Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Duché d'Uzès - exteriors



One of the aspects of this blog that I take quite seriously is not only to point you in the direction of "must sees" in Provence both known and less-so but also to give you a heads up about places that left me disappointed. While that is perhaps a stronger word than necessary concerning my visit to the Chateau d'Uzès, well, it isn't far-fetched either...even if, admittedly, I had high expectations beforehand.

I adore Uzès and have been - and written about the town - many times and yet had never toured its most well-known attraction after the Place aux Herbes. My main hesitation had always been over the price of the ticket - a whopping 18 Euros per person. My Mom was kind enough to invite me to discover the duché or ducal chateau along with her charming husband Leonard during their visit in September. It is home to the House of Crussol, France's oldest ducal peerage. 

After passing through a Louis XIII style portico, we arrived in the main courtyard. Happily, there is a cordoned off area at the entry that is free and open to the public. From here, one can take in the various elements composing the domaine as it was constructed over time starting with three ancient towers to a Gothic chapel and a splendid Renaissance period facade created in 1550 - unusual in that it is lined with Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns, rarely seen all together - which joins them. There are some fine Romanesque touches as well, including sitting bull carvings on a frieze and the eye-catching family crest that was set into the chapel's roof tiles à la Bourguignonne in the 19th century. The duché was meant to be impressive from a great distance and it is.

Several clusters of couples, many fanning themselves with brochures, were dotted across the courtyard as we approached the ticket booth. A group was just about to set off for the 45 minute long presentation. If we wished to join them, we would have to hurry as no, the castle does not take credit cards. We were directed to an ATM close by and joined up with the others just as they were leaving the extensive wine cellar, leaving me feeling like a scuttled tourist, something that I try to avoid at all costs.

 After touring the castle, we were asked if we wished to ascend to the top of the donjon, which had been built over Roman ruins in the 11th century. Known as the Tour Bermonde, it is the tallest of the towers at the duché. There is a sign at its base saying that it is 135 steps high and that children are not allowed to mount unattended by a parent. We looked at each other. "Is 135 steps too much?" we wondered. It didn't seem like it. Up we started. Well, perhaps that number isn't enormous in itself but when the steps are on a vertical corkscrew, it is another matter entirely. All three of us had to stop and catch our breath en route, hoping that we wouldn't block other visitors on their way down as there is no room to pass. This is definitely not un endroit that I would suggest to anyone who has either claustrophobia or vertigo (as I would realize in the descent, which I had to do turned sideways). However, when we finally reached the summit, our legs were wobbly from the effort but the views were truly spectacular. The clouds that had been hovering all afternoon magically disappeared and I felt like a bird hovering over the roofs of the town and the rolling countryside beyond. It was worth the price of admission alone (and one can visit it without the tour for 13 Euros)...alas, just not such an expensive one.


I will tell you about the chateau's history and its interiors in my next post...
















The Duché d'Uzès
Place du Duché
30700 - Uzès



Exteriors versus interiors, facades versus...loyalty? I have been bandying these words about since having read an op-ed piece in Le Monde this morning that asked how the people in France could have been so unified after the terrorist attacks on November 13th only for so many to vote for the extreme-right and extremely divisive Front National party in this weekends regional elections only a few weeks later. It is a question that has left me feeling ill and angry. And then afterwards to read in the NY Times of Donald Trump's intentions to block any Muslim from being permitted access to - let's remember the full name now - the UNITED States of America? I am horrified and left feeling shaky ground beneath my feet in both of "my" countries. So instead, today I made a determined choice to focus on a beautiful past (these old stones, this living history) while at the same time being watchful and vigilant as our future unfolds...to be continued...


42 comments:

Ellie said...

Beautiful photos!

bonnie poppe said...

I've not been there, looks quite beautiful. Makes me think of a few years back, in Orvieto, I climbed the tower which has 236 steps. Its a better staircase, but open so you can look down (if you want to). I was glad to get to the top! It was a gorgeous view and worth it, it is a bell tower, and the bell rang when I was standing next to it and I about jumped off! If you ever have the opportunity, visit Orvieto.

Karena Albert said...

Fabulous and like Bonnie I also loved Orvieto! It is a very shaky time indeed in our countries Heather, I pray for peace and sensible governments all of the time.

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
More Books for the Holidays!

puppyfur said...

Oui, Heather. It's all we can do for now. See and appreciate the beautiful and good, and think positively. Lovely post.

donna baker said...

Trump and his ilk too will pass. You are right to concentrate on the beauty that surrounds you.

Suze said...

I have not yet visited Uzès, but someday will get there. From my vantage point on this side of the Atlantic: The rhetoric from politicians here is horrifying, and scary. Trump is the worst, but others of his party are right behind him. And I follow the French regional elections from here, election results which are also .....

Lorrie said...

Thanks for braving those stairs for the view - it's spectacular. The world is in a mess, there's no doubt about it. Yet there is beauty, as you've shown so well. Focusing on the good and beautiful is healing and restorative - if only more people would take your philosophy to heart.

Joan McKniff said...

Great beauty on both sides of the Atlantic and like many of us, this beauty, plus wrapping gifts while listening to wonderful music and amusing my 17 years, 3 continents cat, sending Christmas and Chanukah gifts and cards around the country and the world, brings joy and sanity to me. But I feel we can't just hope and pray that Trump, ISIS, et al will pass; we need to actively work and speak out for peace and justice.

Joan McKniff said...

Shortly after leaving here I was looking at a post from one of our lush Florida botanical gardens with this quote "How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence."
- Benjamin Disraeli

RebeccaNYC said...

Spot on about everything, Heather. You know we love Uzès, and while we "liked" our visit to the Chateau, we were not "wowed". We thought at the time that perhaps we had just become too jaded. I still love the thought that a real Duke lives there, and that the last Duchess (or maybe the one before the most recent one) is/was an American. A girl can dream...right?

I was not surprised about the outcome of the recent election in France...just like here in the States, people are being influenced by the hate and fear mongers, and they are sure that the source of all our problems lie in the existence of one group. I am frightened, truly frightened.

Judi of Little House said...

The political leads in both countries are frightening, so full of fear and hate of all 'others.' Where's the love and caring for our fellow man? Am I living a fantasy life thinking we could All be so much kinder to one another? It's very sad. I did love all your photos, especially those from the top of the tower. The chateau did seem a little forlorn, a bit how I feel about what's going on in governments.

Michel said...

Like you, we like Uzes and I have written several posts about the town. But we have never put out the money to see the interior of the Duché. So I appreciate the details and pictures. Thanks for taking one for the team.

Romy said...

Oh we could see the ducal palace from our back windows that time we lived in Uzes....sigh! A mum of one if my boy's class mates accepted all of those euros for admittance & took the tours! I remember loving the Dukes gorgeous blue & white porcelain above one of the fireplaces....memories! Rx

robin said...

Ah, beautiful photos! Did you say why you weren't so thrilled with this place? Besides the stair climb which sounded hellacious!! I think you are doing another post, so I'll "stay tuned"! And I agree with what RebeccaNYC said, that people are scared right now and so maybe they side with the person who is screaming the loudest about getting revenge? Yes, thank you for this lovely post to divert our attention away from the cuckoos.

angiemanzi said...

I too am angry and upset and confused about the path that the world has taken and is taking. Too many narratives, not enough brains. Beautiful post.

La Contessa said...

NO worries we will not be climbing up the TOWER!They have the same gravel as CASA KIRKPATRICK installed a few months ago!!!
As for DONALD I haven't been following any of that.............I BEST TUNE IN SOON!
GO to my Instagram and see BANKSY and LUCKY sharing PIGGy's bed!THAT will put a smile on your face!
XOXO

simpleimages2 said...

I used to remember and memorize how "Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns” look like and separate them from each other and tell their stories.
Some views are worth 135 vertiginous-step climb and descent? Yes.

Ominous signs of the time. These too shall pass.Love is stronger than hate. Have faith.

Stephen Andrew said...

oh I love the colors in this post! That dark green door with the warm khaki stone is SO pleasing to me.
Donald is a mule carrying American dipshittery and there's no sense being mad at him; when unfortunately we should be revolted by the people supporting him instead. They're the ones making his voice matter. Makes me even more horrified to think that I used to be such a staunch Republican (as in the real sense of the party, not the circus they've become in the last 15 years).

Heather Robinson said...

Merci ma belle!

Heather Robinson said...

Bonnie, as much as I would LOVE to get to Orvieto one day (pretty much sign me up from a north to south, east to west tour of the boot and accompanying islands), there is NO way that I could do that tower if it is open. Nope. No can do. But how fabulous that you did!

Heather Robinson said...

PS. I just sent you an email.

Heather Robinson said...

Knowing you, I bet you went to Orvieto for the festival!

Heather Robinson said...

I just really, really wish that I could vote here Katherine. I know you understand that!!!

Heather Robinson said...

I am concentrating on EVERYTHING right now Donna and oh how I hope you are right!!!

Heather Robinson said...

I agree with you one hundred percent Suze...

Heather Robinson said...

I think it is part of the solution. Hopefully.

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, absolutely Joan because I don't think any of it will just go away on its own. I can only begin to understand how we have arrived at this point but if we don't at least say, "Look, this is what is happening and I for one don't agree with it" then I am truly frightened of where we will be in a few years time. Let alone of course taking action, calling our senators, signing petitions, being active.

Heather Robinson said...

...and yes, then there is that too...

Heather Robinson said...

As am I, Rebecca. I really don't understand why more condemning language isn't being used against Trump. I have read more about people in Europe standing up against that language than in the US! And as for here...well, you know how deeply upset I am about the rise of the FN. And that I am definitely feeling the gloat in this village.

I think that the chateau was a major rip off! But I was curious to see what your surprise would be. ;)

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, Judi, a bit cold and distanced. And how right you are...kindness and empathy could change the world...
Gros Bisous.

Heather Robinson said...

Ooof, my Mom did! And it was my suggestion too. I felt terrible.

Heather Robinson said...

You will see them again in my next post Romy... ;)

Heather Robinson said...

I love that you said "cuckoos" Sister. And thank you for the nice words about the photos!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my gosh, perrrrfectly said Angie.

Heather Robinson said...

I need to go pronto! I haven't been able to keep up with all of your fabulous shenanigans on ig recently as I am having a harder and harder time to connect with my ancient phone! I am missing out!

Heather Robinson said...

Struggling to but so far succeeding Edgar...most of the time at least...

Heather Robinson said...

You did?! Wow. We need to talk about that sometime.

And if you love those colors then you will be in heaven here as those colors ARE Provence. (See? Still trying to get you over here. I will persevere...)

Loree said...

Lovely building. I am sure that the view was well worth the climb.

Katrina said...

Hi Heather,
love your photos. I've been to Uzes a couple of times but have not done the tour. The time we did front up it was closed. Have you tried the crêperie in the main street?They are delicious .K xx

Heather Robinson said...

Katrina, that is where we went to right before visiting the chateau! And it is funny because usually I would blow off any creperie that isn't actually in Brittany as being for tourists but my Mom chose it and you are right, it was so good and super reasonably priced - something that is not evident at all to find in Uzès. :)

puppyfur said...

Yes, I do, Heather. Wish I could, too.

Susan Athanasakou said...

What absolutely amazing pictures Heather, 18 Euros was a bit steep, but looks like it was well worth it.
After numerous holidays in Italy, which we adore, we thought it time for a change and visited France, Provence, loved it!
We had so little time there, not enough to take in everything, definitely need to go back, Italy has been put on the back burner!
Susan.x