lundi 5 septembre 2011

Chateau de Vendeuvre, Normandy

I'm posting fresh from our holiday in Normandy, when we chose one of the most sunny weeks in the summer holidays, so it was a great time to see some of the beautiful Normandy countryside.  We chanced upon a stunning chateau which is near to Pierre sur Dives and not far from Caen.

The chateau is largely known for its collection of unusual miniatures and the gardens.  I passed on the miniatures and went straight to the gardens and they took my breath away.

Construction of the chateau began in 1741 and it's a typical French 'country house' of the 18th century.  The chateau is still lived in by the comte and comtesse of Vendeuvre although one can visit the ground floor and the impressive kitchens.  The chateau suffered a great deal during the last war; it was entirely emptied and used by a sucession of army troops.  Luckily the furniture was put into storage in just three days before the arrival of the troops, so most of the furniture was saved.  The park was destroyed by tanks rolling around the grounds.  Some bombs were dropped near the chateau and broke windows and the roof.  The old black and white pictures of the chateau during the war are an impressive testament to the enormous amount of work that has been put into the chateau to bring it to its present glory.  Restoration finished in around 1983.

According to the guidebook, the chateau gardens are 'à la francaise' and were created in the mid 18th Century.  From 1970 the garden restoration began and Guy Vendeuvre was inspired by the plans from the 18th century which he amplified and to which he added the themes of topiary and water.

An impressive labyrinth sits behind the chateau with yew hedges and white roses.  There is a fun mystery treasure hunt in one labyrinth, an exotic garden, a Japanese summerhouse, a cave covered in shells with a fountain, a gorgeous babbling brook, lovely views over the nearby fields, amazing vistas and hidden paths,  The most fun part is a walk in the beautifully kept gardens amongst the suprise water gardens.  For example, a contrasting coloured post box red Japanese style bridge topped with doves that turn into fountains when the visitor approaches.  There are more surprises in the Temple of Serenity, the Turtle Cascade, the Muse Fountain, the Crystal Tree and Cléance's bedroom.  Beware, you might get slightly damp if you don't look out!

I'll let my multitude of (rather good though I say it myself - I was inspired) photos speak for themselves.  The gardens were a wonderful mix of the natural, casual, formal and fun.  There were a lot of shady corners perfectly planted and it seemed that the plants had always been there like that, such a timeless, effortless feeling and such a serene, calm, quiet atmosphere with only the sound of the fountains and babbling brook in the background.  Do go if you are ever in Normandy, it's well worth the visit.

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