The Château de Javarzay, Chef-Boutonne
My Five Top Tips for making the most out of your visit
This weekend I am delighted to once again be part of the team opening the doors to welcome visitors to the Château de Javarzay. Situated in Chef-Boutonne, in the southern tip of the Deux-Sèvres department, this fairy tale château with its towers and turrets really is worth a visit if you live nearby.
There have been a few changes to the opening times this year, and our out of season hours (March, April, May and October) will be 14h to 17h30 on Saturday afternoons and 10h to 12h30 and 14h to 17h30 on Sundays, plus afternoons during the school holidays in April and October. From the beginning of June until end of September we will be open daily, 10h to 13h and 13h45 to 18h, except Tuesdays.
My first Top Tip for enjoying your visit is to ensure you give yourself at least an hour, as there really is a lot to see.
The Château de Javarzay is one of the first Renaissance châteaux in the Poitou region and now houses a fully interactive and multimedia museum. What remains of the building today is a tiny part of what it once was, but even with only two of its original twelve towers, there is a lot to see and to keep the visitor entertained.
|The stonework of the Château de Javarzay|
The museum is split into three parts, and I just love that the start of your voyage through time is a slow and steady climb up a spiral staircase, housed in a conical-roofed turret, complete with tiny leaded glass windows with views over the lake and the grounds.
|Ancient roof timbers at the Château de Javarzay|
In the part of the museum featuring the history of the château, you can see the timbers and stonework up close and learn all about this beautiful building dating from 1513. One of my favourite things to do is to walk the circular path on the outside of the round tower, that gives you an almost 360º view of the park. As you would expect for a five-hundred-year-old residence, a number of families have called it home over the years and it is reputed to have had a Royal overnight guest too. If you happen to visit when I’m working, I’d be happy to let you know about some of the other residents who I’m sure are ‘in residence’ now.
The recent renovation project was about so much more than just the necessary building works needed to ensure the château is preserved for the next generation. The museum has been completely re-imagined and is now a multimedia, interactive, bilingual experience that received rave reviews from visitors from all over the world last year. My Top Tip number two is to sit and listen to the rich tones of the voice of the château as he tells his story.
|Coiffes (headdresses) of the 19th Century|
The top two tower rooms, complete with cathedral like roof beams, house the part of the museum that is all about the life of women in rural 19th century France. Why did women wear bonnets? When did they swap the bonnet for the more decorative headdress or coiffe? What was the daily life of the seamstresses who travelled from village to village to make and clean these works of art? With turret towers, fairy tale windows and lots of lacework, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” always comes to my mind when I am up there.
|Try our fun Photo Booth the Coiffomaton|
My Top Tip number three is don’t miss our fun photobooth where you can have your picture taken wearing the coiffe of your choice.
|The museum dedicated to Jean-François Cail|
The third part to the museum is dedicated to the French industrial revolution and one major player, Monsieur Jean-François Cail, who was born in Chef-Boutonne in 1804. Despite his humble beginnings, Jean-François Cail went on to achieve great things and the short film about his extraordinary life is worth watching. Most people leave with a sense of disbelief that someone who had such an impact, worldwide, isn’t as well-known today as his compatriots like Gustave Eiffel or Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As well as working in the sugar refining industry, Jean-François Cail was also involved in the French manufacture of the British designed Crampton steam engine.
|Crampton steam engine|
My Top Tip number four is that no steam train fan will want to miss our fabulously detailed, scale model Crampton engine on display.
The château itself is set in a large park with a fishing lake, lots of picnic tables, a children’s play area and a riverside walk along the Boutonne. My Top Tip number five is don’t forget your picnic. After lunch, why not follow the 8km walk around Chef-Boutonne that starts at the château and takes in a number of lavoirs, one of which is at the source of the Boutonne river, and another has a little surprise waiting for you through a window.
The Nouvelle Aquitaine has a fabulous Geocaching App, Tèrra Aventura and the château is one of the sites that has a treasure stash just waiting for you to find. It is also situated on the V93 cycle route that cuts across the south of the Deux-Sèvres department from the Charente to Niort and any cyclists can be assured of a warm welcome.
I know for many of you, a visit here will only be a virtual one through my shared photos and words, but for those of you who do live in Nouvelle Aquitaine, I hope this has whetted your appetite for a visit to Chef-Boutonne and if so, I look forward to seeing you at the Château de Javarzay very soon.
Château de Javarzay, 11 Avenue des Fils Fouquaud, Chef-Boutonne 79110
|The souvenir shop at the Château de Javarzay|