Thursday 11 August 2011

Azay: 'spectacle' & interiors

Renaissance chimney brest
When we went to Azay-le-Rideau on Sunday with our friend Jane we were curious to see what we would remember of our visit in 1992. 

As we drove from Chinon to Azay we recounted to Jane how we'd been en route to a gite in the Périgord Noir and had stopped so that we could visit Azay and Fontevraud l'abbaye. 

room furnished in 19th century style
We saw Azay twice in '92, once during the day to see the chateau and again in the evening for a 'spectacle' the chateau put on every night during the tourist season. We loved the chateau and throughly enjoyed exploring it. Pocket-sized - for a chateau anyway- it is beautiful but not over imposing.

one of many beautiful tapestries
In the '70s my parents had seen the 'son et lumiere' at Vézelay: a dramatic and historic retelling of its history and supported by light show of the historic church. The French narrator had really brought events to life. So a couple of years later they took the teenaged me to the 'son et lumiere' at Chambord, the 1st of the Loire chateau I ever visited. It too was excellent and I really enjoyed it. Years later I waxed lyrical to Niall when we planned our stop in Azay. So we got tickets to the 'spectacle'. 

Sadly the it turned out to be quite different to the 'son et lumiere'....all we can remember is 3 actors rowing a boat on the lake declaiming their lines and a 'historical' storyline which gave us fits of the giggles. There was more than a whiff of an under-rehearsed school play.

newly restored roof beams, attic floor
On Sunday we found the outside of the chateau and grounds familiar but neither of us remembered anything about the rooms or the furnishings which are lovely. As you move from room to room the furnishings advance through the centuries the chateau has been in existence and everywhere you look you'll see the personal badge of the early 16th century French king, Francois 1er--a salamander.

Francois 1er's badge; the salamander
The family who transformed Azay from a medieval fortress guarding the road from Tours to Chinon into an Italianate Renaissance chateau had served the king as financial ministers and advisors; hence the badge.  An added bonus is the recently restored attic which showcases the fantastic beams which support the roof.


The Broad said...

Azay-le-Rideau was the first chateau I every visited and it was magical! I really do hope I get to go there again. It is a magical place. Thanks for the interesting post.

Craig said...

Very interesting... haven't been there so I'll make a note of it.
Those beams are awesome!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@The Broad - you're welcome :-) Glad you found it interesting.
It would be a good half way point between the Lot & UK .....

@Craig - aren't they just!! You start your visit there and then work your way downwards.
It is well worth the visit and to my mind a better option than Chenonceau in the summer. It was busy, but not the madhouse Chenonceau can become in high season.