Gardens and Knights

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We’d been seeing signs around advertising that this weekend many local gardens would be open for visitors. One which seemed to generate some local excitement was a privately-held chateau with an extensive water garden, Logis de Forge. It’s just south of Angeloume, in the pretty riverfront town of Mouthiers-sur-Boeme. We called up, and were told to come at 10. We were met by the owner, and a few others, all rabid French gardeners. The tour was in French, although Monsieur would briefly highlight some things for us. The chateau had a mill as part of the property, and a large millpond fed by the river and a deep spring. Over time, tributaries formed, and were encouraged to create a watery natural garden. Cypresses from Louisiana were planted to hold the soil along the banks.

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It’s enormous, we walked for close to an hour, following the waterways. There’s a formal portion near the Chateau, but most of the garden is deliberately natural looking, punctuated every now and then with plantings and sculptures. There was some fascinating conversation toward the end from one of the visitors, a “sorcier”, person who can “feel” the presence of water, in high demand for well digging. Larry the engineer politely voiced his more scientific view when pressed, and as it turned out, three of the visitors were engineers!

From there, we meandered into the town of Villebois-Lavalette. The Saturday market was just closing down under the 16th century market roof, but we were in time to snag a plate of oysters. They were enormous, and a bit too aggressively  briny for my taste.

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We got an outdoor table in the restaurant opposite, and shared boudin noir (I tried it, a and liked it!) decent veal and mashed potatoes, especially since it was the plat of the day for 8 euros. Although someone in the kitchen needs to learn to not stick rosemary twigs into every dish. There was an extended French family next to us, with baby Gaston happily chowing down on boudin noir when he wasn’t throwing toy dinosaurs at me.

Love the old market roof, and the cool 17th century sundial.

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And of course, there’s a chateau looming above town opposite the church.

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We picked up a map from the restaurant, and on the back was a photo of a 13th century wall mural fragment in the Priory of Ronsenac. We went to the town, found the old church (sadly destroyed and renovated out of most of its medieval features, with the closed-up Priory next door. We called the tourist office, someone else called us back, and an appointment was made for the following afternoon. In the meantime, we found the pretty little church of Charmont, with interesting carvings along the back nave, and traces of the original pain inside. Many of these Romanesque churches originally had brightly painted interiors!

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We had previously made an appointment to get inside the Chapelle des Templiers in Blanzac-Porcheresse. It took asking two people in town to find the place, finally involving  a long drive up a single car track through a high meadow. We were met there by a young teacher from the town, who let us in and helped interpret the paintings. The murals and church were done in 1160 by the Knights Templar, who were eventually proclaimed a heretical sect and banned by the church, their properties confiscated. The murals were severely damaged over the years and were heavily restored a few years ago. The long wall shows a battle scene of French knights battling the Saracens, a walled city that might be Antioch, and Frenchwomen peering out from the battlements of their city.

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The West wall shows a queen symbolizing France, with a Knight vanquishing Infidels. To the left is  Saint George and the Dragon. On the East, there’s a fun one of the weighing of souls, with the devil tumbling down; and on the right side, a newer one showing a bishop.

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Home, first stopping along the way to photograph a huge fiend of poppies. To my dismay I found I’d been standing on stinging nettles, so itched all night.

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Made an Italian dinner for a change of pace, pasta with zucchini and a tomato/mozzerella salad. The local market has fresh Italian imports, nice.

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