The Château-Going Begins

Chateau de la Roche Courbon, France

We couldn’t resist.

We had resolved that our château-going wouldn’t begin until we reached the Loire Valley, where we planned to unleash our energy, enthusiasm, and admission dollars. In that enchanted land of lavish castles, we had old favorites to return to and a lengthy list of new places to seek out.

And yet there we were, heading through the countryside in France’s Poitou-Charentes region a few hours south of the Loire Valley. All it took was a recommendation from an area resident and a glance at a glossy brochure flaunting a large, exquisite-looking castle accented with round, turreted towers and a sprawling formal garden at its feet. We were in the car faster than you can say magnifique.

Our destination: the Château de la Roche Courbon, where we found the expected and the surprising.

A castle, of course

Chateau de la Roche Courbon Reflecting Pool

This isn’t a museum. It’s someone’s home. Castle upkeep isn’t cheap, and some owners, like those at the Château de la Roche Courbon, open their doors to tourists eager to have a look inside.

The château dates from the 15th century, originally built with defense in mind. 200 years later it was embellished to make it more of a genteel residence than a fortification. The château was later abandoned and sank into disrepair, inspiring poet Pierre Loti to plead for someone with deep pockets to buy and restore it, asking: “Who wants to save from the death sentence a forest with its feudal castle in its midst?” Loti’s friend Paul Chénereau answered the call, and it’s his descendants who live there today.

We can’t show you the château’s interior because of the stingy, no-photos-inside policy. But here’s a peek at the highlight. This painted, paneled room shows off murals of Hercules and other mythological figures, along with a more unusual feature: a bathtub tucked into an alcove.

Photo © Chateau de la Roche Courbon

Romantic gardens

Chateau de la Roche Courbon Garden

The French know how to do gardens.

A double half-turn staircase cascades from the château down to the grandiose greenery, listed by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the country’s “Gardens of Note.” More of a park, the sculpted acreage has an avenue lined with lime trees, statues, a stone dais, and a pond in the center that mirrors the chateau.

Prehistoric caves

Chateau de la Roche Courbon Grotto 

Prehistoric caves aren’t a typical find at a château. But there they were, a series of grottoes sunken into the foot of a limestone cliff. The caves, dating to the Old Stone Age, are reached by a woodland walk on the Château de la Roche Courbon’s grounds.

Photo shoot backdrop

If the Château de la Roche Courbon looks familiar, there’s a reason for that. It’s the elegant backdrop in our post The Full-Time Travel Weight Loss Miracle, as Brian models his oversize pants.

The Fulltime Travel Weight Loss Miracle

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4 Comments on “The Château-Going Begins”

  1. Angela September 1, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Your photos are absolutely breathtaking – I’ve always been a huge fan of castles and enjoyed your post.


  2. digger666 September 1, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666.


  3. Bama September 1, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Chateaux de la Loire are famous for a clear reason: centuries-old elegant castles with a scenic setting. Beautiful photos!


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