Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Usse / Chinon, France

This chateau was our first stop on our second day of riding and even from this distance, it seemed somehow magical. Apparently in 1696 Charles Perrault happened upon the estate of Usse and was equally inspired. It was here that he wrote the first of his fairy tales -- La belle au bois dormant -- The Sleeping Beauty. Today you can follow the haunting sound up the winding stairway, to the top of the tower and peek into the rooms which have been set up to depict the story of the Sleeping Beauty. Alas, the chateau is privately owned (part of it is still inhabited by the Blacas family) so we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside.

Approaching the chateau from the gardens -- the towers closest to us in the picture are the towers where the scenes of the story of the Sleeping Beauty have been set up. Throughout the two towers, the haunting strains of the Sleeping Beauty Waltz can be heard. It's a bit like getting the chance to step into a fairytale. All that was missing was the opportunity to dress up and make-believe that I was that beautiful princess... Ah well, a girl can dream!

While we were able to tour most of this chateau, we weren't allowed beyond this tower inside. What we discovered later is that the part of the chateau behind the tower is where the Blacas family lives -- guess I wouldn't want hundreds of drooling tourists to wander through my house day after day, either!

The towers of La Belle Au Bois Dormant.

On our way to Chinon (a quick 15 km from Usse), we stopped for a quick break next to this field. I just loved the bright red poppies , therefore we have a picture of them! 

This is a city with a deep, long history. In Gregoire de Tours, mention is made of a seige in 446 by Adgidius the Roman governor of Gaul. In the tenth century it belonged to the Counts of Blois who were fighting against the Count of Anjou. Richard the Lionheart (a Frenchman, not a Britan!) died here after sustaining mortal wounds at Chalus. On the evening of March 9, 1429, Joan de Arc made her apperance at the chateau and correctly identified the dauphin despite his attempts to disguise himself (seen as one of her miracles, but truth be known, his face was imprinted on every coin, so recognizing him might have been as simple as our recognition of George Washington!) The stories these walls could tell... However, our exhaustion pushed us to our hotel rather than up yet another tightly winding staircase.

This is a view of the chateau at Chinon from across the Vienne River. The tower on the end is the same clock tower as in the previous picture.

A closer look at the clock tower from across the river.

We just liked the old world feel of this street -- we walked up and down it several times as we went from our hotel to the city square. Minus the cars in the background, it was almost as if we had stepped back in time. The cars almost served to highlight the age of the city, though. The streets had clearly been designed before cars were a concern -- in many places, there was barely room for one car to squeeze by!

Jean d'Arc  
We "stumbled" upon this statue (after having been pointed in that direction by our guides!) just before we got to the Vienne river (which we crossed to take two of the previous pictures). It was here in 1429 that the peasant girl correctly identified the dauphin, starting the reconquest of France from the English.

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