7th April 2017. Jumilhac-le-Grand & Saint-Benoît-de-Sault, France.

I can’t believe how peaceful the town was last night, even the clock bells stopped chiming at midnight and didn’t start again until 7 a.m.

We had hoped to look around the Château before we left but the door was still closed at 10 a.m. when it was supposed to open.  We decided to have a wander round to the other side of the Château to see what was there and as we were walking back to the van we noticed that the door into the Château was ajar and we could see a man standing behind the entrance desk so we popped in to ask whether it was actually open.

He told us that he was actually waiting for a Council Official who was apparently supposed to have arrived at 10 a.m. for a tour.   Unfortunately for us he then went on to say that they would be open again from 2-6 p.m.  We thanked him and I told him we’d been silly and should have come in when we arrived yesterday but that we were leaving this morning.  As we started to walk out of the door he called us back and said that he could give us a sheet which was written in English and we could do a self guided tour as the only other member of staff who would accompany us didn’t speak English.  I thought that was so kind of him, he then went off to find the member of staff, during which time I went back to the van to get my coat as it was a bit nippy in the shade.

He came back just after I arrived back and said that the other member of staff was busy but that as he was surprised that the Official hadn’t turned up yet he’d check with the Tourist Information Office to find out what was going on.  He phoned the Tourist Information Office who told him that the Official had changed his plans and was now coming tomorrow!  When he heard that he told us he could now take us round and asked us with a cheeky grin whether we’d mind if he took his tie off now.  His tour was VERY interesting and very informative.   We’ve never been inside a Château before, this one seems to have had a very eventful history and is lucky to have survived.

As with the Stately Homes in the UK it sounds like it’s a costly affair trying to maintain and renovate such large properties.  He took us into various sections in the front and two sides of the magnificent building and they were all so different from each other.  We could see a door facing us across the courtyard and he took us through that first of all, I was expecting to see a huge grand entrance hall but we stepped on to a large spiral staircase and went down into a room where there was a table and chairs which he said were called cackling chairs because they were used to sit and chatter in.  From there we went up to a room that was thought to have been a Chapel at one time and then became the bedroom of the Lady of the House.  She had been kept prisoner in her bedroom while her husband had been on the Crusades.  There were the remains of frescoes on the walls and ceiling and they think the paintings were done by her.

After we left her room our Guide took us across the courtyard and showed us around the rooms there.  One of the rooms was huge and had paintings of hunting scenes hanging on the walls.  Apparently two villagers had saved the Château from becoming a ruin and had put up walls in that room to rent it out as apartments.  Unfortunately they were finding it financially crippling and happened to mention it to a Politician they knew who also knew the family who originally owned the house and he persuaded the family to buy it back in 1927.  There were two rooms that had been decorated around that period.

In the other wing we were shown rooms which included the kitchen, with all its gleaming pots and pans, and our Guide explained what they had been used for.  It would have been impossible to guess from the strange shapes.

When we’d been shown the rooms we were taken to the coach room and our guide asked whether we would like an information sheet so we could explore the gardens.  The gardens were beautiful, unfortunately the plants hadn’t started to flower but nevertheless it was still a lovely area to walk around.

We were surprised to see that we had been in the Château for 2 and a half hours and realised that our guide should probably be having lunch before the Château opened officially so we made our way to the door, thanked him and left.  What a great experience and all thanks to the generosity of that lovely man.

We wandered over to the bar for coffee before we started our two hour journey to our next destination and ended up having lunch as well and a very tasty lunch it was indeed.

Before we climbed back in the van we went over to the pharmacy again, this time to get some cotton gloves to use in my washing up gloves.  We made the unfortunate mistake of leaving the queue to go and see whether we could find any on the shelves and when we went back to join the queue another man had come in so we were further back than when we’d started however as he was called over he smiled and insisted that we went in front of him, that was such a lovely surprise.  As it turned out he didn’t have to wait long before he was served because apparently the pharmacist didn’t have any “clothes for the hands” (les vêtements pour les mains.  Gaffaw!)  which was what I  asked for because I didn’t know the word for gloves!  I know now, it’s burned into my brain, apparently it’s les gants.

We left the shop and wandered back to the van chuckling and discussing how much easier and less embarrassing it would have been if I’d only taken the time to bring a glove in to show the pharmacist what I was looking for!

Yet again we were leaving late for a relatively long journey, will we never learn!

We travelled on the motorway for most of the journey so the two hour journey passed without any hitches and we found the aire in Saint-Benoît-du-Sault easily.

Unfortunately our timing was VERY poor, we arrived in a car park where the two motorhome spaces were right at the back.

We discovered it was school kicking out time and the children were all pouring out of a door that opened on to the back of the car park.  Their  parents cars were abandoned here, there and everywhere.

We only realised what was going on once we were in the middle of it all so we sat tight in the middle of the area waiting for the man who’d parked in the motorhome space to return.  He’d told us he’d only be 5 minutes, he was true to his word, but he then had to dismantle his child’s bike before putting it in the boot.  Whilst all this was going on Darren was moving our van forwards and backwards because we were blocking other cars in!  It was manic but pretty soon everyone had left, Darren parked in the motorhome space and we were able to admire the view down into the valley.

It was such a nice day that we went over to the Tourist Information Office (about 100 yards from the van) and began  following the route on the map that the lady gave us.  That didn’t last long, pretty soon we were completely lost so we zigzagged around the town until we came to some of the points on the map.  We called out, “Bonjour” to a shop keeper as we passed his shop.  Twenty minutes later, when we sheepishly greeted him again, he gave us a smile.

The little town was lovely, there were so many tiny little lanes and alleys to explore and lots of interestingly shaped buildings to stumble across.

We had a great time exploring the town and we went off in search of a coffee.  Unfortunately the place we headed for was closed when we and a few other people reached the door.  We still haven’t worked out the opening and closing times in France, we’ll probably get the hang of it the day we leave France, although it’s doubtful, our record throughout the whole of this trip is not good.

So instead of sitting outside the café drinking coffee we walked back to the van and had dinner watching the sun setting over the Château on the other side of the valley.

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