We are now well into a new phase of weather here in France; everything is sprouting, budding, climbing and flowering – not least my favourite wisteria which covers our petite goat house. I’ve been admiring it now for over two weeks; it’s so fragrant and sways with the breeze. But, I should also mention the wonderful carpet of cow parsley which I spotted yesterday while on a walk, this too is at it’s best right now and there was a host of wildlife buzzing away around it!
Also, my treasure hunting has now entered a different phase!
As time moves on the family is growing with the arrival of my first grandchild in October, together with this I would like to be nearer to my parents, as they get older. So, along with my husband and Demi the Golden Retriever, I’m moving back to Edinburgh ....
....oh how I wish I could scoop up our lovely tuffeau home and take it with us! However, Edinburgh has it’s own marvellous treasures and wonderfully architectured buildings, so I’m excited about our new adventures ahead.
A huge downsize is now in operation and I daren’t take on any more French treasures, so while I’m still here my mission now is to discover France’s other wonderful treasures - chateaus, churches, architecture, and quaint villages.
The first of my visits was to Le Château de Saché
It’s in the heart of the Touraine in the petite village of Saché, and is an unassuming chateau, in fact more like a large manor house.
Its fame lies with a frequent visitor to Saché, the French author Honoré de Balzac. He stayed for lengthy periods at the chateau (which was owned by friends of his parents), between 1825 and 1848. He found solitude from the hustle bustle of his Parisian life, he also suffered from bad lungs due to the pollution of the Parisian streets. To alleviate this he took long walks in the estate’s centuries old woods – these can be seen just behind the chateau on the right.
The inside of the chateau is also quite unassuming, with a small number of rooms. Some rooms are traditionally furnished to reflect the period, and others are now exhibition rooms holding large paintings, sculptures, sketches and writings. The most exciting part for me was the bedroom on the second floor, which Balzac was always given when his stayed. It was difficult getting a photo of the whole room, as it was quite small and quite dark, but hopefully it will give a taste of the lovely calm atmosphere of the room. I’m thinking that at different times of the day the sun perhaps streamed in through the tall window to aid Balzac in his writing!
It’s simply furnished, with a wooden floor and an oaked beam ceiling. On one side there is a desk with an old paper cutter and a coffee pot. Apparently Balzac didn’t like the coffee on offer at the chateau, so he had his own sent from Paris while he was there. He is known to have written to his mother, saying that apart from his love of Saché, his visits also saved him some monthly expenditure on food as he could enjoy their delicious meals!
Under glass on the desk is a large manuscript where he had written lots of notes, it was so special to see it just lying there! On the other side of the room was the canopied bed in which he slept.
He was quite a ‘portly’ gentleman so I was surprised to see how small the bed was!
I didn’t want to move onto the next room, it was such a tranquil chambre overlooked the woods – perfect for writing and getting lost in his thoughts.
Three of his novels, Le Père Goriot, Louis Lambert and César Birotteau were partly written while he stayed at the chateau, and I’m just about to start reading Le Père Goriot to sample one of his works. In English of course as my French would probably not stretch to a 19th century novel! The descriptions within the novel of the French countryside are from his walks around the estate, so it’s lovely to have seen it for my own eyes, and I can now experience his words to full effect!
Just down the hill from the chateau, in the heart of the village, is the beautiful 12th century inn, which now houses the Michelin star restaurant, Auberge du X11éme Siécle. Balzac used to wander down the hill to eat here – presumably when having a break from his hosts cooking!
I’ll let you know my progress with Le Père Goriot, a story about an obsessive father of two daughters - and I’m happy to pass it on if anybody has a craving for a slice of French literature.