The Abbey of Fontevraud, Chateau du Rivau and Chateau d'Usse
02.06.2014 - 02.06.2014 74 °F
Another bright, sunny day with blue skies beckoned us to explore and how could we say - Non?
We decided to to head west today to visit three very different locations. We started out for our farthest destination - The Abbey of Fontevraud. It would take a little over an hour to reach, but the scenery along they way was breath-taking. Forests, farmland and vineyards led us across the country-side until we arrived. The town of Fontevraud is small. The entrance to the parking lot is also small, very small. In fact, I wasn't sure we would get through the gate.
While the town seemed nice, we had come to see the Abbey and we were glad that we did. The abbey was founded in 1101, and was built between 1105 and 1165. It became a royal tomb in 1189, when it became the final resting place for Richard the Lion Heart. It would subsequently become the resting place of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The Abbey was in place through 1790, when the monks dispersed and the Abbess and Nuns were expelled. This beautiful Abbey would be transformed into a prison with the last detainees leaving in 1985. Since that time, the restoration process has continued and the Abbey was named to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
For us, the highlights were the Abbey and the Cloister Gardens. The Abbey is simply built, yet extremely reverent. It is not overly ornate except for the four effigies. In case there is a quiz, the four effigies are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, Richard the Lion Heart and Isabelle of Angouleme - she the wife of Eleanor and Henry's youngest son.
The Cloister is simple, but elegant. The stone walls reflecting the sunlight and surrounding the beautiful garden area. Below are pictures of the Abbey to enjoy.
After leaving the tranquility of the Abbey, we changed our plans a bit to stop at the Chateau Montsoreau. What we learned is that sometimes brochures and websites aren't true representations of reality. We drove by, turned around and then headed for our next off the original plan site - Chateau du Rivau.
Chateau du Rivau looks like a fairy tale castle, complete with beautiful, whimsical gardens.
The castle was built in the 15th century by Pierre de Beauvau and was visited by Joan of Arc. The castle is furnished with classical pieces and also contains some contemporary art pieces. My favorite was the cool gargoyle, but that's just my style.
Be sure to walk through the various gardens and do get the audio guide to hear the stories about them. We thought this would be a quick stop for us, but we both really enjoyed walking through the castle and gardens.
Our next stop would be Chinon, except we changed our mind and decided to stop at Chateau d'Usse instead. It was just a little off our path but is famous for being Sleeping Beauty's Castle ( Belle au bois dormant ) - as Disney is said to have modeled their attraction after it.
The Castle of Usse dates back to 1004, when it was a wooden fortress owned by a Viking - Gelduin. Then in the 15th century the first part of the castle was erected on the original foundation. It was completely as it stands today in the 17th century Legend has it that Charles Perrault was inspired by his stay at the castle and wrote Sleeping Beauty.
Be sure to check out the beautiful chapel, the stables with the various horse drawn carriages and, of course, the castle. The climb to the top of Sleeping Beauty's Tower was a little daunting, but even if you don't want to see sleeping beauty, the views are terrific. You can then walk through the various rooms of the castle. There are mannequins in many of the rooms dressed in period costumes through the ages. You move from the 15th century section of the castle to the 17th century section as you go along. It really was an interesting visit. Almost forgot, be sure to check out the gardens and the view over the river.
Before heading back on the road, we grabbed a sandwich from the Cafe across from the Chateau. Delicious ham and cheese sandwich on a fresh baguette. Enjoyed our little mini picnic and then started back for home.
Got a little lost on the way home, but we're used to that on this trip. Ended up having to use the much hated GPS only to find that we were very close to where we needed to be. We agreed that we didn't get lost (we got lost), we just took the scenic route.
We were both tired from a day of walking and climbing steps, so we just relaxed with a bottle of wine and some music.