Wednesday, July 09, 2014

private viewing

Torrential rain convinced me to stop earlier than planned and the tourist office provided me with a local map guide of garden possibilities, the most interesting, an orchard of historical varieties of french fruit trees, open solely at the weekends and in the afternoons, it was a bit out of the way and quite a long time to wait seeing as I had arrived early afternoon.  I dodged the downpours to try and find a well promoted pottery exhibition in the town but was let down, the signage lacked somewhat and after an hour of searching the streets and an absolute soaking, retired to a bar to contemplate my next move.  A day to wait was too long just for some fruit trees, plus I’ll probably be passing again and can plan specifically to arrive at the right time.  I stayed over night and set of bright and early into a new sunny morning.

French tourist offices are there to promote their departement and possibly , though to a lesser extent, the region, so if the office is located on the border of two or more departements they will only provide you with tourist information for that specific departement even if there are fascinating things to see a mile or so away over the border.  I wonder if it is the same in the UK, perhaps I should be a tourist back home from time to time.

I jumped regions and found an interesting flier for a private garden, open weekends only during the summer months.  Being Sunday I was in luck so plunged into the countryside, sat nav in full swing, to find this out of the way location.  The lady of the house greeted me with a smile and explained that, due to the chance of downpours that visits were not available today, the ground was muddy and too slippery and she feared that I may take a tumble.  I asked if there were some areas that were flatter that I could see, but she was insistant that it was not to be.  There were ruins of an old castle next to the gardens and she kept gesturing towards them and the moat as she explained the situation.  I thought it was a bit odd that I couldn’t even explore the obvious flatter areas around their house but decided to go on my way. As I left a asked if there were other gardens open in the area, “Gardens” she said “you want to see the gardens” “Oh, that’s nothing to do with me, that’s my husband, he does the garden tours but people only ever come to see the castle remains so I just assumed that you would too”  She hurried off to find her husband, a friendly talkative chap, who appeared to have been taking a nap, who she explained would be giving me the tour.

I would have been quite happy to have wondered around for a while on my own, but to have a guided tour was something rather special.  He was passionate about the space that he had created, drawing inspiration from greek and roman mythology, the transformation of spirits and gods of the time into worldly beings, the colours and moods they represent and are depicted in myths and legends and how he interprets them into his designs.  It took all my french and a bit more to keep up with the names of mythological creatures and the reasonings behind his ideas, it was fascinating a concept,  linking the two, seemingly unrelated topics, that I had never come across before, but with the explanations provided made perfect sense in the setting.  

Fairly formal plantings around the house, in various themes of colour and form, slowly transitioned, with distance into wilder and wilder areas, melding into natural woodland towards the boundaries of the property.  Clearings here and there with garden art, sculptures, gazebos and other points of interest, a small ornamental potager (vegetable garden) surrounded by wicker hurdles, a collection of citrus - standing outside in their pots for summer and an oriental themed area with japanese maples, prostrate conifers and decorative glazed pots.

I was so engrossed with discussions, and with such a personal visit, completely forgot to take any photographs.  It enabled me to concentrate on the subject without focussing attention on framing shots and getting angles, I probably remember more of this garden than I do of the others where I happily snap away, documenting my visit for later reference.  We strolled the gardens for about three hours, talking constantly, discussing the various aspects along with the trials and tribulations of gardening, the fact that he had never envisaged opening the garden to the public at the start and more amazingly that he lives and works in Paris all week, only spending the weekends in the country.  I couldn’t discover the nature of his work, but he  has certainly achieved amazing things in the time that they have had the house.

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