OK so I made that up. OK so a friend made that up for me! It’s just that July has turned out to be “Visit a Chateau” month. Visit several. So it’s not a bevy of castles, nor a school of chateau. We made it up.
- Château Champs sur Marne
- Chateau Maisons Laffitte
- Château Blandy Les Tours
- Château Courances
- Château Pierrefonds
- Chateau St. Germaine en Laye
- Chateau Brest
- Chateau Dieppe
- Chateau Vincennes
I like castles. Probably got started on them when I lived in England from ages 9 to 11. British history is so much more exciting than that of America. When I visited the Boston area at age 13, the guides would gush about buildings built in 1640. There I was, rolling my eyes- what’s that next to Dover Castle – or even Stonehenge for that matter? And knights and damsels dressed better than Davey Crockett.
My preference has been for the Middle Ages – Romanesque leading into Gothic. And I am now discovering the Renaissance. And that I like it. Most surprising.
France has wonderful Gothic cathedrals. But many… no, most… of the chateaux are from the 16th, 17th or even 18th centuries. And many of the supposedly medieval chateaux are faux chateaux! Meaning that Monsieur Violett-le-Duc, an architect from the 1800’s was assigned the task of restoring many of the falling down monuments. So what I thought was Medieval is really HIS idea of Middle Ages. So Carcassonne – the wonderful castle in the southwest of France is Middle Age Violett-le-Duc style. As is some of Notre Dame. All the famous gargoyles on the top of Notre Dame were his idea. And he rebuilt the chateaux Pierrefonds. Literally. It was a nice medieval castle that a king had pulled down in ? because he didn’t want it to fall into the hands of any enemies. Napoleon decided he wanted it back. And VLD was picked for the job. A bit over the top when you think of other real medical places. Still and all, it’s fun.
Blandy-les-Tours was also rebuilt – but in the past 20 years so it’s not a VLD project. BLT is a small castle and really fun.
You can walk most of the ramparts. Easily visitable in half a day.
Chateaux Champs sur Marne and Maisons Laffitte are 17th century renaissance castles. More like large manor houses or small palaces. Not built for defense. Champs sur Marne literally means fields by the Marne river.
Both are accessible form Paris by train, CSR to the east and CML to the west. And inside Chateau Maisons Laffitte…. of course, black and white tile just like my kitchen back home!
St Germaine en Laye is at the end of the metro to the south west of Paris. It houses the archaeological museum. I didn’t go in – been there, done that. But I did take a long hike through the gardens and, yes, forest.
Chateau Courances is close to BLT. We didn’t go in – the grounds were open for walking for 7 euro. The castle itself is closed in July and August…. So the family can vacation there during those months. Undisturbed by tourists. Nice life.
And for a petit surprise – across from the Chateau we spotted a polo field with some kids on polo ponies practicing.
Chateaux Brest, Dieppe and Vincennes were August visits but they count since I am the one who is making up the rules.
The castle at Brest is the maritime museum and the headquarters for the French nuclear submarines.
Dieppe is on the coast – a great truly old castle that was there to ward off those invading Brits!
And Chateau Vincennes is just at the end of the metro line one here in Paris and is one of my favs. The donjon was even in a drawing in the Book of Hours of the Duc du Berry. It’s an interesting place – castle from 1300’s with palaces from Louis XIV and army buildings from Napoleon.