It’s time I confess…
The place I live is so bloody gorgeous I don’t want to share these photos with you because I’m a little ashamed of just how gorgeous it is. It’s like having admired pictures of other children only then to reveal that you’ve got the Gerber baby at home. And the worst part is that I get to see this practically every day. Sorry! You’re going to hate me by the end of this post if you don’t know La Rochefoucauld at all. If you like, feel free to press play on the video – it’s the Amelie soundtrack, certified to put you in French spirit. You can imagine me riding down through the town on an old bicycle if you like.
Firstly, I must confess, it’s not so much of a Blois or a Chenonceau of a castle. We’re not talking UNESCO castles here. But that makes it even better, because, most days, we don’t have to share this town with every one else.
So… let me take you on a guided tour of my local town and introduce you to the wonderful La Rochefoucauld…
This is our high street. Pretty much everything you might need in life is on this street. There are two bakers, two chocolate shops, two pharmacies, three charcuteries, a pizza restaurant, several dress shops and clothes shops and shoe shops. My two favourite shops are the sewing shop and the Phildar wool shop. There are of course the usual array of banks, tabacs and estate agents. There’s a dusty old book shop that has nothing you need and everything you don’t, with lovely hand-made cards. There’s a toy shop complete with wooden toys, and there’s even a little fruit and veg market.
This corner is just by the Phildar wool shop. I love the Phildar wool shop and I love the Phildar wool lady. You can see the sign for one of the two local restaurants. There’s the much more popular Chez Steph’s further down by the river. The restaurant advertised on the sign was part of a recent scandal – the former manager murdered someone apparently – we may only have 2,000 inhabitants, but it’s still the real world filled with petty jealousies and drunk men in charge of rifles.
All year round, the town is remarkably well-dressed, florally speaking. I love the floral displays around the town. They just make it look so much nicer. Not that these beautiful shops and buildings aren’t enough on their own. This is heading down the high street towards the focus of the town: the chateau.
You can just see the turret of the castle in the distance above the trees. I love this street. I could hang about on this street all day long. The thing that amazed me first about it is that parking is free. In the UK, you’d have to pay about £2.00 for a 30 minute stop here. The first time we arrived, I looked for the pay and display machines, and I’ve been stopped twice by English tourists who can’t believe parking here is free. Most people on the high street don’t stop long though. You pick up your bread, your tomatoes, your charcuterie, your prescription and then you zip off again.
At the bottom of the road, it opens up into a square. It’s got a little café on it, and a boulangerie all of its own as well as the tabac. This square is right in front of the La Rochefoucauld cinema – a small little theatre with about 20 seats – and the library. Also, on the right is the convent and the day hospital. I love this hospital. At first glance, there’s no way you would think it was a hospital.
The gardens have all been put into place this year and they go a long way to making the building look even more beautiful. They’ve put the huge pots along the front, filled with gorgeous flowers. There are some very clever gardeners at work in our town.
Finally, you walk down the tail end of the high street and get to Chez Steph’s – the local restaurant. It’s always busy and does a great menu for 15€ at lunch time.
You can sit and eat on the patio over the zebra crossing – and the waiters and waitresses scoot over the road with plates of food, occasionally pushing the cheese cart in front of bemused tourists who’ve stopped to let pedestrians cross.
And then… there it is… the pearl of the Angoumois region. The chateau de La Rochefoucauld, sitting on a promontory overlooking the Tardoire.
And if you want to see inside the castle, as I did today for the very first time, you’ll have to pop over to my blog at Anglo-Info where I’ve put my photos from inside. It’s open to the public, but I’ve always been too mean to pay the entrance price. Today it was 2€ because it was the national heritage day. I’ll say nothing about it other than it’s completely gorgeous and splendid. I felt like a total peasant. If my life were a Monty Python film (and it sometimes feels like it is) I’d be Terry Jones at the bottom of the hill saying ‘Ooooh Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down ‘ere!’ and prattling on about being an autonomous collective. Of course, it would be lovely to be Miss Chatelaine.
Anyway, I rummaged through the castle, gawped at the stair cases, gawked at the library, thought about how hard it would be to heat and then went back out into the bright sunshine.
Back down in town, I decided to make the most of the day – and even though the convent is always open, I popped in to take a photograph of the cloistered square too…
So now I’ve exposed my town as a potential tourist trap – if this town were in England, it would be over-run by tea-shops and antiques shops (well, we’ve got two) and tourists and old people on coach trips – I hope you don’t feel too jealous. It’s hard to live in a place like this. For one thing, I’m not sure it can cope with a scruffy little urchin like me.
Much Love Monday will be with you tomorrow, if I’m not overwhelmed by people who want to give me a piece of their mind for keeping La Rochefoucauld to myself all this time.