Archive for March 29th, 2011

March 29, 2011

Maintenon, its Madame de Maintenon

Travelling along the French roads you never stop amazing yourself of the beauty of the country and its exhaustive treasures. Passing by Maintenon is no exception with its fabulous Chateau de Maintenon, where a certain madame de Maintenon made her marks in French history.

The city of Maintenon is located in the department of Eure et Loir, dept No 28, region of Centre. However its just about an hour from me by car along  either roads D983 and D906, parking is very easy either in front of castle with parking meter or free just on the side of the castle past the river on rue Thiers for free!!! . Along road D906 I did stop by at the town of Epernon to see its wonderful pressoirs.  You are best to leave Paris on the A13 autoroute de Normandie to exit 11 at Mantes La Jolie, and continue on direction Nogent le roi /Maintenon. Best way to come here is by car of course.  It has a train station on the line Paris Montparnasse -Chartres-Le Mans with about two trains per day,and the station is about a km on foot from city center, webpage here  .  The buses can be taken from Rambouillet on lines 89 ,and from Chartres on lines 12 and 152. All on the bus company Transbeauce with webpage here

The city of Maintenon was first mention in about 1123AD  and was added to the dukedom of Epernon, and after the French revolution to the canton of Chartres where it is still today attached as its administrative center.  The things to see are the magnificent castle and aqueduct ruins.  Epernon was heard since 1024AD and was part of the king Henri III in 1581 and eventually it passes to the Marshal Noailles. The things to see here are the Cellier, known as Les Pressoirs from the 12C. You can use the same train line as Maintenon and the same bus company above.

The Chateau de Maintenon, is a jewel that everyone should try to see as you will be able to tell by the pictures I took of it.  Its construction dates from the 12C to the 17C, belonging to the Lords of Maintenon until the 16C when they had to sell it. It was purchase by the intendant of king Louis XII who enriched it and expanded it. In 1674 Françoise d’Aubigné widow of Scarron, the future Madame de Maintenon, purchased the castle. Thanks to the financial support of king Louis XIV with the hope of retiring one day here she makes it her jewel; these renovations were linked to the aqueduct just behind it and the visits by the King Louis XIV. In 1669 she was name the guardian of all illegimates children of the king under the service of Madame de Montespan, the favorite of king Louis XIV, when the children were legally recognised by the king in 1673 she entered the court at Versailles, she raise and educate the children and becomes very close to the king.  In 1683 after the death of the queen Maria Theresa, she secretly marries king Louis XIV. She never returned to the castle after 1688.  In 1715 when the king dies she retires to the Maison Royale or royal house at Saint Cyr a pension for young girls of nobility and poor that she had started in 1685 ,there she died in 1719 at the age of 84! Then,  it goes by heritage to the descendants niece in 1698, and by marriage to the family Noailles, the current owner is Mr and Mrs Raindre(descendant of the Noailles) who in 1983 bequest the castle to the Maintenon Foundation for upkeep. In 2005 in turn it passes to the regional governement council who maintains the castle as of today.

The visit nowdays is done in the reverse order as there is construction in the front of the castle. In no way missing anything for the visit. Normally you will enter by the escalier d’Honneur after crossing a small moat, continue on the bedrooms of Madame de Maintenon, follow by the appartements of the Marshal Noailles, there is a nice piéce de Saxe, and salon Chinois or Chinese room, to the Kings room , and the passages des boiseries or passages with wood decorations; to the Grand Salon or big hall room, the billiard or pool table room, the bibliothéque or library, and the beautiful galerie or gallery and descend the Cénotaphe or small room before heading out again. The gardens are out and in by the passage des boiseries section or by going into the main courtyard behind the main entrance. From the gardens there is a beautiful view of the Aqueduct folly of king Louis XIV.

The gardens were done by fame gardener of the king Le Notre as he got his degree at the Tuileries in 1637 and from his father also a gardener the right to be in charge of the gardens of the king from 1643. The king Louis XIV sends him in 1676 to do Maintenon. There using the backdrop of the Aqueduct and the river Eure while creating several canals and about 30 small bridges , he creates a masterpiece that was not gone unnoticed by the king who made him a noble in 1681.

The Aqueduct de Maintenon is directly link to the parc and gardens of the Chateau de Versailles. The Versailles needed water,and Maintenon had plenty. The king did not want it the water to stop at Versailles, so he makes built the machine de Marly but it was not enough. The geometres of the king led by La Hire, discover the waters of the river Eure can be redirect by gravitation to Versailles, and the king wanted a work that will surpass those of the Romans! So in 1685 work begins with Vauban and La Hire. The aqueduct should go from Pontgouin to Versailles or about 80 kms (50 miles). The design was inspired by the pont du Gard and led by architect Blondel. AFter the war of the league of Ausbourg that empty the funds of the king by 1695,and work stopped. It remain 29 kms to complete (18 miles). The king Louis XIV gives as a gift to Madame de Maintenon. And the aqueduct is still there see the pictures.

While stopping by nearby Epernon, we see the Pressoirs (see photo) were an old cellar from the 12C  when the vinyards were numerous here, it was the storage for the Prieure de Saint Thomas that the religious order kept their wines.  It is now use for cultural activities of the city, when it can be seen ,otherwise by pushing a button at the door the lights comes on and you can see inside from a glass window the place is vaulted and huge, magnificent sight.

The webpage for the Chateau de Maintenon,  . Tourism webpage for the dept 28 Eure et Loir at  . The city of Epernon tourist page , , and the city of Maintenon tourist page see bottom of page in French.

There is plenty of lodging typical of the area in quaint homes of old, however, it is so close to me have had no need to book any. The tourist office can help here. For eating we have try with good friendly local service, generous portions and nice price the Brasserie Saint Denis across from the Chateau de Maintenon.5 Place Aristides Briand, no web tel +33 02 37 23 00 76, and in Epernon, Crêperie du Roi Henry 6, rue Drouet, no web, Tél +33 02 37 83 51 18. Again the choices are nice in both towns with plenty of real genuine country French cooking. Enjoy it !!

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