Monday, 1 April 2013

Villebois-Lavalette (Part two)

In hindsight, the town  probably deserved three posts, so I apologise in advance for wrapping up this visit in only two, with so many photos; although there are still some others, which didn't "make the cut" that would also have been of interest!

Striding up the steep hill away from the market square, the tour guide - a very slim twenty-something in a long red medieval-style dress, was setting a brisk pace, all the while providing  constant commentary on the history of the town.  So much to tell us, but as it was all in fairly rapid French, we may have lost some  information! Nigel tried to keep up with what she was saying and relaying a summary to me! (English tours are offered during the summer, but we decided to take a chance with French, rather than miss this opportunity to see the chateau)!
 Walking up through the town, the first place we stopped at was this short alleyway under the old Ursuline convent.

The first small square after the alley; the small dark door led into the convent.

 Through a second arched passageway and we were in another small square. Before 1900, this space was the focus of important activity in the town, bounded at ground level as it was by a prison, a Court Justice's office and schoolrooms, the latter providing education, we assumed, from the convent's nuns.  Upstairs under the roof overhang is where the old Mairie used to be, accessed by an external stone staircase. It all seemed so tiny and small in scale, to accommodate all these municipal functions! In 1904, the town's administration was relocated to new offices on the edge of town and these buildings were sold to private owners.

Brass markers set in the town's pavements by the local Council, to identify points of interest for tourists. A clever idea we have seen in other French towns! Here they have incorporated the iconic triangular shape of a cornuelle, the Easter biscuit I mentioned in part one!

 Returning  to the main village, our guide pointed out this ancient sundial - it was dated 1627; you can see the pigeonnier in the wall above it!

 This three storey house at the back of the church is the largest in the town;  during  WWII, it became notorious as the Kommandantur or local command centre, seized by the Germans  for military use.

 The restored house of Francois de Corlieu dates from the 15th or 16th century. De Corlieu was a historian and counsellor to the King from 1544, but unfortunately drowned in the Charente river in 1576.

The doorway, with a plain but lovely  ogee carving above. The small shield immediately below is de Corlieu's coat of arms.

 and on the ridge, this very fancy metal finial!

Our guide explaining some things about the old market- see previous post. There's the dress I mentioned earlier - really period costume!

The restored drinking fountain in the market square. There are a number of these scattered through the town, all fed by pipework from a natural water source originating at the top of the hill.

A view of the château driving towards the town. A commanding presence in the countryside. It has a long history, having been built in the 10th century on the site of a Roman settlement. I won't go into all the great detail of those 1000 years (!), but most of what is available in tourist brochures and on the internet is hopefully in here! It was fortified over the centuries, was the site of battles between the English and French during the Hundred Years War and was badly damaged during the upheaval of the French Revolution! At the beginning of the 19th century, it became a prison!

The defenders had a great view of approaching hostile forces! Those first Romans settling here knew this was a key position.

The outside walls


The main entrance into the château. The guide said that there was originally a drawbridge here, crossing a deep moat around the building.

The arms of the Duke of Navailles, who largely rebuilt the château in the 1660's. The deep recesses in the stone were to house mechanism for the drawbridge.

The first impression you receive on entering the château is its massive size and the large scale of restoration work going on! A well known French singer, Bernard Lavalette, is currently trying to raise funds to continue the efforts, but the structure is in a bad state after a devastating fire in 1822 destroyed half the château  The building on the right is the chapel, built in the 12th century with two storeys. The ground floor was to provide shelter for pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and the upper floor for the family of the owners.

The chapel taken from the courtyard side.

The current courtyard level has been found, during archaelogical investigations, to be some 2 metres (6 feet) above where it was at the time of construction! The position of doorways in the walls (see photo below) and the existence of paving at the lower level seem to indicate that the rise in level could be due to the accumulation of building rubble from collapsed walls and roofs over the centuries.


A solitary cannon, obviously used for defence, but its more detailed history was not revealed!

A view from the lower window in one of the two semi-circular towers on the long side of the courtyard. One cannot look out of the upper windows without a ladder now, as the stone vaulted floor of the room above has collapsed!

 Massive!

 To supply sustenance to the château's occupants, there were two underground kitchens which adjoined, this being the fireplace to one of them. The iron plate would be fixed to the back wall to protect the stone from the intense heat of the fire.

 The other end of the kitchen. Amazing vaulted stonework!

One of many capitals (the ornate block at the top of columns) in the process of restoration. Beautiful carving and many day's work!

 An underground room only newly discovered in the throes of restoration. It was filled with earth, all of which had to be dug out!

Last but certainly not least, the "garderobe" (medieval gravity toilet) built into the outside wall! They are not unusual in buildings of this age in Europe and would  have been enclosed within a room, also probably used for storing clothes; I imagine the internal walls and roof have long since disappeared. With the advent of indoor plumbing, these facilities were thankfully no longer needed!






See also - My Life Before Charente Updated 01/04/2013

and my daily photo diary  HERE
http://photodiarydps.blogspot.com 

64 comments:

  1. Diane, what an excellent tour. Perhaps, next year, we will be able to creep along these same walls. Thank you for all the history. By the way, that period dress your guide is wearing is fantastic. I also always enjoy seeing a road sign in pictures telling me just exactly where the photo was taken. Susan

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this town Susan as it is easy to reach from our place and a town well worth visiting. I am sure that you would enjoy it. I am also told that the little restaurant there is very good though we did not try it. Keep well Diane

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  2. this is just wonderful! thank you so much for the tour!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Jaz, it really is a pretty town. Keep well Diane

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  3. Great tour Diane. This village has a very Medieval feel to me. How nice to have the tour guide dressed in costume. Makes it all that more enjoyable.
    Sam

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    1. Thanks Sam. The guide was an absolute mine of information and she spoke English fluently. It was though a French tour and we were the only English speaking people, there was certainly no time for her to repeat everything in two languages. Nigel did though pick up much of the talk, but after two hours of concentrating on following her it got a little difficult :-) Keep well Diane

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  4. So many interesting things to look at in France ;-) I trust you had a wonderful Easter and send you good thoughts for a warm week ahead. Here Spring has finally arrived.

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    1. Joyful it amazes me how much history that there is in France. Easter was very quiet. Take care Diane

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  5. Diane, as you know this the type of village/town that I love to visit and photograph for my blog. It would be a shame if they are not able to complete the restoration and the ruins continue to deteriorate. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Michel there is a lot of effort going into the raising of money for the restoration, I am sure it will get done but it may take some time. Have a good day Diane

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  6. Another wonderful tour Diane, even if some of it was lost in translation for you!
    That is rather a striking red costume the tour guide was wearing. :))

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    1. Ellie it was a great tour and the only way to see the château. Yes the costume was striking and you could not lose her in the crowd :) Keep well Diane

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  7. fun place with a very impressive kitchen

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    1. Rebecca it must have been quite dark working in that kitchen but so beautifully built. Have a good week Diane

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  8. DEAR DIANE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SUCH A BEAUTIFUL TOUR, YOUR PICTURES ARE SO LOVELY, AND YOU WERE CERTAINLY VERY LUCKY WITH THE WEATHER. TAKE CARE

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    1. Pamella the weather was amazing, it it the only day this year that has been that good :-) Keep well Diane

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  9. That is quite the dress your tour guide is wearing! Can I just write that I love France-It captivates me every time.

    Velva

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    1. Velva I never realised how much I would love France, but as you say it is captivating. I never thought I would leave Africa and I have to admit part of my heart is still there, but France is now my home and I love it, and all its history. Have a great week Diane.

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  10. I believe you've missed your calling as a tour guide. Wouldn't it be fun to dress up and share this amazing place and it's stories. Maybe become an English speaking guide.

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    1. Gaelyn I don't think my back would stand it, I found this tour just did my back in walking slowly from place to place, and then standing around listening. It would be fun though. Have a wonderful week, Diane

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  11. I agree!

    A fantastic tour of an interesting place.

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    1. Thanks Gaynor, if you are ever in this direction it is well worth a visit. Hope all is well in the Loire, take care Diane

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  12. I love the windows and the beautiful fireplace.
    It looks nice, and SPRING has arrived in France.

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    1. Gunn it is such and interesting town and so much to view and take in. Yesterday when I saw the lizards out I thought that spring was here but today they are all back in hibernation again! Take care Diane

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  13. Hi Diane .. this was a lovely diversion - the antiquities and architecture in France are beautiful .. your photos are stunning ... such an amazing array - loved seeing round ...

    Thanks and interesting to note it was a stopping point for pilgrims ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks Hilary for your kind comment, this really is a lovely town and was well worth the visit. I am sure we will return many times with visitors. Have a good day Diane

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  14. I have such a love for stone vaults. There is something so strong about them, the craftsmanship and ancient engineering are so impressive. Thanks for the great pictures. I love your tours of out of the way places!

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    1. Deana I also love the vaulted rooms. I wish we had a vaulted cellar under our house, but this was the one thing that was not at this place. All the ones we did see with cellars the rest of the house was rubbish! Have a great week. Diane

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  15. The shot of the clouds through the window is beautiful... talk about "framed". I also really like the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen. I tried to leave this comment last night but blogger ate it!

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    1. Craig I also have that problem from time to time but not too often thank goodness. Thanks for persevering. Have a great week Diane

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  16. That was a super tour....thank you! Lovely photographs.
    I have to second the view about feet and backs during tours....if I don't keep on the move I seize up!

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    1. Thanks fly, glad you enjoyed it. I broke my back when I was 16 and it does not like me standing around at all!! Hope you are both well Diane

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  17. What a fabulous place this seems to be, and beautifully photographed Diane. I'm hopless at guided tours as I also feel the need to take things at my own pace. I'll make a note of this place as somewhere I'd like to visit

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    1. Richard this is a fantastic place to visit. The problem is because of the restoration you cannot see the château unless on a tour! We will certainly be returning here with visitors. Have a good week Diane

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  18. I love glimpses of how people lived way back when, like your drinking well, toilets and kitchen. I was also glad to see your costumed guide; that type of detail adds so much to a tour, doesn't it?

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    1. Marjie this is one of the most interesting places we have visited and yes I agree the costumed tour guide did add a touch of history to the day. Hope your week is a good one Diane.

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  19. Great pictures !! A visit to this town is now written in my diary !
    I don't like guided tour usually but the castle must be visited ..... Have a good week
    Béatrice

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    1. Béatrice this place is a must visit. I also am not crazy about guided tours but there is no other way to see the château. We thought that it was definitely worth a visit. You have a good week also. Diane

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  20. Enjoyed the tour, and nice to have visited the chateau while having my lunch!

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    1. Vera glad that you enjoyed the tour, it is a lovely town. I hope that you are feeling better, take care, Diane

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  21. Looks like you had a great time. What a Lovely place!

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    1. Mark it is one of the top places we have visited and I am not sure what took us so long! Have a good week, Diane

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  22. Hi Diane, looks like you had a great day out. Thanks for sharing , it is very interesting to see where you go, and you take super photos. .. I also love your Photo Diary blog.. not sure how you manage them all :-) take care and keep warm, it is still very cold here. xoxo Anne

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    1. Anne I am also not sure quite how I manage to keep the photodiary up to date sometimes but so far..... Thanks for your kind comments, keep warm Diane oxo

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  23. I always learn so much from your posts. What a beautiful and historical place. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your photos with us Diane - I love looking at them.

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    1. Thanks Pam for your very kind comment. I am glad that these posts are appreciated as it means the research we have done is not a waste of time. It is of course interesting to us as well. Have a good day. Diane

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  24. Excelentes fotografias....
    Cumprimentos

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    1. Obrigado pelo seu comentário. Bom fim de semana. Diane

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  25. WOW!
    Again quite an interesting visit of this area in both posts!
    What else to do by this horrible weather?!!
    Keep well, cheerio!

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    1. Noushka they were so lucky to have a hot sunny day for their fair, it has been horrible again ever since!! Have a good weekend Diane

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  26. You have such a great eye for interesting detail, Diane. I loved every frame of your tour today. The chateau is magnificent. Have a great weekend.Blessings...Mary

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    1. Mary I am so glad that you enjoyed this post, I hope that one day we will get to see the châteaux restored :-) Take care and have a good weekend, Diane

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  27. From all you have shown us in France, it seems there is nothing "new" but love the old buildings such as these.

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    1. Joan sadly there is a lot of new building going on here. The young couples just setting out in life cannot afford the restoration of old buildings, and they are building small places that all look similar, very boring and all over the place. We hate then, they are very un-French, but someone must be making a lot of money out of building them, they are going up like mushrooms everywhere! It means that more and more of the old houses will eventually just crumble and collapse, very sad. Keep well Diane

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  28. Thanks for the informative tour of this ancient place. great photos too. It is wonderful that this place is being restored. The period dress is great to see.

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    1. diane I am glad that there is so much restoration going on, but sadly many of the private homes are just crumbling down as restoration is so expensive. Have a great weekend Diane

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  29. What a collection of old buildings! The details are wonderful. Great post, Diane.

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    1. JM a town really worth visiting if ever you are id this direction. It has a bit of everything. Keep well diane

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  30. What a lovely place to visit and I enjoyed all these great photos. Thanks Diane :)

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    1. Denise we did enjoy our visit here and we will certainly return with visitors. Take care and keep well Diane

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  31. You have given us a wonderful tour of this 17th century town. What a treasure and I have marked this and your previous post to revisit. I love the cadran solaire, vertical!

    Bises,
    Genie

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    1. Genie if you are ever this way I highly recommend a visit here. We also loved that sundial it was so different. Keep well and have a good week. Diane

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  32. I agree with another commenter...you make a wonderful tour guide. I always enjoy your photos and learn more about the areas you visit. I love the beautiful dress the tour guide wore...how splendid!

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    1. Lavender Dreamer, thank for the kind comment. That outfit the tour guide wore somehow added a whole lot extra to the tour, it was great. Diane

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