Tag Archives: Chateau de Cheverny

If It’s Tuesday, That Must Be Talleyrand

Or, Why You Might Not Want to Travel With Me. I’m nearing the end of a 9-day trip to France, and for sure I know I married the right guy all those years ago. He cheerfully drives anywhere, this time from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the Loire Valley and back, with at least two or three stops at sights every day. If you don’t like a slightly hectic travel pace, you might not want to tag along with us.

We based ourselves in tiny Chenonceaux, pretty central for the Loire Valley. (The town’s name ends with an X but the chateau’s name is Chenonceau).

And Chenonceau has the most beautiful and fascinating chateau anywhere, if you ask me. Plus Chenonceau always smells wonderful. Every single room always has fresh flowers, as no doubt they did in the days that Diane de Poitiers and later Catherine de Medici gazed out the leaded-glass windows at the River Cher.

Thanks to the wonders of our Garmin GPS to find places, and my trusty iPhone cellular data to double-check opening times, we covered a lot of ground on this trip. Also, we were seeing some of these places for the second or even the third time. (For us, history never gets old. It just gets more interesting).

Here are a few of my other favorite things from this trip:

Claude Monet’s Gardens and Home in Giverny.

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau: a jewel of a Renaissance castle, recently renovated and sparkling on its own pretty little island.

Chateau de Cheverny: owned by the same family for hundreds of years, plus they have about one hundred happy hunting dogs.

Chartres Cathedral, one of the greatest medieval pilgrimage sites, always spectacular (even though I don’t understand why the interior was recently whitewashed. I have mixed feelings about the very controversial recent “renovation”). I really love the mismatched towers, pretty unique in cathedrals. What were the builders thinking, as the second tower went up? Who gave them permission? Well, it works for me.

Chateau de Blois, layers of history plus a generous serving of murder and mayhem.

Talleyrand? He was the right-hand diplomat of Napoleon Bonaparte, among many other things in his gleefully scandalous life. He pretty much did as he pleased and had a wonderful time. His Chateau de Valencay is lovely in a faded-elegance way, and very entertaining.

Just above, the fairy-tale towers and turrets of Chateau d’Usse.

I have lots more just to list, but I still have a couple of days to see as much as possible. Time to plan what else to see. I’ll finish my trip list later. Naturally, I took a ton of photos and picked up a ton of guidebooks. I’ll post much more about each of these sights and all the rest after I catch my breath. To be continued!

The Hounds of Cheverny

ChevernyFacadeThe Chateau de Cheverny, one of the most beautiful and best preserved in the Loire Valley, is home to a large pack of dogs still used for “riding to hounds.”

This was the sport of kings, all over Europe, for centuries. In the past, it consisted of chasing a hapless animal–fox, deer or boar–across open countryside.  Riders on horseback follow a pack of baying hounds, jumping fences and ditches. People who subscribe to the hunt say that the baying of the hounds is like beautiful music. In the past, the hunted animal might be cornered and attacked by the dogs. I didn’t see any information at the castle about how modern hunting is actually done, but I’ve been told that it is much more humane these days and follows local regulations. And of course it is necessary to control the wildlife population.

ChevernyHoundsOne of the main attractions at Cheverny is the daily feeding of the hounds. The dogs are a combination of English foxhound and French Poitou.  Their dinner, “la soupe des chiens,” always attracts a crowd.  The hungry hounds mill around in their kennel, baying and yelping, when they know it’s almost time.  Their lab-coated trainer hauls in big troughs of raw meat, topped with kibble, and places it all on the floor, which has been hosed down beforehand. The trainer lets the dogs into the feeding area, barking and jockeying for position–but they have to wait! They are perfectly trained.  They stand inches away from the food, until they get the signal to eat. Then they leap forward, crowding and snapping, and devour it all within a few minutes.

This kind of strict training must be essential for hunting, which I understand they do twice a week. Clearly these hounds live to hunt. I can imagine their joy when they’re set loose in the woods.

I revisited Cheverny in 2018 and missed the feeding, but saw the dogs and one of their keepers, who spoke in a friendly with visitors while cleaning their enclosure. My French is not great so I didn’t quite understand the conversation. I noticed a new sign explaining the feeding and sanitation for the hounds–I need to translate it.

I’d like to have asked the kennel man whether there’s a retirement program for dogs too old to run with the pack. I have a feeling there must be. They are clearly loved and cared for.

ChevernyHounds3I’d like to think this handsome fellow, photographed on my visit a few years ago, is enjoying his golden years on somebody’s sofa–with his very own food dish beside him.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!