The madness of March
March was a month of madness where change left our normal routine in tatters.
|In the UK with family|
The big news was that for the first time since the pandemic we made it to the UK for what can only be described as a whirlwind week of catching up with family. The travel alone left my head reeling, but it was worth it – as was the extra cost of a daytime cabin on the ferry. It was our first time using the DFDS Dieppe-Newhaven service, but it won’t be our last.
We have now been living with Covid-19 for two years and although restrictions have all but disappeared, I currently know of more people (both here in France and in the UK) who have caught it in the last few weeks than ever. With France voting this Sunday in the first rounds of the Presidential elections, I’m just glad I don’t have any need to be anywhere near a bureau de vote. Our social life has become a little less hermit-like, but we are still not taking too many chances and never leave home without a mask and bottle of hand gel. The news might not be full of headlines about the pandemic and lockdowns, but with the war in Ukraine, it is no easier to understand or cope with and still leaves a sickening feeling in my stomach.
The clocks have jumped to summer time and winter has officially rolled into spring, although with temperatures of -2º last weekend and tempête Diego currently rocking the garden with forecast gusts of wind up to 100km/hr, I’m yet to be convinced. One thing that I am convinced by is that our climate is as unstable as world politics and although it might not be much, I’m more determined than ever to use my bike instead of the car for local journeys. Last weekend’s frozen commute to work wasn’t easy with three pairs of gloves and seven layers of clothing, but I survived.
Work at the Chateau de Javarzay is a welcome distraction and the more time I spend there, the more I’m learning about it and enjoying it. I like to think that the stones are the bones of the chateau and I hope you’ll agree that it has a fine bone structure to rival any super model. It’s certainly got good pedigree too, being one of the first Renaissance chateaux in the Poitou region and dating back to 1515. The more I'm there, the more details I find to catch my eye and the more the history of this building comes to life.
|The museum entry|
The current entrance to the chateau is in the orangery, an addition to the original building in 1850. The building may have gone through many changes and renovations over the years, but the wear and tear of the centuries is still evident in the superb, patterned floor where I’m lucky enough to spend my working days. The smaller black tiles are set diagonally between the cream flagstone squares, and if you look closely, ammonite fossils can be seen peeking through.
The floors might be beautiful, but my first few days at the chateau revealed an urgent need for new shoes. My requirements were quite specific - they had to be warm and comfortable enough to stop my feet feeling like blocks of ice when standing all day on the flagstone floor, safe enough for climbing up and down a sixty-five-step spiral staircase numerous times a day, smart enough for work at a chateau and have that something special that catches the eye.
On our recent trip back to UK, as if by magic, THE most perfect pair of Cinderella chateau boots leapt out of a shoe shop to find me. I might be fifty, but I like to think you are never too old for your first pair of Doc Martens Air Wairs, and the fact that this pair are pink and sparkly is just the icing on the cake.
|The spiral staircase in the turret tower|
They have now completed two full weekends at work, and I’m delighted to report they are light, comfy and warm, plus I can tackle the spiral staircase with a youthful spring in my step.
I love to run my fingers over the huge stones that frame the doorways, that stand over 2.5m tall, and are pitted with the stonemason’s marks from when they worked on the creamy tufa stone from the Touraine. I can feel the five hundred years of history in my fingertips.
As part of the recent building works the walls may have been plastered and freshened up with paint, but this original stone cornice now has pride of place in the corner above our souvenir shop.
Outside, the stonework of the chateau is even more impressive than what is visible inside and it’s certainly worth taking your time to look closely at the details. There are the intricately carved supports for the turret and tower walkways.
|The round tower walkway|
The crenelated towers that served to keep an eye on the enemy as well as to show off the status of the lord.
|The spy hole by the gateway|
The embrasure located by the gateway to watch for visitors and shoot attackers if necessary.
The mullioned window frames decorated with typical Renaissance elements that also decorate the doorways and tops of the turrets.
Some of the stones show signs of their life over the years, like the grooves in the cobbles under the arch where carriage wheels have left their mark.
There are also the narrow openings in the stone where the drawbridge would have dropped and above the arch what is left of the coat of arms. This, along with ten of the original twelve towers were destroyed to protect the remaining building (and no doubt the owners) as the French Revolution kicked off.
|The faces of the Chateau de Javarzay|
It is the faces and features that you have to crane your neck to see that I love the most. With them watching down on me, I never feel alone when I’m there.
There is so much more to see, so if you are in the area this weekend, come and let yourself be carried away to a place where history comes to life. I’d love to know what catches your eye.
|Chateau de Javarzay, Chef-Boutonne|