Archive for June 24th, 2018

June 24, 2018

Potager du Roi or the King’s gardens Versailles!

And as I was drawn into gardens with my dear late wife Martine, we had visited several over the years. This one is especial because it was our backyard for many years ,and we purchase fruits and vegetables from it while living in Versailles. Of course, talking about the Potager du Roi or the King’s Vegetable Garden.

It is a historical fact of the city and seldom overlook by the hordes of tourists rushing to see the castle museum; they are really missing a nice piece of history here;and good fruits/vegetables too!!!

The King’s vegetable garden or potager du roi was created in 1683 near the Château de Versailles (the works were from from 1678 to 1683) for King Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie, then director of the Royal Gardens. Became an urban garden, it stretches over 9 hectares.

Required important work to dry out the pre-existing swamp, the “stinking pond”, and backfill the land with good quality land from the Satory hills. Important masonry works, for the construction of terraces and high walls, were carried out by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The vegetable garden is next to the Swiss water room (piéce d’eau des Suisses), not far from the Orangery. The king entered through a monumental wrought iron gate, the “King’s grate” which overlooks the alley of the water room. It is one of the most beautiful in Versailles. It is one of the few original grids. Grid of the king between the vegetable garden and the water room of the Swiss (piéce d’eau des Suisses).

The finished garden looked very much as it looks today. It covered 25 acres (about 9 hectares), with a circular pond and fountain in the center, surrounded by a Grand Carré, a large square made up of 16 squares of vegetables. Around this was a raised terrace from which the King could watch the gardeners work. A high wall surrounded the Grand Carré (big square), and behind the wall there are 29 enclosed gardens, with fruit trees and vegetables. The careful arrangement of the different chambers of the gardens created individual microclimates, which allowed La Quintinie to grow fruits and vegetables out of their usual season. La Quintinie supervised the gardens until his death in 1688. His post was occupied briefly by his colleague, Nicolas Besnard, and then was taken over by François Le Normand in 1690. Le Normand’s two sons and their descendants ran the potager du Roi for the next ninety years. Jacques-Louis Le Normand, the last member of the family to direct the potager du Roi, died in 1782, and the garden came under the direction of Alexandre Brown, of English origin, who was the gardener at the royal garden at Choisy.

In 1793, during the French revolution, the garden plots were rented out and the tools and plants, including the eight hundred pineapple plants, were auctioned off. In 1795, the Convention, the revolutionary government, declared the potager to be a national institute, the tenant farmers were ejected, and the garden became a school and scientific center.

The vegetable garden or potager is made up of two sections:
A central part devoted to the cultivation of vegetables, the “Grand Carre” or large square of a surface of 3 hectares. It is divided into 16 squares arranged around a large circular basin adorned with a central water jet, which serves as a reserve for water, and surrounded by 4 raised terraces that turn it into a sort of theatrical scene. The squares are surrounded by pear trees on espaliers. At the end of the 18C, the terraces of the sunrise and the sunset were transformed into ramps to facilitate the movement of the carts. In the below photo you see the terrace wall on left and the Cathedral of St Louis afar.


Scattered all around and enclosed with high walls, a dozen (originally 29) of rooms, gardens containing vegetables, berries and above all fruit trees, apple and pear tree mainly, partly espaliered on the walls or in free form or conduit in espaliers. In 1785, 6 walls were removed in the southern part, too humid and not adequately ventilated, leaving only 5 gardens instead of 11.

The King’s Vegetable garden, or potager du roi ,which has an orchard of some 5 000 fruit trees (more than 400 different varieties), produces good year bad year about 50 tons of fruit and 20 tons of vegetables, part of which is sold in the store boutique (open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays morning). The King’s Garden is open to the public since 1991 (visit from Tuesday to Sunday from 10h to 18h, from the first weekend of April to the last weekend in October).

The vegetable garden housed successively the Central School during the revolution, the National Agronomic Institute in 1848, then the National School of Horticulture in 1873. It later became the national Higher School of Horticulture (ENSH), transferred to Angers in 1995 (now the INHP (National Institute of Horticulture and Landscape). It has been placed since 1976 under the responsibility of the National Higher School of Landscape (Nphs), which was originally a division of the ENSH.

Some nice views and other things to see inside are :
The Levier Orchard, with a central aisle and the water jet with views of the St. Louis Cathedral . The Big Square or Grand Carré; The students ‘ gardens(jardin des élèves), the orchard of the Fourth of eleven, (Le verger du Quatrième des Onze) with apple and pear trees; Statue of Jean- Baptiste de la Quintinie holding a graft and a serpent.

Some nice nearby which we love to go and secluded quiet and great history is the Parc de Balbi ;the story goes in 1785, the Count of Provence, brother of king Louis XVI and future king Louis XVIII, bought for himself and his mistress, Anne de Caumont La Force, the Countess of Balbi, a property adjoining the potager du Roi. He then commissioned his architect, Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin, to design and build a country house, known as Le pavillon de la pièce d’eau des Suisses (or the pavilion of the piece of Swiss waters, well sort of..) , and an English garden, the Parc Balbi on the estate. The new garden had a winding stream, islands, and a belvedere atop an artificial grotto, in the picturesque style of the time. In 1798, the pavillon and garden features were demolished, but traces of the alleys and the lake are still visible, the park is still there and free. More on this park from the tourist office of Versailles:

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and you should take time to visit are

Official webpage of the Potager du Roi :

Management of the Potager du Roi :
A site for all gardens of France on the Potager du roi :

Versailles tourist office on the potager du roi or the King’s vegetable garden:
The WMF of USA helping restore the Potager du Roi:

And there you go a jewel in my beloved Versailles, many memories with the family and hope you too cen enjoy it with yours.

Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

June 24, 2018

Metropole Nantes!

I was going to see some World Cup games with a friend near Nantes city, and as usually go by there on my trips out by plane at Nantes Atlantique airport the trip was on usual territory. One of my best friends just moved there, and we went to visit and share some pints with the football/soccer games of the World Cup.


The games were so so on the first game Belgium beat Tunisia 5×2 a really lopsided game. The following one was a bit better as Mexico doing an excellent World Cup beat South Korea 2×1, and finally the best matchup of the day saw Germany beat Sweden 2×1 on a last minute free kick from Real Madrid ‘ player Toni Kroos , superb shot and kept Germany with chances of continue and avoiding catastrophy at home. More on official webpage:

All with plenty of pints from Germany, Belgium, and Brittany and munchies food plancha style. And with good company. the town is Orvault and it is one of 24 comprising the metropole of Nantes as well as the 5th biggest town in it.

A bit of info in French from the city of Orvault with a map of what is the Metropole of Nantes:

The site in French of the Nantes Metropole on Orvault is here:

Of course ,Orvault is today in dept 44 Loire-Atlantique, région of Pays de la Loire ; and was on the historic territory of Brittany. Dense traffic around here even if on weekends is ok; The national road N165 (known as route de Vannes because it goes my way there) is actually starts here by the beltway or boulevard périphérique of Nantes. This one crosses Orvault,and it has two exits/sorties or call here gates or Portes these are the porte de Rennes at No 37,and porte d’Orvault at no 36. There are no train station because it uses that of Nantes. The tramway is connected on line 2 which goes around the area we were (even if we went by car lol!) this line has the departure and terminus at Orvault-Grand Val, it goes by Le Cardo, and reaches Nantes city, and line 3 by the districts of Beauséjour , Plaisance, and Petit Chantilly. There is also a bus line 86.


We really went to see friends as locals, but it has some interesting spots to see as always in these territories worth coming back for the tourist look. Some of these are:

The Château de La Tour built in the 12C, and renovated in the 16C and again after 1900. It was done of granite stone in the neo gothic style of the 20C. The Chapel of the castle was built in the 15C ; it has a stained glass showing the founders of it done in the 16C shown also the Calvary and the deposition of the Cross. There is also, the Château de la Morlière a manoir or big mansion house of the 18C. As well as the newer Château de la Gobinière built in 1872. In 1923, the castle was given to a Catholic congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Comptenplacies, that in turn in 1951 left it to another congregation of the Sisters of Retirements. The Diocese of Nantes sold the castle to the city of Orvault in 1976. The Castle is surrounded by a park, named today as parc Michel-Baudry (that was the mayor when it was sold to the city). There is a municipal theater call the théâtre de la Gobinière in the property. There is a Church of Saint-Léger from the end of the 19C.

Well as said, not a tourist visit but a personal one, and we went by the route de Vannes and Rennes; and of  course we went to get some goodies at the wonderful E Leclerc hypermarché just walking distance from the house. Webpage here:


And the most important the beers, no time to stay ,just came to purchase and take home for the games at the Bistrot Houblon also at walking distance from the house. Their webpage is at Facebook here:

Nantes Nantes

At the end we stayed on untl 3h or 3am or a very nice party ambiance amongst friends really nice these days to have a stop like this, especially in my situation. I just wanted to make it part of my blog so the memories can lingered more. And now for more games at the World Cup today!!!

Enjoy your Sunday , and remember, happy travels, good health and many cheers to all!!!

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June 24, 2018

A look back at Chateau Thoiry in the Yvelines!!!

Looking back at the places we have been as a family ,so many, I have come to realized sometimes do not write enough on certains ones. This is one of them, this is a wonderful castle and property that even one blog post won’t do justice. A must to see away from Paris. I have written some spots in several of my posts in the past, this is the first time stand alone. Enjoy it.

I am talking about the Castle of Thoiry and the Animal park or zoo that is there. Château de Thoiry is a Renaissance castle located in Thoiry in the Yvelines department 78, some 50 km west of Paris, and 30 km from Versailles. The roads are nice quaint the real pleasure of driving in Europe, you have the D11 that cuts the town in half, towards Villiers-Saint-Frédéric and the N12 to Septeuil, the D45 goes to Richebourg and then Maule and Orgeval. The D119 runs almost the length parallel to the D11 to get you to Beynes and Hargeville. The closest train station is at Beynes 7 km and Montfot-l’Amaury-Mére at 8km.

A bit of history I like. Raoul II of Moreau, grandson of the first owner of the building, led the castle’s one and only sale of its history. On May 1, 1612, he provoked a duel and killed Ann le Blanc de Rault at the gates of the castle. Condemned to death for this murder, he exiled himself to Rome. His property seized, the Château de Thoiry was entrusted by the king to Guillaume Marescot. Since its acquisition in 1612 by Guillaume Marescot, the Château de Thoiry has remained for thirteen generations the property of the same family, the transmission often being by women.

Angélique de Marescot married Charles de Machault Arnouville , later Charles must leave Angélique to find his troops, since he is in the regiment of Languedoc-Dragons (he will be Colonel in 1780). During those years when Charles will be away from Angelica regularly, they will write 1500 letters of love, 6000 pages in total. These pages kept in the archives of Thoiry are a gold mine where we find the small details of daily life of the times.

At the dawn of the Revolution, Angélique de Bandi, Charles de Machault and their children are in Paris. They left the capital after the Bastille took refuge in Thoiry. The family was denounced in December 1793 by the teacher at the Montfort Battalion at the city’s supervisory committee. He was reportedly saying that Charles ‘ son-in-law and brother had emigrated abroad, which was a punishable offence. They were therefore arrested on 20 May 1794. Condemned to the guillotine, they were rescued extremist from death. It was after the fall of Robespierre that the chain executions stopped. They were released on October 25, 1794.

Eugene, comte de La Coourse, his wife and Marie Hélène Béjot had made a vow at the beginning of the war of 1914: If the Germans had been stopped before Thoiry, they would consecrate the chapel to the Sacred Heart. Exhausted from the war, Eugene died in 1919 of the Spanish flu. His widow realized his vow to built the Chapel.

During WWII, Thoiry was often chosen by the German Army as a resting place for his troops in 1940, the Countess of La Coourse was told that her son, Lieutenant Antoine de la Coourse had avoided his regiment being surrounded in Belgium. , but that he had been wounded three times and left for dead. Saved by a German surgeon, Antoine was repatriated.

The castle, open to the public since 1965 by Count Antoine de La Coourse, is also famous for its zoo animal park. The entire castle does not visit. Only a few rooms on the ground floor are open to the public. The room with the staircase of honor is adorned with four tapestries of the Goblins series The Love of the gods, the arms of the poet Guillaume Budé: Venus in the bath, Diane returning from the hunt, the myth of Narcissus, and the abduction of Europe. In the entrance are several portraits, one of which represents Marie-Hélène Béjot, Countess of La Coourse.

Chateau Thoiry Chateau Thoiry

Salon of the Matin (morning room) this room retains a collection of porcelain plates. The furniture consists of several armchairs of the 18C, one of the Regency style, the other of Louis XV style, a last Louis XVI style. The chapel is dedicated to the Sacred Heart after WWI vows. The stained glass windows represent, among other things, two angels bearing the arms of Raoul and den Motet (referring to their participation in the 1248 Crusade). A Virgin to the Child and Enfant in stained glass, ceramic made by Della Robbia adorns the interior. The oak altar dates from 1754.

The Archive room of the Château de Thoiry retains several tens of thousands of documents, of which only a few are visible. These include several letters (signed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Châteaubriand, Rodin, Lamartine, Eugène Sue, George Sand…), genealogical trees, photographs, miscellaneous objects, medals and official documents.

Salon of the Tapisserie is a room that owes its name to the tapestry of the goblins of which it is adorned. The exhibition has several portraits: one representing the Chancellor of Ponchartrain, the other Jean-Baptiste de Machault Arnouville. The lounge is also furnished with two 17C busts and a 17C Dutch chandelier.

The  Lounge Vertes Salon has a monumental 19C fireplace, a copy of the Renaissance chimney of the hotel Vogüé de Dijon. The furniture consists in particular of a series of armchairs, sofas and shepherdesses, a Dutch marquesy of the 17C, a small table of the 17C in fine marquetry supported by four gilded wooden caryatids, and a 17C dog bed. The piece also retains a tapestry representing king Henri IV chasing the Lion and a collection of portraits such as the  Portrait of Young Girl by Nicolas de Largillierre, Portrait of Galéas de Marescotti, Portrait of king Louis XV Child by the workshop of Hyacinthe Rigaud, portrait of Monsieur le Duc d’Orléans representing the brother of Louis XIV.

The large vestibule, covered with woodwork, is furnished with a chest-style inlay and a Regency-era ice, surrounded by two Roman busts. The rest of the furniture consists of the car chair of Charles de Machault Arnouville and a cassone, wedding chest dating from 1450, brought back from Italy by the Marescoti and restored in 2007. The vestibule is adorned with several portraits including two pastels representing Jean-Baptiste de Machault Arnouville and his wife Geneviève Rusty, a Portrait of a gentleman by Nicolas de Largillierre and a portrait of Alexandre Millan by Hyacinthe Rigaud.

The libraries are surmounted on their cornices of Imari vases of Japan. They retain a collection of old works of music salon or white salon furnished with two shepherdesses , an office in fine marquetry and above a roll signed Lardin, a table of Migeon stone, sofas and armchairs.  Due to club Père, tens of tapestries of Aubusson illustrating the fables of La Fontaine, armchairs made by Pissard and Jean, rafraichissoirs of China offered by king  Louis XV, and a harpsichord painted in 1750, near forty years after his realization, of grotesques and monkeys musicians by Christophe Huet, animal painter of the king.

This Angelique room owes its name to the various women bearing the name of Angélique who were the owners of the castle: Angélique de Bandi, Angélique de Marescot, Angélique de Vogüé and Angélique Apougny. The furniture of the room consists of a Migeon stone reading, a Regency-style dresser and another of turcot, corners, benches and a canopy bed, a dresser decorated with bronze. The walls are adorned with several portraits: a portrait of Angelique representative of a young Marescot, a portrait of Angelique representative of Vogüé, a portrait of Angélique Apougny and another of Michel de Marescot by Nicolas de Largillierre, a portrait of Angélique de Bandi and a portrait of Charles de Machault.

The Chinese boudoir retains an 18C hairdresser, a spittoon, and a cane chair concealing a pierced chair. The painted silks of the boudoir were imported from Asia in the 18C. The gardens of 450 hectares are wonderful see below.

The Animal park takes place within the domaine of Château de Thoiry, located on the rural communes of Thoiry and Villiers-le-Maca. Opened in 1968 and first managed by its founder, Antoine de la Coourse, then by his son Paul, it is now managed by Antoine de la Panouse since 1968. This Zoological Park, which extends over 150 of the 450 hectares that includes the estate, presents about 750 animals belonging to approximately 46 species of mammals, 26 species of birds and 9 species of reptiles. It also has amphibians and invertebrates. It features a safari party, visitable by car, a more traditional pedestrian area and a 126 hectares botanical park comprising several theme gardens: Autumn gardens, perfumes, English, Labyrinth, Rose Garden, and an inverted floor.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it is worth a detour are.

More on the castle and park at official webpage :

See the Paris tourist office in English:

City of Thoiry webpage in French:

Hope it helps. Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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