Tuesday 25th September.
Chateau Usse visit, a very relaxing start to the day as it doesn’t open until 10.00am. Which at this stage is not a bad thing as it is really turning Autumnal, literally the sun doesn’t appear properly until about 8.30 and its now dark by 8.00pm. The shorts are still on but are now pretty much in shoes again, its a bit cold on the toes for Jandals and evidently the French don’t approve of Men wearing jandals.
So this Chateau is still privately owned, the present owners living in one of the wings that is not open to the public, there is a massive ongoing restoration project here as the limestone rock used is really suffering from old age. Quite a bit of information on this restoration process, but in what seems true French fashion nothing is happening quickly.
The castle is owned by the Duke de Blacas, the first known user of Usse was the Viking Gelduin I who erected a wooden fortress here in 1004. The present building was begun in the 15th centuryand the final pavilion built in 1690. The gardens and terraces were designed by LE NOTRE, (the famous architect of the gardens of Versailles.
The legend tells that while staying at Usse, the writer Charles Perrault (17th century) was inspired by the romantic features of the place and wrote here the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
This has been portrayed with lifesized staged excerpts from the story throughout the Ramparts of the castle.
From here we actually backtracked about 20km to pay a visit to the Royal Abbey in Fontevraud Abbey, this is one of the last remaining Abbey’s in France. Prior to the reformation followed by the revolution there were over 1000 religious orders scattered around France. These were almost entirely destroyed during the reformation. Fontevraund was saved as a building as it was converted into a prison (one of the most feared prisons in France) and remained in use until the last prisoner left in 1985.
It is a massive restoration national restoration project here as well, but as this is a UNESCO building funding is granted by central government as well.
It is actually quite incredible to here about what has been found under the floors of these old buildings in terms of foundations of even earlier buildings and Crypts.
Also passing right beside one of France’s Nuclear Power Centers, obviously very well guarded.