Saturday, 4 September 2010

Day 33 - Clisson

Today was a day off from wine-tasting.... Actually, it was to be a day off from everything, to lie by the pool, given the glorious sunshine, but it turns out that the constant moving around is a harder habit to break, so I decided I would explore the town before maybe lying by the pool in the afternoon.
As I crossed the cobble bridge from the Trinity area to the château side, I really was struck by how beautiful a part of the world this is.
My room is the top-right of the 4 arched windows overlooking the weir
Friday is market day, so I wandered up to the stalls in both a covered area "Halles" dating back to the Middle Ages
and those out on the cobbled streets just beneath the château...
After enjoying all the sights, sounds and aromas of the market, I made my way into the château for a tour round. I was a little surprised at some of the questions put to us by the tour guide.... and even more surprised by the lack of answers from the french tourists of why they thought the castle was situated where it was? what some of the various openings in the walls were for? Maybe growing up in Ireland where we are surrounded by castles, (granted, in greater disrepair than many of these), but you know that putting a castle on top of a rock by a river immediately aids defence by making the most of the landscape and it gives you the views to see your enemy approaching from a great distance. Slits for arrows, openings above gates to drop stones on invaders..... these all seemed to be new concepts to my fellow tourists, which really shocked me.
Note the Italian style villa in the distance
That aside, this castle sits within Brittany but on the historic border with France, so was a vital defence in years gone by and it is this history that really brings Clisson's castle to life. Its most famous owner was Olivier V, Duc de Clisson, who fought for the English, and Brittany and then France during the 14th century.
And the aqueduct...
The strategic location now represents a position yielding panoramic views of the countryside, the river Sèvre, the town, both back across to the Trinity side with its Italian style Villa and country house, the aqueduct and of course down onto the market below.

I wasn't quite ready for the pool, so I decided to walk along the river bank and around and up to the Italian Villa perched on the hill, seen from the château earlier. This large expanse of land was bought in the early 1800s by an artist, who along with another artist friend transformed it into a little piece of Italy, with a villa, a large rustic farmhouse, little follies dotted around with statues of the Roman gods and goddesses, even a tiny mock temple to Vesta.
You can see from the pictures that the town itself has embraced this idea, as Clisson could easily be found in the countryside of Italy, with its terracotta colours and its orange roofs.
From the Villa back to the château

I have seen many beautiful towns on my tour of France, some quaint, some floral, some chocolate-boxy, some fairytalish..... this is by far and away my favourite.

The Villa had an exhibition of comtemporary art which I viewed and was very impressed by, but I decided to leave the exploration of the farmhouse to another day... The pool was calling, so bikini on and a couple of hours of sunbathing.... I felt like I was properly on holiday!

So, no wine-tasting today, but maybe tomorrow??

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