Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Chateau de La Roche-Courbon

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First real travel post! yay! Let's get some culture up in here.

The last time I was in this region of France, we went to visit the Chateau de La Rochefoucauld, and without realizing it (until it was too late, and we felt like fools) met Lady Rochefoucauld and had a very pleasant chat in her front garden.

This time around, I didn't meet the Lady (or Lord) Roche-Courbon, but I did ramble around their former grounds for the better part of 2 hours, and what a place it was!

The castle was built around 1475 by Jehan de Latour, on site which had been inhabited since prehistoric times. In the 17th century, the Courbon family, which had occupied the castle for two centuries, transformed the castle into a more comfortable residence. More alterations were made in the 18th century, but the castle was eventually sold in 1817 and then abandoned. It was purchased in 1920 by Paul Chénereau, who restored the castle and its gardens. The castle is still owned and inhabited by his descendants (source)

We missed the last tour to see the inside of the chateau (it is still a private residence, so tours are required to see inside and happen twice per day), but the grounds were expansive enough that we spent a full afternoon wandering.

During the summer you can tell that the gardens would have been absolutely spectacular.  Even now, the signs of spring were bringing small hits of colour.  The gardens are listed by the French Ministry of Culture under their "Gardens of Note" and it's easy to see why.  Apple trees were grafted into benches, and they have their own grotto that is the home to many fascinating caves.

Apple trees!
We started up at the chateau end and made our way across and around the man made river/lake system (fed by the River Bruant), which is extraordinarily expansive, these photos show about 1/10 of it.

Circling around the far side and coming face to face with the most charming grounds keepers quarters I've ever seen, we continued on down to the grotto to get a glimpse of what was what. 

Grounds keepers quarters
According to this website, "the Grotte Château de La Roche Courbon (caves of the Chateau La Roche Courbon) are numerous rather small caverns located south of the castle at the foot of a limestone cliff. The caves were used by prehistoric man and numerous remains were found in the caves, hence the caves are often referenced as les grottes préhistoriques...The caves were inhabited in palaeolithic times during the Mousterian, Aurinacian and Magdalenian periods, from 120,000 to 10.000 BC."

Cool, right?

If you're interested, a more detailed history of the chateau and its gardens can be found here.

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