Saturday, April 29, 2017

March Wanderings - Along the river Indre

The river Indre holds a beauty and charm that does not readily reveal itself. It wends its way though the shadows of the forest, breaking into rivulets and streams, then rejoining into glittering ponds. Dotted along its length watermills capture its small drops, transforming the gentle but incessant flow into a means for grinding flour, the base ingredient for our most basic food, bread, the staff of life.

Nameless chateaux and manor houses rub shoulders with troglodyte homes.

Delightful homes spanning many centuries and various degrees of modesty...

There is a very famous castle at Azay-le-Rideau, but having visited it several times before I chose to explore the surroundings instead. In the heart of the village is the church of Saint Symphorien. Parts of the facade retain stonework dating back to the 9th century. The church went through many phases of construction, with the most recent being from the 16th century.

Beyond Azay, following the Indre up-river I came to the village of Saché, a place that has attracted artists for many generations. Honoré de Balzac stayed here often as a guest of the owners of the Chateau de Saché.
Alexander Calder settled in Saché and made it his home for the last 13 years of his life.

The village has a small but delightfully muscular church.

The bicycle ride from Saumur to Azay-le-Rideau was more than I could accomplish as a round trip in one day. So I spontaneously decided to stay the night at a Bed & Breakfast I found just outside Azay. This allowed me two days to explore further up the river Indre, reaching Saché at my farthest point. Here are a few photos of the B&B at which I stayed.

March Wanderings - Chateau d'Ussé

Up and out ... on the bicycle and whizzing along the Loire river ... past all the sites of my previous posts without stopping ... veering left at Candes-St-Martin, over the bridge that crosses the Vienne ... into the woods through which the most hidden of all the rivers flows, the river Indre ...

House built in the last 50 years, using traditional materials and techniques

vineyard and winery

Old manor that has been converted to a farmhouse

Original gates to the manor

One of the many water mills straddling the Indre river

A nameless chateau peeking above the treetops
and then the landscape opens up and the magical castle of Ussé suddenly emerges ...
It is believed that this was the castle that inspired Charles Perrault to write his version of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty". Elements of the castle date back to the 11th century but what we see today mostly dates from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Part of the castle remains closed to visitors and it is still lived in by the owner, the 7th Duc de Blacas. However the main portion is open to visitors and is a fascinating place to explore.

Restoration of one of the dormers was in progress while I was there.

Scenes from Sleeping Beauty have been recreated in attic rooms.
On the grounds of the chateau are a chapel, carriage house, green house and terraced gardens.