Travels in France, part 2
My apologies for the second part taking so long to arrive here. I wrote this section a while ago before Zoundry Blog Writer threw it away. Doubtful I could write again with as much enthusiasm I left it but a series of questions has prompted me to write it again. It was better the first time, I promise.
We had left Disney behind us now, heading south-west to avoid the hot city streets of Paris and on towards Versailles. With high expectations of “the largest palace in Europe” we arrived underneath a hot midday July sun amid a mass of tourists. This did not bode too well.
Having seen the queues and general melee for entrance to the palace we skirted round to the back and the 300 year old gardens. We walked around a little of the gardens themselves, around a third by my estimation, but although I was daunted by the sheer size I found such a scale seemed to preclude individual attention to detail.
We managed to escape the sun by retreating into the shade of trees where we relaxed in each others arms and watched life slowly drift by. We shared a romantic moment until we noticed the small audience of school children. We decided against continuing the performance for their benefit and watched as better informed tourists toured the massive park in electric golf carts.
Rested and cooled we headed back to the palace but the crowds still swamped its walls and we vowed to come back another day. We wanted a smaller château we could have more to ourselves and within an hour or two we found one.
Château de Valançay
I can’t recall the inspiration for this visit as my guidebook doesn’t extend as far as the Loire Valley region. The château was acquired by Talleyrand in 1804 and as Napoléon’s foreign minister the château was soon used to dine and impress foreign dignitaries. It was also where Ferdinand VII of Spain (King) was held in luxurious captivity during Napoléon’s reign.
The scale of the château and gardens are much smaller than Versailles but that missing level of detail is restored. Hedges were perfectly trimmed, flowers blossoming everywhere and the main fountain spraying water clear enough to bathe in. If the restaurant had been open it would have been perfect though I doubt there were enough visitors to justify switching on an oven.
We drifted slowly through the château itself each receiving a guide in our own native language courtesy of devices vaguely resembling 90’s mobile phones. The rooms themselves were full of original furniture, partly because the château was untouched by the ravages of WWII when its owner the duc de Valancay established his personal neutrality as Prince de Sagan, therefore avoiding occupation on a technically.
The grounds are also home to a rather fun maze with locked doors, mirrors, smoke machines and historical puzzles to be solved if you wanted to get out. We were also treated to a small farm where you could feed various animals which was an experience in itself, perhaps one better enjoyed had there been a sink or somewhat where I could have washed the goat drool from my hand.
Somewhere to sleep
We spent much of the late afternoon hunting for somewhere nice to stay passing through Orléans and it’s surrounding villages. We stopped to ask for directions of the only person we’d seen in hours, a rather elderly gentleman. Clarissa ran up behind him, prompting him in French several times. He looked up at the sky as if being addressed by the heavens themselves before realising it was a lost German girl standing behind him. Within seconds they’d switched to English, the man revealing himself to be American before giving us directions to our hotel. Directions that turned out to be completely wrong…