This week we are visiting six châteaux in the Loire Valley, of which – in total – there are dozens. I will be doing a series of posts in which I highlight each château that we visit, along with the surrounding town (if noteworthy). There are the châteaux that are situated on the Loire itself – Chambord and Langeais are the two that we visited. And there are the ones located on the tributaries – the smaller rivers – that feed into the Loire.
The word for tributary in French is affluent. Now you can understand why the English word affluent means wealthy. The river becomes “wealthy” as it accumulates the water from its tributaries.
We visited one castle on the tributary “Cher” and that was Chenonceaux. We visited three on the tributary “Indre” and those were Loches, Azay-le-Rideau and Ussé.
Today I’m going to show you Loches, which is pronounced low-sh in one syllable. There is a small royal city within a larger city, and you enter the protected city through an opening in the wall. There is just one gate, which made it easier to protect.
Once inside there are four points of interest. The streets here reminded us of Provence with the narrow, hilly, cobblestone streets.
The first is the house of painter Emanuel Lansyer (this is his auto-portrait) –
who painted many scenes in the area of Loches during the 19th century.
This is the view from his garden
Once inside, the little house is a museum
with all of his beautiful landscapes from the area
and his collection of Japanese artefacts
Just a little further on inside the walled city is the small chapel.
There’s a modest Easter service going on.
And there is a beautiful terrace open to the public
with a ceiling of wisteria at the entrance.
Another point of interest is the royal residence.
It’s honestly not the most impressive part of the little city.
But there are cute little guard dogs in the entrance –
each one different from the others.
And there is a costume museum (not the original clothes, but from the right period). We saw this in other châteaux as well – costumes from operas or period movies. I would have liked to have seen the originals, but the details are impressive. There is a lot of hand-stitching.
And they show you how the upper crust took a bath (with a sheet inside and a curtain to keep the bathers warm.
Here’s the exit for the balcony
along with a closer look at the stone floor
and the garden surrounding the residence.
But on the other end of the walled city there is the donjon. In English this translates to “keep” and not dungeon. It is a walled tower where there is usually just one room on each floor, and you access the rooms via a staircase as opposed to a corridor. If a prisoner was truly disgraced, they would be kept in an “oubliette” – which means “forgotten.” Once they were lowered into the underground stone cell with a rope, there was no getting back out again. More noble prisoners (with more graceful captors) would be held in an upper room in the donjon.
This is the donjon of Loches (and a ticket will get you access to both the donjon and the royal residence – the painter’s house is free).
Here are the stairs that lead to the entrance (over the moat).
In fact there are a lot of staircases.
And once locked inside, you don’t get out very easily.
This is not actually an “oubliette” – it’s where they stored grain.
But there were “questioning rooms.”
This particular castle does not have a very sordid history of questioning. Thank goodness the guys were a bunch of softies.
But it does have a very donjon feel to it. In (what I believe to be) the governor’s room,
there is a scale city model that the kids love.
Apart from the costumes, you will mostly find stone stairs and stone rooms. But for a first chateaux visited, it was still pretty exciting –
with tons of cool details, like these solid wood floors with hand-forged nails.
and images carved in the stone walls
and old artillery.
The walled city of Loches is most known for the meeting held on May 8, 1429 between Joan of Arc and the prétendant to the throne – Charles VII. She convinced him to go get crowned at Reims because – following her victory at Orléans – she had a dream that she would accompany him for that purpose and he would be safe.
There were other notables – Anne of Brittany, Catherine de Medici, to name a few – and this is not surprising since the Loire was the seat of regent power until Louis XIV built the Palace of Versailles and moved the royal center to near Paris.
The best thing about visiting a château within a city is you can stop afterwards for lunch. Although I don’t recommend the Chinese food. It was the worst we had ever eaten.
This is the pigeon tower where they would send messages.
And the second best thing about visiting a château within a city is that you get magnificent views of it wherever you turn.
Next up! Tours!