following year, after having engraved on the walls of the castle: “Nothing is more, no more laughs in me “. Her son, Charles, was taken prisoner during the disastrous Battle of Agincourt in 1415.  In 1429, before his departure to lift the siege of Orléans, Joan of Arc was blessed in the chapel of the castle by Renault of Chartres, Archbishop of Reims.


After 25 years of captivity, Charles d’Orléans returned to Blois and organized a court of scholars around him. He launches a poetry contest where François Villon is illustrated with his ballad of the concours de Blois. He also, undertakes to destroy parts of the old castle in order to make it more habitable. From the fortress of this period remain in the present castle only the great Hall, dated from the 13C, and the cylindrical Tower of Foix. In 1462, Louis, son of Charles d’Orléans, was born in the château of Blois. He became king of France in 1498 under the name of Louis XII. The medieval castle of the Counts of Blois became royal residence and Louis made it his main abode, at the expense of Amboise. Louis XII undertakes with Anne de Bretagne (his wife since 1499) a reconstruction of the castle in what will later be named the Louis XII style by combining the flamboyant Gothic style with elements already belonging to the Renaissance style. Privileged by Louis XII as a winter residence, the Château de Blois became the scene of several diplomatic meetings: marriage of Caesar Borgia in 1499, reception of Archduke Philip of Austria in 1501, marriage of Guillaume IX, Marquis of Montferrat, and of Anne, daughter of Duke René of Alençon, in 1508, betrothal of Marguerite of Angoulême with Duke Charles IV of Alençon in 1509, stays of Machiavelli in 1501 and 1510. Anne of Brittany died at the castle on January 9, 1514. Her funeral is celebrated at the Collegiate Church of Saint-Sauveur, near the castle.

Claude de France, daughter of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, married in 1514 her cousin François of Angoulême, great-grandson of Louis d’Orléans. She ascended to the throne in 1515 and Claude de France, with the intention of leaving the castle of Amboise, then refurnished the Château de Blois to install the courtyard. That same year, François I launched the construction of a new Renaissance-style wing and began one of the most important collections of books of the time. But after the death of his wife at the castle, in 1524, the construction stopped; François I left the Château de Blois for the benefit of the Château de Fontainebleau where he sent the impressive library to found the National Library. Always a festive place, Blois received in 1539 the visit of Charles V, and it was in Blois that Pierre de Ronsard met at a ball in April 1545 Cassandra Salviati, who inspired him in the “Loves of Cassandra“. Sacred King of France, the son of Francis I, Henri II, made his solemn entrance in Blois in August 1547, it was in 1556 that Catherine de Medici represented before the king the tragedy Sophonisba, the first play to respect the classic rule of the three units.

The Château de Blois remains the main residence of the successors of Henri II and in particular of Francis II and Charles IX. In particular, François II spent the winter of 1559 with his wife Marie Stuart, who was raised there. In 1572, a treaty with England was signed and in April there were celebrations in the Chapel the betrothal of Henri de Navarre (future Henri IV) and Marguerite of France. It is in Blois that Henri III summons the Estates General which are held in the Great Hall today called the State Hall in 1588-89. In the castle, in his room on the second floor, he had his enemy, the Duke of Guise, killed on 23 December 1588; His brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, was assassinated the next day. Shortly thereafter, on January 5, 1589, Queen Catherine de Medici came to die there. The castle was occupied by the successor of Henri III, Henri IV, who stayed there in 1589, 1598 and 1599.

On the death of Henry IV in 1610, the castle became the place of exile for his widow Marie de Medici, and was inhabited by Cardinal Richelieu, after a passage of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria in 1616. Relegated to Blois in 1617 by his son Louis XIII, Marie de Medici undertook to build a pavilion in the north-west corner. An inscription leaves the souvenir in the basements of the wing Gaston d’Orléans. After two years of captivity, the Queen Mother escapes from the castle on the night of February 21 to 22, 1619 using the legend of a rope ladder, but more likely taking advantage of the work carried out there, as a result of which she ends up reconciling temporarly with her son. In 1626, Louis XIII allocates the county of Blois to his brother Gaston d’Orléans as a wedding gift. The latter settled there in 1634; Gaston lived there after the Fronde (war), from 1652 to 1653, and died there on February 2, 1660, when the castle was abandoned.

Abandoned by king Louis XIV, the castle was no longer inhabited. Later ,the Ministry of War proposed to install a regiment there. This is how the castle is occupied by the Royal Comtois, a cavalry regiment. At the time of the French revolution, the castle had been abandoned for 130 years and the revolutionaries anxious to remove any vestiges of royalty looted it by emptying it from its, furniture, statues and other accessories. The Collegiale Saint-Sauveur Church located in the front yard is sold to an entrepreneur, who will destroy it entirely. Emperor Napoleon I decided to transfer the castle to the city of Blois in 1810. However, for lack of money, the castle is again used as barracks by the army. In 1834, the south half of the Charles d’Orléans Wing was destroyed to establish military kitchens. The military presence at the castle does not prevent the public opening of the wing François I under the restoration. The castle is thus visited by Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas.

In 1840, during the reign of Louis-Philippe the restoration continues and by 1846 the restoration of the Royal apartments of the wing Francis I. It combines deep colors (red and blue) with gold restoration continues until 1871. The castle is then transformed into a museum!  It was in 1850 that the mayor of Blois, founded the Museum of Fine Arts of Blois, which he installed in the wing Francis I. A second restoration is undertaken between 1880 and 1913 to restore the Gaston d’Orléans wing. This is how it was built a monumental stone staircase. In 1921, also was created a lapidary museum in the castle’s old kitchens. During WWII, the south façade of the castle (mainly the Louis XII Wing) was damaged by bombing. The stained glass of the chapel is destroyed. The restoration work, begun in 1946, the castle is now the property of the city of Blois. In the years 1990 a new restoration is carried out.

Bear with me, let’s go inside a bit ok. In brief ok!

The Château de Blois, as it can be admired nowadays, is mainly made up of three wings where the Gothic, Renaissance and Classical styles mingle, even if traces remain of the medieval castle. State Hall built by the Count of Blois Thibaut VI in 1214. The Lapidary Museum, adjoining the State Hall, in the ancient cuisines of François I, brings together the 16C and 17C sculptures of the various wings of the castle. The circular tower of  Foix, slightly indented, near the Gaston d’Orléans Wing, is a vestige of the 13C feudal fortifications. The castle is penetrated by the Louis XII Wing, remarkable for its red brick-chained bricks, a common construction in the Franco-Flemish style buildings. The entrance is surmounted by the equestrian statue of Louis XII of 1857.

The wing contains since 1869 the Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Blois. The gallery’s eight rooms feature a selection of paintings and sculptures from the 16C to 19C. The gallery includes a set of French and Flemish tapestries from the 16C and 17C. The chimneys were remade to the emblematic of Louis XII and his wife Anne of Brittany, according to the famous book of Hours of the Queen; destined for the Count of Chambord, they are the work of Louis Delcros. The Tour des Champs (tower of the fields), visible on the courtyard, adjacent to the wing Louis XII, and the gable near the State Hall. Also in flamboyant Gothic style, built in brick and stone, it presents its high slate roof to the skylights decorated with acroteria, surrounded by a finely carved cornice of a frieze of oves. It can be seen in several sculptures including the Louis XII Porcupine in bas-relief. The Chapelle Saint-Calais is located at the end of the Louis XII Wing, in the inner courtyard of the castle. Today there is no such private oratory of the king (built from 1498 and consecrated in 1508 by Antoine Dufour, Bishop of Marseille and confessor of the Queen) as the Gothic choir with vaults in liernes and supporting ribs on the vault.

The Charles d’Orléans Gallery, next to the Saint-Calais Chapel, was once twice as long, but was, like the Chapel, partially destroyed in the 17C. In the Francis I wing, in Renaissance style, architecture and ornamentation are marked by Italian influence. The central element of this wing is the monumental staircase, an octagonal screw-type, of which three sides are recessed in the building itself. The staircase, searched like an ivory of China  according to Balzac, covered with fine Renaissance sculptures, Italianate ornaments  (statues, balusters, candelabras)  and Royal emblems (salamanders, crowns, “F” for Francis I, “C” for Claude de France) , opens between the buttresses by large bays on the courtyard of the castle. Its curved, helically shaped vault, supported by outer rectangular buttresses, makes it a recurring symbol of French architecture in the Renaissance and heralds the innovations of the time on the architecture of the staircases, which became, more than a functional element, a major aesthetic addition.  Accessible from the Queen’s Gallery, is the front of the lodges, built seven meters ahead of the former court-house, characterized by a suite of non-communicating niches. Despite its apparent homogeneity, the François I wing encompasses the State Hall, to the left of the dressing room façade.


The Royal Apartments located in the François I wing have been restored, the first floor is the floor of the Queen’s apartments. The tile of the Queen’s Gallery is of Terracotta glazed on a 15C model, was restored at the end of the 20C. It is in the form of a network of blue, white and yellow geometric forms. You can see an exhibition of ancient instruments, the gallery is also adorned with busts of kings of France. Queen’s cabinet: On the first floor is the cabinet of Catherine de Medici or studiolo, in which wooden panels conceal four closets with secret mechanism (cabinets that are opened by operating a pedal hidden in a plinth), which gave it the name of the Chamber of Secrets. The Queen’s bedroom, formerly the gallery of the apartments of Francis I, became the Royal Chamber of Catherine de Medici who died there on January 5, 1589. The monogram of Henri II and Catherine de Medici composed of an H and two interlaced C is omnipresent in this room, especially on the chimney. The Queen’s guards ‘ captain’s room, formed by the two-room meeting, is adorned with two chimneys with Renaissance décor, on which are visible the salamander of François I and the ermine of Claude de France. One of them is decorated with golden niches. It is possible to see a bust of Francis I in plaster, done in 1850.


The oratory, panelled, is inspired by the library of the Constable de Montmorency at the château d’Écouen around 1550. The stained glass windows date back to the 19C. It also contains a triptych belonging to the Queen. The second floor houses the King’s apartments, in which the new cabinet (Henri III’s work office) is located; the Galerie Duban presents drawings, engravings and objects evoking the work of the architect, notably at the Château de Blois. The Guise room houses a collection of paintings presenting the main characters and tragic events related to the wars of religion. Many 19C historical painters were inspired by the assassination of the Duc de Guise, such as the nicest done of “The assassination of the Duke of Guise”, oil on canvas by Paul Delaroche.


The Council room at the monumental chimney, adorned with a golden salamander, brings together rich furniture made in the 19C in the Renaissance style, reminiscent of the 16C princely luxury; the council Chamber is also adorned with several statues;  also decorated with several paintings. The King’s room is lavishly furnished, its monumental chimney is one of the largest and most imposing of the castle. Painted and gilded with the effigy of Francis I (Salamander and Fleurs de lys) and Claude de France (Hermine), and also decorated with a mixture of Italian-style elements such as putti (small cherubs), garlands of flowers and fruits, rinses, Candelabras and Festoons, and other medieval-style, like dragons. The King’s Gallery presents a beautiful collection of neo-Renaissance earthenware from the 19C and 20C. The King’s Chamber is the one in which the legend wants the Duke of Guise to be dead, throwing himself at the foot of the king’s bed after being struck by eight swordsmen. The Gaston d’Orléans Wing is classic in style. This wing occupies the bottom of the courtyard, facing the Louis XII wing, and replaces the bass fish of the Bretons, the Pavilion of Marie de Medici and the Logis de Charles IV.


Now here is some additional webpages to help you plan your trip to this monumental castle , and do not forget to walk outside into the park of Diane on the high plateau with a wonderful view of the right side of the Castle.

Offiical Chateau de Blois:

Tourist office of Blois Chambord:

Loire Valley Castles site:

Valley of the Loire tourist office:

There you go ,hope it helps and do come ,it is a masterpiece. Enjoy the ride

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


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August 18, 2018

The Hameau de Marie Antoinette,Versailles!

Well going again at my blog, surprise ,not written on one of my favorite subjects on it’s history! And this is my beloved Versailles, a city I lived for almost 10 years!! The place was closed by for  my leisure hangouts with the family on our weekend walks. Well ,its time I catch up on my old neighborhood!

Let me tell you a story on the history and the places there, as the touristic part I have in my previous blog posts here:Hameau of Marie Antoinette

Stories of Versailles: the Hameau

Let me get you right into the history I like, stay tune ,it is long,but beautiful!

The Hameau de la Reine ( hamlet of the Queen)  was born from the imagination of Marie-Antoinette. Bored by the Versailles court, she wanted to rebuild a farm by bringing animals and peasants not far from the Palace of Versailles, to teach nature to her children. But this secret garden will finally be destined for walks and sumptuous receptions, to which she invites her loved ones. Of the vine, a farmhouse and its farmyard, cottages, and a mill surround an artificial lake.  If the exterior looks rustic and simple, the interior is glitzy. To reproduce the atmosphere faithfully, some rooms have been refurnished. The royal Prestige is found in the decoration of the Maison de Marie-Antoinette, with its golden lanterns with fine gold which are now electrified.  The hamlet of the Queen is a dependency of the Petit Trianon located in the park of the Castle/Museum  of Versailles this hamlet of pleasure was commissioned during the winter of 1782 – 1783 by Queen Marie Antoinette  with the nostalgia for a more rustic life, in a decor of nature inspired by the writings of Rousseau, a small paradise where the theater and the feast would make her forget her  condition as Queen. This rural place, which was also a farm, marked the influence of the ideas of the physiocrats and philosophers of the Enlightenment of the aristocracy of the time.

The construction was entrusted to the architect Richard  Miqué on the inspiration of the hamlet of Chantilly and the drawings of the painter Hubert Robert. This fashion was a reflection of the Rousseau cult for simple rural life and the reminder of the ancestral virtues.  Launched during the summer of 1783 by the Queen, construction began with rustic houses. King Louis XVI had given, in order to establish the hamlet, a plot located to the northeast of the English garden, between the allée de  Saint-Antoine and the  Allée de Rendez-vous and the Bois des Onze Arpents forest. To the northeast of this small wood was the hamlet of Saint-Antoine-du-Buisson, whose church depended on the parish of Chesnay (nearby town). The main work was completed in 1786 .

Around an artificial pond for carp and pike fishing, Richard Miqué had erected twelve wood-framed cottages, of Norman or Flemish inspiration, in the northern part of the gardens, on the outskirts of the Petit Trianon and in the extension of the English garden.  A farm to produce milk and eggs for the Queen, a tower as a lighthouse, a dovecote, a boudoir, a barn, a mill, a house for the guard were thus built, each building being embellished with a vegetable garden, an orchard or a flower garden. The most important of these houses is the Maison de la Reine (House of the Queen) in the center of the hamlet, which divides a river crossed by a small stone bridge. The beds were planted with Milan sprouts, cauliflowers, artichokes, black beans, peas, strawberry, raspberries, gooseberry, plums, pears, cherry , peaches, apricot and walnut trees. More than a thousand vegetables were planted in the garden. The lake was also populated by twenty-seven Pike and two thousand carps. The Queen had hoped that in the spring of 1787 all the houses would be filled with flowers. During the winter they were busily cultivated in greenhouses specially fitted for the occasion. And by the end of the summer, bunches of grapes were hanging from the pergolas.

It was found that the flow of the basins, and in particular the clover, was insufficient to feed the lake and the streams. It was then necessary to work to bring the water from the plain of Les Chesnay, going up to the stream of Chèvreloup. The work, begun in 1784, was extended until 1789, with some 20 workers working daily to dig wells and aqueducts.  During one of his visits to the hamlet, King Louis XVI decided to create a triumphal arch at the entrance to the estate, at the edge of the Bois des Onze Arpents, at the north end of the Allée de Saint-Antoine; The construction of this new Porte Saint-Antoine (my entry point to the property) ended in June 1787 and was ornated with a lion’s body, emblem of the King. (My entry point to the Domaine for walks with family).  The place is completely enclosed by grates and ditches; It enters from the Trianon either by a covered and sinuous road, which allows  to discover with surprise the smallest houses, either by the edge of the Bois des Onze Arpents  and a meadow with light slopes forming tiny waterfalls, which offers a plunging view on the Main house and the village of Saint-Antoine.


Despite its idyllic aspect, the hamlet is a veritable farm perfectly managed by a farmer designated by the Queen, with its vines fields, orchards and vegetable gardens that produce fruits and vegetables consumed by the Royal table. According to the Queen’s instructions, farm-reared animals came from Switzerland whose animal breeds are reputed to be the most authentic, which often gives  the name of the Swiss Hamlet. The Queen invited her guess upon her request only and many were jealous to be left out; some of the regulars were the Count of Vaudreuil, the Baron of Besenval, the Countess of Polignac with her daughter Aglaë de Guiche and her sister-in-law Diane, and the Count of Esterhazy . The Prince of Ligne does not missed an opportunity to visit the hamlet or, at the very least, to keep abreast of the news of the Place .  The Queen appreciates the company of her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, and the Princess of Chimay. Madame Campan, first maid, and Countess of Ossun, Lady of D-Atous, accompany the Queen on all occasions ; the children also benefit from this relative simplicity: even Madame Royale, judged by her mother (Marie Antoinette)  too imbued of her rank, is sent to pick up with the other children of the hamlet the eggs of the hen house, in a nice basket . It is rare that King Louis XVI goes to the hamlet, the freedom of tone is therefore only easier: the meals are lighter and simpler than at Château, and you have fun during only a few steps away, in an empty castle of any courtyard animation, the nobility maintains hatred and jealousies.

The Queen’s house  (Maison de la Reine) is located in the center of the hamlet. Its picturesque appearance is reinforced by the originality of its structure: a double body of non-aligned buildings and simply connected by a walkway covered with a round tower, outside staircases supported by wooden poles and roofs of various inclinations. It is the only one, with the cleansing dairy, to be covered with tiles. Its decoration is simple but elegant, far from the flamboyant luxury of the castle. Composed of two floors, it comprises at the top level an antechamber in the form of a Chinese cabinet, the small living room, also called  Hall of the Nobles, and the large living room with a stretched panel of Swiss-style tapestries embroidered with wool and basketry. Of the six crossings of the room, the Queen can easily control the work of the fields and the activity of the hamlet. In the center of the room is a harpsichord on which Marie-Antoinette loves to play. The access to the floor is either by a large staircase inside, or by the round tower, stopping at half-height and followed by a footbridge and then a volley of ten steps reaching the outer gallery. On the ground floor, the building features a backgammon decorated with a chessboard and a simple white stone-paved dining room with the cut corners making way for small black squares. The chairs, in the backrest lyre in solid mahogany and garnished with green Morocco leather.


On the left, another building is connected to the Queen’s House by a gallery of olive-green wood embellished with trellis and hundreds of pots of flowers in earthenware of St. Clement, marked in blue by the Queen’s figure, in a medallion suspended from a ribbon surrounded by Roses, which reminds the Queen of her Habsburg-Lorraine ancestry. An  eighty-foot garden  along the gallery allows you to grow flowers and grow up to the roof of climbing plants. A spiral staircase accessing it by the left is originally wrapped around a poplar present before the building. Upstairs, above the large billiards room, flanked by two wardrobes, is a small apartment, which seems to have been inhabited by the architect of the hamlet Richard Miqué and which includes five rooms including a library. Despite the rustic appearance of the facades, the furnishings and interior design are luxurious.  The Queen’s House and billiards are reopened to the public in May 2018 after five years of restoration!!!

The boudoir was originally dubbed the Little House of the Queen. Its dimensions are modest, 4.60 m by 5.20 m; It’s moreover the smallest construction of the hamlet, of very simple construction in apparent millstone. Marie-Antoinette withdrew alone or with one or two of her relatives, in the square living room which composed most of the place, at the fireside of a white marble fireplace decorated with twigs of ivy. The walls alternate embedded mirrors and drapes of tapestry cloth, which participate in the intimacy of the place. The woodwork was originally of mahogany-colored Holland oak, but they were replaced in the Second Empire. The windows are in Bohemian glass. the roof is covered in reeds. This cottage upholstered with a virgin vine is preceded by a small geometric garden, rather made up of flowerbeds than of cultures and surrounded by thickets. The small stream that runs along the boudoir marks the separation of the cottages for the Queen’s use.

The tower of Marlborough, built with the appearance of a vaguely medieval lighthouse, is originally called Tour de la Fishery (Pêcherie). Of the three floors of the tower, only the hexagonal base is of verge stone, to ensure its strength.  The tower is used to store boat fishing tools  in its basement. A narrow hallway allows you to go from the dairy to this circular room. From the foot of the tower, you climb up and down a wooden oak boat painted in grey, for walks on the Great Lake or fishing for carp or pike. The upper part is painted wood of a decoration imitating the stone and serves to communicate by signals with the castle.  The name Marlborough is a reference to the lullaby Marlborough going to war, written in 1722 but brought to the use of the day in 1782 thanks to Beaumarchais and its resumption to the court by the nanny of the Dauphin, Geneviève Poitrine.  After the revolution, the tower was one of the most damaged buildings.

The wind mill (Moulin) is one of the most picturesque cottages, with a pictorial charm reminiscent of the role of the painter Hubert Robert in the creation of the hamlet. The four facades of the building each have a different appearance and décor, although in harmony. The wheel driven by the brook derived from the Great Lake is only a decoration element and no mechanism or millstone was installed in this factory.  The ground floor room seems to have served a time of exhibition gallery for the first models of the hamlet. At this lounge is attached a small closet, serving as wardrobe. A small hallway provides access to a side entrance door. The square room on the first floor, four meters apart, is a small dining room or room, which is not known if it ever served. It is accessed by an outside complex of  staircase of two flights of stairs. On the front, a half-timbered cabinet is constructed as an outgrowth over the brook and is connected to the first-floor room by a walkway allowing access below.  The interior of the building received a sober but neat decoration. A tile is laid in all the rooms and the two main rooms each have a chimney in marbre. A molded cornice and painted faux mahogany wood panels complete the décor. The mill has a fenced garden in the south of hedges  and a pergola. A wash house is also attached to it, at the edge of the brook.

The réchauffoir (warming room)  is indented, about a dozen meters from the back of the Queen’s house, masked by bushy shrubs. It includes the premises necessary for the service: a large kitchen, a bakery, a lumberjack and a pantry, but also lingerie and silverware. The interior is made up of  stones and is illuminated by three windows. The food can be warmed up from the great common. Originally intended to be only a warming room, it actually cooks dishes intended for dinners given by the Queen in her house or at the mill. A large furnace of twenty-two fires, painted in faux-brick decor, is surrounded by a bread oven and a roasting-pan. A closet is intended to keep the royal dishes, porcelain and silver. A two-meter-high oven keeps the dishes warm. A beech table is placed in the center of the room. Running water is provided in the yard by a tank above the preparation dairy. A small adjacent house is designed to accommodate the workers.

The tradition of planting a dairy (Laitérie) in a Royal property is old . Marie-Antoinette ends up following the trend of her time, but preferring elegance and simplicity, far from any extravagance.  Originally, there are two dairies in the Queen’s Hamlet: the Dairy of preparation, in which creams and cheeses are produced, is located north of the tower. The milk is creamed from the cow and the butter is beaten. A stone table is surrounded by consoles on which are stored tin utensils. Pasteurization is carried out in a small adjoining room. The water, which also feeds the close houses, is stored in a tank cleverly concealed in the attic This building is  from 1783, but with another destination: composed of two rooms and a cabinet, it is originally a bakery,which the furnace is leaning against the west facade. The whole is covered with reed and the interior is tiled from materials recovered from the fishery The Queen comes to taste dairy products in the second dairy, named Dairy of Cleanliness, on tables of veined white marble arranged around  the room and supported by fourteen sculpted consoles. They are served in milk terrines, jugs, cups or butter in porcelain, made in the Queen’s protected manufacture, rue Thiroux in Paris. The floors are also covered with blue and white marble. In order to maintain the freshness of the room, a trickle of water flows into a central channel and four niches have been arranged with vases adorned with carved dolphins. The walls are adorned with a trompe-l’oeil decor. The dairy of cleanliness is, with the House of the Queen, the only thatched cottage to be covered with tiles, because of the fragility of the vault with painted caissons one builds even a small hangar simply equipped with two benches of stone, at the end of a wall pierced by two arches.

The farm (Ferme) of Marie-Antoinette is created, slightly away from the hamlet, to be a real exploitation. The various buildings that comprise it are built from 1784 to 1789, with numerous modifications during the construction: barns, a sheep barn, a pigs, hutches and a hen house.  The farmer designated by the Queen to drive the farm but also the dairy. He arrived from Touraine with his family. Their residence, built in 1787 and composed of three bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room, is, like all the houses of the hamlet, decorated in the rustic taste. A dairy boy and a cattleman come to assist them in the farm. In 1787, the construction of a new barn in the farm enclosure allowed the first to be transformed into a ballroom. A bridge over the ditch allows access from the rendezvous aisle, thanks to a large awning door. The farm courtyard has a water trough and a well. In the direction of the hamlet rises another portal in masonry and stones , topped by two big balls.

Also close to the lake, the House of the dovecote (maison de colombier)  houses a dovecote, in its attic, and poultry house, on the back. The House of the Guard (Maison de la Garde),  is located on the edge of the estate. The house is in the center of a cultivated enclosure, made up of small plots. During the creation of the hamlet, a barn is built between the preparation dairy and the dovecote, and shows the Queen’s desire to be close to the peasant life.  On the other side of the barn is the two-window bedroom, which is accessed by a staircase of about fifteen steps overlooking a bin garnished with pots of flowers. Above it is a small attic used to preserve the seeds. The whole is covered with a very complex roof, straw, reed or even tiles, alternating the right and nested pans, which gives its charm to the building. The garden of the barn has the peculiarity of being completely enclosed of hedges and gates. It is accessed by three main entrances. A wide right path to the West is covered with a cradle of climbing plants and allows to go to the farm.

Reservoirs at the back of the belvedere flow from thin, cascaded streams in the middle of a low-slope meadow: the Cascatelles, designed by Richard Miqué, to fill the great lake. This one,dug in 1785, forms, in its outlines, small bays and peninsulas. Its largest dimension does not exceed 130 meters. A first river escapes to get lost in the outer ditches. It is equipped with a small stone bridge connecting the Queen’s house to the dovecote, decorated with a cornice in modillions. Another arm flows in front of the mill, in a narrow half-meter deep groove, after feeding the wash-house .

But it is the afternoon of October 5, 1789 , summoned by a messenger of the king while she is in her cellars, she casts a last glance towards her hamlet that she will not see again.   Abandoned after the French Revolution, the hamlet of the Queen was the subject of three major restoration campaigns: One led by Napoleon I from 1810 to 1812 represents the bulk of the present base. The second was achieved through the sponsorship of John Rockefeller Jr. In the  1930’s. Finally, the hamlet was renovated from the years 1990, under the impetus of Pierre-André Lablaude, chief architect of the historical monuments, and it was opened to the public in 2006 within a space named Domaine de Marie-Antoinette. The House of the Queen as above just came to be opened fully renovated in May 2018.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this super wonderful place in my beloved Versailles are

Chateau de Versailles and the Hamlet

Tourist office of Versailles ,and the Hamlet

Now you are all set to visit one of the must to see in Versailles and in France and Europe. Wonderful, magical, and just gorgeous after all the nice restorations.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!




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