Friday, October 22, 2010

Parthenay and old chateau

Some days are laundry and grocery shopping.
Some days are glorious.
Last Thursday was one of those glorious days.
Mom and I drove an hour away to a town called Parthenay. A town with old churches, a 13th century castle and town walls still in existence. This town was on one of the main routes to Santiago de Compostela. It had timbered houses from the medieval period. We walked through one church with a history going back to the 11th century. Hard to really comprehend something that old.
Below is a picture of where we had lunch.

We left Parthenay with plenty of time to pick the kids up from school. As we were driving back along the country roads we saw a sign for a chateau in a town called Coulonges-sur-l'Autize. We decided to stop and just get some information so we could return at a later date. We saw a sign for a tourist office but the door was locked. (Tourist offices are usually very helpful here with information and free maps) We also saw a sign for the mayor's office directing us the back of the building. So we wandered around to the back and went in the building. Two men were standing there talking. We asked if the Chateau was open. They replied, in French, that the Chateau was closed until May. Then one man starts telling us the history of the room where we were standing. He points to the ceiling and starts describing the ceiling. He asks if we can understand his French. We could. He then starts telling us the history of the Chateau. More lights are turned on so we can see better. Then we move to the next room. More history is explained. We didn't even know that we were standing in the heart of the chateau. The enormous fireplace should have given it away.
Before we know it we are getting a tour of what remains of the chateau. At one time it was a large important chateau. It has quite a history. During the French Revolution, tribunals were held at this chateau. At these tribunals, decisions were made about who would get beheaded.
We walked upstairs to see the upper rooms. The doors were locked. We heard some women talking. They were local women who volunteer their time to sew period costumes for display in the chateau. They had keys to the locked rooms and they let us in. They also joined us. They showed us the period costumes they had already made. They also showed us a drawing of what the chateau looked like before part of it was destroyed. There was quite a group of us walking around this old chateau.
It was about this time that I realized that if we didn't leave quickly we would be late picking up the kids from school. We said merci beaucoup and left.
I raced back to the school on the country roads and flew around the roundabouts. I was 3 minutes late to pick the kids up. Phew.
What wonderful people to share their local chateau with us. They shared their pride of history with us and we appreciated it.
The chateau is still being restored and we got to see rooms that were still under construction. Those rooms were as interesting as the rooms that have been restored. It gave me a good view of the time and energy that goes into restoring these old chateaux.

1 comment:

  1. Your old chateau story is by far my favorite so far. That is so cool that you got a behind the scenes look at the place!